Oberheim Matrix synthesizers are a historic product line of subtractive analog synthesizers from Oberheim featuring a system of modulation which Oberheim called "Matrix Modulation" as a method of selecting and routing elements that dynamically shape various aspects of the sounds it produces.
While the Matrix-12 (a 12 voice version of the Oberheim Xpander along with an added keyboard) are based on CEM Oscillators, the two models Matrix-6 and Matrix-1000 are notable for their implementation of DCOs, which maintain a completely analog sound but are controlled by digital circuitry, making them much more stable. The Matrix-6R (1986-1990) and Matrix-1000 are both rackmount versions of the Matrix-6. Matrix synthesizers continue to be popular due to their characteristic late-1980s analog sound.
Oberheim's Matrix 12 is a legendary analog synthesizer from the mid-eighties that is still the king of analog sounds. One of the fattest, roundest, pleasantly analog synthesizers around! It's long been known for creating some of the thickest and best analog pads, sweeps, buzzes, basses and textures. It features Matrix Modulation for extremely wild virtual patching for almost unlimited range of sounds and modulation capabilities!
The Matrix 12 is similar to the Xpander and the lighter Matrix 6. But the Matrix 12 is much fatter and more programmable than either. Every control can have an effect on some other parameter thanks to Oberheim's flexible design. For example, there are 15 types of LFOs and VCAs per voice! And there's plenty of diagrams drawn out on the front panel of the synth to help you figure out some signal routing. This is not a synth for the beginner.
The Matrix 6 was one of the last few synthesizers from Oberheim to come out during the mid-eighties following the classic OB-series. The Matrix 6 utilized high-tech but less expensive digital and midi features and still retained a totally analog sound. It did this by using DCOs (digitally controlled oscillators) to provide stability, programmability and more. All the Matrix synthesizers featured Matrix Modulation which allows for extremely wild virtual patching for almost unlimited range of sounds and modulation capabilities!
The Matrix 6 is a very popular synthesizer today because it offers access to the legendary sounds and power of the Matrix 12, though not as meaty but at a fraction of the cost. The Matrix 6 is also like the Xpander, but with only 6 voices of polyphony and slimmer programming. Each of its 6 voices has a pair of DCOs, a low pass filter, 2 VCA's, 3 envelope generators, 2 LFO's, and 2 ramp gens for a variety of complex analog pads, basses and sounds.
The programmability is vast, but it can be very tedious. As was the growing trend in synthesizers during this time, knobs and sliders were replaced by just a few membrane buttons and a simple data slider. This is accompanied by gobs of programming and patch data written across the face of the unit. Fortunately Midi SysEx is fully supported so you can get patches on-line and transmit them into the Matrix. Access, makers of the Virus, used to make the Matrix Programmer which gives you much more user friendly hands-on controls too. And software editors such as Unisyn make graphic editing possible for much easier programming.
The analog Matrix 1000 is essentially 1,000 Matrix 6 patches in a single-space compact rackmount MIDI module. It has the same synth architecture as the Matrix 6. Each of its 6 voices have two DCO's (digitally controlled analog oscillator), a low pass filter, 2 VCA's, 3 envelope gens, 2 LFO's, and 2 ramp gens. The sounds are plentiful and good enough, however sounds can only be edited via MIDI, so you'll need an external MIDI editor (such as MOTU's Unisyn) or Access' Matrix Programmer to edit parameters. You can also load sounds from the Matrix 6 via SysEx or software.
The Matrix 1000 provides an excellent source of pads, textures and ambient sounds. It has 195 "keyboard" sounds, 118 "strings", 130 "woodwinds & perc", 239 "synthesizer", 119 "bass", 74 "lead" and 125 "effects". For the price, there is no better way to find genuine analog Oberheim Matrix sounds in a compact and very in-expensive rack module that is loaded with more sounds than you'll ever need! The older versions of the Matrix 1000 have a black front-panel. The newer models in the '90's have a cream colored face-plate.
The Gear Rack