Maschine Studio Review
I have a confession to make: I’m a huge Native Instruments fan. I’ve been using Massive and Absynth for years and I still think they’re some of the best plugins around. Native Instruments’ products tend to be pretty pricey, but for the amount of hours you’re likely to put into the software and hardware you buy from them, I’d say it pretty much evens out.
I had my eye on the Maschine for years, too – I just didn’t have the money for it, and I needed to invest in other equipment for my home studio so I held off for a while. But a few months ago I finally decided that it was time to get it, and I’ve got to say, it was well worth the wait!
Before getting the Maschine I was already deeply engaged with the app version of this stunning piece of hardware, called iMaschine, which is only 5 bucks on the App Store and is, in my opinion, one of the best apps for music production on iOS. The workflow is smooth, quick and very easy to get the hang of, and it comes with some excellent features like being able to cut samples from songs you have on your phone, recording your own samples live and playing them back, or taking the loops and samples provided by the app and editing them to your heart’s content.
One of the reasons why I finally decided to buy the Maschine Studio is because I saw that you can import entire projects from iMaschine into the Maschine software and continue working on them from your computer, and I love that. You’re on the subway going home and you make a nice little hip hop beat, and when you get back you transfer it to your computer to flesh it out. It’s a very productive idea. For us beatsmiths that like to be able to jam out on the go, iMaschine is perfect: and in combination with Maschine Studio, the way you make music will be changed forever.
I want to make one thing clear, just like the guy at Guitar Center did for me: Maschine Studio isn’t a standalone sampler. It won’t work without connecting to a computer, because it uses the software to offer a digital version of everything happening on the hardware. It does have two little screens that are extremely efficient, and in combination with the buttons and knobs you can create beats and even entire songs without touching the computer much at all, but it still does need to be connected. I’d been planning on doing that anyway, so it didn’t bother me.
I could gush about the Maschine Studio for pages and pages. If you make electronic music and you want a piece of hardware that will help you streamline your beat crafting process, make it incredibly easy to jam out ideas in mere seconds, and give you a whole new perspective on how you make music, then you should definitely consider investing in one of these. It comes with tons of samples, loops and instruments and you can buy additional packs from the Native Instruments website with specific categories of sounds, like Caribbean Current, an awesome tropical selection for making ragga and Latin-infused beats. Each pack is $50, which is pretty pricey, but they do come with a lot of sounds you can dig into.
You can cue up your samples by browsing through them on the Maschine Studio, by twisting a knob and going down a list, and you can jam with it on one of the pads before actually selecting it. That way you can clearly hear what fits, and you can do it in realtime, while the rest of the beat is playing.
There are 16 of the pads in all, and you can make different groups of sounds and assign them different colors so you always know which one you’re focusing on – I’m not gonna lie, I absolutely love the colored pads. They’re very touch-sensitive, which is great, because it makes the beats you create sound more like they’re being played live, it gives them more of an organic feel. You can create different “scenes,” where your groups of samples play out in different patterns, and there’s also a keyboard mode, where you can play the pads like a synth, and each pad is a different note. It’s a weird way of making melodies, but it really works, it’s fun to use.
The software is an efficient sidekick to the hardware, offering you tons of effects and parameters to tweak, and it’s great for working on the fine-tuning of your patterns. You can use it as a plugin or a standalone program; I recommend using the standalone version because you’re probably going to want to export the pieces of your beats anyway, to finish crafting your tracks.
That’s my only complaint about the software: I don’t feel like it’s satisfying for composing entire tracks and mixing them down. It works best for the creation of loops, so you can use it to make the fundamental pieces of your song and then export them as WAV files and finish your work in a proper DAW.
Even though the software has its downsides, the hardware and the possibilities it brings are incredible. If you hook up a MIDI keyboard so you can play your synth sounds through that and use Maschine Studio for crafting your percussion and adding effects and such, then you’ll barely be touching your computer at all.
Maschine Studio is a superb piece of hardware that I would recommend to every serious producer out there!