Questions for Owners of Maschine & Akai MPC One, Live, and/or Force

Davin
Davin Member Posts: 6 Sine
Hi,

Long time lurker in the old forum, first time poster. Currently running the latest version Maschine software with Mk3. I’m hoping you can answer a few questions I have about the MPC One, Live Mk2 and Force.

A bit of background and context:

I got back into music production 2 years ago with renewed focus and discipline and have invested quite a bit of time into learning aspects of music theory; electronic music production/sound engineering; workflow; as well as my chosen production environment, which, after doing some research I decided on Maschine 2.0 and Maschine Mk3. My criteria at the time were immediacy, tactile workflow/integration, and a high-quality sounds library and VST/plugins ecosystem. Maschine ticked all the boxes and has come good in many respects, so I’m a pretty happy NI customer that thinks both the hardware and software are mostly well designed (more on that below). I will say that the software took a bit of time as I was more familiar with Ableton, but like anything, investing time, creating templates, learning shortcuts, etc. all paid dividends.

Here’s my problem…

Fast forward two years and I find myself repeatedly frustrated with the limitations of the Arrange View. It was an oversight on my part not looking into/missing criticism pointed at the Arrange View in Maschine 2.0, because there's a lot of frustration in the forum. But it still baffles me that NI got so much right up to the point where you want to finish a production. Specifically, adding automation and pattern variations is cumbersome and overly-complicated. I think the Clips feature is an improvement for adding pattern variations, transitions, etc. but it doesn’t address the poor automation capabilities. For these reasons I researched and tested quite a few workarounds, e.g., (i) exporting stems into Ableton; (ii) using Maschine as a VST and routing into Ableton; (iii) recording section changes in Maschine via Live; and (iv) creating unique patterns in Maschine to allow automation across Scenes. They all can do the job, and exporting stems was the least worst option for me and is still how I work. That said, it’s still a faff that disrupts flow. Creating Unique patterns in Maschine should be the fix/workaround but the UI&X (e.g., % vs. actual parameter value change coupled with the automation lane in the piano roll) and issues I’ve experienced when automating across scenes (parameter value snaps to the original value rather than the last automation value) has made it extremely frustrating to work and finish songs in Maschine this way. Admittedly, some of this frustration comes from my own expectations around wanting an all-in-one platform.

Some of you might have picked up on the repeated references to Ableton and will ask, “why don’t you just get a Push 2 and use Live?” Valid point and something I have and still do consider. The first reason is I have invested time and money into NI and Maschine (I recognize that’s classic Sunk Cost thinking). Second, I’m reluctant to jump from product to product, DAW to DAW because of the learning curve and lost time creating. Third, I want to resist GAS and product hopping in favour of focusing on finishing productions, using equipment I’ve invested time to learn. Related to all of this, I find myself wanting a standalone box as the computer is a constant distraction for me.

From my research, the MPC One, Live Mk2, or Force all seem to have better arrangement options. I literally only discovered what the Force is capable of a few days ago and I’m absolutely blown away.

Below are some questions I have about the MPC software and the One, Live Mk2, and Force, but please let me know what your experience has been like with the Akai products and software, especially if you’re a former or current Maschine user.

- How flexible is Song mode in the One and Live Mk2? Recording track mutes is great, but can other track and/or master automation be recorded, e.g. while listening to all the sequences through?

- Is it easy to program pattern variation/overdub sequences?

- Are patterns/clips and sequences independent or linked, similar to Maschine?

- What are the Akai time stretching/looping algorithms like (for relatively short percussion, drone, pad loops)?

- Is it possible to save custom FX presets, project templates?

- In Force, can you create song sections jump/navigate to these using the controller?

- In Force, do the encoders automap to whichever synth, plugin, etc. is shown on the screen?

- With respect to sampling, does the sampler offer much internal modulation and FX?

- Anything else you can share about your experience?

Thanks in advance.
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Comments

  • Trevor Meier
    Trevor Meier Member Posts: 37 Tri
    The frustration with Maschine being so close to great is a common one. If Maschine was great at integrating with other DAWs, it could balance the situation.

    I wish Maschine was viewed by NI more as part of an ecosystem, but they seem intent on keeping it walled off from other systems. It’s too bad - that puts all the pressure on the Maschine software, and it fails badly in certain areas. Better integration would give breathing room while NI works on Maschine software improvements… but it seems that’s not a priority. 

    So that’s a long way of saying… I share your pain!
  • starcorp
    starcorp Member Posts: 20 Sine
    i´m an owner of Force and M+
    and for the M+, it will be a loooong way to catch up with the functionallity of the Force.
    But also the Force has come a long way to get there.
    At the moment M+ is a nice sound generator for me. And runs very thight as a couple.
    All your quetions are way better answered in Akai "how to do" Videos as i can explaine.
  • Davin
    Davin Member Posts: 6 Sine
    @Trevor Meier, agree. I decided not to post up util now as I wanted to try to integrate a workaround, and like you say, there's already a lot of the same issues and frustration being brought up in the forums. But I'm now seriously considering the Push 2 or Force as it really does seem to tick many of the boxes.

