Ober­heim – the perfect part­ner

Computer Music - - Make Music Now -

Re­cently, hard­ware synth fans have been all abuzz over the OB-6, Tom Ober­heim's col­lab­o­ra­tion with Prophet-5 master­mind Dave Smith, and for good rea­son – the OB-6 is a keen re­minder of the mas­sive sound that made Ober­heim a suc­cess in the 70s and 80s.

Ober­heim's first synth, the SEM (Syn­the­siser Ex­pander Mod­ule), was not a stand­alone in­stru­ment, but rather a key­board­less synth-in-a-box de­signed to be in­ter­faced with then-pop­u­lar monosynths. Ober­heim would even­tu­ally lash mul­ti­ple SEMs to­gether to form primitive-but-pow­er­ful polysynths. The fact that the pa­ram­e­ters of each of the mod­ules had to be in­di­vid­u­ally tweaked meant that none of the voices ever quite matched, re­sult­ing in a gar­gan­tuan sound.

The SEM-based polysynths were even­tu­ally re­placed by the OB-X, a pro­gram­mable poly that stuffed the in­di­vid­ual synth cir­cuits away un­der the hood, of­fer­ing a sin­gle set of con­trols. Since the OB-X (and its fol­low-up, the OBXa) made use of in­di­vid­ual voice cards for each voice, they re­tained much of the power that made Ober­heim pop­u­lar among the rock mu­si­cians of their day – most fa­mously Ed­die Van Halen and Rush's Geddy Lee. As you can imag­ine, such a de­sign makes for some of the thick­est bass patches on the planet!

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