After huge success with their infamous Brute series, which is made up of their already legendary MiniBrute, as well as the MicroBrute; both available in limited edition colors as well as the original blue colored versions, the French company once known for its high-quality VSTs such as the Moog Modular, returns with something that is not just raising the bar, but raising eyebrows all around the world: The MatrixBrute! Something reminiscent of the Moog Voyager XL, but taking things further....way further.
What makes this synth stand apart from any other synth out there, new and old, is its "Matrix" panel, which instead of using standard patch cables, utilizes LED buttons to allow you to patch 16 different sources and destinations; 4 of which are User Programmable, meaning that you can create your own customized modulation destinations to expand your capabilities beyond what is determined on the panel. The Matrix panel also serves as an interface for its 64 step sequencer, wtih separate Slide, and Accent functions, and separate CV values per step that allow the Matrixbrute to also operate as a Modular Sequencer. From the Matrix, you can also access a total of 256 memory locations that are factory filled with presets to get you going without trouble if you are not very experienced with synthesizers. And though as much as this synth would the one to scare away anyone unwilling to learn synthesis, I cannot reccomend enough learning to sound design and forget about using patches. You lose all the fun in playing a synthesizer, which is not just the keys, but the knobs! I know most of you reading this don't need this advice though.
The Matrixbrute's signal path is fed by 3 VCOs, two of which are a bit like what we found on the Minibrute. Level knobs allow for the simultaneous mixing of Square, Sawtooth, or Triangle waves; also offering Arturia's cool "Ultrasaw" and "Metalizer" features, along with Pulse Width. And this is all per oscillator, so think about that for a minute! The Mini and MicroBrutes did this, but only used one oscillator. VCOs 1 and 2 can also be independently tuned, and there is a Sub Oscillator for VCO 1 and 2. The third oscillator is fairly interesting, in that it functions as an audio and modulation source at the same time. A cool Audio Mod section also allows for Cross Modulation, which Arturia says will: "Add some more grit and grime into your sound." The Matrixbrute also features what may be the most robust Noise generator yet, not just giving you Pink and White Noise, but also "Blue" and "Red".
The filter here is quite sweet, implementing not just their now trademark Steiner-Parker filter, but also a Ladder filter design that can be used individually, or in paralell to the Steiner-Parker. The mixer section features buttons that allow you to choose to which filter each oscillator will go if so desired, which gives you a lot of sculpting power. Both filters here are multimode, meaning they can be set to Bandpass, Highpass, or Lowpass; though the Steiner-Parker can also be set to Notch. The Brute Factor has been re-introduced; a handy tool that adds color and/or grit to your signal, on both filters, which also can be set to either a 12db or 24db slope, and can be individually mixed out to the rest of the signal path. Both filters also feature Drive knobs. There is a filter dedicated envelope as well to further ehnance the shape of your signal, but using the Matrix panel, you can use any of the envelopes to affect Cutoff.
Modulaton-wise the Matrixbrute sports 3 LFOs, the 3rd which as mentioned is combined with VCO 3. The other 2 offer 7 different waveforms, and can be MIDI synced. There are 2 more envelopes, which at first glance appear to only be dedicated to the VCA, and LFO; aside from the VCF envelope mentioned. However, using the Matrix panel, like I said, one can essentially use these 3 envelopes in any manner you want; including to affect the way the LFO affects the signal, which becomes even more useful since the 3rd envelope gives you a Delay slider. This allows you to determine how fast or slow the modulation from the LFO begins to have effect on the signal.
The Matrixbrute comes packed with a very nice Analog Stereo effects section, giving you Stereo and Mono Delay, Chorus, Flanger, and what the company says is a: "Unique multi-tap reverberator." Its really nice to see a unit with high quality effects for once, when you typically see this as the least impressive part of most synths. Below the effects section, you find the Step Sequencer and Arpeggiator settings section, which for the Sequencer I should add that it can be set to run not just Forward, but in Reverse, FWD, REV, and Random. The Arpeggiator is quite standard, giving you 4 modes, as well as Octave buttons.
But let's talk about what may be the most powerful feature on the Matrixbrute aside from its mighty Modulation panel, it's vast and complex CV I/O section. Here we can connect the Matrixbrute to Eurorack set ups, or other machines like old school Drum Machines using the very cool DIN-Clock sync I/Os. In total there are 12 CV I/Os, not including CV Gate I/O as well as the above mentioned DIN-Clock I/O. Other connections include Audio Input via TRS and one for Insert, as well as Stereo Out via TRS. MIDI includes all three as it should be: In, Out and Thru. USB is also provided, along with footpedal inputs, 2 for expression and one for sustain.
Overall I have been very impressed by this release, and while none of us have really gotten a chance to play it (ships this month!), it seems like everything we expected the evolution of the Brute series to be. Its great to see the synth able to run in Duophonic mode, and that they went above and beyond as they always seem to do. Its a costly one, so you can expect to pay in the realm of Moog or Dave Smiths, but considering a Moog Voyager XL is $5000, and that this is in many ways more powerful (not considering the nostalgic and historic value the XL has), this is a great synth to save up for and include in your rig. Undoubtedly something that will give you years of challenge and inspiration, with all the quality you would want and expect. Check with Sweetwater, or wherever you buy gear to see when you can get your order in!
Written by: Santino Fernandez