    @starcorp, thanks for your input. Anything else you can share? Do you use your Force more than the M+? The software and workflow looks a bit clunky at times (based on what I've watched), how did you find adjusting to it?
  • starcorp
    starcorp Member Posts: 20 Sine
    edited January 15

    the force is the center of my hardware setup.

    as always: more functionality comes with more complexitiy ;-)

    its a two way concept, you can often use the touchscreen and/or buttons.

    its up to you what fits better.

    And a lot of people prefere also the M+ over the force...

  • GoKeez
    GoKeez MiamiMember Posts: 53 Tri

    In my experiences all of the Akai units play nicer with external hardware than M+. Among the Akai units, Force is the only I can play melodicly. The pads are very similar if not the same as Push 2. After all, Akai made Push 2 so it’s no wonder it is a similar feel. In fact, Force is very much a standalone Push 2.

    All of that said, I wouldn’t recommend anyone trade their M+ for any of Akai’s Units. After much experience with all of them, none of them are replacements…just different.

    However, if you find yourself never using a piece of kit it’s probably smart to replace it with something you will. The only way you know if you’ll use something is to try it out yourself.

    So, in conclusion I recommend you purchasing an additional unit within your budget. Spend time with it and decide which one to return or resale. You may find that they all compliment each other like I have. This is the reason I never buy pro audio gear new or early. I wait, see then used online, read reviews, wait some more until early adopters or over extenders list for resale and take advantage of the huge discount. If you live in US check OfferUp and you will find plenty of these units for sale at HUGE discount. I paid $650 for a Force. $500 for One. $875 for M+ and $800 for Live 2. In the end, I basically got 2 of the units free based off how much I saved buying used.

    just my .02 sense.lol

  • Davin
    Davin Member Posts: 6 Sine

    Thanks for your input. And I agree: Once any hardware or software becomes an impediment to creativity then it's time to try something new (provided a few workarounds have been tried and tested). It's a shame because I put a lot of time and effort into my Maschine. Anyway I'm 99% sure I'll get a Force. Very excited about what it offers.

  • iNate
    iNate United States of AmericaMember Posts: 14 Sine
    edited January 18

    From what you wrote, MPC 2 will not be a huge upgrade. May even be a massive downgrade.

    Unless you use a one sequence workflow, which really sort of sidesteps how the MPC workflow was designed to function.

    Maschine is pretty easy to map to other DAWs, so it's not that walled off.

    Nature of the device means that there will always be pressure to improve the software. The co trolleys was designed specifically to work with that software.

    But a lot of the pressure comes from people wanting it to be Logic Pro or SONAR when it was never intended to be that. I think a lot of this comes from people producing more diverse types of music acquiring the units.

    Akai faces this pressure, as well.

  • three_eyed_otter
    three_eyed_otter Keep San Antonio Lame... Member Posts: 21 Sine

    Hello to All,


    I'm new to the MPC Live MKII, but have owned maschine mikro2 for awhile...The MPC has a very specific workflow that you must adhere to: sequence-track-program is always your starting point. From there you decide how you will incorporate that into your workflow, e.g., playing live triggering sequences or building a track in a single sequence, etc.

    Maschine has the MPC beat hands down when it comes to sounds and FX...The MPC can easily automate because of the touchscreen, but what you want to automate will make a huge difference on whether the MPC makes a significant difference. I would do your homework over at the mpc-forums before committing. I'm thinking you will be giving up some features to get some and it may not sum in your favor. They both have green grass & they both have their weeds.


    Have a good one,


    3EO

  • Davin
    Davin Member Posts: 6 Sine

    Thanks for your input and advice. I actually went for a second-hand Push 2 in the end as I already own/bought own Live 11 Standard, I'm familiar with Live (only concerned with the Push learning curve), and it has all the features of the Force - and more. I find the standalone aspect of the Force really appealing but it's a lot of money to spend when I already have software that does what I am looking for (and which Maschine can't do). I only have the Push a few days, and I'm currently transferring and finishing old Maschine projects in Live, so it's too early to say if it clicks. But based on my limited experimenting with it I think it will be great for reducing use of the mouse, as well as recording arrangements & automations in live.

  • ozon
    ozon SwitzerlandMember Posts: 348 Saw
    edited January 25

    I got the MPC Live pretty early (I think Feb 2018). It was my first MPC and I expected a workflow similar to Maschine (16 pads, how much different can it be LOL). But it was very limited at that time and the workflow felt alien and uninspiring to me.

    When the Force was announced about one year later, I was pretty frustrated because it seemed to bring a lot of what I missed on the Live. And I always felt that Push 2 should have been standalone like that. The GAS went away as soon as the devastating reports of its bugs and shortcomings started to flood the Akai forum. So I stuck to the Live half heartedly, waiting for MIDI improvements and features from the Force to be ported over (they have a different OS and software). Another year of waiting brought news of the M+, and that was what I originally always wanted to have. Got one as soon as available and started to create without the previous workflow impediments. Just 3 months later I added a used JAM… since then my Live lives untouched under my desk.

