iPhone and iPad

$5 App Review: iMaschine, A Powerful, Portable Groove Sketchpad [iOS]

Tim Brookes 31-10-2011

portable sketchpadOccasionally here on MakeUseOf we think it’s nice to feature an app that’s worthy of both our and your money. Usually these apps are one-of-a-kind, where no decent free alternative exists – and I think iMaschine falls into this category.


iMaschine is a new app for your iPhone from the clever chaps over at Native Instruments who are responsible for all manner of professional-level music software Rock On With Free Mixxx Music Mixing Software Read More and hardware – Traktor and Maschine, to name but two.

So you’d expect this app to be pretty good right? If you like to groove on the go, read on to find out if iMaschine is set to become your next App Store purchase.

Groovin’ on the Go

iMaschine is a simple app to suss out, and one that can be used to create all manner of beats and loops. You’re provided with 4 tracks on which to tap out a rhythm, each can be customized to use a pad (pre-determined samples on a 16 button “sampler”), keyboard or a simple mic-in.

portable sketchpad

Tapping and holding A, B, C or D allows you to change the track’s input, so if you’d like to layer up some vocals, a guitar backing and a few handclaps you can choose 3 mic inputs and create a completely acoustic loop.
imaschine app
On the other hand, 4 pads provides an opportunity to create some highly complex drum patterns using the in-built kits and samples. Each of the 16 buttons on a pad can be changed, re-recorded and be used in one-shot mode (whereby the whole sample plays once pressed, instead of having to hold the button).
imaschine app
Your $5 goes quite a way in terms of included sounds, kits and projects. There are 10 projects included which you can load and check out to see what’s possible. On top of these there are 25 kits (not just drum samples, but chord hits and dubstep 4 Essential Websites to Download Free DJ Mixes & Sets Read More wub-wub noises too!) delivering more than 400 individual sounds.
imaschine app


Building Up A Beat

The app itself is fairly intuitive, though you’ll need to play around for a few minutes to start with. Once you’ve selected an input the 5 buttons along the bottom of the screen come into play. The first is a simple note repeat, making it easy to just hold down a sample and have it repeat seamlessly.
imaschine ipad
The second controls velocity and the third allows you to remove, double and change your pattern. It’s worth noting at this point that your pattern will automatically loop, and the longest pattern you tap out essentially dictates the length of the loop – simple stuff.
The fourth button enables the recording and editing of each sample individually and the bottom right allows you to change the whole kit or keyboard Where to Learn Piano Online: The 5 Best Free Piano Learning Sites Check out these free piano learning websites! If you've ever dreamed of playing the piano, start learning with these free resources. Read More sound. It might sound a little complex, but it’s really not and only takes a few minutes to master.

Along the top the first button allows you to save, load and so on. BPM can be set by tapping the number atop the screen, play and record are fairly self explanatory and the top right button is the mixer, which I’ll mention later.
imaschine ipad
The key to creating funky loops is layering and building up a sound incrementally. Make a mistake? No problem, clear the pattern and re-record without affecting your other tracks. Try recording an intricate pattern at a low BPM and then jack it up to drum and bass standards for a real ego boost!

Effects, Live Use, Customizing and Usability

The mixer allows you to change each input’s level and also provides access to effects. Two effects can be defined and then applied to each track. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of effects, but simple low-pass filters and delays can help fine-tune your desired sound, and for an iPhone the results certainly aren’t bad.
imaschine ipad
Another possible use for iMaschine is live performances 7 Websites Where You Can Listen to a Live Music Band Read More , either during DJ sets for simple one-shot samples or as a fully customizable mobile sampler. By connecting your iPhone to your PC you can use iTunes file sharing to add your own 16-bit WAV samples which can then be imported into a kit and saved for quick access later.
portable sketchpad
Occasionally whilst using the app I found the odd sound didn’t register, and thus I missed a beat so to speak. There are a few other reports of this on the App Store, though on the whole it’s not a frequent problem and one I’m sure could be solved in a future update. Crashes have happened, though they are infrequent and the app resumed exactly where I left off. Aside from this, I had no other issues with iMaschine after prolonged use. It’s addictive, what can I say?


Considering this app only costs $5, you get an awful lot of bang for your buck. There are additional sample packs for download, though you’re more than welcome to cut up your own and create completely unique kits. For Maschine veterans there is even an export option so you can continue your project on the desktop.


iMaschine is a great toy, tool or addition to your music workstation. It’s a creative time-killer which is both fun and rewarding to use, and thus has earned its very own MakeUseOf seal of approval.

Download: iMaschine @ App Store ($5)
Visit: iMaschine @ NativeInstruments.com

Have you tried iMaschine? Do you own any other Native Instruments products? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Related topics: Audio Editor, iTunes Store.

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