There is a true Oberheim Matrix editor for iPad now. And yes, it’s worth buying it.

If you have found this blog searching for the Oberheim Matrix-6/1000 synthesizer, you may already know that I still haven’t given up on breathing new life into hardware and software of this wonderful machine, and that I have made a controller template for the iPad. A controller, mind you, not a true editor – but a tool to control each parameter in a sound preset via a dedicated touch control, and pretty much without alternative.
Patch Touch app screenshot - all parameters of a sound on one page
No longer – there is a true Matrix editor app in the Store now, Patch Touch by Coffeeshopped, LLC. How does it compare? Is it worth the 15 30 Dollars or Euros? Chadwick, the guy behind Coffeeshopped, was so kind as to send me a download code for his app, and to comment on an early draft of my observations, so you’ll find my remarks updated with his comments here.

True editing, but no patch management yet

Now 15 30 Euros is quite some money. Not that much, really, considered that the market for an iPad editor of a 30-year old machine is rather limited, and that a couple of hundred sales still won’t pay the programmer’s time. Yet for a music app, it is not cheap; TBMS, the base for my controller, costs a third.

But there is good reason to spend the extra money: Patch Touch is a true editor. With TBMS, you can write parameters to the synth, but there is no way to find out how pulse width is set, or how the modulations are programmed. With Patch Touch, you click on „Fetch Patch“, and the controls show the actual settings. Which really makes all the difference in tweaking sounds on stage.

Unfortunately, there is no way to export or import sounds from the editor – yet. Chadwick has announced that there will be a local library of files and a possibility to import sounds. He is also working on a sysex patch manager app. (Update: Here it is!) But at the time being, there are no functions for patch and bank management, and I miss them. You still have to click on that „Fetch patch“ button when it would be easy to automate that process, and if you forget to save a patch to the synth, it’s lost. Good for tweaking, not so good for sound management yet.

Ready for tweaking

Tweaking sound is eased by a very neat feature of Matrix Touch: It does not overtax the synth. The Matrixes‘ ancient 8-bit-brain does not have enough power to recalculate a sound fast enough, meaning that it freezes when you send too many continuous changes by turning a controller, and takes a moment to catch up.

There is a firmware patch for this problem that, basically, limits the number of parameter changes, but you’ll need to burn an EPROM chip for that. Coffeeshopped’s Patch Touch fixes the problem by only sending the parameter value as soon as you release the control. Not suitable for real-time filter sweeps, but a real treat in shaping a sound. And you should do that sweep by programming the mod matrix and using Midi CC anyway.

You may (or may not) like this: All on one page

My TBMS pad is made up of two panels – one for all the generators, one for modulation. Using what I felt to be reasonably-sized controllers, I found that there was no way I could fit them all on one page. Patch Touch manages that feat, and found an ingenious way to keep controls precise: When you touch a control, the whole screen becomes one big slider for that one parameter, and it is easy to control it precisely. It aims well for that sweet spot between precision and overview.

This is how the first page of my controller panel looks like - all modulations are on a second page.

This is how the first page of my controller panel looks like – all modulations are on a second page.

Still, as the Matrix-1000 is a very complex beast, the screen feels slightly hostile to me. Even though I know the synth’s architecture fairly well by now, it took me some time to remember what all the controls are for. And compared to my TBMS dials and sliders, it looks a bit boring – but that is a matter of taste. I got used to Patch Touch pretty fast, and in the end, it’s all about workflow.

Treating all Matrixes alike?

Let me mention one thing that Chadwick, the programmer is well aware of, but that may turn you off this version of the app. I checked with a Midi monitor was how the editor handles the Matrixes‘ firmware bugs, namely that you can’t control ENV1 Sustain and ENV2 VCA MOD without crashing the synth, and that Matrix-6 machines do not respond to the Matrix Modulation parameter commands. The solution for both problems is the same: send a whole patch instead of a single parameter.

Patch Touch does not handle those bugs yet, so if you are not among the lucky few owning a Matrix-1000 with firmware V1.13 or above – the number is displayed on switching the machine on – the app may crash your synth when you tweak ENV1 Sustain or ENV2 VCA MOD. (Update, Aug. 2015: Chadwick fixed that.) And matrix modulation control won’t work with a Matrix-6/R.

