Matrix-1000 photo

Oberheim Matrix-1000

With 1,000 on-board analog sounds and a budget price, this rackmount subtractive synth offers plenty of bang for the box.

The Matrix-1000, Oberheim's new six-voice, 1U rackmount analog synthesizer, sounds good and fat. Though it has limitations, especially for users without computers, it's easy to understand (given a knowledge of analog-synthesizer fundamentals) and has flexible programming features and a reasonable price tag ($595).

The newest Matrix synthesizer doesn't have quite the sound of such Oberheim classics as the OB-8, Xpander, or Matrix-12. Part of this is because the Matrix-1000 has digitally controlled, as opposed to voltage-controlled, oscillators, and its VCF has just one mode-4-pole, lowpass-as opposed to the Matrix-12's 15 filter modes. Nonetheless, it's close enough to "classic Oberheim" for most purposes. It has a clear sound, courtesy of new technology, and to my ears sounds much richer than either L/A or FM synths.

The unit comes with 800 programs in ROM and 200 in user-accessible RAM; the programs in ROM can be copied to RAM and edited. Many of the imitative sounds (jazz guitar, trumpet, oboe) are disappointing, but the Electric Bass is string-pickin' percussive, the strings are lush, and the bass section of the piano-a difficult sound to program with analog synthesis-is a pleasant surprise. Serious programmers will undoubtedly take advantage of the 1000's programming capabilities to create more accurate imitative sounds.

The synthy sounds are much better than the imitative ones and demonstrate the sonic strengths of analog, subtractive synthesis. At first, I found the factory programs did not use continuous controllers very creatively: Mod Wheel 1, for example, brings in frequency modulation (vibrato) at the same amplitude for most of the patches. However, Mod Wheel 3 triggered more creative modulation effects. (MIDI continuous controllers are unipolar but are often inverted within a synthesizer to produce "negative" modulation. The Matrix-1000 can take signals from a modulation wheel and split it into two ''virtual wheels," Mod Wheels 2 and 3, with one responding positively and one negatively to continuous controller messages.)


Product Summary

Oberheim Matrix-1000

Rack-mount analog synthesizer


1,000 factory programs, including 200 user-accessible; Group mode; programmable via MIDI; optimized for MIDI guitar controllers

2015 Davie Avenue
Commerce, CA 90040
tel. (213) 725-7870

EM Meters





The Matrix-1000's rich, layered sounds and smooth analog VCFs and VCAs make it a good match for MIDI wind controllers.

If you enjoy programming, you'll want to modify what's there or create your own programs; even if you want to use only the factory sounds, you should experiment with the MIDI controller assignments for best results.

The LED readout shows three digits and no names, so unless you have a computer, you'll need to keep the program list handy.

Bank Lock lets you select a program from the current bank by entering only the two-digit program number (00 to 99); otherwise you must enter both program and bank number each time you select a program. The manual claims that when changing banks or programs for a MIDI master controller that has no program 00, the master's program 01 calls up the Matrix's program 00. This didn't work for me (I used a Rhodes Chroma as a controller), but Oberheim assures me it worked on the controllers they used, including the Yamaha DX7 and Roland D-50.

Global Controls
In addition to the global controls marked on the front panel, such as Fine Tune ( I semitone in 31 increments) and MIDI Channel Select (1 through 16, plus 9 groups of 6 Channels in Mono mode), there are eight modes under the Extended Function label.

Transpose changes the pitch of all programs 3 octaves in semitone increments.

In Unison mode, all six voices play the same note. Although this means you can't play chords, you do get a rich, fat sound that really comes to life with MIDI bass, woodwind, lead guitar, or other single-note lines.

Invert MIDI Volume is very useful for (among other applications) MIDI guitar: the ''whammy bar" on a MIDI guitar typically transmits zero MIDI Volume in the rest position, forcing the player to push the bar down to increase the level. By inverting MIDI Volume, the audio signal normally stays at maximum amplitude and decreases as you push the bar. When the Matrix is used with a pair of synths that respond normally to MIDI Volume commands, Invert makes the volume pedal a useful cross-fader between the two synths.

Steve Oppenheimer is a Rhodes Chromasaurus programmer, studio denizen, and former road musician who wondered what a home was. As an editorial assistant for EM, he is discovering that a home would be nice if he had time to spend there.

This article is reprinted from the November 1988 issue of Electronic Musician magazine with the permission of its publisher, Penton Media. For more from EM, please visit