Native Instrument’s currently produce 3 different versions of their Maschine groovebox but which one is best for you? If you’re new to beat making it can be confusing knowing which Maschine you should opt for.
I’ll start my deep dive into the various Maschines with a brief recap of Maschine for those of you who are new to the product:
Maschine Overview: Developer Native Instruments launched their Maschine hardware/software hybrid groovebox in April, 2009.
Maschine is a hardware/software combination with a focus on beat making and electronic music production.
Maschine connects to a computer via USB and all of the Maschines feature 16 pressure sensitive pads on with which users can trigger sounds and program beats.
Native Instruments have launched a variety of Maschines over the years including the cut down Maschine Mikro (October 2011), Maschine Mk2 (October 2012), Maschine Studio (November 2013. Discontinued) and Maschine Jam (September 2016. Discontinued).
The Maschine MK3 launched in October 2017 and the Maschine+ launched in September 2020.
While the core Maschine beat making and sequencing software (MASCHINE 2 Software) is the same across all the Maschine range, different versions of Maschine come with different collections of synths and expansions.
Below I list the different Maschines you can choose from today.
3 different Maschines to choose from (cheapest to most expensive):
- Maschine Mikro MK3
- Maschine MK3
(Check the Native Instrument’s website for current Maschine prices, offers, specifications etc.)
The different Maschines – an overview for beginners:
Maschine currently comes in three different iterations.
Maschine Mikro MK3 – the most affordable Maschine, the Maschine Mikro is a good choice for beginners. The Maschine Mikro features 16 pads, smart strip, vintage MPC 60/SP 1200 sampling emulation. Requires a USB connection to PC or Mac. Has no built-in screen.
Maschine Mikro comes with a good selection of N.I. software although not as comprehensive as its bigger siblings Maschine or Maschine+
Maschine MK3 – all-in-one system with 2 color screens and studio-grade, 96kHz / 24-bit audio interface. Vintage MPC 60/SP 1200 sampling emulation. Requires USB connection to a PC or Mac.
A clear step up from the Maschine Mikro in terms of features and coming it a just under half the price of the Maschine+, the Maschine MK3 is a powerful groovebox at a reasonable price.
A comprehensive software package – including KOMPLETE 13 SELECT and free Maschine Expansions – is the icing on the cake.
Maschine+ – Complete standalone music production system with 2 color screens and studio-grade, 96kHz / 24-bit audio interface. Vintage MPC 60/SP 1200 sampling emulation.
Pick the Maschine+ if money is no object and you want to make beats without being tethered to a computer. Such freedom comes at a price though – the Maschine+ costs almost twice as much as the Maschine. Note that you will need a wireless internet connection and a Native ID account to set up your Maschine+.
What can you do with Maschine?
Apart from using your Maschine as a doorstop, here’s a list of 10 things the Maschine range excels at:
- Create and perform beats by using the 16 velocity senitive drum pads to trigger drum samples, one shots, loops and VST synth sounds.
- Enter keyboard mode and create melodies and riffs using the pads to play your samples and synths chromatically, just like a keyboard.
- Use Maschine’S Smart Strip to enjoy new ways of playing. Use it like a keyboard’s wheel for pitch-bending and modulation of sounds or add builds and transitions and create strums and exciting repeat effects.
- Easily create fills and arps.
- Sequence your beats and melodies to create complete tracks.
- Export your beats and melodies as samples or midi data for further work in your DAW of choice.
- Open up Maschine in your DAW as a VST plugin.
- Use Maschine’s built-in drum synths to sculpt an infinite variety of electronic and modeled acoustic drum sounds
- Mix your beats and tracks using a suite of professional Native Instruments effects.
- Fire up Maschine Expansions for ready to go, professional produced drum kits, samples, loops and complete projects covering all genres including techno, house and hip hop.
Which Maschine is best for beginners?
If you’re looking to get started with Native Instrument’s Maschine then the Maschine Mikro offers an affordable way to dip your toe into Native Instrument’s software/hardware powered grooveboxes.
If you mostly intend to use the Maschine 2 software without using the actual hardware – inputting drum hits into the piano roll with your mouse instead of via the drum pads, for example – then it makes sense to opt for the Maschine Mikro.
Can Maschine software run without the Maschine hardware?
Yes it can. The Maschine 2 software works like any other software DAW albeit one without all the advanced features you can find in more advanced DAWs such as Logic and Cubase.
The focus of the Maschine software is on beat making, recording/capturing sounds and sequencing patterns to create complete tracks.
To install the Maschine software on your PC or Mac you must purchase one of the Maschine hardware units first but once the software is installed the actual hardware can be ignored if you wish.
Once the Maschine software is installed on your computer you can fire it up in standalone mode or you can use it as a VST plugin within the DAW of your choice. So, for example, you can use Maschine’s powerful drum synth tools in your Reason or FL Studio project even if the Maschine hardware itself is switched off.
Does Maschine require a powerful computer?
Maschine is quite a resource hog so the more powerful your PC or Mac, the better. On my i5, 4GB laptop my Maschine software is almost impossible to use beyond making a few basic beats and many of Maschine’s demo projects either do not run at all or reduce my laptop to a crawl.
On my i7 desktop computer with 32GB memory, everything works like a charm.
Note that in the recommended minimum specifications Native Instruments do suggest a minimum of 4GB RAM but in my experience having 8GB or 16GB RAM results in a marked leap in performance and stability.
I would not attempt to run Maschine on a laptop with less than 4GB and anything lower than an i5 processor.
Below you can see the official Maschine specs as of Summer 2021:
Maschine+ minimum system requirements: macOS 10.14 or 10.15 (latest update), Intel Core i5, 4 GB RAM. Windows 10 (latest Service Pack, 64-bit only), Intel Core i5 or equivalent CPU, 4 GB RAM. USB 2.0 Port, 9 GB free disk space for MASCHINE software and MASCHINE Library, 24 GB free disk space for MASCHINE+ Selection.
Maschine minimum system requirements: macOS 10.13, 10.14, 10.15, or 11 (latest update), Intel Core i5, 4 GB RAM. Windows 10 (latest Service Pack, 64-bit only), Intel Core i5 or equivalent CPU, 4 GB RAM. USB 2.0 Port, 9 GB free disk space for MASCHINE software and MASCHINE Library, 33 GB free disk space for KOMPLETE SELECT.
Maschine Mikro minimum system requirements: macOS 10.13, 10.14, 10.15, or 11 (latest update), Intel Core i5, 4 GB RAM. Windows 10 (latest Service Pack, 64-bit only), Intel Core i5 or equivalent CPU, 4GB RAM. USB 2.0 Port, 3 GB free disk space for MASCHINE Essentials (full MASCHINE software plus 1.6 GB MASCHINE Factory Selection), 1 GB free disk space for MASSIVE, MONARK and REAKTOR PRISM
Which Maschine is standalone?
Only the Maschine+ operates fully standalone, without a computer. The Maschine Mikro and Maschine MK3 need to be connected to a PC or Mac vis USB.
List of discontinued Maschines:
The Maschine Jam and Maschine Studio are now discontinued.