You would have to have been living on the moon in the last couple of years not to have heard of the Native Instruments beat making hardware and software combo Maschine, it is now ubiquitous in the studio and DJ world of beat construction and control.
The first question our consumer culture usually ask on the launch of a product, or in some cases before, is ‘when is the next one coming?’ and ‘what will it be?’ The obvious assumption is that the next version will be bigger as well as better.
Native Instruments have decided the evolution of Maschine is smaller in the form of Maschine MIKRO.
This review sets out to answer two questions, firstly, how does Maschine MIKRO stand on its own merit and then of course secondly, how to it compare to its bigger brother. One question that sometimes nags at us when buying a product is will I spend the rest of my days wishing I had gone the whole hog, I had a friend who asked that question when Yamaha launched the DX7 and DX9, the DX9 was in fact the baby brother. He decided to go the whole hog for fear he would spend all his time wishing he was playing the DX7.
Maschine (if you have been living on the moon) is a USB and MIDI hardware controller for beat making, paired up with software which works in either standalone or as a plug-in. It also ships with a huge drum library. In a recent update it also acts as mission control for the entire native instruments library as well as host to most VST and AU plug-ins. In a nutshell Maschine kicks ass when it comes to beat-making, I don’t have the stats, but I’m guessing it’s the top selling product in its class, if its not, then it should be.
As I’ve already said Maschine MIKRO is a smaller version, physically 60% of its big brother. So let’s get right down to the question of what got dropped from the full version.
- No physical MIDI in and out.
- About 25% of the original LCD screen real estate
- No dedicated rotary pots and buttons
- No dedicated groups section
- No dedicated volume, pitch and swing knobs
What you do get is the same software and the same library that ships with Maschine. You also get what Native describe as the same quality pads found on Maschine; I disagree, I think the pads on MIKRO are better.
If you’ve not used Maschine before then the list above may not really make much sense, so the best way of explaining what you get with Maschine that you don’t get with Mikro is ultimate live performance control. If you plan to use Maschine in a live environment where you want to be able to tweak your performance in a instance, then with MIKRO you will find this much harder.
However in a studio setting MIKRO will tick the box of many new users to the world of Maschine beat making. In some ways I found MIKRO a lot easier to get around, it felt like the early days of Roland 505 or Alesis HR16 drum machines; in fact in a human sense MIKRO feels a lot more like a drum machine and Maschine Snr a production studio - that’s not to take anything away from MIKRO as when it comes to making beats and the power of the software, its exactly the same.
If you are new to beat making and want to get into Maschine and don’t need the performance tweaking knobs and buttons, or ever need to connect it to external MIDI hardware then MIKRO is going to tick your boxes. It sounds exactly the same, the software is exactly the same and the library exactly the same.
What Maschine MIKRO proves is that bigger is not always better, just different. Maschine MIKRO proves that small is not only beautiful but also powerful.
Which one should you buy? Only you can answer that question, I hope the facts I’ve given help you in making that choice. If you are asking me if you should buy one of them, if you make beats then the answer is if you ignore Maschine and Maschine MIKRO when choosing your beat-making device, do so at your own risk.
Machine MIKRO is small, powerful and amazing value - for that reason it gets my final Editors Choice Award of 2011 and deservedly so!