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Oberheim Xpander

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The Oberheim Xpander is a rack version of Oberheim Matrix-12 and was an analog synthesizer launched by Oberheim in 1984 and discontinued in 1988. It is essentially a keyboardless, six-voice version of the Oberheim OB-8 and Matrix-12 (released a year later, in 1985). Utilizing Oberheim's Matrix Modulation technology, the Xpander combined analog audio generation (VCOs, VCF and VCAs) with the flexibility of digital controls logic.

The Xpander "Owner's Manual, First Edition" describes the technology as this:

"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 allowed the user to connect any input to any output, resulting in sophistication and flexibility unmatched by any programmable synthesizer...until now."

Analog Components

Each of the six voices of the Xpander is completely independent. That is to say, each could be configured to create a different timbre - this is accomplished via the multi-patch mode which will be described below.

Starting at waveform generation, each voice has two voltage controlled oscillators (VCOs). Each of which is capable of generating sawtooth, triangle, pulse or noise waveforms. Furthermore, the "duty cycle" of the pulse width can be modulated as well. Although perhaps better known for subtractive synthesis, the Xpander is also capable of frequency modulation (FM) synthesis by modulating VCO #1 with VCO #2.

Moving on from the VCOs, the signal then passes through a multi-mode voltage controlled filter (VCF). The available modes on the filter are:

one-, two-, three- and four-pole low pass
one-, two and three-pole high pass
two- and four-pole band pass
two-pole notch
three-pole phase shift
two- and three-pole high pass plus one-pole low pass
two-pole notch plus one-pole low pass
three-pole phase shift plus one-pole low pass
From the filter, there are two sequential voltage controlled amplifiers (VCAs) through which the signal must pass. And finally the audio is delivered to a variety of outputs: mono, stereo and six independent outputs (corresponding to the six voices).

Digital Controls

Of those analog audio components (VCOs, VCF and VCAs), each can be modulated by several different digital controls.

ADSR Envelopes - each voice can have up to five envelope generators. Each envelope is of the standard Attack-Decay-Sustain-Release model (ADSR), with the addition of an initial Delay phase, thus making them DADSR envelopes, to be exact.

Low Frequency Oscillators (LFOs) - each voice can have up to five LFOs applied. Each LFO can have a different waveform: triangle, square, up-saw, down-saw, random or noise. Additionally, a sampling mode is provided, whereby an independent source (e.g. a different LFO) is sampled at a set frequency.

Lag Generator - the lag function is similar to portamento on traditional synthesizers. However, the lag modulation in the Xpander can be applied to any control or audio signal.

Ramp Generators - each voice can have up to four ramp generators. Similar to the attack portion of an ADSR envelope, the ramp generates a linear signal from zero to the user-defined ramp height.

Tracking Generators - there are three tracking generators available for each voice. The tracking generator provides a mapping from a control source (e.g. key range on the keyboard, or volume pedal, or mod wheel) to a modified output, based on the user-defined settings of the generator.

Technical Specifications
Type: Analog, Digital
Synthesis: Frequency Modulation, Subtractive
Oscillators: 2
Waveforms: Square, Triangle
Envelopes: 4
Evelope Paramerters: Delay, Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release
Filters: 2
Types: 6dB Slope, 12dB Slope (2-pole), 18dB Slope, 24dB Slope (4-pole), Band Pass, High Pass, Low Pass, Notch, Phase Warp, Resonance
Filter Modulation: Envelope, Input, Keyboard, Knob, LFO, Oscillator
LFO: 5
LFO Parameters: Noise, Sample & Hold, Saw Up, Saw Down, Square, Triangle, Clocked, Delay
Polyphony & Tuning
Polyphony: 6
Timbrality: 6
Tuning: Standard
Patches RAM: 100
Multipatches RAM: 100
Storage: Internal, 6
Editing: CV, MIDI
Case: Desktop, Module
Controls: Buttons, Knobs
Display Type: LCD, Backlit
Dimensions (WxDxH): 33 x 12.5 x 6 inches
Audio Output Connections: 1/4" Phone Jack, Mono Out
Audio Output Count: 8
CV Ports: CV IN, CV OUT, Gate In, Gate Out
Year Released: 1984
Year Discontinued: 1888
Units Made: 2000
Used By
Steve Roach, Vince Clarke, Nine Inch Nails, Yello, Chemical Brothers, Meat Beat Manifesto, Larry Fast, Baby Ford, Chris Franke, Frontline Assembly, Front 242, Jan Hammer, Miles Davis, Human League, Mark Isham, Nitzer Ebb, Orbital, Steve Porcaro, Propaganda, Stefan Reinert, Mark Shreeve, K-H Stockhausen, Switzerland, Joe Zawinul
Manuals & Documents
MSRP List Price: $3995 - convert
Retail Street Price: $3700 - convert
Used Price: $2500 - $3500+ - convert

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