Here’s what you’ll need to know about this late-80s machine:
The Matrix is a really complex beast.
The basic layout of the synth is classic: two oscillators with saw/tri and PW waves, a 4-pole (24dB) resonant filter – the famous Obie filter, lush and warm yet effective – filter FM, and an amp section. Two LFOs, three EGs, nothing out of the ordinary so far. But the possibilities of manipulating sound in real-time! EG are not ADSR but DADSR, and can be made free-running, turning them into additional LFOs. Or control them by LFOs. Numerous little tweaks for the LFOs. Two additional ramp generators and a kind of five-point translate curve function. More than 20 modulation path controls, and those are only the hard-wired ones. On top of it all, there’s the name-giving modulation matrix with 10 freely programmable paths – we’ll get to that later.
The Matrix is a really old beast.
Looking at the hardware, you may be surprised that there’s not really that much of it. Oscillators, Curtis filter chips, amps – everything else is done in software by a humble 8-bit CPU @ 2MHz, i.e. doing 2 Mcycles per second. Even your coffee maker packs more processing power these days. Actually, this is way too slow for what the software is aiming to do – recalculating lookup tables while playing MIDI notes – meaning that when you’re tweaking while playing the device may start stuttering. It’s also working on an internal 50Hz cycle, meaning that notes are played with a latency of up to 20ms.
The Matrix is a slightly buggy beast.
There are a couple of well-documented bugs; if you’d like to read more, I’ll direct you to this excellent resource. The most annoying ones are
- the inability to control the sustain level of ENV1
- an incorrect handling of ENV2 to VCA control
- an extremely sluggish filter response – no filter sweeps via the controller.
The good: there are workarounds on software editors. The bad: To get rid of the errors, you have to be capable of taking your Matrix-1000 apart and replacing the firmware with an patched version. The ugly: there is no way to work around this bugs using the kind of simple MIDI controller I’ve used to build my interface. You may have to live with it.
The Matrix is a slightly eccentric beast.
As MIDI goes, internal settings and parameters are controlled via System Exclusive messages – basically, a way to transfer whole patches – and, with more modern synthesizers, via NRPN (Non-Registered Parameter Number) messages changing a single setting. The Matrix does not understand NRPN – the programmers seem to have aborted the effort – but two types of SysEx commands setting individual parameters. This works, but there are limits to what you can control individually.
This is especially nasty when it comes to handling the revered modulation matrix. Each matrix path is set by a command transferring source, amount, and destination;
unfortunately the TB MIDI Stuff app won’t let me combine three parameters into one SysEx command. I’ve come up with a partial workaround to give you some degree of matrix control, but to implement that, I’ll have to place around 200 additional elements in the modulation panel – think I’ll skip on that for the moment. This works now, due to extended TBMS functionality! See my follow-up post.
What that means is that, for the time being, you won’t be able to manipulate the mod matrix. Or, by the way, global settings. If it’s of any comfort to you, the Access controller couldn’t do it either. Get over it and get an editor for in-depth programming, but use my editor to do some quick sound soul searching in the studio.
…and you’ll need TB MIDI Stuff (come on, it’s only € 4,49)
There are bugs in TB MIDI Stuff as well. Rather strange ones. I had to do a few workarounds. And as you may have guessed, the controller panels are very beta – if you come across an error, be so kind and drop me a line so I can try to fix it, or go and fix it yourself.
- Taming Arturia’s Beatstep: Sysex codes for programming via iPad (Saturday, 22. November 2014; Schlagworte: Arturia Beatstep, iPad, Midi, programming, Sysex, TB Midi Stuff, tool)
- There is a true Oberheim Matrix editor for iPad now. And yes, it’s worth buying it. (Friday, 26. June 2015; Schlagworte: Editor, iPad, Matrix-1000, Matrix-6, Oberheim)
- Matrix Modulation control included: iPad editor for the Oberheim Matrix-6/1000 (Wednesday, 30. April 2014; Schlagworte: Controller, Editor, iPad, Matrix-1000, Matrix-6, modulation matrix, Oberheim, TB Midi Stuff)