App Review (iMaschine / Mashbox)

Sunday, 11 March 2012

-The Good, The Bad & The Completely Useless…

With this week’s unveiling of the not so long anticipated Ipad 3 it seems like the perfect time to launch my own regular app review. Like many of you I find myself spending more time than I care to admit sifting through the itunes app store in search of the next good, bad or completely useless addition to my Iphone and / or Ipad. Being a DJ it goes without saying that the majority of the apps reviewed will be related to music production and performance however I will touch on some other categories as well, namely utility, social networking and even the odd game. Feedback is always appreciated so feel free to comment, criticize or even correct me if you think I’ve missed the plot.
            Today I will be looking at two music apps that have both DJ and production implications: iMashine from Native Instruments and Mashbox from Beatport.


Native Instruments
iMaschine is Native Instruments app version of arguably one of the most popular pieces of production and performance hardware. I should preface this review by saying that I am not a Maschine user so I will not be able to comment on how the app stacks up to it’s hardware big brother but considering the price difference I don’t think it matters.

iMaschine is essentially a sampler with some pretty neat tricks up it’s sleeve. The primary performance screen consists of 16 beat pads and 4 banks giving the user quick access of up to 64 sounds. Rhythm sections and bass lines can be played on a virtual keyboard which consists of 24 keys (12 over 12). The transport bar is located at the top of the screen and has all the basics: Play, pause, BPM selection and a section for loading, saving & exporting projects, as well as a link to the online marketplace where additional sounds can be purchased. In addition there is also a 4 channel mixer view for mixing the sounds played in each of the 4 banks and an FX section that consists of Chorus, Lofi, Delay, Flanger and A HP LP Filter.

What impressed me most about the iMaschine was its responsiveness, there is little to no delay from the time I hit the pad to the time the sound passes through my board and the included samples are clear and full. I use the iMaschine almost exclusively as a sampler and in that respect it works perfectly. My favourite feature is the virtually seamless drag and drop integration with iTunes that allows the user to load wav files directly onto the device (perfect for vocal samples and FX). I’m not entirely sure I would want to use this in a studio environment as it is clearly lacking some key areas but I’m not sure that’s what NI had in mind when they designed it.                  

Like anything else in the app store it really depends on what you are looking to get out of the app. If you are looking for a tool to construct very basic track ideas on the go or a DJ who like me is seeking a cheap and easy way to add one shot vocal and FX samples to your set without sacrificing a deck iMaschine does the job beautifully. This will not however be replacing any of the hardware currently in my studio setup and I doubt I’ll be creating the next monster club anthem using nothing but this app but for the price you should seriously consider picking it up.



Free- 0.99
Mashbox is one of the most interesting DJ style apps I’ve seen to date. The app itself consists of a sort of mixer that allows you to load up to 2 tracks. The tracks themselves are then split into up to 6 sub categories like, beat, percussion, bass etc… The end result is an audio player that allows you to mix and match the individual sections of up to 2 tracks.

The player itself looks like a bit of a mashup, in that it uses old school aesthetics like a reel to reel player for the track selection and wood trim finish with modern functionality like DJ style effects and automatic beat sync. The overall layout is similar to a DJ mixer in that you have 6 vertical channels taking up the bulk of your screen real estate while the transport and FX controls sit at the top. The track collection and online marketplace are easily accessible from the middle left section of the main screen and it is fairly easy to switch between tracks on the fly.

I would not attempt to use Mashbox as a live performance tool, while the basic functions work well it does not have the precision or control that I would need to feel confident in front of a crowd. What I do like about this app is the content, being able to purchase current electronic music broken down this way is a remixers wet dream. The in app marketplace has a number of tracks from well known artists both current and classic and each track sells for $1.99 (which is more or less the same price as the originals on There are some monster tracks available: classics like “The Witch Doctor” & “Funky Cold Medina” as well as current tracks such as “Autosave” & “C’mon (Catch em’ by Surprise)”.

- The Mashbox app itself feels very much like a toy and I would not suggest attempting to use it in any professional manner, that being said the content available within the app is a very different story. I love that Beatport is behind this project and I really hope they continue to release quality tracks in this broken down format. I will gladly shell out $1.99 for the individual components of my favourite tunes and the implications for DJs, producers and remixes are limitless. For this reason I have no choice but to give this app a split score one for the mixing platform offered within Mashbox and one for the content, as its uses extend far beyond the app itself.


3.5/5 application
5/5 content


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