NI Maschine vs. Akai MPC-Renaissance

I’m a Maschine user but I’m seeking about the MPC-Renaissance for a while now (actually since its introduction in January 2012). I don’t care much about the Maschine vs. MPC Renaissance war. I just want something that just works.
 
I had some MPC in my hands (I had the 2000XL and 60 at work and we had the 2500 and 3000 at the studio… we actually sold the 2500 few days ago and replace it with the Renaissance ).
 
I started to use Maschine because I use a lot of software and I was already using GURU and Battery to load my samples. The MPC would be only used as a Sequencer tied to the software. Therefore, Maschine was just the logical next step for me.
 
There’s a lot of good ideas on both camp, but there’s also a LOT of really stupid things on both camp too. Actually, after few days of intense test and comparison, I’m in the conclusion that at the moment, neither Maschine nor the MPC Renaissance are good enough to me.
 
I did these tests because I was considering to resell Maschine mk1 for Maschine mk2 or the MPC Renaissance. But since it’s not worth to resell Maschine mk1 to buy Maschine mk2, I started to consider to buy the MPC Renaissance instead (mainly if I’m gonna exchange some beat with the studio, etc…). So I only started to compare to know what I could gain or loose by going with a new platform.
 
I found out that everything that NI screw up, Akai did it very well… (that’s a good point, hu?). But everything that NI did well, Akai found a way to screw it up. Sometimes it’s just little details that some of you might not care much, but if it’s something you personally wants and needs every day to work and make some music, it could be very frustrating.
 
It’s sad, because there’s not better solutions on the market anyway (IMHO and to my knowledge). Here are some of the Pros and Cons I personally noticed. It could perhaps help other people to figure out if it’s something important for them or not.
 
First of all, even if they’re both a hardware controller tied to a drum machine software, there’s one MAJOR difference between Maschine and the MPC-R which is the way to handle the Sequencer. 
 
 
On Maschine:
 
the PADs are the center of the Sequencer (the Pads are actually the Tracks), therefore you load samples or plugin directly on the Pads. You can “only” have 8 Groups/Bank of 16 Pads (which is 128 Samples or Plugins). However, you can have on the same Group/bank, one pad with a sample, another one with a plugin, etc… This is really practical if you like to mix-up your sources and use a lot of plugin (having some kick and snare for Kontakt sample bank), hi-hat from some home made samples, and some percussion from a different plugin. It’s also very great for the guys who make a lot of live, easily and quickly turn on/off a pad, etc… It’s very practical because any pad (regardless if it’s a sample, a plugin or a midi insturment) could become a chromatic instruments (with Shift + Pad Mode). There’s no need to choose if a track/pad will be a drum or a chromatic instruments, which is cool for tuned snaress, kicks, etc… However, you can’t have one plugin on a pad and use it on several Pad (or I haven’t figure out how to do that). And you can’t have more than 1 sample per Pad. You can merge several Sample on a same Pad, but you can’t tweak them, have different volume, tune, pitch, velocity response, filters, etc…
 
 
On the MPC Renaissance:
 
the Tracks are the center of the Sequencer, therefore there’s 128 Tracks you can load a plugin or the Sample Player Engine on it (MPC). The Sample Player has 8 Banks of 16 Pads (which means 128 Pads). Each Pads can have up to 4 Samples (Layer, Split, Round-Robin, Random, etc…). It’s actually very more powerful to have custom sounds. We can easily use the Pads on several Tracks. However, we can’t have a sample on one Pad and a plugin on another one. So if you want to use several plugin (BFD2, Kontakt, Reaktor, etc…) on the pads, you need to use a new track for each plugin and you can play them on Live. And you have to choose if a track will be a drumpad track (with 16 samples on the pads) or a chromatic instrument (Keygroup). You can’t quickly switch a pad with a sample in a chromatic instrument with the view of the piano roll to do some chromatic sequencing.
 
