Oberheim Matrix 6 OS Update and Patch Editor

Oberheim Matrix 6 Synthesizer
Oberheim Matrix 6 Synthesizer

One of my favorite synths is the Oberheim Matrix 6. I have two and currently have one integrated into my live setup. While doing some midi sequencing I learned that my Oberheim Matrix 6 had the old OS version 1.05 inside. I was curious because I was getting frequent shutdowns of the Matrix 6 and many of the available editors would not work properly. After some research I discovered there was an update OS version 2.13 and 2.13A available around the net in .bIN format. So I finally decided to investigate how to burn my own EEPROM chips so that I could upgrade my Matrix 6 and other synths that I’ve collected OS update files for. After asking some questions around various forums, I was recommended from reputable sources that the USB MiniPro TL866CS Universal BIOS Programmer was a decent choice. People were having success with it and EEPROM burning so I decided it was about time I got into the practice of making my own firmware chips.

USB MiniPro TL866CS Universal BIOS Programmer
USB MiniPro TL866CS Universal BIOS Programmer

Later, I realized that in storage I had a second Matrix 6 that I didn’t know the OS version of. So I took it out of the closet and opened it up. Inside I was surprised to find it had the OS chip version 2.13. So I swapped my Matrix 6 synths around in order to finally have a version that would work properly with my Midi Patch editors. I still plan to use the Programmer to create the version 2.13A chips which clears up some bender issues.

with regards to editors there are quite a few available for the PC. There is a MidiQuestXL Matrix 6 editor, A SoundDiver editor, Ctrlr editor, Synlibmx6, Obiex401, and OB6000 editors. For Mac OSX, I could only find MidiQuestXL for the Matrix 6. Finally, I found a template control map for the Behringer BCR2000 which worked well too. Ultimately though, I decided to create my own editor on the iPad using the popular Midi Designer. I found that the iPad sat nicely on the Matrix 6 and I could program specifically what parameters I wanted to edit.

Matrix 6 Patch Editor
Matrix 6 Patch Editor

Furthermore I created a Midi Designer Matrix 6 editor that I have been tested a couple of times during a live performance recently. So far it’s been working nicely, but there are a couple of parameters that are sluggish and need to figure out if I need them. On another page I’m currently working on the Tracking Generator, The Modulation Matrix, Global Parameters (Common/Vibrato/Midi), and the ability to do Patch Changes. The Mod Matrix is very tricky, so I’ve decided to hard code only the matrix selections that I use the most. Software editors are much better for complete Mod Matrix control until Midi Designer adds multiple command functionality. I find Ctrlr for the Matrix 6 and OB6000 to be the easiest editors to work with on the PC (Bootcamp unders OSX is what I use). I do a lot of Envelope tweaking so I need good sliders and not dots that fight with my computer mouse. The Midi Designer Matrix 6 editor I’m working on is a bit crowded, but it’s ok so far. It’s a work in progress.

The Matrix 6 is a great synth. I primarily use it in Split Mode which makes the synth fully bi-timbral. The levers combined with the Mod Matrix makes for some great sound modulations as well. I’m also now experimenting with putting each of the six voices in mono mode and sending a midi sequence to each. You can do this with OS 2.13 which allows you to send midi data to six individual midi Channels on the Matrix 6. It’s still a two patch bi-timbral synth, but you can split and allocate 2/4 voicing with each voice having a separate midi channel. You can then send up to six individual sequences or arps, one to each voice. Pretty cool I think! I also have the Mutable Instruments MidiPal connected to the Oberheim Matrix 6 for some fantastic arp sequences. I LOVE the MidiPal device. That thing is amazing!! I highly recommend one of those by the way.

I’ll post updates shortly about how the OS chip programming goes. Currently I’m awaiting for all my tools to arrive in the mail this week from China.

My Top 3 WANT Synth Products at NAMM 2014

Here are the top three products that I’ve discovered at NAMM 2014 to be definite purchases in 2014. By no means are they the top 3 products at NAMM 2014, but for me they align with my interests perfectly. Note that NAMM isn’t over yet and there still may be some additional gems to be announced. I wanted to do a top 5 list, but I really could only find three products that I realistically would actually buy. I think all three products I chose will fit into my studio and live rig nicely. They will also integrate very well with the Analog experience that I particularly enjoy.

First up is the mighty MOOG Sub 37.

