Oberheim OB-X8 Analog Polyphonic Synthesizer

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Last Update 11-25-2023

Authentic Sound?
Features
Sound Design Tips
Epilogue

If you always wanted that vintage Oberheim sound without the maintenance, the OB-X8 is your machine.  If you wanted that vintage sound without the expenses of restoration, the OB-X8 is your machine.  If you wanted that vintage sound without the periodic calibration headaches, the OB-X8 is your machine.  If you wished the MIDI retrofits for vintage Oberheims were more comprehensive, the OB-X8 is your machine.  If you want every modern feature packed into the ultimate synthesizer, expect to be disappointed - that wasn't the reason the OB-X8 was developed.  I bought the OB-X8 because it doesn't have features I'll never use. I have no need for internal FX, internal sequencer, etc. I don't want to pay extra $$ for features I will never use. The OB-X8 was built for people who want that authentic legacy Oberheim sound that no one else has been able to faithfully replicate (I own three vintage Oberheims). It was built with shallow menu to keep the interface simple. I'm a competent player and have little use for an arpeggiator or syncable LFOs. There are other modern features I wish it had, but the OB-X8 wasn't built to be a modern synth it was built to appeal to players who want that vintage sound and that big panel of knobs and buttons of the older synths without the headaches and $$$$ of old components needing calibration or restoration.

Tom Oberheim had lost the ownership of his trademarks since 1985 after the Oberheim company had fallen on hard times.  The trademarks had changed hands, winding up with Gibson Guitars under the tyranny of CEO technohick Henry Juszkiewicz.  Henry J was notorious for acquiring intellectual properties of famous brands with no relation to guitars, then forcing the original developers out and ultimately destroying the products.  Henry proved to be completely inept at leveraging his IP into a product that was successful (hence the term "technohick").  The Oberheim OBMx suffered a difficult birth and short life thanks to Henry J's vindictive disposition (a sad saga reserved for another time).  Eventually Henry J was ousted from Gibson Guitars.  Tom Oberheim had re-entered the analog synthesizer market building reissues of his famous SEM modules and Two Voice synthesizers, and partnering with Dave Smith of DSI/Sequential with their OB-6 polyphonic synthesizer.  Although Tom was unable to use his classic trademarks on these devices, that changed after former Oberheim engineer Marcus Ryle convinced the new owners of Gibson Guitars to revert the Oberheim trademarks back to their rightful owner - Tom Oberheim.  It was a very gracious move from Gibson Guitars.

While the OB-6 was a successful product, Tom had desired to build another "proper" Oberheim polyphonic synthesizer.  The return of his IP allowed him to pursue that path.  The OB-X8 was birthed literally on the day that Tom got his IP back from Gibson, and a year later it was introduced to a very receptive market.

The key members of the OB-X8 team date back to the original company.  Tony Karavidas is the chief hardware engineer/designer of the OB-X8 and many DSI/Sequential products starting with the Prophet 12 in 2010.  Tony was the electronic engineer for Oberheim in the mid-1980s.  Marcus Ryle was the designer for Oberheim from 1980 to late 1980s (ranging from the DSX to the Matrix-12); his chief role in the OB-X8 was identifying the behavior of the original models and ensuring that the OB-X8 faithfully replicated those behaviors.  The late Dave Smith of DSI/Sequential was friendly with Tom and had collaborated with Tom by sharing his development team and arranging his production system to build OB-X8s.  The planets had aligned for Tom to make a product that was destined to be a classic.  top

Authentic Oberheim Sound?

I have been a happy owner of my vintage Oberheim polysynths - Four Voice, OB-X, and OB-SX and am intimately familiar with the sonority of each of them.  I’ve heard the reissue SEM, plenty of clones/plugins, and have played the OB-6.  While all feature the state variable filter (SVF) of the SEM, they didn’t sound as organic and bold as the originals. 

While the vintage Oberheims are excellent sounding synths, they are not durable enough for gigging (the Four Voice is just too bulky and not practical for stage use due to its programmer).  I was able to program many Oberheim (and Memorymoog) sounds in my Alesis Andromeda, but by 2022 it was starting to show its age as it would occasionally crash in the middle of a song on stage.  So it was time to retire the Andromeda from the stage.  But replacing the Andromeda was a problem - while it packed a lot of power and features in a small package, it set a very high standard to measure up to and there was no comparable product available (yes the Moog One may have been a contender but it was very expensive and its firmware was incomplete when members of the development team left the company or had passed away).