 
Maschine PROs: 
 
+ Software in 64 Bits.
+ Really good integration with software, mainly with Komplete.
+ Great bundled Content (effects, Massive, or even some samples…)
+ The Universal Browser with Tag words. You can easily tag your kits to find them later even if you have thousands of samples in your library
+ Very nice GUI (mainly with the 1.8 Update and colors)
+ Scene mode (very similar to Ableton Live… very useful for Live performance)
+ Keep the Plugin on the Pads from one Pattern to another one (no duplicate)
+ Very fast workflow to browse, load and open a plugin, tweak it, add effects, etc…
+ Quick way to adjust the swing (per song, per pad, etc…)
+ Quick way to adjust the pitch
+ Quick way to use a sample on a Pad in a Chromatic Mode (Shift+Pad Mode open the Piano roll on any sample or plugin loaded on a pad)
+ Drag and Drop of a Project directly in your DAW (in midi or audio)
+ Multi-colors Pads (on Maschine mk2)
 
 
Maschine CONs:
 
– Almost inexistent hardware/Midi integration and support (in 2012, it’s really bad)
– Only 16 Midi Out Channel with no way to select the Midi interface or Midi Port. (there’s people that still use hardware gear. Not everyone are living in the NI software dreamland)
– No Program Change, MSB/LSB, No SysEx, etc…
– No easy way to “transpose” the 16 Pads when you’re in the Piano Roll Mode (such the dedicated Bank button on the MPC-R)
– Midi Timing is definitely not grooving properly such Legacy Groove Machines (it’s reacting too much like a computer, too straight)
– Some Edition Pages are confusing (very little page indicators)
– No Mixer with a general view on all Pads/Tracks, all plugins and Effects
– Missing some hardware immediate controller buttons (num pad, full level,…)
 
 
MPC Renaissance PROs:
 
+ Great Hardware integration, as usual with 4 Midi Out and 2 Midi In
+ We can use more than 16 Midi channel in a song
+ Support of Program Change
+ Easy way to transpose the Pads with the 8 banks
+ Akai Midi Timing that immediately groove “out of the box”
+ 4 Samples per Pads with advanced editing (Layer, Split, Round-Robin, Random, etc…)
+ Export options (including Mp3)
+ Better hardware controller with some useful command (jogwheel, num pad)
+ 16 Q-Link with Touch and LEDs
+ Conserved MPC Workflow from previous models (you almost already know how to use it)
+ Tilted Screen
 
MPC Renaissance CONs:
 
– NO 64 Bits (in 2012 it’s really bad, there’s people that use very large sample banks and/or plugin that require more than 3Gb of memory)
– Almost no software integration, mainly with big name company such NI, Eastwest, Spectrasonics, etc…
– Poor bundle (there’s few plugin 809, Wub, etc… but that’s not top high-end content)
– Poor Browser with no real smart search or keyword, tags, and stuff… Not the most efficient browser
– Ugly UI (not as clean and pure as Maschine, bad colors, too much information, sometimes with very old school (“too much old school”) layout and organization.
– Not practical for Live
– No way to have plugin and samples on the same pad bank
– Multiple instance of the same plugin on different Sequences (??)
– No fast way to change the swing and hear it in realtime
– No way to switch one pad in a chromatic mode (need to create a new track to have it with the piano roll??)
– Laborious export in the DAW (no drag and drop?)
 
Note that I only checked the MPC Renaissance for few days only now. So, I might just haven’t find some point I noted in the CONs. If so, please fee free to correct me and let me know how to do it (I’d be glad to remove it from my list).
 
I also didn’t compare the fact to have Audio interface or not (because in that case we should compare it to the MPC Studio) and if we add the price for an audio interface to Maschine, we end up to the same price than the MPC Renaissance. So, I just skip this part.
 
I also skip the whole big “Sampling” part… not because it’s not important, but just because I haven’t really tried it on the MPC Renaissance and I haven’t check deeply the new Stretching on the version 1.8 of Maschine. So, it’s a whole thing we need to look careful at… so I just prefer to not comment about it for now and maybe come back later on that when I will know more about it on both system.
 
