Native Instruments MASCHINE JAM – controller of a new generation with a lot of pads and sensor faders
The MASCHINE JAM controller was introduced by Native Instruments in September 2016. The new device continues the series of specialized controllers for working in the MASCHINE software and represents a completely new model, radically different from all previous products of this family. Despite the fact that MASCHINE JAM is still only a controller and does not have a built-in audio interface, it has a number of unique features that distinguish the NI device from other analogues.
We can say that MASCHINE JAM is a worthy competitor to the controllers Ableton Push and Novation Launchpad, which have become very popular among users of Ableton Live. A large number of pads used in them allows you to conveniently and visually work in the program Ableton Live, especially in the Session View mode for live performance.
In the MASCHINE software there is a similar mode for playing patterns, but until recently, no Native Instruments controller has had similar capabilities. All the previous models were designed to create music. And although some users used MASCHINE controllers in live, it was inconvenient to fully manage numerous patterns. The controller was used primarily as a sampler for the execution of certain parties. The new Native Instruments controller completely replenishes this gap and unlike previous devices MASCHINE JAM is equipped with a lot of long-awaited illuminated pads and smart touch strip strips.
It is very important that the new controller is not a replacement for previous models. It perfectly complements any other device of the MASCHINE series and significantly expands the control capabilities. It is simultaneous use gives more complete control and visual management of MASCHINE projects. However, MASCHINE JAM works fine as the only connected controller, because it has all the key editing buttons and the transport panel on board.
Simultaneously with the release of the new controller, Native Instruments has updated the MASCHINE 2.5 software. In the new version of MASCHINE eight new interesting effects of Perform FX were added and the library was significantly updated and received an additional 2 GB of new sounds and fresh presets. This version of MASCHINE 2.5 is included with the MASCHINE JAM controller. For users of previous versions, the update cost is $ 99.00.
Replenishment of the MASCHINE library with fresh sound and actual presets is very cool. However, the most interesting innovation of the program is new features of Perform FX, whose potential is best revealed by the MASCHINE JAM controller.
You can assign one effect to each of the channels and conveniently control its key parameter using touch faders. In fact, it allows you to have on the different parts of the track eight different interesting effects, controlled at the same time! Moreover, all the appearing effects are really applicable and very useful for live performance.
The MASCHINE JAM controller is equipped with a large number of illuminated pads, which allow working with MASCHINE projects in several modes. Thanks to the multicolored, bright and dynamically changing backlighting, the pads conveniently display the patterns and elements used in the project.
Unfortunately, the pads used in the controller are devoid of sensitivity to the force of pressing. You can only specify a fixed value for all pads and use the ACCENT function, which assigns a higher velocity value to the selected notes or samples.
SONG is the main controller mode. It involves the management of all available patterns of the MASCHINE project. In the vertical columns, various patterns are arranged and clicking on the pads starts them in the corresponding group. The upper buttons 1-10 allow you to save the selected configuration from the sound patterns to the SCENE slots and switch between them. Each active pattern is highlighted with the corresponding pad and can be conveniently deactivated. The lower A-H buttons are used to select the appropriate group for global control of the whole group at once or edit the sounds inside it.
Pressing the STEP button switches the controller to step sequencer mode. In this mode, the pads consistently light up at a predetermined rhythm and allow you to draw a rhythm part of the instrument or sample used. Here everything is done traditionally and quite habitually. You can quickly copy and delete scenes and patterns with the buttons on the left side of the pads. In this mode, the most remarkable is that you can control eight tracks at the same time. In addition, it is possible to create melodic drawings in PIANO ROLL mode, in which dynamically highlighted pads perform the role of an editing grid.
PAD MODE mode allows you to play the pads in the more familiar 4×4 configuration used in the previous MACHINE controllers, but with a fixed velocity value. In this mode, the pads used are all also highlighted and indicate the press, as well as the activity of the played part. The KEYBOARD mode uses the entire 8×8 surface and allows you to play harmonic and melodic patterns on the pads.
All the described features of the MASCHINE JAM pads are found in many analogous multipade controllers. Some of them in MASCHINE JAM are implemented very well, some are less convenient. In any case, the emergence of all these opportunities was predictable and quite expected. But what really surprised and allowed the MASCHINE JAM controller to become unique is the functions of the touch faders.
Sensor strips smart strip are multifunctional and allow you to adjust in different modes a whole bunch of parameters. Switching between modes is carried out by buttons located on the sides. Multi-segment display, provided next to each strip, helps in the workflow. It shows well the level of the adjustable parameter, whether it’s dynamically changing the volume, automation or the set value at the current time.
With touch smart strip you can even play melodic drawings. In NOTE mode, each of the bars reproduces the sequence of the sounds of a particular chord or harmony. We can draw an analogy with the SCALE mode in the Native Instrument KOMPLETE KONTROL MIDI keyboard, where you can not play the wrong note, even if you randomly press all keys. Here, instead of the keys, the touch surface smart strip is used. Touching a finger or moving it changes the pitch of the sound within the specified chord. Using the pads, you can quickly configure the required chord sounds for each of the strips.
The MACRO mode allows you to adjust the assigned parameters of the Macro Controls panel. In LEVEL mode, the bars adjust the volume and panorama. AUX mode switches to sending to AUX1 and AUX2 buses. In CONTROL mode, you control the basic settings of plug-ins. In AUTO mode, automation of all adjustable parameters becomes available without exception.
It is worth noting the interesting LOCK mode, which allows you to make up to sixty-four global snapshots of all project settings and switch between them instantly or smoothly, through synchronized tempo morphing. This function is especially important when performing with improvisation elements and allows you to navigate the project in any sequence and always return to the starting points if something went wrong.
In addition, for convenience and quick access, the TUNE and SWING modes are displayed on separate buttons.
At the bottom of the controller are the illuminated transport panel buttons. Their main functions are indicated on them and do not need explanations. When you hold SHIFT, additional control options become available, the functions of which are indicated above the buttons.
The project and library are navigated using the encoder and the four-way cross D-pad. The cursor conveniently switches over the program menu and in most cases allows you to do without a mouse.
On the right side of the controller there is a signal indication section. It has the ability to separately monitor and adjust the master bus level, the selected group, the input signal and the CUE channel.
The controller case is made of plastic. From the bottom of the body there are rubber platforms, which prevent the device from slipping over the surface. In addition, the kit comes with a special stand. It provides a small slope, allowing you to comfortably position the controller in front of you.
The connectivity of MASCHINE JAM is very limited. The MASCHINE JAM has only a USB connector for connecting to a computer and a TRS connector for connecting the pedal. Dimensions of the controller are 32 x 29.5 x 3 centimeters. With such impressive dimensions, the weight of the device is relatively small and is 2.7 kilograms.
Unfortunately, MASCHINE software is not sold separately, but comes exclusively with Native Instruments controllers. This, of course, has affected the popularity of the program. I would like to think that the new MASCHINE JAM controller will change the current situation and contribute to a significant increase in the number of users of this simple and powerful environment. The new Native Instruments device turned out to be very interesting. They have unique capabilities and, most importantly, they are inexpensive. The cost of MASCHINE JAM is only $ 390. Among the devices in this series, only the MASCHINE MIKRO controller is cheaper.