Another shortcoming for the vintage units was MIDI.  Retrofits can be acquired but due to the design of the original units, only rudimentary MIDI implementation is possible - the Four Voice and OB-SX could only receive note on/off, the OB-X could add program change, patch sysex I/O but not much else.  None of my vintage OBs have programmable volume or MIDI volume control, meaning I had to use a volume pedal for them.  That was not sufficient for my stage rig which operates heavily on MIDI, and I wanted to avoid adding keyboards as most stages where I live are not very big.  The ideal solution is rackmount modules which can be remotely controlled and placed where I do not need to access them.

Part of the solution arose when the OB-X8 keyboard was available.  When introduced there were some YouTube demos and the results sounded very promising.  I was one of the first customers to acquire the keyboard model; once it was in my hands I went to work comparing the OB-X8 to the vintage models.

The OB-X8 is an OB-X, OB-SX, OB-Xa, and OB-8 all in one box which is meticulously voiced to emulate the sounds, features - and imperfections - of the legacy models.  It isn’t a complete emulation of the FVS as it lacks some of its modulation options and note assignment modes, but the OB-X8 does include the state variable filter (SVF) of the SEM module and as a bonus the SVF is completely programmable.  Achieving that raw organic bold legacy sound has eluded clonemakers for decades.  Nothing sounded like those vintage machines until the OB-X8.  The design team really disected the analog path that defined that classic sound.  The VCOs are the classic discrete SEM/OBX design which was originally designed by Dave Rossum of Emu fame (who also designed the polyphonic keyboard that launched the polyphonic synthesizer industry).  Those VCOs are very stable and stay in tune.  Filters include the SEM SVF with all modes (lowpass, highpass, bandpass, notch), OB-X (which is just the SVF in low pass mode), an authentic CEM3320 VCF used in the OBXa offering 12dB or 24dB response, and the same CEM3320 for the OB-8 but wired differently (the original OB-Xa used a pair of CEM3320s to achieve the two modes, the OB-8 used a single CEM3320 to accomplish the same feature using fewer parts).  While all the legacy models had the modulation section and VCO/VCF feature sets, there were miniscule differences from model to model and they have been included.  The OB-8's claim to fame was its "page 2" features under the hood that added many features and the OB-X8 includes them.  You can configure the authentic legacy model if you wish, but the cool thing about the OB-X8 is that you can select features between models - IE while the barebones OB-X never had "page 2", the OB-X8 allows such a configuration to happen.  Another contributor to "that sound" has been the VCA and voice summing circuit that are comprised of the classic-mildly-distorted-but not-high-fidelity CA3080 OTAs.  The OTAs impart some mild distortion that is pleasant on the ears.  Today you can substitute the 13700 or NE5571 for the obsolete CA3080; while I don't see either of these ICs on the OB-X8 voicecards (yes I peeked under the hood), that pleasant distortion is certainly there.  The initial OB-8 was released using CEM3360s for the voice VCA and voice summing circuit, but Tom later lamented they sounded "too clean"; yes the CEM3360 was a better fidelity device but had lacked the "dirt" of the original CA3080s.  Later OB-8 models reverted back to the 3080 design for the voice VCA.

It's not enough to couple VCOs to VCF to VCA and call it a "clone".  The coupling between circuits and component compositions impacts the sonority.  All the clones and softsynths/plugins missed these small but crucial elements; Oberheim engineers knew this "secret sauce" and implemented them in the OB-X8.

Besides the sonority, the legacy models had some "imperfections" that gave them an organic quality.  The OB-X was loaded with them.  Such "imperfections" were the product of the technology of the time - it was the best that was available.  "Imperfections" manifested themselves as variations in sound between voicecards - no two voicecards sounded perfectly identical. Some may label them as "faults" but Oberheim customers regarded them as "features".  Anyone who has played a unison patch on the OB-X with glide time set to medium/long times will notice that the gilde times vary between voicecards, they would all glide out of tune until the final pitch was reached.  With longer glide rates the variance was exaggerated but it was a cool effect.  When Oberheim advanced to later models, they made it a point to emulate this quirk in glide times - even in their digital glide.  VCOs weren't perfectly in tune between voices, and the pulse waves weren't the same shape either.  The VCF really introduced "imperfections" - the cutoff frequency, the modulation depth of the EG, the EG rates all varied between voices.  The differences could range from subtle to extreme, but in the end they gave the legacy Oberheims an organic quality where playing notes didn't all sound the same.  In fact the reason the "Tom Sawyer" rezz effects sounds the way it does is a direct result of these imperfections.

