CatSynth pic: Nala and OB-6

Nala and OB-6

Nala the cat playing a OB-6 from Dave Smith Instruments and Tom Oberheim. Photo from nathan.yeager on Instagram.

Analog Cat. Nala plays the OB-6. #catsonsynthesizersinspace #catsofinstagram #cat #davesmithinstruments #oberheim #homerecording #ob6 #analogsynth #keyboard #keyboardcat #synthesizer #catsynth #cute #cutecats

NAMM 2016: TomOberheim.com SEM Synthesizers

Following up on our experience with the OB-6 as Dave Smith Instruments, I wandered over to Tom Oberheim’s own both. Under the official name of Marion Systems or “TomOberheim.com, he has released a series of remakes of of his classic synthesizers. The flagship of these instruments is the Two-Voice Pro.

Tom Oberheim two-voice pro synthesizer

It is a dual voice analog synth powered by two SEM modules, along with a built-in sequencer and a series of 56 CV inputs for controlling most features of the voices and overall synth. Playing it felt more like a vintage Oberheim instrument than the OB-6, which is very contemporary. As such, it is a bit more spartan, but it looks and sounds like a true Oberheim synth from the past.

There are also individual tabletop versions of the SEM, as well as two new Eurorack modules, most notably the SEM Plus.

Tom Oberheim Eurorack modules

The SEM Plus is an entire Oberheim SEM voice as a module. It would be useful entry point into a larger and crazier modular system, a good partner for a Moog Mother 32.

Tom Oberheim himself had returned to his booth when I visited, so I got a second chance to talk with him – he is very approachable and generous with his time. We did talk about our respective musical interests, especially our shared fondness and inspiration from the jazz fusion greats of the 1970s like Herbie Hancock. As I return to that sort of music, I hope to apply some of Oberheim’s technologies to the project.

Dave Smith Instruments: OB-6 and Prophet 6 at NAMM 2016

Dave Smith Instruments has consistently made a big splash to the instruments they have presented at NAMM, and it’s almost always something I quickly find myself wanting. This year the unveiled the OB-6, a collaboration of Dave Smith and Tom Oberheim.

Whatever comes out of such a collaboration should be good, and indeed the OB-6 a strong, solid and professional instrument. It combines the playability and polish of a Dave Smith keyboard with the unique sound and architecture of an Oberheim SEM. Indeed, it employs voice cards based on Oberheim filters and oscillators, with a Prophet 6 architecture underneath. It it is quite pretty as well.

OB-6 synthesizer

Close-up of OB-6 synthesizer

I did have a chance to both play the OB-6 and talk with Tom Oberheim about it. You can see his description of the instrument and how the collaboration happened in this video.

And here I attempt to play it.

It was only once I put down the camera and played with both hands that I could understand what the Oberheim technology adds. In addition to the distinctive sound, the SEM filter allows sweeping between different topologies (high pass, notch, and low pass) in real time.

However, the OB-6 does not completely eclipse last year’s big announcement from Dave Smith, the Prophet 6. It is still quite impressive, and a pleasure to play.

DSI Prophet 6

It is perhaps because I am more familiar with the sound and feel of Dave Smith instruments that I found the P6 still more approachable than the OB-6. But I do like the distinctive sound. Another option for that is Oberheim’s SEM synths issued by his new company. That will be discussed in the next article.