Native Instruments Maschine 1.5 Review

By | Posted August 9, 2010

Overview:’s very own D. Ponte takes the Maschine 1.5 MIDI production controller for a spin to give you a full written review.  This high powered device is designed to be the main component of any studio system providing professional quality outstanding versatility.  Full Written Review INSIDE.

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Staff Review

Maschine 1.5 Product Review for
By D. Ponte

Let me preface this review by saying that I have in no way, shape, or form received any
audio production or engineering training in my lifetime. I am a sports and online media expert
who listens to as much hip hop as most loyal members and that is the kind of
perspective you’re going to get in this review. In some ways a fresh, unblemished diagnosis
that might offer more value to a reader than one from an audio production specialist. Let’s see.
The Maschine 1.5 Groove Production Studio by Native Instruments is drum machine hardware
fused with an intuitive software program. It makes the bold claim of being the complete
workstation that combines highly sensitive pads and dials with a powerful sequencing, sampling
and effects software. It meets this claim. This used in conjunction with a vast library of sounds to
play with is appealing to a “noob” like me.

It comes inside of a box that is about the same size of a blu ray player and the main hardware
is about the width and length of a Trapper Keeper. I thought it would be heavier based on
the pictures I’ve seen but it is actually lighter than most laptops, making it easy to transport.
Plugging the USB input into your computer and setting up the software is an easy process and
the hardware lights up like a tree on Christmas Eve. In fact, I got the same feeling that a child
would on Christmas morning when I first launched it. I’d recommend running Windows XP or 7
or a newer Mac with this software to optimize its capabilities.

The pad is what I was most excited to play with and one thing that I noticed right away was
that there are midi in and outputs in the back of the unit that enable it to be used live as well
as the obvious sound manipulating and recording purposes. The basic pad mode that allows
you to either just trigger a note of a sample or play the sample/instrument in sequence using all
of its 16 pads. You can change the sound using the tempo swing or volume knobs in addition
to controlling the sounds with its FX feature. I had trouble using this initially but eventually
got the hang of it. By using the left and right arrows on the top of the unit, it’s easy to step
through 8 attributes of the selected pad at a time. Generally, the controls are very simple and
laid out intuitively. The way the pad lights up Is in concordance with the order of how you’d
create an individual pattern or song - Very helpful. One advantage was that everything can be
manipulated on your computer screen or the unit. After the first few uses I relied on the software
since I was more comfortable but eventually I got used to managing with the hardware as it’s
more efficient that way.

The basic hierarchy or song creation is in groups and scenes. This was somewhat confusing
to me initially as I had difficulty organizing the order of the sounds and samples. After some
practice and some time on the Maschine forums, I discovered a method that I felt comfortable
with. A random note is that deleting the last note created can easily be executed by using
the “shift undo” feature on the pad.

I’m fascinated by how the best of the best hip hop producers use samples when creating songs
and I immediately wanted to take a stab at his. I used Rush’s Tom Sawyer signature guitar
riff and also the vocals “Feel the Break , Feel the Break, Feeeeel the Break” from Sublimes
Santeria track in separate songs. I was easily able to infuse my own hip hop bass, drum, and a
snare to these samples and it’s just a blast messing around like this. The majority of capabilities
I found to be weak or difficult to use turned out to be oversights or standard beginner problems
on my part, partly because I tried to do too much too early. The forums and the YouTube
instructional videos were instrumental in my learning process and in the general adoption of
the product. Native Instruments customer service was very helpful during the entire learning

My overall assessment of Native Instruments Maschine 1.5 is that it’s an incredible machine
that can either provide hours of entertainment or be used in a setting to record music with the
intention of making money on it. Certainly if you plan to use this professionally there is other
equipment that you’ll want but if you could only buy one product that could cover all the bases,
this will get the job done for you. If you’re a beginner like me, who wants to see how he/she can
hang utilizing robust production equipment, I’d also recommend picking this up. As with most
things, you’ll need to be dedicated and diligent in your approach to learning this instrument as
you would with any instrument. As comprehensive as it is, nothing this detailed can be mastered
in a week. However, all it may take is one hour before you are addicted.
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Features & Specs

