Recently NI has presented a newer version of Maschine. The MK3 appears to be a more polished and complex piece of hardware, compared to its predecessors. Considering that the last iteration of Maschine was released five years ago, there were some minor changes in the layout as well. MK3’s casing displays some similarity with the Ableton Push concept, by accepting a “flatter” look to its design with less button-to-case contrast.
The new product features a second screen, and both of them are now colored, an improvement praised by fans, as there were numerous complaints regarding the “boring” monochromatic ones in the previous versions. This release introduces a new set of functions like macro, chords, mod, events, fixed velocity, which are all an improvement in the right direction. Considering that live performances are becoming increasingly demanding, so the possibility to access and tweak multiple parameters without having to remove your hands from the device will indeed improve or change your workflow for the better.
As a bonus to the MK3, Native Instruments have also released the Komplete Kontrol series, in two standard versions — 49 and 61, letting out the 25 and 81 options for the moment. Komplete Kontrol integrates with all DAW’s fairly well. However, they have a slight penchant for working better with Native Instruments’ VST’s. We see what you did there, NI.
The “49” and “61” also now have colored screens, which complement the sumptuous and minimalist build. Just like the MK3, the new keyboard series mimic the infrastructure of NI’s VST instruments, facilitating the control without having to look at the screen as often. It appears that the Berlin-based company has concentrated on creating a more “hands-on” product, which is a truly laudable goal. Aside from the addition of colored screens, there were some pleasant bonuses like the “easy mode” that adjusts the signal to the chosen scale to just the white keys, making it impossible to play an odd note.
The Komplete Kontrol controllers (pardon the tautology) are hands down among the world’s best hardware options in their category. Yet there’s a feeling that NI follows trends instead of being a trendsetter. Although the last iteration of Maschine has introduced new features that made an almost an impeccable piece of hardware, adding “colored screens” and “bigger buttons” doesn’t seem like doing the trick. And the toyish RGB lights that are so favored by companies releasing cheap controllers, a fad recently appropriated by Pioneer and Allen&Heath, doesn’t look quite right on the MK3 for the amazing machine it is. .
Unfortunately, NI has leaped away from personality, regarding design when they have the potential to completely rewrite the way we look at modern music equipment. I believe that they have long earned the right to be as recognizable as, say, Buchla or Akai products and will be a household name for decades to come. While it is crucial to have access to multiple parameters at once, we shouldn’t forget that an instrument’s color, form, and layout will eventually shape the character of our music.