When Oberheim released the Xpander in 1984 many keyboard players scratched their heads wondering "what the $%&* is this"? The Xpander was the first all analogue, multi-timbral synth with a modern MIDI implementation. It was also one of the first synthesizer modules - a synth without a keyboard. With the recent invention of MIDI, you could now simply connect a cable from any MIDI keyboard output to the MIDI input on the module and presto - your in business! Now you could fill your rack with all your favorite sound modules and free up lot's of space in your studio that were once occupied by all those monster sized keyboards. This one idea was a big step in leveling the field between the small home studio and the major recording studios, although the price tag for an Xpander was still beyond the budget of most home studio owners at over three thousand US dollars.
In many ways the Xpander is one of most versatile non-modular analog synths ever made. Each voice had two oscillators, a powerful multi-mode and multi-pole filter, fifteen VCAs five envelope generators, five multi-wave LFOs (each of which offered no less that 64 control waveforms) not to mention tracking generators, ramp generators, lag processors and more! Based on Oberheim's "Matrix Modulation" technology, which is best described in the Xpander owners manuel - "An analogy to the Matrix Modulation system might be all of those millions of wires that existed on the first modular synthesizers. As cumbersome as all of that wiring was, it alllowed the user to connect any input to any output, resulting in sophistication and flexibility unmatched by any programmable synthesizer...until now."
A year later Oberheim released the Matrix 12. It was produced from 1985-1991. Basically it's 2 Xpanders with a five octave keyboard. This means that it is a 12-voice 12-part multitimbral polyphonic analog synthesizer. The Matrix 12 is the culmination of Oberheim's search for the 'perfect analog synthesizer'. It doubles all the extensive programming features, MIDI compatability and sound potential of the Xpander. Every control can have an effect on some other parameter thanks to Oberheim's Matrix Modulation design. Another very useful feature is its CV/gate to MIDI conversion capabilities for communication with older synths. There are six CV and Gate inputs which use standard 1V/8va CV and positive gating. So you can connect up to 6 external sources delivering CV/Gate and convert that into MIDI.
Oberheim Matrix 12 & Xpander
With the explosion in prices for analog gear, the Xpander and Matrix 12 are still very highly valued. We recently had an Xpander in our used keyboards section that sold for over $2,000. US. A Matrix 12 in good condition will top $3,000 or more. With the combination of great sound and flexible programming ability, keyboard connoisseurs will continue to pay top dollar for them for many years to come. If your interested in programming your own sounds for the Xpander or Matrix 12 it's a good idea to invest in editing software so you can program directly from your computer. It's a whole lot easier to see everything that's going on under the hood then trying to keep all those modulation routings in your head!
If your fortunate enough to own one of these vintage synths and need some sounds for it, you've come to the right place. Back in the early 90's I owned a Xpander for awhile and programmed a new set sounds for it. Our sound set is compatible with both the Xpander and Matrix-12. The patches are available as system exclusive (.syx), standard midi files (.mid), WAV files (which can be loaded in though the synths cassette port) and even on the old data cassettes. To load the WAV file, just connect your computer audio output to your Oberheim cassette interface and you can load in the sounds the same way you would from a cassette tape. The files will open in any program that plays .WAV files. Our sounds will also get you back in business if your Xpander or Matrix-12 battery has died and you lost all the sounds in the memory. For more info on loading sounds via cassette or WAV file CLICK HERE.
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