 
Conclusion on NI Maschine:
 
At this point, I find Maschine useless if you also want to work with several multi-timbral hardware gear. It’s sad because it does detect multi-port midi interface such the Motu midi express or so, but there’s just no way to select it in the software (while we could change the midi channel on knob 1, the midi port on knob 2 and the midi interface on knob 3… just simple as that). I just can’t believe after so many update (1.1, 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8…), there’s still no multiple midi port/interface in Maschine. It just shows how much NI does care about anything else than themselves. They probably just prefer you to use their software only… but that’s wrong. There’s tones of stuff I still need to use in hardware (some Moog, Virus, 808, 909, 303, some workstations and expander, etc…).
 
Who knows how long we will still have to wait to have better support for hardware gear? Since NI is initially a Software company, it might never come…
 
 
Conclusion on Akai MPC Renaissance:
 
And at this point, I also find the MPC Renaissance useless if you also want to work with some very large plugins such Kontakt, BFD2, Spectrasonics Omnisphere, etc… We could easily go over 3Gb of memory with only a dozen of large plugin. With a 32 Bits support only, it’s a real bargain and limitation. I just can’t believe in 2012 someone can release an application that is only in 32 bits, mainly when it’s a brand new software… We’re not talking about Akai releasing an update of an existing application and they haven’t convert it in 64 bits… no it’s a brand new software. They should have gone in 64 bits from start.
 
Who knows how long we will still have to wait to have a new 64 bits version of the software? Since Akai is initially Hardware company, it might never come…
 
 
Note:
 
We did noted some sound difference between Maschine and the MPC-Renaissance using the exact same samples and similar beat on both (with full level, etc…). Maschine looks to have no treatment and is playing the sample back like a regular sample player.
 
The MPC-Renaissance in the other hand, sounds a little bit different and is apparently simulating the previous models… It’s just like it there was a Compressor/Limiter on the Master. The whole beat sounds more glued together. If we could turn it off (for the one that don’t want it), it would be actually a very good feature because it sounds great.
 
But some of us might just want to keep the sound the way it is? I just found that weird because I couldn’t decide if it’s a great thing or not.
 
 
My Wish:
 
I wish to get a MPC Renaissance mk2 that would have multi-colors pads (such MMk2) and some fast shortcut, for Piano Roll (make any Pad of a DrumPad Track as a Keygroup Track), Ableton Live Mode (SCENE) and a multi-color Display.
 
It would have a 64 bits software, with a nice black UI with less confusing text, better window space management, some color indication, with a categorized and normalized browser with keywords, tags, and full software integration (with presets of each plugin directly accessible in the browser, by category or instrument family, etc…), ability to drag and drop the midi sequence and/org audio directly in your DAW.
 
 
My Other Wish:
 
I wish to get a Maschine mk3 (with 2.0 software) that would have an embedded audio interface with multiple midi outs, more controllers (V-Pot and/or faders), as well as more quick function buttons (numpad, full level, bank,…).
 
It would allow to have multiple midi interface and ports, supporting Control Change, MSB/LSB, SysEx, etc… We would have up to 4 or even 8 samples per Pads (such GEIST) with layers, split, round-robin, random, etc… It would have complete software integration to select presets of any plugins directly from the controller. It would have a better Midi Timing and Audio Converter Filters with instant access. It would have a Mixer view and would run on multi-core system, two tilted color screen and an easy export windows.
 
That’s it for now…
 
 
Add-on October 23rd 2012:
There’s actually a way to transpose the 16 Pads in Maschine in Piano roll mode, by pressing Pad Mode + Menu button 5-8.
The menu buttons 5 & 6 are used for Semi-tone up & down, and the menu buttons 7  & 8 are used for Octave up & down.
It’s another demonstration that prove that sometimes the LCD Displays on Maschine don’t show all important information. They could have reduce the size of the graphics for the Pad Notes and add another top row for the function associated on the Menu button. It would have been clearer.