Maschine+ is Native Instruments’ first standalone groovebox based on the popular Maschine platform equipped with everything a modern beat producer needs
It was like a gum affair. There was a lot of talk about it, then internally stopped and now surprisingly announced. Native Instruments is starting fresh again after the rather unpleasant news from the spring/summer. After Komplete 13 last week, they are now showing Maschine+, their first standalone groovebox that does not require a computer. This means that the Akai MPC series now has real competition. Very interesting what NI shows us here but first everything at the beginning.
Maschine+, as the name suggests, is a Maschine, but that + is the crucial difference. There is a custom-build Linux-powered embedded computer running inside with a quad-core CPU, 4GB of DDR3L RAM, 32 Gb internal flash storage (OS & factory content), SD card slot + 64 GB card included with content, WIFI, and Ableton Link support. I am very pleased with the latter, as there is still relatively little hardware on the market that has this technology integrated.
Familiar Updated Design
Native Instruments continues the design of its Maschine Mk3 in the + version. And rightly so, especially since it so popular with users. Visually it looks very similar to the Mk3 that you can think that it is a special limited edition like the orange version back then. It has an aluminum housing, same velocity- and pressure-sensitive pads, and crisp displays as the MIDI-only version. That means no touch screen and therefore only full control via the built-in buttons and knobs. You can argue about whether a touch display or not. Akai is doing it, does NI have to? I think if you do a poll it would be 50%/50%. I have no problem with this decision.
There are many very welcome addons. First, it comes with two USB host ports which you can use to connect USB-MIDI controllers and devices or external hard drives. For example, you can use one port to connect a KeyStep controller and the second an external SSD with your projects, samples, etc. Or you can use the internal memory of 32GB for samples, which is a bit small or an SD card. NI has thus ensured with three memory options that you do not need a computer. A super cool addition is the locking power which is a kind of twist-to-lock power adapter that avoids accidentally unplugs.
Because we are already talking about power. Maschine+ is not equipped with an internal battery. No panic, beta testers say that the device can be operated with a power bank. You have to see that later whether this is possible or not. Akai is a step ahead here, maybe in the Maschine+ Mk2 with a battery. On the connection side, it comes with 2x 1/4″ TRS balanced line outs, 2x 1/4″ balanced line inputs, plus a 1/4″ dynamic mic input and stereo headphone out. All that I/O runs in standalone on a 44.1kHz / 24-bit audio interface or 96/24-bit with a computer. MIDI in/out is available with classic sockets, great, and a footswitch pedal input. Further, there is a sturdy USB-B input, no USB-C, and a phone volume controller. Sadly no CV outputs for modular synths.
Software Rewritten For Standalone
Maschine was previously a purely hybrid product consisting of a high-quality MIDI pad controller and sophisticated beat production software, which was constantly growing in features. The interesting point here is how did NI melt this tremendous software power into a standalone device. Well, not everything but some well-known ones are included in a new form. Maschine+ Selection is a curated collection of instruments, effects, and expansion that hopefully grow with new content in the future. At the start, it includes FM8, Massive, Monark, Prism, Reaktor Factory Selection, Kontakt Factory Selection & Retro Machines, all instruments that we already know as plugins.
Very exciting in my opinion. Especially Massive, FM8 or Monark are excellent synths that have a top reputation among producers. These versatile sound generators are now available in a standalone box. Whoever wanted Massive as a standalone synth, now is the moment. On top, Maschine+Selection also includes the really great sounding internal bass & drum Synthesizers (five engines) from Maschine. With this huge selection of synths, don’t forget that Maschine+ also has a live sampler on board. In addition to the internal Maschine effects, NI has also given its first standalone groove box the effect processors Phasis and phenomenal Raum reverb, known as plugins.
Massive, FM8, Reaktor Instruments, etc. on standalone sounds great. Yes, we dream of it, but it remains a dream. All these instruments & effects are special versions designed for Machine +. VST plugins, Kontakt libraries, or Reaktor instruments are not supported. And anyway I think that the CPU & RAM is not enough for it. Also important to know, you can use M+ also as a hardware controller for the Maschine software.
My 2 Pennies
I am very happy that Native Instruments has finally managed to bring a Maschine to the market as a standalone. The market for large samplers and beat production remains rather small. Akai with their MPCs, Elektron Octatrack, or the Deluge are currently the competitors for NI. Although Akai is arguably the biggest. What makes me more positive about the Maschine+ versus the Akai MPC is the knowledge that Native Instruments brings with it. They have a stable software framework, which has proven itself to be very good for years. Exactly this platform, they have now implemented in hardware.
If they have developed very cleverly, both the hybrid and standalone runs on the same code, so fewer resources for updates. If not, well then it’s more work to do. Akai, on the other hand, has had negative headlines about software problems in the recent past, but they are now under control. I also see the built-in high-quality instruments (FM8, Massive, Monark …) as huge pulling grounds for the device. I don’t want to praise too much about it. It will be interesting to see how the standalone Maschine will develop.
Native Instruments Maschine+ ships on October 1st, 2020 and will be available online, and in stores. You can pre-order it now for 1299 EUR (Thomann 1259 EUR) / 1349 CHF / 1399 USD / 149,800 YEN / 1099 GBP / 1999 AUD / 1799 CAD / 9999 CNY what is certainly not a bargain. But re-think what you get for.
More information here: NI
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