Moog Sub 37
Moog Sub 37

Yes, I already have the Sub Phatty and absolutely love it. It may be a tiny bit redundant having the Sub 37, but there are a lot of reasons to upgrade to this beauty. It’s a 20 minute video, but check it out if you haven’t about the MOOG Sub 37. The price above all else is what’s fantastic though. MOOGS are expensive in general, and I find the Sub 37 for all you get will be at a pretty affordable MOOG analog synth.

Moog Sub 37 Preview from Sonic State.

Next up is the Arturia Beat Step.

Arturia Beat Step
Arturia Beat Step

This to me is one of the products where you scratch your head and wonder why none of the other big companies like Roland, Korg, Yamaha, Akai, etc. came up with this idea. The Arturia Beat Step controller is perfect to me. With USB Out, MIDI Out, CV Out, it’s a no brainer. It has a step sequencer, pads, knobs that send controller data ( hopefully sysex as well ). It’s built pretty well it looks like and will just be absolutely essential in the studio and on stage, especially if you’re an analog synth buff. Ok, I might be gushing a little with this product, but it’s definitely a “Gotta have one” product.

Arturia Beat Step from Sonic State

My third top product is the beautiful RK-100S in red.

Korg RK-100S Keytar
Korg RK-100S Keytar

I’m a big keytar fan. I think the Korg RK-100S is going to be great. I have a red RK100 and it’s one of the best controllers I’ve played. I’m originally a Gibson Les Paul slinging guitar player so the weight doesn’t bother me at all with the original RK100. In fact it’s lighter than a Les Paul it seems to me. The mini keys do seem to be a possible problem with the RK-100S but we’ll see. I’m not a big fan of mini keys and when you’re moving on stage, a bit more real estate with the keys is important to me. You have to take your eye off the ball a lot on stage so to speak.

I also have the Yamaha KX5 and the mini keys drive me nuts for the reason I stated above. In performance mode it’s too easy to look away and hit the wrong “mini” key…laugh. I also actually think the KX5 feels heavier than the RK100 as well but I think that’s because of the different size and weight balance. The KX5 is much much smaller too. I actually like a ketar about the size of a guitar. Not too giant looking like some of the Rolands but not too dinky like the Yamaha’s. Korg seems the closest to making it look and feel similar to a guitar. This kind of balances out the group a bit if that matters to anyone. It does to me a little. Having the keytar made from wood like the original is a HUGE plus. The creaky plastic keytars just don’t feel as good, but again I’m coming from a guitar player perspective I suppose.

The RK-100S with the ribbon controllers, tap tempo, vocoder, internal sounds, arp, etc. looks to be a possible winner and a big competitor to the Roland AX Synth. I think it’s going to be half the price as the Roland AX synth. Perhaps that might reduce the price on the Roland.

Korg RK-100S Keytar from Korg

Finally, there are other products that have peaked my interest such as the Roland AIRA products, Nord Lead A1, and a few of the Analog drum machines, but nothing that has sparked my “must buy” interest as the products mentioned above. I will say that I don’t believe anyone has hit a home run with the drum machine yet. Perhaps Roland might with their very secretive AIRA products, but I just haven’t seen anything that great. I think a lot of companies are trying to figure out the drum machine such as whether it should be analog, have sample import, etc. At home here I primarily use my trusty Yamaha RX5, Roland R5 mkii / R70, and an MPC. I sometimes use the Electribe ESX-1 which is good too. I would love to have a TR-808 and perhaps that’s why my initial interest is with the AIRA products from Roland. We’ll see what happens there.

Any disappointments??? Yes, for me there is one big disappointment and I can sum it up in one word….ROLAND. If you look at the big three in Japan, Yamaha is doing well with it’s solid Motif line and recent releases from a year ago. Korg is doing VERY well too it seems with it’s analog releases. Roland just makes me continue to buy their old analog gear and nothing new. I don’t get the Roland AIRA secretive hype. I’ve worked for several all Japanese companies in Japan over the past 20 years and I can say from my experience that this means Roland is possibly not ready and perhaps a bit not sure. I can just picture what must be going on their staff meetings…laugh. Been there and I do hope I’m wrong. I want a TR-808/TR-909!

Anyways, enjoy the rest of NAMM 2014. It’ll be exciting to see how NAMM finishes.

