As production software, Maschine has always been about emulation of the classic groovebox-style production workflow. With this new controller, Native Instruments is clearly trying to add some of the dynamic modern workflow elements that producers have come to expect out of Ableton (with Push and Launchpad controllers) into Maschine.
Maschine Jam’s Pad Grid
The actual hardware of the Maschine Jam is fairly easy to understand. The focal point is the 8×8 multicolored pad section that allows the arrangement of pads and scenes. NI’s press release details the functions of the pad section:
- In Step Mode, the matrix becomes a powerful multi-track step-sequencer for one, four, or eight sounds simultaneously.
- In Pad Mode, sounds are entered in real-time, while Piano Roll Mode makes step-sequencing melodies in a wide variety of available scales possible.
- When the Variation Engine is enabled, inspirational beats and melodies are randomly generated based on customizable values and then modified on the matrix. A built-in humanizer adds natural rhythmic fluctuations to programmed sequences.
While the product video at the top of this article does show a quick glimpse into finger drumming with the Maschine Jam’s pads in Pad Mode, based on the price, you won’t be using these pads to bang out beats on the fly regularly. That’s best suited for high-quality pads or arcade buttons that give you a solid physical response – not these basic push-button pads.
Maschine Jam Smart Strips: For Performance
Native Instruments has continued to add touch strips to their controllers, and the Maschine Jam is no exception with eight two-touch Smart Strips (once for each “channel strip”). The strips are mapped to new performance FX that come in a new update to the Maschine software, version 2.5 – and can be used to “alter the motion, space, and dynamics of sounds in real time”.
“The Smart Strips each feature multi-color LED meters to monitor the level of the assigned function, and can be used to alter macros, key instrument parameters, and even play melodies and chords with the unique Notes function. A powerful Lock function stores parameter snapshots that can revert back to their original settings or morph between multiple lock states.”
We’ve seen the Notes function in action – it’s like taking the Scale mode of an Ableton Push and combining it with the playability of an autoharp or Omnichord – incredibly fun and easy to quickly add melodic flourishes to a track.
Software + What’s Included
The Maschine Jam is targeted at on-the-go producers who want a highly portable controller to sequence ideas and built tracks on the fly. These producers might own Maschine already, but if not, NI is including the full software with a revised 9GB audio library, as well as the Komplete 11 Select package that includes Massive and Monark.
For the launch, there’s also a special offer of two free Maschine Expansions (out of twenty) when you register a Maschine Jam – clearly an opportunity to beef up a production library.
Not Only For Maschine: Ableton Jam?
Everyone who sees the Maschine Jam and the $399 price tag quickly starts to wonder – is NI going to lock this controller to Maschine software only? Thankfully, it seems that clearer minds have prevailed.
The Maschine Jam will not only work when running Maschine as a plugin inside of other DAW software, but it also can be used in MIDI mode as a dedicated controller for any DAW. They’ve even built an advanced template for Ableton Live with many of the performance and step-sequencing features.