MacBeth Studio Systems M3X
The M3X is a hand-built, drift-free, MIDI-controlled, rack-mount analog synthesizer from Scottish synth designer Ken MacBeth. The M3X is similar to the Minimoog in that it features three oscillators and a transistor-ladder filter for warm analog sounds in a simple, streamlined package, although the M3X goes beyond the original Moog. The M3X has been designed to operate via MIDI or traditional 1V/Octave control voltage input and output, as well as the standard S Trig interface as used by many analog systems.
The M3X has three dedicated oscillators, each with five waveform types and user selectable destinations including cross-modulation capabilities. In addition to the oscillators, there is a noise generator and an external audio input amp for processing other synths or sound sources. The filter section is a transistor-ladder type similar to that used in the Moog synthesizers and sounds totally warm and at times harsh (a good harsh). It offers 24dB/oct low-pass filtering with controls for frequency cutoff, resonance, envelope amount, attack, decay/release and sustain. The voltage-controlled amplifier also features attack, decay/release and sustain controls. The Mixer section offers volume controls for each of the oscillators, noise generator and external audio input plus a master volume. The digital menu system provides access to the MIDI, LFO, Portamento, and various tuning and scaling parameters. Absolutely simple, hands-on and easy to understand but full of big beefy analog sounds.
The M3X2 is an updated version of the Scottish analog synth. According to MacBeth: "We have taken a good look at the original design and improved upon it from a user interface point of view, and the M3X2 sports some new features...the interface jacks are now on the front of the unit as opposed to rear which takes into account those users who want to integrate the M3X2 into the up and coming M5 as well as any other modular systems...many have commented on the excellent sound quality of the Filter as used in the M3X. Well, it is the same Filter, but now the self-oscillating super-matched transistor ladder Filter features temperature compensation allowing keyboard tracking to be accurate over a full 10 octave range during oscillation!
"The Oscillators have featured one or two improvements too! Some of the IC 'Op-Amps' have been replaced with even more 'discrete' transistor circuits and their outputs are now AC as opposed to DC, providing easier control of Cross Modulation...and we are still using the excellent 10 turn potentiometers on the Frequency controls. The VCA has had a number of improvements too, with a higher and cleaner Signal to Noise ratio! The M3X2 is built to the same standard as the previous model, and is housed in a quality solid steel and aluminium rack-mount casing built for the studio and the road. The M3X2 comes in a choice of two colours: The Bluebay M3X2 is to sport a stylish dark, dark blue finish and the Studio Systems model is to sport the jet black finish!"
The M3X and M3X2 are no longer being built but their circuit designs are behind the upcoming X-Factor Analog Keyboard coming soon from MacBeth Studio Systems.
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Original info from MacBeth Studio Systems
Reviewed March, 2009.