Arturia Matrixbrute | 128 custom sounds
(114 custom patches + their variations = 128 in total)
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How many patches?:
You will receive all the sounds from my Youtube & Soundcloud demos plus extra sounds (114 presets + their variations = 128 presets in total).
What format / import method?:
My patches come in a “mbprojz” format – a soundbank that can be imported into your Matrixbrute via Arturia MCC software (standard procedure from the user’s manual).
What genre / style?:
There is no one style, because it is you who decides what style these patches will be played in. It’s a wide variety of sounds that are meant to inspire, make you look at the synth in a different light and give you a great choice of directions. Some patches are bread & butter, some offbeat; they’re the result of me trying to find the limits of the instrument. The patches are ready-to-use in music or can serve as starting points; you can find the textures or the dynamics that you like and tweak them to suit your exact taste or purpose. I tried not to include patches that would overlap with any other soundsets out there, so 90% of my patches should be original-sounding to you.
Any external stuff?:
I did not use any external FX in the demo like delays, reverbs, flangers; all of the FX in the demo are part of the matrixbrute engine / mod matrix. However, I used some EQ-ing.
Notes on grades lower than 3/3:
modern: rather “retro” sounding oscillators & fx, no wavetables
vintage: organic & dirty, but quite far from the classic sound of ARPs / Moogs
engine: great, but no wavetables, mod matrix not as deep as e.g. PRO-3
high end: some people may find it “dark” or “nasaly” sounding
timbre plasticity: satisfactory flexibility only after reaching 11/10 level of mastery
versatility: no wavetables = fewer “digital” sounds possible
I knew Arturia almost since inception because back in the day I dabbled in VSTi and I used their good-sounding emulations of Moogs and ARPs. When they released their first hardware synth, the Minibrute, I was instantly turned off. The mini size, the lack of memory and the “brutal” (stiff) sound was everything I hated. Following suit, I was extremely reluctant to buy the Matrixbrute because it sounded horribly metallic in all the demos I had seen. Also, the perspective of hauling around a 20 kg instrument did not excite me either. But fate had it that I was sitting idle for two weeks and I was going numb. I finished my work on Argon-8. The Cobalt-8 was seven weeks away from arrival on shop shelves, the Opsix was scheduled to arrive in 5 weeks. The same with Polybrute. The Sequential Pro-3 I had bought turned out to be faulty and needed to be returned. And then, one day someone placed an ad with the Matrixbrute so I grabbed it.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS SYNTH?
Let me start in my traditional way: negativity first. What the heck is this e-ink display? I hear people complain it cannot be seen in the dark. I have a different complaint: this display flashes / gets refreshed each time I change a preset, or manipulate the mod matrix assignments, or change pages in the mod matrix. It takes full 2 seconds and it drives me mad. Next: what is the idea behind this random assignment of the voices in paraphonic mode? Some people will love it for “unpredictable & fun results”. I myself get a headache from it and prefer the Pro 3 / Sub 37 behavior. And please somebody tell me: how am I supposed to record the sequence in real time if there is no metronome? Hmm… what else…
WHAT’S GREAT ABOUT THIS SYNTH?
Honestly I don’t think there’s anything else. I mean, it’s even kind of embarsassing to try to find such trivial problems in this case. Because the Matrixbrute causes a jaw-drop after no more than 1 day spent with it, and I will happily turn a blind eye to these two or three drawbacks. This synth really sounds like it’s coming from the 1970’s. Well, maybe not as good as an RSF Polykobol;) and not as bright & bouncy as ARPs. OK, let me elaborate.
As I have said, the Matrixbrute sounded fantastic since day one. But when I recorded all the material and started to listen to it in my editing suite, then played some other synths, and then came back again to the Matrixbrute, I noticed that the sounds need some EQing. The Matrixbrute is not as bright as ARPs or Moogs, and for this reason some people may call it nasaly / muffled and simply “not sounding like the old analogs at all”. This might be very true. The Matrixbrute spectrum will either seem lacking or excessive in some areas, depending on how you look at it and what you compare it to. ARPs, Moogs and DSI / Sequentials will sound more “classy” and “synthetic” (metallic, but in a good way), whereas the MB will resemble the sound of claves or woodblock running through a tube amp and / or sponge. The way I look at it is that claves or woodblock are instruments made of wood, and compared to a Moog they sound muffled or hollow, nonetheless they sound natural!
Moreover, I’m a fan of everything gnarly, dirty, organic, wonky & unstable (because I want music to sound that way too). And the Matrixbrute timbre is all of that. It’s almost acoustic – it reminds me of the way the soviet Polivoks behaved. It’s the most alive timbre I’ve heard in a decade, and for me that one characteristic places the Matrixbrute among the best modern synths (the only other modern synth that has this kind of dirtyness and organic flavor is the Korg Prologue, but it’s polyphonic). Simple & unsophisticated patches played on the Matrixbrute bring smile to my face, so imagine the joy and excitement when I dare to go deeper. Each sound I tweak builds a feedback loop in my creativity and jump-starts my imagination (or the other way round). I have several ideas at once as to where and how I could use these sounds. This synth plays like violin, or guitar; there is no barrier and I feel an instantaneous connection. The main thing, and practically speaking the only thing you have to bear in mind, is that it makes a big difference how you use the filters (serial / parallel – and which oscillator goes to which filter) and how you set up the pre-filter oscillator volume levels (saturation). This way you can make the MB more dirty or less dirty.
