In 2012, Arturia released their Minibrute, their first analog synthesizer, and achieved great success with its old-school style that offered no presets and no complicated menus. The Minibrute was a small synthesizer, made for monologue experimentation, affordability, portability, and ease of use. It packed quite a punch and made a name for itself in the industry, despite offering only one oscillator.
Arturia followed up the Minibrute with the Microbrute, an even smaller and cheaper synth option. Both these synthesizers appealed to consumers who wanted an incredibly portable analog synth option packed with diverse editing options.
What Arturia has achieved here with the Matrixbrute, however, goes well beyond the Minibrute and the Microbrute. The Arturia Matrixbrute falls at the opposite end of the synthesizer spectrum; it isn’t a small, yet surprisingly powerful instrument—it is a beast, not only in terms of size, but also in its grandiose sound, editing options, and synthesis facilities.
This is a synthesizer for the seasoned keyboardist, the expert in oscillation, filtration, and sequencing who wants to expand the possibilities for composition. The Matrixbrute offers so many features that are easy to master once in the layout of the synth’s front panel is understood. And in this review, we’re going to dig into the reasons why this synthesizer is one of the more special synths on the market.
Below, please take a moment to view the interactive table to see how well the MatrixBrute stacks up to other notable synthesizers currently on the market today.
|Arturia MatrixBrute||49||$$$||3 Brute oscillators|
|Arturia MicroBrute||25||$||Step Sequencer w/8 Memory Locations|
|Dave Smith Instruments Pro 2||44||$$$||Four DSP-Based Oscillators|
|Moog Sub 37||37||$$$||Polyphony: Selectable Monophonic or Paraphonic|
|Moog MiniMoog Model D||44||$$$||3 Vintage Moog Oscillators|
|Roland GAIA SH-01||37||$$||64-Voice Polyphony|
|Roland System-1 25-Key||25||$||Advanced Arpeggiator w/SCATTER|
|Roland Juno DS61||61||$$||8-Track Pattern Sequencer w/Non-Stop Recording|
|Korg MS20 Mini||37||$||USB MIDI Plus 5-Pin MIDI|
The Matrixbrute is a beautifully constructed instrument. Similar to the Moog Voyager and Sub 37, the edges of the side and front are lined with solid, wood paneling, boasting a classy, vintage-yet-modern look. The front panel, complete with knobs, sliders, and the backlit matrix, is appropriately heavy and thick. Although not cumbersome, the front panel is right level of thickness, and it is able to lay down flat for transportation or be propped up for real-time editing. It gives a satisfying snap to let you know when it is locked in place, so you don’t have to worry about the panel falling back.
From the first look at the Matrixbrute, you can tell it’s an absolute beast of an instrument—with its busy front panel– a fourth of it devoted to the versatile, backlit matrix. Arturia made no effort to give this synth a minimalist aesthetic for beginners. Instead, the Matrixbrute holds nothing back with its busyness and complex networks of lights, buttons, and knobs. Sitting in front of this instrument is like sitting in a commercial airplane’s cockpit—if you’re not familiar with how every button functions, it may seem daunting to learn. The design of this synth makes no secret that is a synthesizer for the connoisseur, the expert keyboardist.
What you get without even touching the instrument is a strong sense of power, versatility, and sturdiness. Where the Minibrute and Microbrute presented a refined petiteness, the Matrixbrute boasts robust muscle. This is a keyboard that knows exactly what it is and holds nothing back in terms of its aesthetic build.
Below, please take a moment to view some of the best-selling synthesizers on sale at Amazon:
The Matrixbrute offers the player a generous four-octave keyboard with full-sized keys. The keybed is semi-weighted with velocity and aftertouch enabled. When you play the instrument, it’s obvious that this is a high-quality keyboard. The touch-sensitive keys allow for control over the sound and the quick response allows for clean, fast playing.
Every knob, slider, wheel, and button feel just right. Everything provides the right amount of resistance—sliders and knobs don’t feel slippery, and they don’t feel too tough either. The matrix buttons, although small (they need to be if you want to fit 256 of them on the front panel), are comfortable, which is good because you will be spending a lot of time navigating those buttons to make edits, sequence, and toggle presets.
Perhaps the only thing that might have made the keyboard more comfortable would have been a backlit LCD screen above the matrix. It’s easily seen under optimum lighting conditions, but under stage lighting, it may be difficult to read that screen.
