GAK REVIEW: Native Instruments Maschine Jam

If you’re looking for a controller with the affordability of the original Native Instruments Maschine MK2 but with added ability to sequence rhythms and build tracks, the Native Instruments Maschine JAM might well be the perfect product for you.

The Maschine Jam’s main focus is laying down drum beats, basslines and melodies fast and effectively, something that isn’t quite so easy with the Maschine.

maschine jam

The Maschine Jam runs alongside NI’s Maschine ‘groove production’ software which can be used as either a standalone application or as a plug-in within your DAW of choice. Although there is no LCD screens on the unit, you may actually prefer the new pop up browser which appears in different incarnations depending on which knobs/buttons you press.

On the unit instead of the 16 pad’s found on the original Mashcine, you will find 64 smaller, backlit pads. The step sequencing mode, which can be activated by hitting the Step button turns the 64-pads into a step sequencer, with multiple different layouts on offer. Don’t fret though, it’s still possible to use the pads in ‘classic’ Maschine mode with the notes of a selected scale spread from left to right across the pads.

The eight touchstrip faders are where things start to get really interesting though. They can be used with effects and synths in a more traditional way or alternatively if switched to melodic performance mode, each touchstrip can be plucked or strummed for unique results. Within performance mode there are three modes: Guitar, Chord and a user defined mode. The touchstrips are great for studio production, however they really come in to their element when using the JAM in a live situation as a performance instrument.

As expected from an NI product, the Jam itself is well-built and durable piece of hardware. It’s the same size as the other Maschine controllers, however it differs in that it lies flat on a surface instead of being sloped. On the back of the unit you’ll find an expression input, a a bus powered USB which provides easy connection to a computer. The MIDI I/O found on the newer Maschine’s is however, not present.

Both the Maschine MKII and the Jam are extremely powerful controllers, but depending on your workflow the JAM may be a better choice for your studio than the Maschine MKII. There are advantages to both and coupled together they create one of the most complete controller experiences on the market right now.

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