We’re fortunate for all the time we get to spend together talking about the stuff we love and meeting the people who make our musical instruments. And that time is always limited. So this moment from the OB-X8 team is especially worth watching for all four designers – and RIP, Dave.
Sequential sends this our way; here’s what Oberheim says about it:
Since it was introduced in May 2022, industry acclaim has been heaped upon OB-X8 as one of the most authentic recreations of a vintage synth ever engineered.
But what thought process is behind the million design decisions involved in a vintage recreation project like this? In this roundtable style discussion, Tom Oberheim (Founder, Oberheim Electronics), Marcus Ryle (OB-X8 Co-Designer, Oberheim Engineer 1980 – 85), Tony Karavidas (Lead Hardware Engineer Sequential/Oberheim) and the late, great Dave Smith (Founder, Sequential and OB-X8 co-designer), talk through trade-offs, design philosophies, and the overall approach that allowed them to produce this amazing instrument.
Tom: “It’s a new machine doing things like an old machine … I think we’ll find as musicians start to use this machine, they’ll find combinations we’ve never thought of.”
Dave: “It was a really fun engineering project to combine the circuitry from all three of those projects into one — it took a lot of work, but we had the right team. The people who did this originally helped.” “It was just a lot of fun to go back and make it work.”
And Dave on taking on the Oberheim side: “I had to learn about all these things … this was all new to me; I had no idea how these things worked inside. So it was very interesting to … get in there.”
Dave also talks about how the same Curtis components could sound completely different in different designs: “…all these instruments have their own personality. It almost doesn’t matter what’s in them.”
That seems especially resonant with the broadly diverse and growing community of builders and designers of instruments today, including in software, DIY and open hardware, and Eurorack spaces.
They go into the instrument itself, of course – the now not-so-hidden page 2 features, the display, programmable pan, levels, keyboard modes, velocity and aftertouch, and as Dave puts it “big jumps in functionality.” Plus there’s the “vintage” knob “so you can dial it from tight to loose — it brings back the vintage vibe of the instruments,” Dave says.
The ending is what really gets me, though, as it features Tom and Dave talking about the future. And that message seems to resonate not just for Oberheim and Sequential, but the whole realm of building new musical instruments with analog and digital tech. Here’s Dave:
“There’s no reason we have to limit ourself to only building old stuff – we can do new things. Analog synthesis has been around since the 60s. It’s passed the test of time. And there’s so much we can still do combining modern technology … we’re just starting. This is going to be great.”
I know how deeply the team at Sequential must still feel that loss. But I hope that even in what has been a tough year for so many in the synth world, for so many different reasons, we do get to hold on to the belief – Dave’s belief, too – that there’s more we can do.
Bonus – here’s a beautiful jam on the OB-X8 (check description for detailed signal chain, etc.):