Well, actually there’s one more stage to pay attention to – the FX. At the beginning I though there must be something wrong with the Matrixbrute effects. I was struck by how different they sounded to all the other synths. They sounded muddy & screechy (and still can, if used in excess). But once I tamed them, the synth blended perfectly with any Italo disco, Dominique Guiot or Nine Inch Nails song played in the background. I mean it. There’s no need to perform any of the various production tricks like degrading or animating the sound. It’s here and it’s ready. I remember the noises I made with a vintage transistor tape delay called Echolana, and the Matrixbrute sounds exactly like a “real”, wonky tape delay. The reverb sounds like spring reverb, and the flanger sounds like… a vintage flanger. I don’t know how Arturia did that. And the fact that the effects can be modulated by everything and in every possible way doubles the sonic palette of the instrument. Remember about it when someone tells you that it is just “yet another analog mono”. But yeah, hearing other synths for comparison, I can understand perfectly well why some people dislike the MB. If you are used to smooth driving in a Lexus, getting into a 1983 Land Rover Defender might cause some bruises & broken bones. Matrixbrute is a wild animal. Sometimes it even sounds like a 19-th century bellows organ… I like such lo-fi, decayed & dynamic sounds, but others may call them cheesy or unprofessional, and the sudden outbursts of reverb feedback or other “brute” landmines of this synth may cause the faint-hearted to get a heart attack or pull their hair out.
There are some technical nuances that may cause doubts in prospective buyers’ minds, like the fact that the Matrixbrute does not have loopable envelopes or several animation lanes in the sequencer, but believe me – if you click with this synth, you won’t need that. The distinct sound and the multitude of knobs is enough for unending fun and creativity flow.
There’s not much to tell about the user interface because in 95% it really is a “no menu diving” synth. Only the sequencer demands a little bit more attention from the user – even though it’s the best & easiest sequencer layout I’ve ever seen. You have to read the manual to learn some three or four button combinations. But apart from that, the Matrixbrute is a true “what you see is what you get” synth. The panel looks like the one of an aeroplane – intimidating. And that’s good! Because ironically (or contrary to intuition) synths which are intimidating are the ones proving easy to use, while the nice & sleek synths often have things buried underneath the surface and prove to be a pain and a hindrance to your music making process. The MB keyboard feels a little cheap and wobbly, but as long as it’s not a Russian keybed, I’m always ok with them.
Let me just point out one thing – If this synth came to me with the original operating system, I would probably be much less satisfied with the user experience. I’m mainly speaking about the sequencer control. But firmware 2.0 added the possibility to shuffle, duplicate & delete sections of the sequence and now it’s a breeze. Your creativity does not get thwarted by burdensome clickology. The only thing that I would suggest for a future update is to find a way for the LFOs and Delays to show the values on one of the screens. Right now it’s guesswork – you have to judge by the position of the knobs or just by using your ears.
So, the Matrixbrute does not have any timbre-expanding digital waves like the Pro-3. Its modulation matrix is also not as deep as the Pro-3’s matrix and it comes with fewer FX. It does not have an ordered, predictable paraphony like the SUB-37 or its loopable envelopes. But the fact that it’s an intricate device with a sound that has this immediate, “alive” or “acoustic” quality to it, and the fact that it’s a no-menu-diving interface makes it a one-of-a-kind musical instrument. The sonic palette is somewhat “samey” due to the often “fuzzy / woody / spongey” nature of the sound (the “Arturia sound”), but you must not forget that it’s an ultra-instant-gratification interface that seems to be the only interface of that kind anybody has ever put on a modern synth. If you don’t like that initial “Arturia sound”, you should use this interface to explore the remarkable potential of this synth and steer it away into regions that are more soft and mellow – I assure you it’s possible.
I look at the MB as an exceptional (or experimental) device that will bring love, hate, indifference or indecisiveness, depending on who uses it and how they use it; love – for the reasons I personally described above; hate – for the woody, noisy sound; indifference – because some folks just won’t click with it or won’t be impressed with its specs; indecisiveness – because people will manage to dial in 60% or 70% of the desired sounds, but won’t be able to take full control over the synth and make all the sounds they expected. I just wish the Matrixbrute was a little bit lighter, because I’m worried for my backbone; once I put it in place, I’m not very eager to move it around. I’ve seen a hard case for it, but I can’t imagine anybody but Arnold being able to carry it with the MB inside. That’s just un-sane.
Matrixbrute vs PRO-3 vs SUB-37:
Final recap & advice: if you don’t like the sound, even the most wonderful interface won’t help. If you need the aforementioned brightness, smoothness or lucidity and stability of the sound – or what I call the “pro” sound – then I recommend a Moog SUB-37 or a DSI / Sequential Pro-3 (or their cheap clones). It’s a considerably different universe with a different set of laws. I personally find the warm, fleshy Matrixbrute oscillators most inspiring and musical for on-the-fly composing. But here’s how I see this trio objectively:
– Matrixbrute: most accessible & easy to tweak; most warm, organic & dirty sounding, but limited in timbre variety;
– Pro-3: most powerful; sometimes organic (provided you push it in this direction), but more cultured & predictable; more timbre variety due to digital wave oscillator and better mod matrix; quite a number of features hidden in menus, plus horribly stiff knobs that take away the joy of tweaking;
– Sub / Subsequent-37: neither warm nor organic, but the cleanest & smoothest of all, giving you a pretty wide set of quality patches within the traditionally-synthetic / classic Moog sound area; some features hidden, especially the sequencer (full access via Moog software);
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