Luckily for us, Oberheim included the VINTAGE knob that emulates the imperfections of the older machines.  You can vary it anywhere from none to subtle to "what's-wrong-with-this-thing".  Other products call this control "Slop" (snicker). If you desire high "slop" settings but not the tuning, there's a separate control under Page 2 to adjust tuning separately.

There will be owners who complain that their OB-X8 doesn't sound like their vintage machine(s).  More often than not this is due to calibration or even a malfunction on the vintage machine (new users may not even know their vintage machine has a malfunction).  My units are correctly calibrated.

This thing is the ultimate in authenticity and my hat goes off to the team for such an accomplishment.  This is a very well thought out machine.  top

Features

This is written as of firmware v1.1.1.0 (July 2023).

The first thing to state is that the OB-X8 modulation features are basic - there's no voice modulation features like the P-5 "polymod" or Memorymoog voice modulation.  It isn't quite a FVS/EVS - no way to invert EG to VCF, only one master LFO (2nd one for vibrato only), can't route EG to PW, missing continuous sweep between LP and HP.  Most (not all) of those gaps are covered by my Trigon-6 - in fact these two machines cover each other's gaps!  While that does limit its palette of sounds, the legacy organic girth makes up for it.  Frankly it's hard to make a bad sound on this thing.

The audio path is pure 100% analog from the discrete SEM-design VCOs to the VCFs to the VCAs to the outputs.  While the modulation LFO is digital (it has to be with the page 2 options), the vibrato LFO is very likely analog.  A full featured arpeggiator similar to the OB-8 is available (and it transmits MIDI note messages!).  There is no sequencer and no onboard effects. 

The OB-X8 has the discrete VCOs of the SEM/OB-X, and includes six filter options - the four modes of the discrete 12dB/oct SVF (highpass, bandpass, notch, and lowpass which is also OB-X), the CEM3320 VCF in 12dB/oct and 24dB/oct modes in the OB-SX (12dB only), OB-Xa, and OB-8.  The OB-8 wiring is different from the OB-Xa and to my ears sounds the most "polite" of the lot.  The OB-X8 does have a genuine CEM3320 for each voice, not a clone.  The SEM SVF is a neat addition that opens up new sounds, and it is one of the better sounding multimode filters I have heard.  Ramp and pulse waveforms on the VCOs can be simultaneous (but not triangle waveforms).

The OB-X8 ships from the factory with all the factory patches that came with the legacy models.  I can only account for the factory patches for my OB-X and OB-SX but I can attest that they are dead on accurate.  The OB-X8 can load your backup tapes of your personal patches from your old Oberheim, but watch the VCO levels they can be a little hot.

The primary front panel controls will be familiar to any OB owner.  There are dedicated controls for VCO pitch, waveforms (triangle, ramp, and variable pulse), pulse width (shared with both VCOs on the front panel, but separate pulse width controls are available under Page 2), VCO2 detune, modulation rate, waveshape, destinations and depth, glide rate, mixer levels (variable under Page 2), VCF cutoff/resonance/EG depth/slope, VCF EG and VCA EG Attack/Decay/Sustain/Release, and programmable volume.  The front panel pays homage to the "grey block" decor of the OB-X, although third party "overlays" can be purchased for owners who prefer the "blue stripe" decor.  Many buttons like mix levels and VCF keyboard tracking were fixed amounts on legacy models, and  are now variable under Page 2.  All the front panel pots are damped, meaning you can't rapidly sweep the filter although there's a rear panel FILTER jack to use the filter control of your choice (CV pedal, external pot assembly, etc).

The OB-X8 is bi-timbral - split or double (layer) modes are available.  The only minus is the eight voices are divided for each and polyphony is now limited to four.  I did not see a chaining option in the user manual and there does not appear to be any facility to expand more voices beyond eight in the OB-X8.  Anyone who has owned a Four Voice or P5 won’t find this too limiting.  If its 61 note keyboard is not enough for a split mode, you can use an external 88 note MIDI controller.

They really went to work on authenticity of the legacy models, all the way to different quirks of modulation LFO and EG shapes between models.  EG shape between OB-8 and other legacy models were different, and both have their uses.  Likewise with modulation LFO - legacy models differed, and they're all available here.  Also there's an OB-8 feature with the VCOs that few users have understood - in OB-8 mode, the ramp and pulse waves are set at different levels than the other OB modes.  What the OB-8 mode offers is a VCO detuning effect using a single VCO. It's a trick that started with the Rhodes Chroma which frees the other VCO for other uses.  Clonk for more details.

