Tom Oberheim drops by the home of SF Bay area musician Mikael Johnston to deliver Mikael’s brand new Two-Voice synthesizer, and gives us a tour of the synth and his design philosophy in the process.
Vintage synthesizer sound tutorial featuring the Oberheim OB-Xa
part one: the haunting pad sound in Foreigners “Waiting For A Girl Like You”
the sound in the original song is made with the huge Oberheim OB-Xa Analog Synthesizer (1981) and layered with a simple OB sweep pad sound.
very important is the filter resonance (12dB/oct) and the pitch modulation.
Sounds in the series include:
- The Oberheim pad sound from Foreigner’s Waiting for a Girl Like You;
- Ultravox ARP Odyssey lead sound;
- Oberheim OB-X pad sound from Killing Joke’s Love Like Blood; and
- The classic Rush Tom Sawyer Moog Taurus bass sound.
Vintage synthesizer demo track by RetroSound
all sounds: Oberheim OB-X Analog Synthesizer (1979)
recording: multi-track without midi
fx: delay and reverb
Youtune persona ‘popitem’ shared this OB-MX exploration:
Modular noise with my 2 voices OB-MX, notice the nice knobs, I try some differents types as the original ones are blank (no lines), these ones are a bit loose that’s why one stays in my hand.
The BeatStep is much more than a pad controller–it’s a groove sequencer that features analog CV-gate as well as MIDI out. We saw one driving a vintage Oberheim SEM and grooving hard!
Vintage synthesizer track featuring the classic Oberheim OB-X
all synthesizer sounds: Oberheim OB-X Analog Synthesizer (1979)
recording: multi-tracking without midi
fx: reverb and delay
All synthesizer sounds: Oberheim OB-Xa Analog Synthesizer (1981)
drums: Roland TR-808
fx: reverb and delay
The Oberheim OB-Xa was Oberheim’s overhaul of their first compact synthesizer, the OB-X. The OB-Xa was released in December 1980, a year after the OB-X was released. Instead of discrete circuits for oscillators and filters, the OB-Xa (and the Oberheim synths to follow) switched to Curtis integrated circuits. This made the inside of the synth less cluttered, reducing the labor required to replace bad parts, and reducing the cost of manufacture. However, today it’s much easier to fix an OB-X than an OB-Xa, as Curtis parts are getting scarcer, whereas discrete parts used in the OB-X are almost always readily available.
Aside from hardware changes, the OB-Xa had better interface features than the OB-X. These included being able to split the keyboard into two halves with different voices and the ability to layer voices to create thicker sound (essentially making two notes sound for every key pressed). Polyphony stayed the same – again 4,6 and 8-voice models were offered.
One function that did disappear from the OB-X voice architecture was cross modulation, or frequency modulation of the first VCO with the second VCO. When done with analogue circuits, it’s a unique sound made famous by the Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 and its poly-mod section. The lack of this feature somewhat reduced the range of sounds possible on the OB-Xa.
This video shows an Oberheim Four Voice Synthesizer with a NEA Modular Expander Cabinet and Pyxis Aftertouch.
“In this clip, all filter, pitch and volume modulation is being done with the aftertouch controller. When the aftertouch is engaged, vibrato is added to the VCOs, and the speed of the vibrato is proportional to the pressure applied. The VCF is also set to open up a little when the aftertouch is engaged. For more info on the aftertouch or the modular cabinet, check out our website www.NewEnglandAnalog.com or give our shop a call.”
A big step forward after the initial Oberheim SEM and Two Voice synthesizers came from the bigger and better Four Voice. Four dual-oscillator SEM modules each with its own filters and envelopes are joined together along with a simple analog mixer and 49-note keyboard to give you a polyphonic/polytonal Obie-beast!
This combination gives you eight oscillators and four voices of polyphony because there are basically four discrete mono-synths all connected together. This has its pros and cons. What is cool is that this was a lot of simultaneous voices for the mid-seventies. And the ability to craft a different sound on each voice led to some diverse and complex sounds. However, it also meant you have to program each voice independently. Each voice also has its own independent audio output.
The Polyphonic Synthesizer Programmer, released in 1976 and added to the Four Voice stores 16 patches per voice (all of which can be different). The Four Voice could accommodate an additional four SEMs, making it just like the Eight Voice model which officially appeared in 1977.
Unfortunately the Four Voice was blown out of the competition by the release of the polyphonic Sequential Prophet-5, which offered true polyphony with a single set of sound shaping controls and comprehensive patch memory.
A few multi patches on the Oberheim Matrix-12
Oberheim’s Matrix 12 is a legendary analog synthesizer from the mid-eighties that is still the king of analog sounds. One of the fattest, roundest, pleasantly analog synthesizers around! It’s long been known for creating some of the thickest and best analog pads, sweeps, buzzes, basses and textures. It features Matrix Modulation for extremely wild virtual patching for almost unlimited range of sounds and modulation capabilities!
The Matrix 12 is similar to the Xpander and the lighter Matrix 6. But the Matrix 12 is much fatter and more programmable than either. Every control can have an effect on some other parameter thanks to Oberheim’s flexible design. For example, there are 15 types of LFOs and VCAs per voice! And there’s plenty of diagrams drawn out on the front panel of the synth to help you figure out some signal routing. This is not a synth for the beginner.
How to play with Polyphonic Aftertouch on Channel Pressure “only” synths. You need a synth with multi patch support like the Oberheim Xpander, Studio Electronics Code 8 and Alesis Andromeda.