DJbooth.net'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.
Maschine 1.5 Product Review for DJBooth.net
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 DJBooth.net 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.