Can NI’s new performance controller preserve Maschine’s status as king of the beat stations?
NI’s Maschine has become a dominant force in electronic music, usurping the MPC as the standard beat workstation, and even nipping at Ableton’s heels as a stand-alone production platform. But for improvised arrangements and live performances the combo of Live with a grid controller like the Push, APC or Launchpad is compelling. Of course Maschine slots nicely into such a setup, but now NI’s Jam controller brings a unique take on these live performance controllers to the Maschine environment, and also offers a one-stop option for controlling both Maschine and Live.
NI describe the Jam as a “Production and Performance System”. Its large grid provides fast access to your Scenes, Patterns and Groups. As we’ll see, this is equivalent, but conceptually different to your typical Ableton clip-launch controller. The grid also specialises in step sequencing, with both gate and piano-roll modes for visual pattern programming. You’ll also find drum-pad and keyboard modes for live playing and recording of kits and instruments, and you can use Maschine with just the Jam, although the lack of velocity sensitive pads is limiting. Below the grid are eight touch strips that can act as Group faders, device and parameter controllers, and performance effects for real-time tweaking. You also get a full transport section and an encoder that’s used for sound browsing and adjusting performance controls.
The Jam has the same physical footprint as the ‘standard’ Maschine controller, but shares the flat-faced design of the Maschine Studio, without the raised ‘curbs’ that run across the top and bottom of the other versions. It’s thinner, but comes with a bolt-on foot that raises the rear to match the wedge profile of the regular Maschine surface. Connection is via USB, and the Jam is fully bus powered, giving a Maschine or Mikro plus Jam combination the advantage over Push if you’re avoiding mains adaptors. You can connect multiple Jams, but only to...
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