Matrix-6

A follow-up to the successful Matrix-12 model. Where the Matrix-12 was intended to be a high-end synth, the Matrix-6 was aimed at a lower price point, while still retaining what were considered the essential features of the Matrix-12, including the matrix routing concept.

The Matrix-6 voice architecture was based on the then-new Curtis 3396 synth-on-a-chip. This contained two onboard DCOs, a lowpass filter, and a VCA. Modulation sources from the Matrix-12 were added, including its envelope generators and the unique tracking generator. An unusual feature was that the filter’s cutoff frequency could be frequency modulated by one of the DCOs. And like the Matrix-12, the envelope controlling the VCA could be retriggered by an LFO, providing continuous output. The keyboard could be split, and there was a jack for expression pedal input, in addition to the ability to respond to user-defined MIDI Continuous controllers. Six voices were provided, and the performer had several choices of voice allocation algorithms.

Oberheim MATRIX 6

Oberheim MATRIX 6

The user interface was minimal — a single vacuum fluorescent display providing one line of information, which was either a patch name and number or a parameter name and value, depending on what mode the display was put in. The front panel was a membrane type, to further reduce costs. It was difficult enough that the first product ever offered for sale by Access Music was an external programmer for this synth, which programmed it by sending MIDI System exclusive messages.

Both a keyboard and a rackmount version were offered. The rackmount included a tantalizing jack labeled “Remote” that was intended for an external programmer, which Oberheim designed but never put into production. Other than this, and lacking the keyboard and performance controls, the keyboard and rackmount versions are identical.

In 1989 Oberheim offered a variant called the Matrix-1000. This synth was so numbered because its memory held 1000 patches — 800 in ROM and 200 that were user-editable. It was also based on the Curtis 3396, but there were a number of improvements in the MIDI implementation, adding features and fixing some problems that the Matrix-6 implementation had. The 1U rack mount synth had no patch editing controls on its panel — it had to be programmed using an external programmer or patch editor. It used the Matrix-6 voice architecture with a few changes, similar enough so that the Matrix-6 and the Matrix-1000 can exchange System exclusive patch dumps, with a few caveats. (One is that the Matrix-1000 can neither remember nor display patch names; when patches are dumped from it, they come out with default names.) Versions with both black and white painted front panels were made, for no apparent reason; no internal difference between the two versions has ever been identified. The Matrix-1000 was the last product Oberheim produced before it was purchased by Gibson, and the only pre-acquisition product to continue to be manufactured afterwards; it remained in production until 1994.

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