I just purchased a used Oberheim Matrix 1000 synth module, filled with Digitally controlled analog goodness.
The Matrix 1000 is a 1U analog Synth made by analog keyboard synth maker Oberheim in the 1980s. The unit’s name comes from the fact that the synth has 1000 patches stored in 10 banks.
The unit is one of the cheapest ways of getting a real analog synth without having to break the bank. Units can be found readily on Ebay, although you have to make sure you get a unit with all six voices active as some of the analog oscillator chips tend to go bad.
Due to the unit’s minimalist interface (which makes the synth affordable) , there is really no way to edit any of the 200 existing user patches without some type of MIDI based editor, so being the synth geek that i am, i decided to look for a Windows editor / librarian for the synth to tweak some of the existing sounds and to create my own.
Here is a round up of what i was able to find:
1 – Sound Quest MIDI QUEST XL 10 UNiversal Editor and Librarian
Eons ago, when i purchased the first and only synth module i could afford, an EMU proteus 1, i used to own a copy of MIDI Quest to create and edit patches in that synth. The interface was very primitive but the software worked quite nicely, and i was able to create many patches in the Proteus I, so, since MIDI Quest is such an old product that has been around for many years, i was expecting it to work smoothly with the Oberheim Matrix 1000. So i installed the program and downloaded the latest instrument definition from Sound Quest’s website.
With some tweaking i was able to download all the banks from the synth, unfortunately everytime i tried to edit any of the 1000 patches that i downloaded to the computer, the patch editor would show a generic blank patch and the synth, which i was able to edit and listen to it in realtime.. unfortunately, the editor is unable to interpret graphically any of the settings of the patches in the library, so the editor is basically good to work on patches from scratch.. in other words, the editor part is almost useless.
I was surprised that such an expensive and fancy program couldn’t work properly with a relatively simple 1980’s MIDI synth.
Also, the interface is not that great, the patch and modulation interfaces are not separate (like in the other editors) so you have to scroll down everytime you want to edit some patch modulations..
I can’t imagine spending $300 only this program to find out it doesn’t work properly with your synth, even thought according to their website it does!
2 – MatrixEd patch editor
MatrixEd patch editor is an free patch editor for the Oberheim Matrix 1000 that can be downloaded for free here.
Unzipping and running the program unleashes a monstrous interface that takes over the 1024×768 entire screen, including your Windows toolbar, and unfortunately, there is no way of resizing the interface.
The program comes with all the factory Matrix 1000 patch banks for the synth and some additional banks that can be found on the net.
I was able to send entire banks to the synth, although the program crashed on me everytime i tried to download a bank from the synth, and trying to get a patch from hardware gave me an SysEx error.
This program hasn’t been updated since the days of Windows 95, so I am surprised it works at all.
If you can put up with the huge, clunky interface and the program crashing, MatrixEd may be halfway usable.
3 – OB-6000.
OB-6000 is a German editor / Librarian made specifically for the Oberheim Matrix 1000.
I downloaded a free demo off their website, www.ob6000.de
The program interface is very nice looking, the best i’ve seen for this synth and the layout is very organized and logically setup.
The program comes with all the factory patch banks, plus an extra set of banks that have been floating around the net for a while. I tried the Demo version and all demo functions worked nicely, although i kept on getting some MIDI errors when sending patches, which i got around by reselecting my MIDI out interface everytime.
I was able to download and upload entire banks to the synth, edit Patches while listening to the changes almost realtime on the hardware unit. The software also has a nice visual representation of what the oscillators waves look like when you change their wave parameters. A very nice touch. The software also has a nice Superlibrary that allows you to keep your favorite patches in one centralized location.
If you are a hardcore synth programmer and have an Oberheim Matrix 1000, this software is definitely worth the $39 registration!!
JSynthLib is a Free, Open Source, Universal Synthesizer Patch Editor / Librarian written in the Java Language, that supports the Oberheim Matrix 1000. It can be dowloaded here. The last beta version was updated in 2005, so this program is pretty much abandonedware.
I am not a big fan of interpreted computer languages (since the days of MS-BASIC,) specially Jave, as i’ve found that most programs written in that computer language are buggy due to the zillion versions available of the interpreter you have to download from SUN, and sometimes older java code will only work with certain versions of Java but not others.
I downloaded JSynthLib’ last stable (0.18) off from their website, but i couldn’t get it to run at all, since the jar file seems to be missing from the zip file and i didn’t know how to get the rest of the code to work with the Java interpreter, nor i was interested in spending hours trying to make it the program to work.. i just wanted to use it!!
Anyway, i was ready to give up on JSynthLib, but i decided to download the beta version 0.20 to just see if it would work. The zipped file for this version had somehow the jar file in it. I unzipped the file and surprisingly, it ran without a hitch in my computer.
I setup my MIDI interface in the user preferences, poked around the program and tried to download some of the banks from my synth to the computer, but the request timed out.
I was about to give up on this program again when i noticed there was a download for 2000 Oberheim Matrix 1000 patches in JsynthLib’s download page, so i grabbed the patches, unzipped them and i was able to open the entire library of 2000+ patches / banks in the program.
Right clicking in any of the patches in the patch library and clicking on Edit brings the patch editor for that particular patch, enabling the user to make changes to the patch parameters and listen to them in realtime, just like the OB-6000.
JSynthLib’s interface is kind clunky (like most Java interfaces) and it cannot be resized, however, unlike MatrixEd’s horrible interface, the patch editor Window is workable. I really like the fact that comments can be added for every patch in the super patch library Window, which makes it a lot easier to sift through thousands of them to comment on the ones you like.
So, working in JsynthLib is easy, just find a patch you like from the 2000+ patches you can download from the JSynthLib’s website and edit it to your hearts content. Just make sure you grab the 2000 patch library, because without it, the program is pretty much useless.
I know there are other Universal MIDI Librarian Editors out there, MOTU’s Unisyn (which runs only on Macs and i have only PCs) and Emagic’s SoundDiver (which is not being developed anymore, at least not for the PC) but after the experience i had with MIDI Quest, i wasn’t going to spend a dime in other software package to find out it doesn’t work properly.
I hope this review helps out prospective Oberheim Matrix 1000 users make a decision as all the choices can be confusing.