Erica Synths’ Matrix Mixer could change the whole way you think about modular.
The modulation matrix has long been a staple of synthesizer signal routing. In its traditional form, you have a column of sources on the left and row of destinations along the top and you use pins to make connections between them. It’s the sort of pin matrix found famously on the EMS VC3 ‘Putney’ synthesizer. More modern matrixes employ digital connections, using buttons or software. The main advantage of this method of signal routing is that you can make many connections quickly and easily and form complex configurations in a very compact space.
Usually, a matrix system will be built into a particular synthesizer’s structure, with set sources and destinations. Erica Synths’ Matrix Mixer is pulled directly from their Syntrx synthesizer, but breaks free from all that structured nonsense to offer a 16x16 matrix that can route any source of audio (either external or Eurorack) or CV signal to any destination with a snazzy array of LEDs and a pair of encoders. It’s housed in a good‑sized standalone box — you get the impression that once they made the decision not to try to squeeze it to fit into Eurorack format they could relax and build it into something that sits very solidly on the desk and has quite a commanding presence. This is the sort of device that wants to be centre stage. You’ll find as you get into it that everything wants to go through it, and it moves very quickly from an overblown utility to a creative tool that shapes your entire workflow.
The connections are comprised of 16 DC‑coupled inputs and outputs arranged in a zigzagged collection of patch sockets on the front panel in which you can easily get lost. Out the back, the first two inputs and outputs are mirrored on quarter‑inch jacks for external instruments; there’s also a MIDI In port and a fun on/off switch that’s labelled backwards. The star of the show is the LED‑infused Matrix panel, which is set deliciously off‑centre and labelled 1‑16 for the inputs and A‑P for the outputs. The grid is populated by 256 LEDs which you can turn on and off with a pair of clicking encoders; one deals in horizontals, the other in verticals. Grab the encoders and you end up chasing connections about the place like you’re playing Centipede in an arcade.
To connect an input to an output, you simply use the encoders to locate the intersection and push down on either to enable the connection. You can connect one input to 16 outputs, or many inputs to one or more outputs. You could see it as an overly elaborate mult as well as an overly simple mixer, and that’s exactly what it is. All you need then is imagination. So, at a basic level you could take an LFO and route it to up to 16 destinations. But why not combine it with a couple of LFOs, or take a sequence...