EVERYBODY can claim to be a DJ these days thanks to sonic alchemists Native Instruments who have enjoyed huge success since they disrupted the music scene way back in 1999.
The company was founded in Berlin in 1996 as the advent of digital technology heralded huge changes across the music industry. The digital movement continues to drive and inspire today across every genre.
Native Instruments has since grown to lead the industry in the development of DJ software, hardware, synthesis and production solutions. Their products have become a major performance and production tool for not only DJs such as Richie Hawtin, Chris Liebing and Carl Cox but also the likes of Stevie Wonder, Metallica and Justin Timberlake. Heavily influenced by Berlin’s musical culture, the company continues to innovate.
We met up with CEO Daniel Haver at their head-quarters in Berlin last week to have a first look at some of the new ground breaking DJ and production kit they are about to unleash on a hungry population of musicians. We discovered that they have the artist at the very heart of what they do. Daniel told us:
“We’ve always been dependent on artist input and feedback so we can create the best product offering for our customers. This is the core reason we are based in cities like Berlin, Los Angeles and London. We love being really close to the artists, music scenes and venues. Artists not only inspire us, but work closely with us to allow us to test our ideas with them.”
“With our software instruments, NI has been the world’s first company to prove that you can make a computer sound as great, or sometimes, even better than any analogue or digital music instrument. This break-through came with our Hammond organ emulation B4 ORGAN, which Steve Wonder listened to at 1999’s NAMM Show in Anaheim, saying “This sounds just like the real thing!”. Since the launch of REAKTOR we’ve been influencing the sound of electronic music from 1999. This is especially true of the bass sounds from our synthesizer MASSIVE, which was the defining sound of dubstep, with people like Skrillex driving this genre forward.”
The tech has played a big part in the evolution of how modern music is not only performed but the way it’s produced, whether it be techno or rock or the creation of entirely new genres. You need also only look to see how the likes of Dubfire, Richie Hawtin and Chris Liebing continue pioneering techno music using a lot of Native Instruments kit.
Not only has NI gear enhanced and helped evolve the production and performances of the long established pioneers but it has also created a new breed of artist. We caught up with electronic music duo Blond:ish who told us:
Some DJs will of course always prefer the traditional method of mixing using vinyl, turntables and mixer to deliver the music, Sven Väth is one of the best DJs and the world and has no desire to convert to using newer technology.
He recently told us: “I like to smell and feel my vinyl.”
There is no doubt Native Instruments technology has made DJing, music creation and production more accessible to everyone. By making things easier, companies like Native Instruments have opened up almost limitless creative possibilities. None of the equipment or software should be viewed as an easy route to DJ stardom however, TRAKTOR is far more of a creative weapon than just hitting sync on a couple of tracks.
“The act of beat-matching was never a creative one, but down to an art of craftsmanship. Leaving this feature to the software is actually key to unlocking creative powers. DJs can now use the time they spent on beat-matching to instead use creative effects or adding samples, which creates a much more unique performance.”
NATIVE INSTRUMENTS NEW TECH REVIEWS By Neil Barber (Barber)
UK born DJ and Producer Neil Barber (Barber) who now resides in Berlin put some of the new kit through its paces in their studios earlier this month. This was his verdict.
MASCHINE MK3 + MASCHINE MIKRO
This is a music production station and live performance instrument. The 4x4 pads allow you to cut up samples and loops and assign these to the pads for playing. Known as finger drumming this newer way of performing allows you to play beats, samples and play melodies without having traditional piano/keyboard skills. It is bundled with NI Komplete sounds so you have 100’s Gb’s of professionally crafted content to get you working straight away. You can of course go deeper and create your own material including your own voice or instruments as, it now had a direct audio input.
The Maschine MK3 is NI’s new top level unit, but for those on a tighter budget can opt for the Maschine Mikro. Without so many of the new bells and whistles, it still functions adequately as a production and performance instrument and also includes the full sounds and construction content of the Komplete 12 package.
NI KOMPLETE 12 + KOMPLETE KONTROL KEYBOARD, S88, MK2
NI Komplete 12 is essentially all of the virtual instruments and sound sets which Native Instruments have created to date! You can opt to buy specific instruments and sound-sets individually. But you would be mad to as the cost of these can add up fast. The Komplete collection is a great value way of having access to all of the creative tools NI has to offer. And there’s is a lot! They are always updating with new sound-packs to cater for specific genres too. Everything from film scores to UK Grime! I am really impressed with the diversity and quality.
The Komplete Kontrol Keyboard is a great studio companion, hobbyist or pro. With the sheer amount of virtual instruments (VST’s) on offer today we can get lost easily with options of synths and sounds. I am really pleased to see that the keyboard helps you find which you need thanks to NI’s ‘NKS’ file tagging system. You can easily navigate your way to the type of sound you are looking for directly from the keyboard. And not just NI created synths but many, many different manufacturers too.
Searching by type of sound or nuance or timbre or manufacturer really speeds up your workflow and keeps you creative, not being bogged down in relentlessly clicking through thousands of presets. Some additional and clever functionality comes from the keyboard assisting you with musical scales with help of LED, ‘1-key chord’ playing and more, giving the non-traditionally trained user capacity to be more musical and accomplish more theoretically difficult music.
TRAKTOR PRO 3 + S4 MK3 SYSTEM KONTROL
The professional standard DJ software just raised it’s own bar (again). Having always been on the innovation quest it’s difficult to know how it can keep getting better. It is already the professional standard. It’s super intuitive layout and design makes it the access point for the aspiring DJ too. Having your full library of music in reach all of the time is a great advantage. And being able to have it synchronised and also harmonically key matched for seem-less blending is extremely helpful. However, that’s just the basics. While many DJ’s could view the technology as a cheat it opens up many, many creative possibilities to craft a soundscape difficult or impossible to attain with your conventional DJ set up. You have the ability for 4 decks of music, also turning one or more of those decks into a loop player and sample trigger, even going as for as playing only certain elements of tracks thanks to the ‘NI Stems’ format. Couple all of that with integrated effects and hi-end sound quality, the limits really are only in the hands of user.
The S4 System controller is your physical bridge to the software, controlling everything to do with the software with needing only to glance at your laptop allowing you to keep focus on the music. This is their latest in a line of controllers. Finding your music, cueing it, triggering loops and samples all at your fingertips. Although this isn’t anything new for a controller like this. However what I love about this controller is that the decks or jog wheel is motorised. This feels very much like the weight of a vinyl player, with haptic feedback that sends little clicks to your fingers to ‘feel’ cue points, loop start points and more. Traditionally the feel of these jog wheels have always been very light weight and fly-away. I’ve often used the term ‘fisher price’ to describe how they feel. But this unit is very solid, very well built and very intuitively laid out. A new DJ or a pro would be very at home on this. Although you are not likely to find it in any real club set up this is a high-end home set up hero.
For more information on Native Instruments head here.