All in all, this is a very comfortable synthesizer. The response of every key, button, and slider feels right where it should be. This is a keyboard that you will be playing for hours and hours, building any sound you can imagine, so a comfortable layout and responsive editing features are essential.
The sound features of the Arturia Matrixbrute parallel the aesthetic build—big, robust, versatile, and beastly. There’s a reason the front panel of the Matrixbrute is so busy—the options you have when editing are extensive, allowing for seamless sonic construction.
The synthesizer offers:
- Two full VCOs
- One VCO with fewer options (can double as an LFO)
- Noise oscillator
- Two multi-mode filters
- Three LFOs
- Three Envelope generators
- Of course, the matrix
The oscillators contain the essential wave forms—sine, sawtooth, square, and triangle. The sine wave is connected to a knob that adjusts its waveform to add a small bit of distortion, similar to soft-clipping. The wave forms are also editable by three additional knobs within the VCO itself—ultrasaw, pulse width, and the metalizer. These all just add to the possibilities from the moment you turn on an oscillator. Beneath, the oscillators, there is a section devoted to audio modulation, achieved by four different knobs. This is a great feature, as it opens up for my sound possibilities and lets you achieve some FM synthesis-esque sounds.
The mixer for each oscillator contains toggle buttons for you to route the oscillator to either or both of the filters. The filters are multi-mode, meaning you can assign a high-pass, low-pass, or band-pass options. You can also have the filters process in series or in parallel. Of course, each filter offers the options you would expect—drive, cutoff, and resonance. The duo-split option of this synth allows for the two different filters to apply on the keyboard at once, splitting the four-octave keyboard in half. This can allow for a dirty bass line in your left with a rocking lead line in your right.
What all this synthesizer jargon means is that the Matrixbrute is a powerful instrument with tons of options. Dirty bass, bright pads, distorted leads, crunchy chords, industrial percussion, and everything in between can be achieved through the versatile editing options. The sounds that come through are dense, clear, and powerful.
At its most basic function, the matrix offers a seamless interface for toggling different presets. The Matrixbrute offers 256 presets (that of course can be edited and saved), and these can all be selected through simply toggling the different buttons the matrix itself.
The real magic of the matrix begins when you toggle on the sequencer option—the big button that says “SEQ” above the matrix. The sequencer is a 64-step sequencer, allowing you to toggle each step on or off with the press of a button (on the last row of each section). The other rows of the matrix are dedicated to more editing options, including accents, slides, and modulation. Because of the layout of the matrix, it’s so easy to see which note you want to add one of these editing options (as it will be lined up in the same column as the desired note), and seamlessly toggle it.
Furthermore, the Matrixbrute gives you complete control to the macro parameters of the sequencer, including: tempo, triplets, dotted rhythms, quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, thirty-second notes, sequence order (forward, reverse, random), swing, and arpeggiation. The amount of options allowed gives the player complete control over their sequence, and it is very satisfying to navigate the matrix’s micro parameters (such as editing each note individually) and macro parameters.
The Arturia Matrixbrute is a beast of a synthesizer, offering countless options and editing parameters. For this kind of versatility to be possible, it requires a high degree of complexity. Arturia entered the analog synth market with their simplistic Minibrute and Microbrute and achieved great success. The Matrixbrute isn’t meant to simply be a continuation of the previous synths, but an overhaul and upgrade of the “brute” name itself.
The Minibrute and Microbrute are both still worthy synthesizers and a great addition for anyone interested in synthesis. However, the Matrixbrute is designed for the seasoned keyboardist. This is apparent at the first glance of the instrument—big, robust, complex. This isn’t an instrument for the novice; this is an instrument for the expert.
In addition to its complex editing features and aesthetic, the price point of $1,999 solidify its role in the market as an instrument for the experienced. This is not a beginner digital piano. A beginner of sound synthesis or a novice in keyboards would be better off purchasing a smaller, sub-$1000 keyboard for learning purposes.
That being said, if a beginner wanted to learn on the Matrixbrute, it would surely be possible. The layout of the matrix allows for a clear visualization of how sequencing is done and how various parameters can be edited for new sound possibilities. Complexity doesn’t necessarily imply complicated, and the Matrixbrute’s complex system of oscillators, filters, and envelopes are clearly organized. It is a powerful instrument that I would recommend to any trained keyboardist and synthesizer enthusiast. I would recommend that a novice keyboardist pursue cheaper options, but keep the Matrixbrute in his/her mind as an option for a future purchase because it is great.
★★★★ / ★★★★★
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