Nord Lead 2x Synthesizer a classic in Japan

Nord Lead 2x Synthesizer
Nord Lead 2x Synthesizer

I’ve heard rumors that with the release of the Nord Lead 4 that the Nord Lead 2x may be near it’s end. The popularity of the Nord Lead 2x is very big in Japan and I know quite a few people who own one. Recently the Nord Lead 2x has been selling at very low prices new in Japan thanks to a campaign with a reduced price and free Nord Gig Bag to go along with it. The Nord Lead 3 is no longer sold new in Japan and other than the 2x, you can only buy the newly released Nord Lead 4. The Nord Lead 4 is selling for a little over twice the price of the 2x, so it seems reasonable that the Nord Lead 2x is still selling well in Japan despite the fact that the Nord Lead 4 might be a better synth. I haven’t tried the Nord Lead 4 so I’m not sure if it’s better, but it’s definitely the newer version of course.

I also have in rack format, the Nord Lead 1. However I’m missing the 8 voice expansion and I believe it has the older OS too. What I like about the Nord Lead 2x in comparison to the Nord Lead 1 are additional voices, outputs, and the ability to both split the keyboard and latch the arpeggiator. It really drove me crazy not being able to take my hands of the Nord Lead 1 rack and have the arp continue playing. The four individual outputs on the Nord Lead 2x are great for splitting the effects which I like to do. The split keyboard functionality is just plain fun and I really wish the Nord Lead 1 had that ability. Plus I should also mention that the added user patch and performance memory is excellent in the Nord Lead 2x. The Memory card is no longer necessary with the Nord Lead 2x. With regards to sound, both are very similar. I know there are differences but to the people I play to, they really don’t notice it.

As a live performance synth, the Nord Lead series are all pretty cool. They are very small in size and built pretty well. The red color really sticks out on the stage and I always get people taking pictures or asking about it. In Japan, the Nord Lead is also very recognizable among many people who enjoy watching live music acts. I recall back in the late 90’s when the Roland JP8000 and Yamaha AN1x came out that both were heavily compared to the Nord Lead. The Nord has always been more expensive in Japan and I never ever found one used until not too long ago when the newer ones came out. The Nord Lead 2x prices in Japan are cheaper than in the States and a bargain in my opinion if you can get to a store and negotiate. I probably won’t see a Nord Lead 3 ever around here and it’s likely the Nord Lead 4 will be out my reach for quite a while. I actually think they cost a bit too much here in Japan to even consider one to be frank.

The case is one of the best I’ve ever seen. It has a cool red color on the outside and a nice plush black velvet like interior. There are nice straps all around and it’s simply looks small, light, and cool. In Japan, the Nord Lead 2x has been a pretty good synth and hopefully it will stick around a bit longer.

Clavia Nord Lead 2x – demo (1 of 2) by syntezatory.net.pl

CHD Elektroservis JU6-KBD Midi Kit for Juno-6 REVIEW

Roland Juno-6 Synthesizer
Roland Juno-6 Synthesizer

Over the holidays I purchased the CHD Elektroservis JU6-KBD Midi Kit for the Roland Juno-6. Unfortunately the product doesn’t really work as advertised and can’t recommend the product. Perhaps other kits might work for the Polysix or Mono/Poly, but definitely the Roland Juno-6 kit does not work.

First the installation was actually very easy and straight forward. It required soldering only two wires and everything else was plug and play. When I hook up a midi cable and connected my sequencer, I was able to send note on/off messages in sync without issue. So far so good and with just that one taks, one might think the product is a success. However, there are several MAJOR problems with the CHD JU6-KBD Midi Kit which I outline as follows:

1. The Software doesn’t work. Included is a software sysex generator that builds sysex strings for you to send to the JU6-KBD. The software generates the strings, but when you send them, they don’t work at all. This is a HUGE problem because it means you can’t change any of the parameters with the kit such as Midi Receive Channel. It’s stuck on Channel 1 at all times!! That sucks! – UPDATE – I found the fix, see bottom.

2. The Arp will not sync using the JU6-KBD via midi at all. In fact you can’t get it to switch from INTERNAL to MIDI because the software stated above doesn’t work. So you you still have to trigger the arp the old fashion, BUT RELIABLE, way of using the trigger input on the back of the Juno-6. – UPDATE – I found the fix, see bottom.

3. While doing some research online I found a few others with the same kit experiencing the same problem. None of the internal parameters of the JU6-KBD could be changed at all via sysex. The software and/or the JU6-KBD kit does not accept the changes. Note that the JU6-KBD is also the same kit for the Juno-60. – UPDATE – I found the fix, see bottom.

4. Default values that come with the CHD JU6-KBD Midi Kit are not written anywhere in the manuals. You have no idea what the default parameters are so you can’t really test to make sure things are working. I know the default midi channel is 1 simply because that’s the only channel the JU6-KBD responds to. It would have been very helpful to have a list of default settings in the manual.

