Native Instruments has launched the new Maschine MK2 production studio along with the new version 1.8 of its software and we've got our hands on both for a full written review. How does it stack up against the highly-reviewed original software and hardware? Check out our very own Dave Macli's take on the differences between the two as he is the same individual who reviewed the 1.5 some time ago. More after the jump.
Setup & First Impressions
On October 1, 2012 Native Instruments unleashed the Native Instructions Maschine MK2 production studio, the long-awaited update to the original Maschine which received rave reviews from The DJBooth.
Along with the new hardware, Native Instruments also introduced version 1.8 of the Maschine software, which was built to take advantage of the new functionality included in the Beat Maschine as well as offer some new effects and features not included on Maschine 1.5.
In this review we will focus on only what new in Maschine MKII and Maschine 1.8, but if you want to read more about Maschine check out our original Maschine 1.5 Review.
The look of the Maschine hasn’t changed much in this version, and we consider that a good thing as we appreciated the industrial design and well-thought-out layout on the original. However, those who prefer white over black will be glad to see that Native Instruments has added a solid white version. If you would like to add a bit more color to the Maschine you can also purchase one of five different custom faceplates. They are really simple to install, as Kareem showed us in
Color Pads & Buttons: The main new feature of the Maschine MK2 is its ability to light up the sound pads and scene buttons in various different colors. Native Instruments makes this clear to the user by having the MK2 run an impressive looking rainbow effect across the device when it is first powered on. It serves as a nice introduction to the product and is sure to turn heads if you power on in a crowded room.
However, the color pad feature isn’t just pleasing to look at. The MK2 has the ability to assign sounds and scenes to different colors and have those colors reflected in both the hardware and the software. This may sound trivial to some, but I can assure you that once you get used to it you will never want to go back to a single color interface again. Personally I like to assign my kicks, snares, bass, and samples each to different colors as this allows me to easily identify them on the pad. One of our main gripes with the original Maschine software was that you end up having your beat displayed as a collection of hundreds of orange bars in a grid and you end up forgetting which bar represents which sound. Now editing is a breeze as the colors you assign to each sound also show up on the beat grid.
Native Instruments has also made notable improvements to the pads and buttons themselves. The DJBooth staff felt that the pads on the original Maschine required a powerful tap to register a full volume sound. We are very pleased to say that the pads on the MK2 are much more sensitive and don’t require as much force to register a louder sound. It makes long sessions on the Maschine much easier on the hands. Furthermore, the settings buttons on the left side of the unit also now “click” when you push them so you know when the press has registered.
Whereas the original Maschine has 3 separate knobs to control the volume, swing, and tempo, the new Maschine MK2 has a single knob and three buttons that let you toggle which feature it controls. While the change may be a personal preference, almost all users will appreciate that the new knob clicks as you move it. This way you know how much you are adjusting the setting. The other knobs on the MK2 are also tweaked a bit as they not feel much tighter than the ones on the old version. In other words it takes a bit more force to turn them, which will allow for tighter control over effects and the other settings they control.
A notable feature new to the MK2 is called “choke”. By pressing shift and mute, the Maschine will stop playing any sounds. This is especially useful when you have a sample in your beat that plays for multiple bars. In the past if you stopped playing the beat (say to edit it) the Maschine would continue to play that sample until it ended. Now you can press “Choke” and all sounds stop immediately. Lastly, producers familiar with the original Maschine will notice that the shading of the LCDs on the MK2 is reverse and as a result they are much easier to read, especially when viewing the Maschine in the dark.
SOFTWARE – Maschine Version 1.8
All Maschine users can now take advantage of the new Maschine Software Version 1.8 which includes a number of new features and enhancements over the previous version. The color coding of sounds and scenes I mentioned in the hardware section of the review is the biggest new feature in 1.8. While anyone can take advantage of the color coding in the software, those with 1st generation Machines wont be able to have the colors in the software match the colors on the Maschine’s hardware pads.
Color-coding aside, our favorite new feature in 1.8 is Time Stretch. Here at the DJBooth we are big fans of taking samples from movies and other songs to use in our beats. One of our biggest gripes with Maschine was that there wasn’t a way to use the software to stretch or shrink these samples so they “fit” into our beats. We ended up using external sound editors and then importing them into Maschine. With the new Time Stretch feature you can now take a sample and change the tempo and pitch to match the BPM of your song. It’s a big win for any producers, especially hip hop producers.
Lastly, the new version of Maschine comes with 2 new effects as well as a free version of the Massive synthesizer. Massive contains over 1,300 new sounds for you to use in your beats and also gives you an interface where you can tweak the sounds to your liking. This opens up countless new possibilities for your music.
Conclusion / Recommended For
Here at DJBooth we were big fans of the original Maschine so this new update is simply icing on the cake. Now that we have gotten used to having color coded scenes and sounds, we don’t think we will ever be able to use a production studio that doesn’t offer a similar feature. With more sensitive pads and the ability to Time Stretch samples, Native Instruments has addressed two of the biggest shortcomings we found in the first generation. Lastly, the inclusion of Massive for free makes the Maschine MK2 an incredible deal for $650 or less. The MK2 comes highly recommended by DJBooth for both EDM and Hip Hop producers.
- Color coding makes it easy to identify sounds on the pads and in the beat grid
- Button sensitivity has been fine-tuned
- Time stretch allows you to fit samples into your beat without the need for external software
- $600+ price tag might be too high for some budget-conscious producers
- Very complex product, might be tough to learn for some