I've been lucky enough to have a Maschine JAM, with the early version of the new Maschine software, to play with for the past few days too... if you love sequencers, producing, and Maschine, then JAM is probably going to rock your world.
Watch our first-look video overview showcasing some of the main features in action:
(Scroll down for the official Machine JAM press release and 1.5-minute video)
Maschine JAM is a production/sequencing instrument or controller for Maschine and a whole lot more. There's innovative use of touch strips. Really satisfying to tap RGB click-buttons/pads. Fun ways to sequence sounds. Innovative ways to display multiple sequencer lanes simultaneously, and Performer Effects which can be controlled via the touch strips.
Before we go a bit deeper, there will be the inevitable comparisons for Maschine JAM to the Ableton Push and the Akai Pro APC40 and perhaps the Livid BASE. For me, Maschine JAM is quite different to the Push especially with its use of touch strips and empahasis on controlling Maschine software. I've not tried the APC40 for more than a few minutes so I can't really comment there either. Back to JAM...
Did I mention the touch strips? The more you use them, the cooler they get. You're not stuck controlling only volume... you can use them for the new Performer Effects, Macros, Auxes, automation of levels or effects... and you can even use them to play notes. Yes, Maschine is so much more than a beat machine. We're talking an excellent keyboard mode in the main 8x8 matrix... and using Touch Strips you can trigger and play instruments in ways you simply couldn't do using a traditional keyboard controller. One example would be dragging up and down to simulate strumming a chord for plucked instruments.
What's unique to JAM compared to other Maschine hardware? Well, the "strumming" of notes, multiple step sequencers, a piano roll mode, Lock mode where you can recall up to 64 snapshots and morph between the snapshots, and new ways to add variation to patterns: humanization and randomisation allow you to quickly modify the MIDI patterns in the piano roll in ways you might not have tried yourself. You can set the percentage of change for timing changes and range of change for velocity too.
I wasn't a big Maschine user before I got the JAM. I have a Micro, but I've never been the most accomplished finger drummer. I prefer sequencers. And JAM is something that does impress and has got me playing with Maschine in a whole new way. And in case I haven't made this point enough yet... it's really fun to use.
In Q4 of 2016, Native Instruments plan to release an update for Maschine JAM that includes individual note editing capabilities, including velocity and nudge, move, etc. There are also more DAW templates planned in the same way that JAM can currently control Ableton Live...
So, what's missing in JAM? I'll mention the obvious. An onboard digital display. Now, personally, I think JAM is better without a display for now. It's easier to refer to the software on your computer and I didn't feel it slowed down my workflow. In fact, not having a screen on the hardware helped me concentrate more on the sounds and performing and jamming (sic) side of making music. Plus, as NI showed me you can use Maschine JAM and Maschine Studio in tandem, so you'll probably not miss the lack of a screen on the device.
Being able to custom edit the Touch Strips isn't available yet. Again, this is for a planned update... Sending MIDI notes/CC from Maschine to external hardware would be awesome... I'd love for Maschine JAM to one day be the heart of my software and hardware synth studio.
Aside from these small asides, in the little time I've had to play with Maschine JAM (and I should add all this was without a manual!), I've found JAM to be intuitive, fun, innovative and more fun. That there's still more to come from NI in terms of updates and potential editors for JAM makes me more excited... and for just $399 USD / £319 GBP, NI have a hit on their hands.
The new MASCHINE system delivers hands-on sequencing and innovative sound design tools for intuitive track building.
Berlin, September 8, 2016 – Native Instruments today announced MASCHINE JAM – the modern production and performance system created for fluid, intuitive track sketching and the latest member of the MASCHINE family. MASCHINE JAM offers versatile workflow designed to swiftly capture and develop creative ideas using tactile step sequencing and touch-sensitive performance controls for the latest MASCHINE 2 software. Advancing the same seamless hardware-software integration found throughout the world of MASCHINE, MASCHINE JAM not only enhances music production with existing MASCHINE hardware, but also with DAWs, NKS-ready plug-ins, and the KOMPLETE range of software and hardware. MASCHINE JAM will be available at the NI Online Shop and at retailers worldwide starting September 29, 2016.
“Inspiration has always been the most energizing, yet transient moment in the creative process,” says Mate Galic, CTO of Native Instruments. “MASCHINE JAM narrows the gap between idea and execution and introduces an innovative piece of hardware that draws from the power of software in a deeply integrated way. It will stimulate more creative experimentation, drive quick results and deliver the flow of a truly tactile digital instrument for advanced track building and performance”.
MASCHINE JAM offers a unique set of hardware features that reinforces the creative process. Its workflow centers on an 8x8 multicolor click-pad matrix where producers and performers can experiment with arrangement possibilities using patterns and scenes. 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.
MASCHINE JAM’s eight dual-touch Smart Strips feature an impressive set of functions unlocked with the free MASCHINE 2.5 software update. All-new Perform FX map one of several effects to JAM’s touch strips. Each strip responds to simultaneous finger gestures 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.
MASCHINE JAM includes a substantial repertoire of sound from MASCHINE 2 software and the KOMPLETE 11 SELECT* instruments and effects bundle - including NI's legendary synths MASSIVE and MONARK - so producers can start creating right out of the box. Along with the powerful MASCHINE Drum Synth modules, version 2.5 of the acclaimed MASCHINE software features a revised 9 GB library updated with all-new sounds and macro controls.
MASCHINE JAM not only boasts united workflow across included sounds and instruments, but also creates a workflow complementary to existing MASCHINE hardware. In addition to seamless browsing through the advanced tag-based MASCHINE and KOMPLETE sound libraries, full support for NKS-ready plug-ins makes native in-app browsing for third party software possible. MASCHINE JAM integrates seamlessly within any DAWs as a plug- in, and provides extensive DAW control as a dedicated controller in MIDI mode. A template for Ableton Live is included. It can also be custom- mapped to control any other MIDI capable software.
To mark the release of MASCHINE JAM, Native Instruments is offering MASCHINE 2 software owners the choice of two MASCHINE Expansions from an eligible 20** – free with registration of MASCHINE JAM. The introductory offer runs until December 31, 2016.
MASCHINE JAM will be available for $399 / 399 € / ¥ 49,800 / £319 / AU$ 549 at the NI Online Shop and at local retailers on September 29, 2016. Preorder is also available.
The free MASCHINE Expansions introductory offer is only available at the NI Online Shop until December 31, 2016 for existing MASCHINE 2 software owners after registration of MASCHINE JAM hardware.