MASCHINE's software is both rich in features yet highly intuitive, and easy-to-use.
* MASCHINE combines sampler, sequencer, effects and a fully tagged 6 GB sound library with a genuine hardware user interface
* MASCHINE works as standalone application or fully featured plug-in (VST, AU or RTAS) featuring total recall
* Unlimited Undo and Redo
* Open several plug-in instances of MASCHINE in your host sequencer and control them with the same hardware unit
* Extensive MIDI connectivity allows to bypass the integrated MASCHINE sequencer and fully use the hardware, sampler and effects within the DAW of your choice
* 8 separate stereo outputs (16 mono outs)
* MIDI out feature allows to sequence external MIDI hardware and software directly from MASCHINE

User Interface
The controller channels your creative impulses into total interaction with the software, offering a very high fun factor with mouse-free operation at every level.
* MASCHINE provides the ultimate integration of hardware and software, using a genuine protocol for advanced control possibilities and full visual feedback
* The instrument is fully usable without looking at the computer screen or touching your mouse
* Hardware shortcuts for rapid navigation through your project and editing of patterns: Octave or Semitone up / down, Nudge right / left, Quantize full / half, Copy / Paste, Clear Automation / Events, Undo / Redo, Compare / Split
* Macro Controls for controlling several parameters of different sounds of one group on one page, i.e. with the MASCHINE controller or via host automation
* 2 backlit displays with 64x256 pixels
* 41 backlit buttons
* 16 high-quality, illuminated pads with velocity and after-touch
* 11 endless rotary encoders offering true analogue feel through higher-than-MIDI resolution
* Instantly switchable to a fully featured MIDI controller (including MCU support)
* Controller Editor included: MIDI mapping via customizable instrument templates
* Integrated MIDI I/O interface
* Bus powered via USB 2.0
* Kensington lock
* Dimensions: 320 x 295 x 60 mm / 12.6 x 11.6 x 2.4" (fits into a vinyl carrier bag)
* Weight: 1811 Grams / 4 lbs

Studio Integration
MASCHINE provides seamless integration as a plug-in to your host sequencer. Produce the whole song in MASCHINE or move it to another sequencer for further processing and arranging.
* MASCHINE offers the same incredible feature set both as a standalone application and as a plug-in within any DAW or sequencer that supports VST, AU or RTAS
* As a plug-in, MASCHINE retains all of its capabilities including total recall and routing up to eight stereo outs to your host's mixer
* Triggering scene switches via MIDI allows for easy integration of your project into a host environment
* Export MIDI files or drag and drop of MIDI files directly into DAW
* Drag and drop of audio. Export pattern as an audio file by dragging and dropping directly to DAW
* DAW recording of MASCHINE events. Bypass MASCHINE’s internal sequencer and directly record into your host
* Group Macro Controls: Assign any parameter of the dedicated group (filter, pitch, any effect parameter) to the 8 knobs on the hardware
* Export audio files: Bounce individual files from all patterns, groups, scenes or the master channel
* Drag and drop export: Groups can be exported as audio files to your sequencer simply with drag and drop
* Import audio or REX files: Drag and drop sounds from your hard disk to the MASCHINE browser
* Instant navigation: Open several instances of MASCHINE in your host sequencer and easily switch between them using just one controller
* MIDI In and Out Mode: Send patterns as MIDI output in order to play other music software or hardware with MASCHINE - or trigger MASCHINE sounds from any external MIDI source

Full-featured MIDI Controller
The MASCHINE Controller can not only be used with the MASCHINE software - it is also a powerful universal hardware controller for use with any MIDI-compatible hardware or software.
* Extensive MIDI I/O: sequence your external MIDI gear with MASCHINE and vice versa
* Easily assign any button, pad and knob to a MIDI function – from software to hardware synths, samplers, sequencers and effects
* Switch control from MASCHINE to other gear instantly with a dedicated hardware button
* Pre-produced templates for many Native Instruments and third-party instruments included
* Easily create your own custom MASCHINE Controller settings using the included MIDI mapping software
* DAWs with Mackie Control Universal (MCU) support can be controlled easily with the MASCHINE Controller.