    However, your report makes me think about the Force again. How far do you think is the Force ahead on a Maschine+JAM combo?

  • ShelLuser
    ShelLuser NetherlandsMember Posts: 133 Tri

    Some of you might have picked up on the repeated references to Ableton and will ask, “why don’t you just get a Push 2 and use Live?” Valid point and something I have and still do consider. The first reason is I have invested time and money into NI and Maschine (I recognize that’s classic Sunk Cost thinking). Second, I’m reluctant to jump from product to product, DAW to DAW because of the learning curve and lost time creating.

    While those are reasonable considerations I can tell you that both products can nonetheless seriously complement each other. Apologies for going slightly offtopic (as in: I can't address your actual questions) but I've been using this particular combination for a few years and it doesn't have to be an issue of Push "undoing" your efforts within Maschine. Of course my situation isn't fully comparable because my home studio is focused on Live and not necessarily Maschine.

  • starcorp
    starcorp Member Posts: 20 Sine

    the term "ahead" is not exactly what i would use.

    It depends on... as always.

    if you tending to stay in Box, both are likey to satisfied you.

    But when it comes to sequencing outboard gear, force is at the moment the better choice.

    Midi mapping, PC message, aftertouch, Mixer chanel ...

  • Davin
    Davin Member Posts: 6 Sine

    Haha I know! I have read many of your posts in the old forum... always insightful. In any case, I will keep my MK3 as I may use Maschine as a VST in Live, all depends on what workflow is best. I still think that when Native Instruments release v3.0/a version with an up-to-scratch arranger, I'll be back.

  • Davin
    Davin Member Posts: 6 Sine

    I honestly can't say, I have no experience with Jam or the Force. But based on the research I did Force is essentially as close to a standalone version of Live. I believe the 3.0.5 update improved the arranger/automation functionality massively, and the most recent 3.1.1 update added some much-requested features, like disk streaming, MIDI cc mapping for external controllers, and external hardware integration. It's a beast. I guess it all depends how you're getting on with your setup, if it's helping you finish music or if it's an impediment. For me, I always struggled to finish arrangements and my Maschine 2.0 became a source of frustration because it was making something I already find difficult even harder. The idea of working in a single DAW with a dedicated controller is appealing to me, and with some time spent learning the new controller, a few workflow adjustments and tweaks, I believe Live will help me finish more music of a quality I'm happy with. I also believe Force is an excellent option, especially if standalone is a priority and the learning curve doesn't put you off.

    3.0.5 & 3.1 Updates

  • drewhjava
    drewhjava Member Posts: 17 Sine
    edited January 25

    I have/had them all.

    MPC Live - Workflow is weird. Keygroups vs drums vs 16 levels vs midi program. Programs are separate from tracks. Levels are separate. Hard finishing a track on MPC. Hard to get out of a just a loop. Pads feel like concrete. Effects are pretty good. The instruments are pretty good. Keygroups are so slow to load and save. Have to "explode" drums to export stems correctly. Audio stretching is *****. The touch screen is ok but I can do a lot of things in Maschine faster like transposing, select all etc.

    Akai Force - This thing is huge. Still has downsides of keygroups vs drums vs 16 level issue, but now you can switch out instruments easier and deal with mix levels better. Doesn't have the weird programs are decoupled from track issue. Clips aren't "linked". It still requires copy and pasting clips to different scenes to really arrange them correctly although theoretically, you don't have to. Arrange mode is just recording midi/audio in real-time so if you change a clip and go back to arrangement it doesn't do anything. It's cumbersome to do anything in arrange mode. Audio stretching is *****. The 64 pads are nice with drum tracks because you have access to velocity, tuning, attack, etc all in one view. Loading instruments still requires you to know what "instrument" you're looking for. In Maschine, you think about the type of sound you're looking for (piano, synth, etc). What produces that sound doesn't matter. Massive/Kontakt/Maschine Sound/Poly synth

    Maschine - Best of everything. The layout actually makes sense. Seemed like it was designed by competent people. Any group can hold whatever and a single one shot can be played over the keyboard easily. Tag system I think is superior to browsing through folders. Arrange mode is the best out of any system I've ever used besides Cakewalk Project 5. The arrangement can be completed by just selecting scenes. This is different than the real-time arrangement in Force. Patterns are always "linked", so if you finish arrangement and notice 1 note being off in a pattern you change it and it changes everywhere. You can always fall back to using clips too. I mainly use clips to mute pieces of the arrangement or automation. Audio stretching is actually good. Chopping samples to me is easier on Maschine. The downside is that the Maschine Plus does have some audio glitching issues every now and then. Effects are good but missing certain ones like halftime.


    I finish most of my tracks in Maschine +, but sometimes you need a daw. My overall suggestion is that none of these are going to do what a daw does so get the one that can export the best. The MPC exporting sucks with the whole explode drum track thing. Force has the same issue. Maschine actually exports correctly separating every pad with just a setting change.

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