Native Instruments’ newest Maschine controller is a refreshed model of its cut-down Mikro mannequin with nearly no seen display. Scott Wilson finds out if the brand new format makes the moveable controller more difficult to make use of.
Native Instruments’ beat-making Maschine has undergone plenty of facelifts through the years. The core thought – an MPC-style controller hooked as much as a software program host – hasn’t modified (besides on 2016’s sequencer instrument, Maschine Jam), however with every successive technology NI has added new options (a contact strip for results, audio interface, colour screens) to make it a extra helpful studio and efficiency instrument. The new Maschine Mikro, nevertheless, is extra notable for what it cuts again on – particularly display measurement.
The first Maschine Mikro, launched in 2011, decreased the controller to a extra moveable measurement by making just a few compromises – the twin screens grew to become a single LCD and all of the knobs have been jettisoned in favor of only one. The new Mikro, which is a smaller model of final 12 months’s Maschine MK3, takes an analogous strategy: it’s solely acquired one knob however retains the helpful buttons for toggling between pad, keyboard and chord modes, in addition to variation and duplication. The Mikro MK3 doesn’t inherit its older sibling’s colour display although. In reality, it’s so small that it will probably solely show two traces of textual content.
As a design alternative, it is smart. The Mikro MK3 is far much less cluttered and the additional area gained has allowed NI to slot in a contact strip for tweaking results and performing. On the opposite hand, some customers might discover themselves squinting to see it correctly and it will probably solely be used for just a few easy duties. One of my favourite features of the full-size MK3 is with the ability to slice samples and results from the itself – duties which can be not possible on the Mikro . So what does the brand new Mikro provide moreover portability? The reply, is a extra targeted expertise.
For some customers (me included) the full-size Maschine MK3’s colour screens could be simply as distracting as a laptop computer; it’s all too simple to get misplaced in them tweaking drum synths and results, slicing up samples or modifying notes. On the Mikro MK3 there’s none of that, so by necessity you are usually extra targeted on what’s usually essentially the most tough a part of the method – sketching out a beat. So, whereas the Mikro is in the beginning a extra moveable model of the Maschine for making music on the transfer, the extra streamlined expertise could be extra engaging to sure studio customers.
In use, the Mikro MK3 is simply as nice a instrument for sketching out rhythms as its full measurement equal. Its pads, that are impressed by the Maschine MK3, are good and enormous, so there’s loads of room for finger drumming. The Note Repeat button (used primarily for enjoying flams and rolls on the fly) is definitely in a barely higher place than on the complete size-version; it’s under the contact strip so you may maintain it down along with your index finger and tweak results with the center finger of your left hand when you faucet out beats along with your proper. It’s a small enchancment, nevertheless it makes it a lot simpler so as to add aptitude to your beats.
Unfortunately, preset searching with the smaller OLED show isn’t as slick as it’s with twin screens. It really requires extra use of the Maschine software program than I’d anticipated; although you may scroll by way of sounds and kits by urgent the browser button and turning the knob, you may solely scroll throughout the class highlighted within the software program. NI offsets this barely with a devoted button that you need to use to shortly spotlight your favourite sounds for simple recall later; it’s a extra speedy approach of switching kits that makes the Mikro really feel extra like a drum machine than its sibling.
Editing and mixing sounds is much better with the knob than searching. If you wish to tweak the quantity stage of a person drum sound, you simply press the quantity button, maintain down the corresponding pad and switch the knob. Similarly, tuning could be modified and swing utilized per sound utilizing the identical method. It’s a extremely fast approach of getting what you need from the combination, with out the necessity for a financial institution of knobs or sliders that will in any other case litter up the entrance panel.
NI’s choice to incorporate a devoted sampling button, nevertheless, strikes me as slightly odd. Unlike final 12 months’s Maschine MK3, the brand new Mikro doesn’t have a built-in audio interface, and the screens aren’t any good for waveforms anyway, so any pattern modifying by necessity needs to be completed within the software program an exterior audio interface or microphone. Unless NI is planning another options a future replace, the sampling button’s solely actual operate is to set off the pattern document course of.
If you’re an skilled Maschine consumer with a full-size MK3, there’s no actual want to fret concerning the new Mikro until you desperately want a smaller model for touring with. Yes, it presents a extra targeted manufacturing expertise, however anybody who’s effectively versed within the will most likely have developed display coping methods anyway. For anybody taking their first steps into Maschine although, the Mikro MK3 is one of the best introduction to NI’s beat-making system. It’s streamlined and easy sufficient to show the fundamentals with out being too overwhelming and at $199/£189 for the controller, Maschine 2 software program and an enormous assortment of kits, it’s a steal.
Scott Wilson is FACT’s tech editor. Find him on Twitter
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