I have MIDI retrofits installed in my vintage Oberheims; but due to circuit limitations they will never have MIDI volume, velocity, pitch bend, mod wheel, monoAT, polyAT, and many other MIDI features that the X8 has.  MIDI adds another dimension to the OB-X8.  Besides responding to MIDI notes 0 to 127 with note on velocity, PB, MW, breath, brightness (VCF cutoff), volume, sustain pedal, NRPNs (or CCs) for all front panel controls, sysex, the X8 responds to polyphonic pressure from an external MIDI controller (it currently does not implement MPE).  I’ve been WAITING for a polyphonic analog synth that could respond to polyphonic pressure - with the OB-X8 I can vary the pressure of each key on my MIDI controller and make the VCF cutoffs change for each key - lovely expressive tool.  With velocity sensing, I prefer the response from my Kurzweil MIDIBoard better than the OB-X8 keyboard.

You can only set the OB-X8 to a single MIDI channel.  Splits operate over the same MIDI channel and both halves share the same controllers IE pitch bend and mod wheel.  The good news is that you can use an external 88 note MIDI controller to extend the note range of each split.  The OB-X8 responds to MIDI note range 0 through 127, but at the really high notes the VCOs are in dog whistle territory and the CV tracking starts to fall off.  While the OB-X8 receives MIDI control pedal and breath control, the user guide doesn't tell you how to route them.  It doesn't currently respond to MIDI Tune Request (VERY important when controlling them remotely over MIDI) but the firmware team decided it is a worthwhile feature to add (no upgrade yet as of this webpage date).
 
Stereo left/right and mono outputs are available on the rear panel.  There is also a headphone output but don't use 600ohm headphone with it, the driver circuit can't provide enough power and the sound will be distorted (to test headphones, use the OB-SX preset C4).  8ohm headphones sound much clearer.  While the OB-X8 does not have effects, it does have panning options for stereo sound.  The legacy models had stereo outputs (except the OB-SX) which had to be manually set under the hood (the OB-8 made them accessible at a cutout in the right hand cheek) and was global for the instrument.  The OB-X8 does it all in firmware and the stereo panning is programmable per patch.  Panning options include PingPong, Spread, Splayed with variable depth.  A patch can also be mono, or there's an option under Globals to fix all patches to mono or stereo or per patch..  A 4L4R panning mode can be used to direct four voices each hard left and right for separate outputs in split and double mode  I’m a diehard digital effect user for getting stereo imaging, but the more I used the panning modes in the X8 the more I liked it.  It is an effective tool.

The patch library holds 768 patches, in 6 banks of 128 memory slots each.  Shipped from the factory the OB-X8 has banks labeled OB-X8, OB-8, OB-Xa, OB-SX, OB-X, and "User".  The legacy instrument bank has the factory patches of the original models, and the OB-X8 has 128 brand new patches.  All memory slots can be overwritten,  Everybody has their favorite Oberheim sounds made famous by artists, and I had no trouble dialing them up.  Thankfully Oberheim uses the same Schadow momentary button switches found on their classic OB synths.  These have a far longer life than the minuscule tactile momentary buttons (placed under panel mounted actuators) used on too much gear, which have a history of wearing out and cannot be restored.

In addition to the patch memory, there is also memory for splits and doubles - 128 of each.

Many functions of the legacy models have been expanded in the OB-X8.  IE keyboard tracking of the VCF is now variable instead of off/full, mixer levels of VCOs and noise are now variable instead of off/half/full, etc.  You can now set number of voices for a unison patch and select priority and trigger modes.

Menu diving through the OLED is minimal.  There's a "screensaver" that shuts off the OLED when the OB-X8 is inactive, which is good for prolonging the life of the OLED display.  The user interface is a generous front panel full of single-function knobs and buttons for most common functions.  There's a page 2 mode like the OB-8 that changes the function of certain front panel pots and buttons.  If you're an experienced OB-8 programmer, you'll find these familiar.  The Page 2 menu has an option to disable changing the front panel knobs/buttons and allows you to set the legacy "page 2" functions in the OB-X8 Page 2 menu.

