Na­tive In­stru­ments Mas­chine Mikro Mk3

Future Music - - CONTENTS -

The third gen­er­a­tion Mikro is NI’s most af­ford­able Mas­chine ever. Si Truss searches for the catch…

Last year’s Mas­chine Mk3, with its added in­ter­face and im­proved screens, did an im­pres­sive job of draw­ing user fo­cus away from the com­puter, mak­ing it eas­ier to se­lect, edit and play sounds with­out ref­er­enc­ing plugin UI. By dras­ti­cally down­siz­ing the hard­ware screen, this Mas­chine Mikro up­date ac­tu­ally pushes things in the op­po­site di­rec­tion; min­imis­ing the amount of vis­ual in­for­ma­tion that’s pro­vided by the con­troller in favour of more space for hands-on con­trol.

While in­creased re­liance on a com­puter screen might seem counter-in­tu­itive, it ac­tu­ally does make a lot of sense. While pre­vi­ous Mikros did of­fer more in the way of browser and nav­i­ga­tion feed­back, their halfway-house screens were never re­ally suf­fi­cient to draw em­pha­sis away from the more in-depth ex­pe­ri­ence of­fered by the main plugin in­ter­face. By ac­cept­ing that you’re more than likely go­ing to turn to the com­puter for deeper brows­ing and edit­ing du­ties, it al­lows the con­troller to fo­cus purely on the du­ties it’s best at – play­ing sounds and cre­at­ing pat­terns.

That be­ing said, the small screen found on the Mikro Mk3 does a fine job of dis­play­ing es­sen­tial in­for­ma­tion when it’s needed – tempo, swing and ba­sic pa­ram­e­ter set­tings are dis­played, but nav­i­ga­tion is a bit cum­ber­some when com­pared to its big­ger si­b­ling. It’s fine for brows­ing sounds too, if you find that you’re happy to make use of the ‘star’ sys­tem and mostly work from a pre­pared list of favourite pre­sets.

The rest of the de­sign bor­rows heav­ily from its larger si­b­ling – no bad thing. The re­vamped pads look and feel great, and the ad­justed setup of nav­i­ga­tional but­tons makes se­quenc­ing and ar­rang­ing far more stream­lined. The Mikro gains its coun­ter­part’s Smart Strip too, which once again can be used for per­for­mance ef­fects and ma­nip­u­lat­ing sounds. It’s a par­tic­u­larly great ad­di­tion here, bring­ing an el­e­ment of ex­pres­sive­ness to the con­troller which makes up for the lack of pa­ram­e­ter/ macro ro­taries. The same goes for the Vari­a­tion En­gine and Lock Mode.

As with pre­vi­ous it­er­a­tions, that lack of hands-on pa­ram­e­ter or macro con­trol is the Mikro’s weak spot. To be fair, this is more of a de­sign choice than an omis­sion; the Mikro is aimed at those who value sim­ple MPC-style fin­ger-drum­ming more than com­plex sound de­sign and pa­ram­e­ter au­to­ma­tion. For a fast, hands-on tool for sketch­ing beats and grooves, the Mikro re­mains hard to beat. At less than £200, it’s NI’s cheap­est Mas­chine prod­uct to date too, though it’s worth not­ing that the in­cluded Fac­tory Library is con­sid­er­ably smaller than that in­cluded with other Mas­chine prod­ucts (or, for that mat­ter, pre­vi­ous it­er­a­tions of the Mikro). That be­ing said, the in­cluded sounds re­main high qual­ity, and with full ver­sions of Mas­sive, Monark and Prism thrown in, it’s still hard to ar­gue with the value.

A fast, hands-on tool for sketch­ing beats and grooves

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