Sonic Lab: Arturia Matrixbrute - Monster Mono Review

3 VCO, dual filter patch matrix      02/03/17

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Buying Choices

As I'm sure you have, we've been waiting eagerly to check out this synthesizer. The Arturia MatrixBrute is a monster synth. The sort of synthesizer that doesn't come along all that often due to the sheer size of it.

Arturia must have wanted to make something with a wow factor and they clearly have. Just the actual physical size and weight of the thing makes you go "ooh".

The Matrixbrute is a 3 VCO analog synth with dual VCFs (Steiner-Parker + Ladder), 2/3 LFOs, 3 Envelopes, analog effects, and a 16x16 routing matrix which doubles as patch selection and 64 step Sequencer.

Connections:

L+R audio output, MIDI in Out Thru, Gate IO, Sync IO, Sustain and 2x expression pedals plus the CV IO - 12 of them these mirror the first twelve columns on the matrix.

Oscillators

2 Brute style envelopes - with Saw, Square, Tri, Sub - each have the same variation as per the MiniBrute. With two differences - the Saw doesn't have an integrated LFO mod - but can be routed to the matrix and therefore many places. The sub moves from Sine (-1oct) through almost Square - which is a little different in character to the wave folding harmonic shift of the MiniBrute OSC. +/- 2 Octaves coarse tuning +/- semitone tuning.

VCO3 is a simpler one with saw/sq/tri/sine, no wave modulation,

Additionally there's a comprehensive noise generator - White/Pink/Red/Blue.

Audio Rate Mod

This section brings plenty of Audio Mod Rate control:

VCO2>VCO1, VCO3 to 1+2 via centre dent, VCO3 to VCF1 or 2 and Noise to VCO1 or VCF1

This gives you some really great modulation at extremely high rates.

Gain Staging

With the level for each wave and the level for each oscillator you can push quite a lot into each filter plus you also get a drive level to add to that. Each Mixer input can be routed to either of both of the filters.

Filters

The Steiner-Parker filter is a multi-mode - LPF/BP/HPF/Notch but with 24dB/12dB modes, additional Brute factor and filter level output. It's the filter you may be familiar with from the other Brutes and has it's own unique quality - the only thing I noticed was that it the low harmonics don't really pop out on the HPF they sort of peter out before you get to the real sub stuff.

The ladder filter is also 2/4pole with Lowpass, Band Pass and High Pass, it's a Moog- style affair, but they've tweaked the resonance which means that the low end does not vanish when you add it. I like it. It has the same smooth smudge that you can expect from that type of filter. It offers a different flavour.

With both filters, the gain staging and drive knobs can really affect the harmonics of both filters quite dramatically - you get a lot of variation. One thing, filter keyboard tracking is not all that accurate - the Steiner-Parker is not so good at that anyhow, but the ladder filter I would expect to be better. Arturia told me that was not what they experienced on their units, so it may be that I was working with an uncalibrated or pre production unit.

Modulation

2 LFOs multi-wave, syncable LFO1 has a phase control, LFO2 has a delay control. LFOs 1+2 can be single shot (env style), key trigger or free running. LFO3 is taken from VCO3 and  can be set to divisions of the tuning knob, so you can use it as an LFO and a VCO.

The three ADSR envelopes are pretty traditional - 1 routed to filters, 2 to VCA and 3 is routed via the matrix.

About the Matrix

So this is the heart of the routing, you cant miss it - 16x16 backlit buttons that double as patch selection (256), sequencer operation (up to 64 steps) and modulation routing.

The first 12 rows and columns route the LHS sources through to the top destinations, these are farily standard - VCO pitch and wave mod x2 plus 2 VCF cutoff, LFO1 mod depth and VCA level. These are replicated with the CV io on the rear panel. The last four columns are where it gets more interesting. You can assign pretty much any knob or fader to these as destinations with the exception of swing/gate. You can't access LFO wave or other buttons.

These can then be modulated by any of the LHS sources. Depth is assigned by the MOD knob +/- 99. Pretty neat system actually and very simple to use. It's a shame that you can't access the four assignable mod busses I/O though. In fact this is where the perceived modular nature of the MatrixBrute falters - you don't get  Env trig, no LFO or ENV CV output etc. Still quite a lot though!

FX

Its an analog BBD with several different modes. The mono or stereo delay is useful, if a little short, and the Chorus and Flanger modes are rather quirky - perhaps less useful, though the reverb does have a weird can-like quality that some may like, it's limited.

Seq/Arp

You get either or - arpeggiator is a simple four mode (fwd/rev/fwd-rev/rand) with switchable resolutions crotchet, triplet, dotted and 1/4, 1/8, 1/16 and 1/32. Tweakable swing and gate length over four octaves. You can feed in up to 16 notes which is more than most synths.

Sequencer is step record only - surprising as they make the Beatstep Pro, though I do hear it may be getting an update to make it so. With up to 64 steps (plus the same division settings as the arpeggiator) there's plenty of notes, you can link seq to patch or not - so you get 256 slots to store them.

With pitch, accent, slide and mod tracks you can built 303 style stuff with accents and slide as you like, the mod track allows per step (+/-) depth of modulation which you route in the matrix to wherever. However you can't decouple the sequencer from the synth voice so you can't run complex modulation steps over time without triggering a note, nor can you just used the sequencer on external CV/Midi gear without using the internal synth engine - shame.

Performance

Two solid pitch/mod wheels, plus four assignable (via the matrix) performance knobs, aftertouch - a bit fierce, plus access to the note priority for triggering and legato modes - means you can play it like a true mono synth.

Finally

So this is undeniably a beast of a synth at around 15KG it not a shy, retiring "I don't mind where I sit"  personanilty. It says, "get out of the way, I'm coming through". It's solidly built. You need this to be front and centre in your setup, it needs room, both sonically and physically. It's not for everyone, but it is a very capable synth. At £1779/$1999 street, it's not particularly affordable, but I do think it's a fair price, it's a lot of synth for the money.

I for one, am happy that it exists in the world, and that Arturia had the cojones to build it. Good for them, and good for you if you can find the room.


Available now £1779/ $1999 Street

Arturia.com

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