Oberheim Electronics

The U.S. company Oberheim was one of the best known manufacturers of synthesizers in the 1970s and 1980s.


Oberheim ( Oberheim Electronics) was founded in 1970 by Tom Oberheim. Originally he created electronic effects devices and was briefly representative of ARP Instruments. Oberheim was among the pioneers in the development of the synthesizer in the early 1970s. So Oberheim produced with the DS -2 is the first digital sequencer and synthesizer with the Expansion Module ( SEM) the first polyphonic synthesizer.

Originally intended only as a monophonic expander module for the Minimoog, the SEM module appeared in the mid- 70s as a two -, four - and achstimmige keyboard version ( "Two Voice ," " Four Voice" and " Eight Voice" accordingly called ) in a flight case package. Here, the SEM module can easily be side by side (or one above the other even in two rows of four in the Eight - Voice) were arranged. These synthesizers were the first multi-timbral synthesizer in the world, because you could assign your own keyboard range for each module included when necessary.

From 1980, the SEM module was then the starting point for a whole series of spectacular, easy -to-use synthesizer. These include the models OB -X, OB- Xa (both each available as four -, six -and eight- voice polyphonic variant), the pure preset version OB -Sx (4 -, 5 - or 6 -note ), and in 1983 published, 8 -voice OB -8.

The multi -timbral basic idea was firstly applied in these devices again, but the models OB- Xa and OB -8 were at least nevertheless still bi- timbral, as split- and dual- sounds are possible. Compared to the old predecessors, the SEM modules were now gone as a compact " Voice Cards " under the housing cover and were served by a single, unified control panel.

The later OB -8 models (Version "B") were equipped with a MIDI interface and possessed on the control panel via an additional label with respect to the secondary functions of various control buttons.

In 1984 the Xpander, a synthesizer module developed by Oberheim " Matrix Modulation ". This reminds us of the possibilities of the free patch connections of a modular system. The Xpander had no keyboard and had to be played connected via an external MIDI keyboard. The controller options, the MIDI implementation, as well as the very generous feature set with six votes ( 2xVCO, 15 -fold multimode VCF filters, envelope generators 5, 5 LFOs, matrix modulation, etc.) were a novelty at the time. The Xpander then cost around 10,000 DM six voices could be individually controlled with individual sounds via MIDI and played what in those days was not found in any other device. The highlight was the * hybrid * construction. Oscillators and filters were analog circuits, LFO, EG, matrix modulation, etc., however, was calculated to two Intel 8088 processors. On the one hand allowed this division the wide range of functions, on the other hand, the envelope, especially from today's perspective, rather a bit sluggish and are better suited for pad sounds as sharp attack, or bass sounds. For the development of Xpanders and its 12 -voice polyphonic keyboard version of matrix -12 was primarily responsible Marcus Ryle.

Said matrix -12 came in 1985 for about $ 15,000 on the market and was in principle a double Xpander with keyboard.

1986, the Matrix -6 was launched, maybe more a response to the manner of production and pricing policy in the Far East as a * half * matrix - 12th The Matrix 6 was a heavily stripped down Matrix-12/Xpander and had besides the two DCOs, two LFOs, a simple 24dB/oct LP filter and three envelopes. Despite this loss, the Matrix -6 sounded but clearly after Oberheim. The Matrix 6 at that time cost around 4,500 DM from matrix -6, there was a rack version, the Matrix -6R. The Matrix 1000 is de facto a Matrix 6 / 6R 1000 patches (of which 800 ROM presets ) but without a control panel on a HE. He is via Midi fully editable.

The Matrix 1000 there were initially in a black and white later in a housing option. In the younger models a disturbing power supply hum was eliminated.

The model name "Matrix" is due to the integrated matrix modulation.

The Oberheims had their own and very specific sound that was found on many, especially 80s, respectively late 80s LA / West Coast Productions. Especially the synth horn patches are inevitably brought with the Toto hits from the 80s combined.

All Oberheim synthesizers based on the analog subtractive synthesis. The Oberheim sound was known to be exceptionally powerful, but also warm and soft. One of the most famous examples of the powerful sound of Oberheim synthesizers is to listen to the song " JUMP " from Van Halen, which was recorded with an OB - Xa. The extremely high-class harmonious interplay of the DSX sequencer to the synthesizer OB -8, towards the end of the song " Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic " by the group The Police, is a masterpiece of synthesizer programming. Examples of soft sounds can be heard on the early recordings of the Pat Metheny Group.

Like many of the pioneer companies forced the economic competition from the Far East and new techniques such as FM synthesis and sampling the company to its knees. Today the name is owned by Gibson Oberheim, the effect devices for electric guitars, as well as MIDI modules and keyboards including sold. Back in 1987, Tom founded the company Marion Oberheim system, but only in 1994 was followed by OB -MX and a new Matrix -1000 synthesizer again under a new name, but in typical Oberheim style.

With the Organs became known Italian company Viscount some devices in the late 1990s produced under the brand name " Oberheim Viscount joint venture ". Among the products there was also the synthesizer OB -12, which, however, except the name is not much with the old equipment from Oberheim had together.