As I’ve mentioned before, Chadwick is going to fix this in the next release, which is going to have a device selector. Maybe we’ll even get an option to keep the current behaviour for machines with patched firmware, M1000 V1.13 and above, that do not need the bug fix. And with gligli’s V1.16, you might even enable the additional „Unison Detune“ parameter controlled by Midi CC 94, and send parameter updates while tweaking – this firmware can handle it.

Odds and ends

I noticed a couple of other things I’d love to see improved. The random sound function does not produce very sensible results, a random mashing up of existing sounds would be more useful. I contend that this is fairly subjective, Chadwick’s point being that only true randomness helps you discover uncovered ground.

I’d like graphical control for the enigmatic tracking generator rather than a series of dials. An init sound would be nice. Maybe a feature to reset controls by double-clicking them. And how about a page to control the Matrix‘ global parameters?

What I do love about Matrix Touch is that a lot of consideration have gone into the layout of the editor, showing in details like a copy function for the envelopes. For any owner of this old machine, it is a no-brainer. And for me as a Matrix owner, it is wonderful to see that someone still cares for them.

Plus

  • True editor
  • Everything on one page, good workflow
  • Good control of individual parameters
  • Stutter-free tweaking of sounds

Minus

  • V1.0 lacks patch management (announced for later version)
  • Lacking Global parameter control
  • Random hardly useful

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8 Gedanken zu „There is a true Oberheim Matrix editor for iPad now. And yes, it’s worth buying it.

  1. Hi!
    Thanks for your posts… now, as I got my white Matrix-1000 equipped with 1.16 firmware and I’m seeking „the best“ editor for it, what would you actually recommend?
    I mean: I got an iPad, as well as a MacBook Pro. On the latter I installed Obie Editor, didn’t yet have time to play around with it. To be honest, iPad would give me more „physical“ control (touch) over the Matrix-1000. This is why I’m asking for a recommendation on iPad software for Matrix-1000.

    Ah, BTW: did you ever experience BCR-2000 for Matrix-1000 editing?

    Thanks and regards,
    F.

    • Hi Flavio,

      to start with the last point: no, I have not tried the BCR-2000 yet but I do own a Novation X-Station which is my real-life tactile faderbox for the Matrix. I do love the immediacy of „Turn a knob, get a response“, especially with filters and envelopes, but I hate editing sounds when it comes to things like setting a wave form. And editing the mod matrix is out of the question. And I do need to look at how sounds are built from time to time – so a faderbox, or TB Midi Stuff for the matter, is not the best solution for me.

      Actually, I have come to prefer the Touch Pad editor for its All-in-one-page-approach, and its immediacy in using controls. Next favourite would be ObieEditor, which is not as handy and needs you to grab the mouse, but it DOES feature a patch manager – which Touch Patch still doesn’t.

      So I do recommend Touch Patch, hoping that the programmer will fix (a) the weird way that thing writes patches to memory, basically guaranteeing that you’ll overwrite good patches, (b) add patch management, (c) thinks of disabling his neat little sysex traffic limitation hack for people like you and me, i.e. owners of V1.16… or above.

      (Stay tuned on the latter. ;)

  2. Hallo!
    Danke für dein Feedback!
    If I understand it right, you’ve bought the full „Patch Touch“, correct? It’s quite expensive nowadays (30 Euros if I’ve seen it right)…

    I will give a try at the BCR-2000, I’m more the hardware guy instead of „touch“ :-)
    Actually I tried your TB MIDI Stuff template (more on the forum – you see my forum post there) and it’s quite good indeed!

    Anyway, I’ll stay tuned!
    BR,
    Flavio.

  3. yo! :-)
    I know of that BCR-2000 Matrix-1000 template… I’m gonna test it next week as I now got my hands on the BCR-2000 but have my Matrix-1000 in my studio (elsewhere)…

    I’m gonna answer on the TB Stuff forum right away, thanks for replying there as well…

    Interesting thing about you beta-testing that software. I mean: quite expensive, as such (piece of software for iPad), but in the end, if it’d do what I want it to, then it could be justified.

  4. Hello!

    I’m trying to load SYSEX patch bank into my Oberheim Matrix-6. I can trasnfer patches from SYNTH to PC, but can’t seem to load them back into the MATRIX. PLEASE HELP!

    • Sorry for asking the very obvious, but have you checked that the „Memory Protect“ switch on the back is off, the PROTECT setting in the MODE SELECT section is off, MIDI Sysex is enabled as master parameter 04, and it is in Quick Edit mode? (I don’t own a M-6 myself, but this is the theory.)

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