"Page 2" of OB-8 vintage adds some modulators and interesting features.  Two ramp generators (MOD1, MOD2) with inversion and variable delay/attack can be used to "fade in" the mod depth in the Modulation section, or to modulate the modulation LFO rate, or as a transient pitch modulation to either/both VCOs.  Glide can be changed to portamento and the rates can be set to matched, to exponential shape, to fixed rate, and legato allows glide to occur only in legato playing.  The modulation LFO for voices 5-8 can be phase offset either 90 or 180 degrees - useful for double modes for more complex modulation.  I initially got excited seeing "LFO Keyboard Track" and thought "oh cool I can use the Memorymoog trick of using VCO3 in LFO mode to track the keyboard for each voice!!!"  Alas, that's not how this works - the OB-X8 has only two modulation LFOs for splits and doubles, but not one for each voice.  This is because voices 1-4 and 5-8 need independent modulation LFOs in split or double mode.

Velocity sensing and mono aftertouch are great additions with the top of the line semi-weighted Fatar TP9 keybed.  Aftertouch can be routed to Vibrato depth and/or VCF cutoff (opens the filter).  That keybed feels great and as a player I would gladly pay extra money for it.  64 tuning tables are included.

These are features that were valuable enough for me to acquire the OB-X8.

The desktop module is identical feature-wise (and it's REALLY lightweight!).  Some front panel buttons were omitted on the module and their controls were moved under Page 2.  The knobs and buttons are smaller, but the interface is not crowded.  The primary front panel controls are the same arrangement, while other controls have changed locations on the module so it takes a little getting used to if you also own the keyboard.  The desktop module is a few inches too wide to fit in a 19" rack.  As much as I wished for a rackmount package, I am told it will not happen - DARN!  top

Sound Design Tips

Detuned VCO effect using a single VCO: Turn on VCO1 and enable both ramp and pulse waveforms.   Go to Page 2 OSC SQUARE MODE & set it to "OB-8".  This sets the level of the pulse wave, crucial for the effect to work.  Experiment with Page 2 LFO TYPE “OB-X/Xa” or "OB-8".  Select the SINE waveshape in the modulation section.  In “OB-8” type this is actually triangle waveshape, which makes the PWM sound smooth for subtle detuning effect.  “OB-X/Xa” type seems more effective for wider detuning effect.  Apply PWM, adjust modulation rate, PWM depth, and VCO1 pulse width to taste.  Now you should hear the effect of two detuned VCOs.  Since it only uses a single VCO, the other VCO is free for such effects like hard sync.

If you wish to maintain better tuning, set the VINTAGE knob then decrease the VOICE DETUNE under page 2 (changing VINTAGE setting also changes VOICE DETUNE).

The OB-X filter (SEM LP) is sensitive to signal levels.  For patches with high filter resonance, if the OB-X8 VCO levels are too high it will degrade the resonance.  The filter sounds more authentic with VCO levels at about 95 and lower.

If you wish to have the EG transitions exactly the same in an OB-X patch while using VINTAGE, set ENVELOPE TYPE under page 2 to “OB-8”.  The VINTAGE control has no effect on "OB-8" EGs.

The difference between "glide" and "portamento" is that "glide" is a smooth transition between two notes while "portamento" progresses to the new note in half steps.  Some polysynths like the Yamaha CS-80/60/50 feature portamento, which is featured on the Loverboy hit single "Turn Me Loose".

If using the rear panel MONO output jack, make sure the setting under GLOBAL STEREO/MONO OUT is not set to STEREO.  If a program has panning active with STEREO mode active, the level of the voices out of the MONO jack may not be equal due to the panning operation.

Note assignment is cyclic only, no other options.

OB-8 users - don’t pull on the knobs in the X8 lever box.  Vibrato waveshape is selected under Page 2.

LFO can track the keyboard but only two software LFOs (one per set of four voices) and fixed 1/4 tracking (LFO rate doubles every four octaves).  Can’t do the Memorymoog trick of LFO per voice using VCO3 in LFO mode.

You can load your backup tapes of your patches from your OB-X/Xa/8 into the OB-X8 using the rear panel ARP jack (including OB-SX which never had cassette I/O jacks….?) 

First, make a sysex backup of each of the banks in the OB-X8.  Restored patches from tape backup overwrites the ones in the OB-X8.  Then configure your playback system to restore patches from your backup tape.  Plug the audio output of your playback device into the rear panel ARP jack.

