Even as I compose this entry, development and final tweaks to the Oberheim OB-X8 are probably still on going. Of all of the hardware projects I’ve been involved with over the past few years, this one has gone through the most rigorous development in an effort to faithfully reproduce the sound of the vintage Oberheim synths. Keep in mind that the OB-X8 is a successor to the OB-X, the OB-Xa, and the OB-8. Essentially, there are three instrument systems that are being reproduced and packaged into one new keyboard. Pictured above is the prototype unit that I worked with to develop programs for the instrument. The knobs in the photo are not the final version which are reproductions of the classic skirted type.
Late last year, I dug up my old OB-8 and opened it up for some much needed maintenance. The filters were in need of calibration and the keybed required some cleaning, and after a bit of TLC it played great. The Oberheim/Sequential development team borrowed this unit for analysis. More importantly, Marcus Ryle is involved, and he has all of the institutional knowledge of how the instruments were designed, built, modified, and operated.
The original factory presets will ship with the OB-X8, and they sound exactly like they did decades ago. Listening to these presets is incredibly nostalgic since you can find sounds used by Prince, Van Halen, The Cars, Thompson Twins, etc. etc. It’s pretty amazing how many hit songs used an Oberheim.
There are some new features accessed through an updated Page 2 menu, the OB-X8 preset specs incorporate these features, especially velocity and aftertouch. You can control Xmod intensity and oscillator levels, and noise generator level, which expands the range of timbral generation quite a bit beyond the original OBs. There are also panning functions for stereo presets which adds a little something extra to the bank of sounds. Because there are different envelope and LFO responses between the original instruments, one of the features allows you to mix and match these settings as well.
Below is an audio demo of the programs I’ve created for the OB-X8. Since the instrument does not have built in effects, I’m running the instrument through a Strymon Big Sky and switch in/out reverb to provide a bit of comparison on how it sounds effected vs. dry.