5. Due to the fact that the JU6-KBD has MIDI input only, you cannot in any way determine if values sent are getting registered in the interface. There is no signal LED on the interface to show that midi messages have been received or processed. By trial and error I am only able to determine that sysex settings are not getting processed. It’s crazy when you send a sysex string and there’s no way to know if the hardware received the transmission. This is a major flaw with the CHD Elektroservis Midi products.

6. Watch out! The screw that secures the Ju6-KBD kit inside the Roland Juno-6 is too long. It will go right through the bottom of your synth if you are not careful. I found this out ahead of time and used a shorter screw. Nothing like having a sharp screw sticking out of the bottom to rip or scrape your pants. Be careful!

7. The instruction manual sent with the kit is all in black and white. I recommend using the PDF manual on the website as it shows the colored wires of the synth. This is minor and not a big deal, but definitely makes the process much easier. After I realized the black and white manual wasn’t going to cut it, I jumped on the web and thankfully found the colored manual. Much better!

The good news is that I can sequence the Roland Juno-6 using the kit ONLY on Channel 1. The bad news is that I can’t sync the arp without resorting to the trigger input. I also can’t and won’t buy any other of the CHD Elektroservis kits because I obviously can’t run them all on Midi Channel 1. I need to be able to change the Channels.

The CHD Elektroservis JU6-KBD Midi Kit is cheaper than the KIWI kits, but if I had known I was having this much trouble I would have just gone for the KIWI and enjoyed a hassle free experience. The only bad thing I’ve heard about the KIWI kits is that they are VERY expensive. I know you get what you pay for but with both CHD Elektroservis and KIWI I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate.

In any event, I’ll keep testing the CHD Elektroservice JU6-KBD. I emailed the developer but I’ve heard communication is not that great with the company so I’m not expecting much. We’ll see.

If I can get the CHD JU6-KBD midi interface to respond to my midi sysex commands, than I’ll give the product 4-5 stars. As it is, I don’t recommend it at all and would just go for the KIWI. I’m coming off a frustrated weekend wasting a lot of hours trying to get the JU6-KBD to work, so probably I sound a bit negative…laugh. I just go crazy when products don’t work as advertised.


I’m happy to report that I found the problem and everything appears to be working well with the CHD JU6-KBD. Several manuals were sent with my kit including the installation, operation, and sysex communication reference manuals. I actually read each one, especially the operations manual over and over. It is when I had trouble with the sysex generator that I decided to read the sysex reference manual to create my own custom sysex string manually. I read this manual many times and determined that my custom string was the same output as the sysex generator. I did a little head scratching after that discovery. Only after reading the sysex reference manual a 5TH TIME did I see the perhaps most important sentence of the entire manual:

“Performed changes of parameter values become evident after next turning-on of the instrument (during the interface reset).”

This is sentence is critical!! You have to turn off the Roland Juno-6 and then back on again for any changes to take place after sending sysex commands. This goes against my regular practice for regular sysex transmission, so I didn’t think to do that at all. For some reason I just couldn’t notice or even wrap my head around that very important part of the instructions at the bottom of page 4! With comments I’m reading about the same issue around the web, I recommended to the developer to highlight that part more….laugh. In fact, I so far don’t see that statement even in the regular manual which most people I presume would read first. So if anyone is having any problems with getting their CHD Elektroservis midi kits to respond to sysex, just turn off and then on again your synthesizer. You’ll likely be presently surprised that everything works great.

Also, I found that creating a template using Midi Designer for the iPad worked great to organize and send sysex strings to the JU6-KBD. I created a knob to change the midi channel, plus an on/off switch for the arp sync. I then created a knob to select arp divisions. Works great! Midi Designer for the iPad allows you to quickly enter sysex strings attached to a button, knob, or slider. Then via Midi you can send that string really fast and easily. I highly recommend it.

I can also now upgrade my thoughts of the CHD Elektroservis JU6-KBD for the Roland Juno-6 to highly recommended!! It just took me an entire day of absolute frustration trying to work out the sysex issues until this morning when I finally discovered that darn sentence to reset the JU6-KBD…face palm…laugh! Oh well.

Here’s a Roland Juno-6 Demo Track by The Outsider who also installed the CHD Elektroservis JU6-KBD Midi Kit.

