Native Instruments Maschine
2009 – present
Fashions move in cycles, and the world of music technology is no exception. Given the current obsession with hardware you’d be forgiven for thinking it had always been this way, but following the great DAW revolution just after the turn of the millennium the trend was resolutely in the opposite direction, with hordes of producers rushing to do as much as possible in the box. Software brought with it a great number of advantages, not least in terms of making the technology more affordable and accessible to a wider audience, but in our rush to embrace the brave new world of software many of us realised we’d lost some of the major benefits of hardware: the ability to adjust multiple controls simultaneously, play instruments on pads and keys, or just to feel some physical feedback on our fingertips.
The last few years have seen a major swing back in the other direction. Generic MIDI controllers go some way to bringing back the hands-on control, but no matter how many hours you spend setting up mappings for your software you can only get so far with a generic hardware layout. The logical conclusion was reached in 2009 when Native Instruments launched a new hybrid product, Maschine. On the software side, Maschine is a fairly straightforward but very powerful sampler and sequencer, capable of running as a plugin in a DAW or as a standalone application in its own right. What sets it apart is the inclusion of a dedicated hardware controller designed for ultimate integration with the software package.
It’s just about the most obvious solution imaginable, but in practice Maschine is much more than the sum of its parts: the versatility and flexibility of software combined with the immediacy and hands-on control of hardware. With access to Native Instruments’ huge sample libraries, it’s hardly surprising that Maschine – now updated to version 2 and also available in Mikro and Studio versions – has had on the world of dance music production.
in practice Maschine is more than the sum of its parts
Maschine isn’t the only option in this category. Arturia’s Spark and Akai’s MPC Renaissance both offer alternative takes on the same overall concept, while Ableton’s Push can also cover a lot of similar ground. With so many great options available, the hybrid sampler looks set to stay. Why choose between hardware and software when you can have the best of both worlds?