Sounds Of The Oberheim Matrix 12 Synthesizer

Perfect Circuit shared this sound demo of a vintage Oberheim Matrix 12 synthesizer – a powerful 12-voice analog synth from the mid 80’s.

The Matrix 12 is known for its great sound an extensive modulation capabilities. It’s a great synth for sequencing, because of its 12 -part multi-timbral abilities. But it’s also a great performance synth, because of its extensive controls and keyboard with velocity and channel aftertouch.

Here’s what Perfect Circuit has to say about the video:

In this video, we check out the raw sound of Oberheim’s Matrix-12, arguably the last great analog polysynth of the 1980s: a multi-timbral behemoth that packs the power of twelve modular synthesizers into a single instrument. To learn more about what makes the Matrix-12 so special, check out our blog Signal: https://www.perfectcircuit.com/signal…

Closely related to the Oberheim Xpander, the Matrix-12 features twelve analog voices with digital control and digital memory. Each voice has two oscillators, a noise source, a 15-mode filter, two audio VCAs, five DADSR envelopes, five multi-mode LFOs/S&Hs, four ramp generators, three tracking generators…the list goes on. And perhaps most interestingly, it uses a digitally-controlled signal routing matrix to connect these internal modules to one another, recreating the experience and sound of a modular synthesizer without all the patch cables.

Additionally, each of the twelve voices’ timbres can be defined independently, meaning that the Matrix-12 is a great machine for huge layered synth orchestras, evolving analog soundscapes, and dense forests of deeply modulated sound. With the opportunity to produce everything from classic Oberheim brass to self-playing generative noodles, the Matrix-12 is no doubt still one of the most powerful keyboard synthesizers ever made.

If you’ve used the Oberheim Matrix-12, leave a comment and share your thoughts on it!

25 thoughts on “Sounds Of The Oberheim Matrix 12 Synthesizer

    1. I agree. Just because the Arturia version looks like a pretty picture of a Matrix 12, doesn’t mean it sounds like the real thing at all.

      1. As one of my favorite plugins that everyone else seems to sleep on, I use the Arturia one all the time, and it sounds pretty much exactly like this, only cleaner and with excellent built-in effects that really work with the Xpander sound.

        I don’t think Arturia plugins internally oversample and make up for jitter produced by sub-optimal DAW setups, and can sound thin and flat unless you run them at LEAST at 88k with a soundcard that has good drivers and make sure your BIOS’ CPU performance settings and RAM timings are very tight. From that solid foundation, their better-modeled plugins from the Matrix-12 onward will give you a fantastic sound, almost comparable to U-he and Synapse’s best efforts like Repro/Legend, which seem (cleverly) more forgiving of the host hardware they are run on.

        1. discombob: I have frequently wondered about my DAW systems jitter and would like to know more about hot-rodding it to achieve maximum fidelity–especially as I keep shedding hardware and increasing software instruments. Can you direct me towards more detailed information about what you write here? Thank you in advance!

          1. It’s about optimization for the audio application. The computer is the hardware portion of the software synth; if it is sub-optimal (especially in a way the code wasn’t written to anticipate), it will lose dynamics, bass, top-end sizzle and have a “fuzzier” stereo image (and even potentially noise, if the jitter is bad enough).

            For example, one time I had a motherboard where I had to disable “spread spectrum” function for the CPU and it cleared the audio jitter mess right up for use of a high-end DAC with audiophile headphones that was previously severely lacking compared to the potential I knew it had.

            Another time on a different system, it was memory bandwidth was set too low in the BIOS, and setting that to run at the high end of what the RAM modules could tolerate for bandwidth and low-end for latency timings enabled the system to process a transaction out of memory to the CPU and through DMA to the sound card that much quicker. This translated to dramatically lower latency potential for the ASIO buffer setting.

            Aside from fixing something really major like removing hardware with misbehaving drivers from your system, look for general guides on how to optimize for latency in studio, audiophile and even gaming applications to see your audio quality cleanup in your DAW, improving your plugins response and clarity and perhaps even save a recording session!

            Focus on hardware, as the OS-level tweaks I’ve tried haven’t been as useful (even on Win10) if there are hardware configuration issues. You’ll have to search online for your particular hardware though, as these settings often change over time as computer systems evolve and various settings are either revealed or removed at the manufacturer’s discretion for various product cycles, so study your BIOS settings closely and also consider the total effect of the various hardware components of your DAW.

            Lastly, it’s a balance. One of the best systems I had was when I did every other tweak, then disabled power-management, turbo-boost, speed-step, hyper-threading and did a stable overclock to remove micro-latencies that introduce jitter, but of course the system was a power hog and pulled 350+ watts while surfing the web, writing e-mails or watching youtube, but definitely take all of this into consideration to find your happy place with your DAW.

  1. My friend bought an Xpander, among other expensive popular synths of the times, for his small studio in the 80’s. He still has it. Nice synth. Arturia is ok, as much as the CS-80 is ok. But to have the real one is so sweet.

    I have the Matrix 6 keyboard and rack. No comparison.

  2. I have owned both a Matrix 12 and a Xpander in the past, and I kick myself for selling them, both for the sound and for what they are now worth compared to what I paid for them. I sold them to buy a 48-module Modcan modular synth……

  3. I’ve always found the sound of the Matrix 12/Xpander very raw (not in a good way) and thin. I’ve got some sort of a weird love/hate fantasy about that synth in that I’ve always been attracted by its look and “aura” (being a classic Oberheim) but every time I listen to a demo I’m more than disappointed about what I hear. Yet I’m still experiencing a sort of fascination for it. And I own a Matrix 1000 that I absolutely love the sound of it. Very strange how you sometimes just want to love a synth despite evidence that you probably won’t.

    1. Strange your M1000 wasn’t thin but Xpander was…sure you’ve had one? Never experienced this on my M12 or when I had an slander – thin or smooth or fat as you want and yes like most Oberheims didn’t have lightning fast envelopes either before some starts that old chestnut

  4. Many people drool over the Matrix-12 & Xpander, but they’re not for you in any form unless you’re ready to tackle them as modulars. They’re like Serum in hardware form, but with only basic analog waves on tap. Tom is right about them sounding thin up to a point, but they don’t really take off until you cross-modulate 10 things at once. That’s where the magic starts. I’m more of an OB-6 type, but the basic sound is still in there.

  5. The last time Perfect Circuit made a video like this was with the Arp2600 a few weeks before Korg announced that they were making a new one. Does that mean there will be a new Matrix? Tom Oberheim was mentioning two new products in an interview on MusicRadar a few months ago.

    1. it’s just used gear they have for sale. in the case of the 2600, it’s possible the owner heard the jarre rumors and opted for a new one.

  6. Had a Oberheim Xpander for some years. When it came out it was similar to a modular but without the patch cables. It did have a nice sound but it was not in the same ball park as a Prophet 5, Memorymoog, or a Oberheim OB series. It sounded a lot different. What made this synth so interesting was the modulation matrix. It opened up a whole new world of sounds and it was a real joy to program. Some people said it was hard to program but I never thought it was. It was also multi-timbral which was a great breakthrough. The quality of the sound in the video does not do this keyboard justice. It does sound a lot better live

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