Super-slick, quite crispy, but a little shallow, this is hip-hop empitomised and embodied in app form
by on March 21, 2012
You can’t move for audio samplers on iOS, but iMaschine sticks out because of its link to publisher Native Instruments’ own Maschine, a hardware sample triggerer considered the best in its class. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you’re getting the power of the real thing here, though. It’s better to consider iMaschine as a portable sample sketchpad; a limited environment in which to compose a tune or two.
The 16-pad drum machine is unquestionably iMaschine’s finest feature. Your four-by-four grid hosts a bank of related samples, which you play by tapping them, or holding them down if you’re using the auto-quantise function. The latter almost removes the need for any talent; locking your beats down to eighths or sixteenths means that even clumsy mis-taps slide nicely into the groove. The pads are super-sensitive, easy to use, and the included sample packs – a scant but useful selection of urban-themed noise – are astonishingly good; a testament to NI’s long standing in the pro music game.
Alongside this is a rudimentary sampling keyboard, which is perfect for getting your ideas down but rather unspectacular. Its pitch-shifted samples, as funky as they are, lack a little life. Then there’s a direct recording mode, which takes input from whatever mic you have plugged into your device – again, you won’t be laying down final tracks, but if you’re spitting rhymes on the move it’ll certainly do the trick. Since you can layer four instruments in any combination you like, iMaschine works as everything from a four track recorder to a hip-hop drum quartet.
Recording is simple and intuitive enough – just start recording your initial phrase, and stop it where you’d like to loop. Everything you record subsequently will be locked to the same length, perfect for an off-the-cuff jam. We’d have liked to have been able to set this length manually, but that’s not possible. It has other quirks, too – an irritating propensity to randomly crash, for example, and a rather awkward editing mode – and certainly has competition in the form of Beatmaker 2 and Nanostudio, both of which are more complex and malleable working environments.
We’ve been quite critical, but that’s only because of the company it’s in. iMaschine’s sample packs do hold it up, and it has the most attractive interface of any app in its genre, so if you want to make a funky, short, hip-hop oriented beat quickly, there’s no better choice. But you’d better get comfortable in that genre: the flexibility isn’t there for much more.
Download this app: iMaschine for iPad
Best iPhone apps | Apple iPhone 4S review
Review courtesy of Tap!