MASCHINE lets you easily create rhythms, bass lines, chords and melodies, and arrange them into complete tracks on the fly.
* Two complementary modes: Step Sequencer and Realtime Recording
* One-touch Note Repeat with 4 customizable speed settings
* One-touch automation while recording as well as automation editing for each step
* Clip-based concept for intuitive arrangement of your project into Scenes
* Each project can contain 512 different patterns and a total of 128 individual Sounds in 8 Groups
* Unlimited pattern length and number of events / notes
* 960 ppq sequencer resolution
* Compare and Split function for quickly adding variations of patterns
* MIDI In / Out with support for note events, pitch bend and mod wheel
* Flexible global swing parameter plus individual swing setting for each group
* Grid settings: Off or note values from 1/1 to 1/128 (including triplets) for Step Sequencer, Note Repeat and Quantization
* Optional Quantization by 50% to keep the human touch when recording patterns
* Bounce Patterns, Groups, Scenes or the Master channel to WAV/AIFF files in 8, 16 and 24 bit
* Export Patterns as MIDI or audio via drag & drop to your host sequencer
* Record count-in and adjustable metronome volume
* Sync mode: MIDI clock (master and slave)

MASCHINE is based on a high-performance sampler engine, allowing audio recording of internal or external sources and precise sample playback.
* Integrated external and internal sampling for recording external audio or the MASCHINE output
* 192kHz sample rate and 24bit resolution when using the AUDIO KONTROL 1
* Sample-length and number of samples only limited by harddrive capacity
* Auto-start recording with threshold detection or sequencer sync, clean resampling of loops in pre-selected length (e.g. 4 bars)
* Powerful integrated slicing with automatic pad assignment: Slice manually or by transient detection, grid or equal splits
* Preview and individual editing of slices
* Internal destructive audio editor: truncate, normalize, reverse, DC fix, fade in & out, silence, duplicate, cut, copy and paste
* Extensive modulation: velocity, envelope, mod wheel and LFO as modulation source for pitch, start, LFO, drive, cutoff and pan
* Polyphony up to 32 voices for each sound, with choke, legato and glide options
* 16 Velocity Levels: Map a sound to the 16 pads in different velocity levels
* Convenient editor for mapping of sample layers to velocity and key values
* New Vintage Sampling Modes emulating the sound of MPC60 / SP1200 including optional filter settings
* REX2 file import with slicing information
* Import for MPC 500/1000/2000(XL)/2500/3000/4000

Sample Library & Browser
A sophisticated and easy–to-use tag-based browser gives you instant access to any sound, loop and instrument from the extensive library.
* 6.2GB of factory content providing over 18,000 samples
* Over 5,000 drum samples, 403 sliced loops and 388 fully playable sampled instruments
* In comparison to a classic hardware-only setup: Total library size only limited by harddrive capacity
* Browse and search for projects, patterns, kits, sounds and effects by key words or tags
* Quickbrowse for super-fast finding and stepping through similar sounds per pad using the controller
* Swapping kits while keeping patterns for trying out your beat with new sounds
* Quiet sound selection for performance situations
* Save Project With Samples: Easily share and collaborate on projects

MASCHINE's built-in effects section contains a powerful arsenal of studio-quality effects to shape and supercharge your sound.
* 22 integrated studio-quality effects with flexible routing options
* 2 effects units each for every sound, group and the master slot, applicable to external inputs as well
* Multi-effect chains possible by combining effects into their own group, 2 Send Effect channels for each Group and Sound
* Dynamics: limiter, maximizer, compressor, gate
* Modulation: chorus, flanger, phaser, FM, freq shifter
* Filtering: filter, EQ
* Spatial and reverb: Reverb, metaverb, ice, reflex
* Distortion: saturator, distortion, lofi
* Delay: beat delay, grain delay, grain stretch

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