Tech Support: How Native Instruments’ Maschine Can Be a Boon for Your Setup

While it’s aimed at the groove/dance/DJ market, Maschine has some hot guitar/bass potential.
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Fig. 1: Up to 16 parallel channels of plug-ins
 can play individually or together, with solo
 or mute for each channel.

Fig. 1: Up to 16 parallel channels of plug-ins  can play individually or together, with solo  or mute for each channel.

No, you didn’t enter a parallel universe and open a copy of Electronic Musician magazine. Keep reading.

Native Instrument’s Maschine hardware/software system includes a sampler, arranger, mixer, effects and audio interface. While it’s aimed at the groove/dance/DJ market, Maschine has some hot guitar/bass potential, such as the ability to host VST plug-ins, including amp sims like Guitar Rig, TH3 and AmpliTube (although it doesn’t host VST3 plug-ins yet). For parallel effects, plug-ins can be loaded in up to 16 Maschine sounds/mixer channels (Fig. 1). These channels can also hold series effects, and you can solo or mute individual channels.

The bottom line is that Maschine can be a powerful multi-effects processor for guitar, with multiple possibilities for parallel, series and parallel/series effects chains. And of course, you can also use Maschine for its intended purpose and make killer backing tracks for your guitar excursions.

But there’s just one problem. Unlike other audio interfaces, Maschine MK3, the latest version, has no instrument input. It has mic and line inputs, but both load down the guitar’s pickups, dulling the sound and lowering the guitar’s output level. Furthermore, the line inputs don’t have enough gain for guitar, while the mic input has too much. Sure, you can buy a preamp and plug your guitar into the line inputs, but I’m going to show you a simpler and much cheaper solution.

Fig. 2: Adding a resistor
 to a standard guitar
 cable makes Maschine
 guitar friendly.

Fig. 2: Adding a resistor  to a standard guitar  cable makes Maschine  guitar friendly.

Fortunately, Maschine MK3’s mic input was designed for dynamic microphones, and has a flat response. So with a guitar cable and some soldering, you can make Maschine guitar-friendly without modifying it or giving up the mic input functionality, and all for about 10 cents. 

Fig. 2 shows what I call a Maschine interface cable. It has a 390k-ohm resistor in series with the hot lead at the guitar end; the other end plugs into Maschine’s mic input. The resistor raises the input impedance the guitar sees, while it simultaneously attenuates the signal so that the guitar won’t overload the mic input. Fig. 3 shows the plug mod prior to adding electrical tape to isolate the cable hot lead from the plug hot lead.

Fig. 3: The cable after modification. All in all, a fairly simple job..

Fig. 3: The cable after modification. All in all, a fairly simple job..

The Maschine cable acts like a standard guitar cable, except that plugging the end with the resistor into the guitar gives slightly lower hum and noise pickup (although it also works fine if you reverse the plugs). With this cable, the mic input control accommodates anything from low- to high-output pickups. The 390k-ohm resistor value isn’t that critical, because you can trim the mic input. Lower this value if you can’t get enough preamp gain, or increase the resistance if you hit the strings hard or use high-output pickups.

If you have Maschine MK3 and play guitar, you want this! And if you’re into beats and guitar, then you might want Maschine MK3 on your wish list.

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