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Oberheim OB-X Polyphonic Synthesizer

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The Oberheim OB-X is an analog polyphonic sound synthesizer.

First commercially available in June 1979, it was introduced to compete with the Sequential Circuits Prophet-5, which had been successfully introduced the year before. About 800 units were produced with moderate success before the OB-X was discontinued in 1981, replaced by the updated and streamlined OB-Xa. The OB line developed and evolved after that with the OB-8 before being replaced by the Matrix series.

The OB-X would be used in popular music by Rush (on Moving Pictures and Signals), Nena, Styx member Dennis DeYoung (used frequently from late 1979 to 1984), Queen (their first synthesizer on an album), Prince, a keen user, and Jean Michel Jarre who used it for its massive "brass" sounds.

The OB-X was the first Oberheim synthesizer based on a single printed circuit board called a "voice card" (still using mostly discrete components) rather than the earlier SEM (Synthesizer Expander Module) used in Oberheim semi-modular systems, which had required multiple modules to achieve polyphony. The OB-X's memory held 32 user-programmable presets. The synthesizer's built-in Z-80 microprocessor also automated the tuning process. This made the OB-X less laborious to program, more functional for live performance, and more portable than its ancestors.

The "X" in OB-X originally stood for the number of voice-cards (notes of polyphony) installed. It came in four, six, and eight-voice models with polyphonic portamento, and sample and hold. Even the 4-voice model was expensive at US$4,595. The entire range used "paddle" levers for pitch and modulation, Oberheim's answer to the "wheel" controls of the Prophet-5. Though these controls were never as popular as the standard pitch and modulation wheels, the philosophy was to mimic the motion of a guitar player bending the strings on their guitar. On most other synthesizers the pitch bend wheel was on the left, and the modulation wheel to the right of it; on the OB-X Oberheim placed them in the opposite relative positions. In addition to this unique configuration the polarity of the paddles was distinctive; the player would pull back on the pitch lever to bend the pitch sharp, and push forward to bend flat.

Technical Specifications
Type: Analog
Synthesis: Subtractive
Oscillators: 2
Waveforms: Pulse, Saw Down, Square
Osc Modulation: Glide / Portamento, Knob, LFO, Oscillator, Pitch Wheel, Sync Hard
Envelopes: 2
Evelope Paramerters: Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release
Filters: 1
Types: 12dB Slope (2-pole), Low Pass, Resonance
Filter Modulation: Keyboard, Knob, LFO
LFO: 1
LFO Parameters: Sample & Hold, Sine, Square
Polyphony & Tuning
Polyphony: 8
Timbrality: 1
Tuning: Standard
Patches RAM: 32
Storage: Internal
Editing: CV
Case: Keyboard
Keyboard: 61 keys, Non-weighted, Plastic
Controls: Buttons, Knobs, Switches, Mod - Wheel, Pitch - Lever, Modulation 1/8" Jacks, Pedal - Filter, Pedal - Sustain, Pedal - Volume
Audio Output Connections: 1/4" Phone Jack, Mono Out
Audio Output Notes: 1
CV Ports: CV IN, CV OUT, Gate In, Gate Out
Year Released: 1979
Year Discontinued: 1981
Units Made: 800
Used By
Ambrosia, Laurie Anderson, Earth, Wind & Fire, Eurythmics, John Foxx, Jerry Goldsmith, Dave Grusin, Bruce Hornsby & The Range, Rick James, Japan, Jean Michel Jarre, Billy Joel, Killing Joke, Kool and the Gang , Madonna, Missing Persons, Nena, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Princ, Queen, Roxy Music , Rush, David Sanborn, Shakatak, Styx, Supertramp, Tangerine Dream, Ultravox, Van Halen
Manuals & Documents
MSRP List Price: $5995 - convert
Retail Street Price: $5000 - convert
Used Price: $3000 - $4000 - convert

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