Korg Polysix Synthesizer Key Repair

Korg Polysix Synthesizer
Korg Polysix Synthesizer

This week I had an offer to buy a used Korg Polysix with keys that were completely dead. In addition, a few of the program buttons were not working and the original blue battery inside was showing signs of starting to leak. Despite the issues and already owning one excellent Korg Polysix, I took the plunge. I just couldn’t beat the price. The Korg Polysix is one of my favorite analog synths and when they work well, they work very well! It’s just a joy to play.

My initial thoughts were that with the excellent price I got for the Polysix, I could at the very least use it for parts. As I progressed with the repairs, I quickly changed my thought process and soon realized, I had a VERY good working Korg Polysix on my hands.

First up was the issue of the battery. Immediately after I received the Korg Polysix from the post, I open up the box, threw the synth on my work stand, and opened it up. I didn’t even plug it in once to play it. I then grabbed my fine tip cutters and gently yanked that battery sucker right out. Good riddance!! My regret was that I couldn’t yank it out any faster…laugh. If you ever buy a Korg Polysix with the big blue battery in it, I can’t stress enough to get that thing out of there quick. The areas around the battery are just too sensitive to lose to battery acid. Sure there is a KIWI replacement board available, but I wasn’t much in the mood to pay another $450 with shipping to get one. I then inspected the outer perimeter of the PCB board and found no damage from the battery. That was close!!

To replace the battery I temporarily attached a 3.6V rechargeable phone battery. I did the same thing with my Korg Poly-61 and it works great. There is a way to get a lithium battery in there, but I’m currently awaiting for a new supply of Diodes to make the repair. Until then, the phone battery works the same, but without the leak problem. I also soldered wires away from the PCB boards so that I don’t have to fiddle at all with that sensitive circuit board. I then loaded up some cool patches into the Polysix and called the battery changed complete.

The next part of the repair was dealing the dead keys. Every single solitary key on this Polysix was completely DEAD! I scratched my head for a minute and thought great! I probably have a chip or wiring problem somewhere. After some research on the web, I soon discovered that the Polysix had a notorious problem with bad key contacts. Some even say the vapors from the leaky battery can cause a complete shutdown of the keys. Geez, I better not get a whiff…laugh. Fortunately, the Korg Polysix is probably one of the easiest synthesizers ever to work on with regards to accessing the keys and key contacts. Super simple!

What I found was exactly what was written on the web. I had to replace the black carbon contacts on the silicon rubber pieces along with cleaning the gold contacts on the pcb board. Fortunately about 3-4 years ago I had bought a sheet of those carbon contact stickers from the SoundDoctrin that never worked for my Juno-106. I had them tucked away wondering if they ever really would work on anything! I had nothing to lose and so after replacing a small test section, I shockingly noticed that every single key with the replacement contact sticker had perfectly come to life. I then proceeded to replace the rest and now I have a perfect working set of Polysix keys. Absolutely amazing!! Note I also ordered some CaiKote 44 Conductive Coating off Ebay which I read works the same. I have no doubt that it does so I’m very glad to have a bottle on the way as I’m now out of the carbon contact stickers. Note that those stickers were originally used for the Polysix by the SoundDoctrin so they were definitely suppose to work. Note that spraying DEOXIT will not work and will actually make the contacts worse. I know that because I sprayed a sample and that screwed things up, so I had to give that section a thorough cleaning. Thus the Korg Polysix key problem was solved.

Finally I had the program button problem. By this time I was a bit tired and simply wanted to play the Korg Polysix. I read that shooting some DEOXIT in there could do the trick. Although not 100% yet, I can happily report it brought back the buttons and I can now at least change them when needed. It sometimes requires a couple of presses, but overall they work well and I’m ok with the result. I did do some research though and those buttons are not an easy task to fix or replace. It does require some soldering and finding a new button or contact. This is a case where I would seriously either try to fix what you have or just make do with it.

Thus I now have another 100% working Korg Polysix that is in excellent condition. Even the side wood panels are not broken like a little on my first one. I played them both last night with one using the ARP and the other playing a melody. It was simply awesome. I used a TR-626 to sync both with my Yamaha RX5 and it totally rocked!

The Korg Polysix is basically a very simple synth to repair provided you don’t have a damaged PCB board from a leaky battery. If you do, it’s still possible to have the board replaced by purchasing the expensive KIWI upgrade kit. The keys and buttons are definitely fixable. The keys are extremely easy so if you find anyone trying to dump a Korg Polysix on your lap because all of the keys are broken, take it!! The problem is minor at best.

Here is a link to the post about my first Korg Polysix. This particular one had chip problems which I fixed. It’s now in perfect working order.

Here are the patches I have and use for starting out with the Korg Polysix. I use these for templates and highly recommend them.