About three years back, Native Instruments introduced a series of ready-to-use sound-expansion packs that work exclusively with their Maschine and Maschine Mikro groove sequencers. Since then, there have been nine different packs ranging in styles from complextro, bass music, and house to customized kits from Steve Lawler, Amp Fiddler, and Goldbaby.
In the latest installment, Native Instruments labels the Helios Ray expansion pack as “Eclectic Leftfield Beats,” drawing influences from London broken beat and LA’s abstract beat scene: think Low End Theory, Flying Lotus, and Shlohmo.
Within the Helios Ray pack there a four kits—Analog, Melodic, Urban, Vinyl—and each is easily accessible from the Maschine sound-bank browser. And then within each of these kits are one-shots, loops, patterns, and presets.
The Analog section has two 808 kits (Icy EightOh8 and Satur808), the Dee Em Ex, and the ’80s Kurtis Blow-style kit called the King Roger. Melodic has 10 kits that complement the drums including a Bossanova-style guitar, the Three35 Chords jazz-style guitar, and five different styles of Rhodes piano—with the Brown Rhodes and MK1 kits being my personal favorites. The Urban segment has 15 mish-mash kits including one-shots and loops of bongos, congas, kicks, and snares. And the old-school Vinyl set has 15 kits in total, which include the Shotgun, a dirty and scratchy kit reminiscent of DJ Shadow-esque beats, and the gritty Cut Chemist-style Royal Bunker kit.
There are also 50 Massive presets including some really great bass, organs, polysynth leads, pads, and miscellaneous synth hits, like a dub siren and delayed hits. I’m quite partial to these presets because I can instantly add and tweak the sounds on the fly with the slimmed-down Massive controls. It’s easier than having to go into Massive and create a sound from scratch, especially when you’re playing live or adding to your DJ sets.
I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical about this expansion pack because sometimes “leftfield” sound packs tend to be a little bit on the cheesy side. While I’m not a huge fan of the guitar samples, I really do like the Rhodes stabs, the Vinyl kit, the Analog kits, and the Massive basses. Overall, the Helios Ray expansion kit is a nice set for generating abstract beats and dirty bass on the fly. Also, the sound quality is fantastic and there are some really interesting kits to choose from to apply to your productions or to complement your DJ sets. The installation is really simple, and, at $49, it’s not a big wallet commitment.