You may need some adjustments - the detection system for tape restore is sensitive to level and tape speed.  Computers, laptops, and mobile devices may produce a signal that is too low and needs to be boosted with a mixer.  Tape players vary in playback speed, which changes the pitch of the signals on the tape - the X8 may not be able to detect data if the playback pitch is too far off. 

Cassette tapes are notorious for dropouts which causes data loss, especially as the tapes age.  They used to sell data cassette tapes for computers which were less vulnerable to dropouts.

Press the Write button to initiate the Globals cassette load routine, then start the playback.  Backups have several seconds of carrier tone before modem sounds kick in with all the data.  The OB-X8 screen will show a message indicating whether the audio level is too low, too high, or just right.   You may have to repeat the load routine while adjusting level/playback speed to get the reception to work.

The X8 detects which model the backup data is and loads your patches into the appropriate model (bank) into the first (n) groups (n=varies according to memory capacity of your legacy model).  Once the optimal setup is found, the OB-X8 stores the data in some buffer memory as it is reading the backup tape.  When the backup tape load is complete, the OB-X8 will flash a bunch of lights for several seconds as it transfers the buffer memory info into the OB-X8 patch memory. 
All patches restored from backup tape have the generic patch name “<model> Cassette” in the <model> bank.  top

Epilogue

How about new sounds?  I’ve been experimenting and have dialed up patches that the legacy models could never do.  The SVF sounds really good, and its bandpass filter has produced some of the best brass/reed patches I have made to date.  Oberheim included the classic XMOD cross modulation for clangorous sounds, and added another cross modulation option using VCO2 triangle waveshape and made it variable depth (the classic XMOD was fixed depth).  The triangle cross modulation depth is matched from voice to voice which is great for playing clangorous chords in tune.  With that new feature and the notch mode of the SVF, I came up with the sound of a monster movie grandfather clock chime, and it sounds scary.  The vampire lurks...

When the desktop module became available, I purchased two of them (their serial numbers are consecutive).  The intention of the two modules - along with my Trigon-6 module - was to replace my aging Andromeda, which has occasionally crashed on stage in the middle of a song.  Between the three modules I get the Oberheim voice and the Memorymoog voice which have always co-existed nicely in a keyboard rig.  Besides wanting a compact desktop package, I wanted to reduce the number of keyboards in my stage rig.  MIDI is heavily utilized in my stage system and I wanted to control as much as my gear remotely over MIDI as possible.  So with these modules, my stage system is reduced to just two keyboards - my Kurzweil MIDIBoard (the master MIDI controller) and my Hammond XK3, which can also function as a second MIDI controller.  I also have a Moog Taurus II Controller with MIDI retrofitted for those songs where I need to play parts with my feet.

Does the OB-X8 have matrix modulation like the Xpander and modern synths?  No it does not.  While I love my Andromeda with the deep modulation options it offers, the OB-X8 has other tricks the Andromeda cannot do.  The Oberheim team put the focus on capturing the vintage Oberheim sound/features in a modern synth, and it does it so well that I can live with its limited modulation options.  The OB-X8 has no onboard effects like the OB-6, but I prefer my own outboard effects anyway.  My goal with two desktop modules in my stage rig is to dedicate one of them to split/double mode.  In split mode, each half is panned hard left/right to external effects processors, which is how I used the Andromeda's AUX 1/2 outputs.  The other module will be dedicated to non-split/double mode where all eight voices can be used in a patch.  This mimics my usual MIX convention on the Andromeda, from which I got a lot of mileage.

Am I selling the old models?  Nah - they're useful for extending the polyphony and multitimbrality of the 8 voice limit of the X8.

Why get an OB-X8 and not vintage?
- Warranty
- vintage Oberheim sound in a modern product, best authenticity to legacy model features (and quirks)
- Velocity sensitive keyboard with mono aftertouch.
- Receives polyphonic aftertouch from external MIDI controller.
- Case of OB-X8 keyboard model is shallower than legacy models.
- Minimal maintenance - no trimpots!
- Legacy models can be retrofitted with MIDI, but won’t have the deeper MIDI functions of the X8
- Arpeggiator can be clocked externally from rear panel jack or from MIDI/USB
- Your cassette tape patch backups can be loaded into the X8
- Vintage only has fixed VCO/Noise levels - full, half, or off.  X8 adds variable VCO levels which allows some sound design tricks.  Page 2 VCO/Noise Level=49 is the equivalent of the HALF button on legacy models.
- OB-X/Xa/SX: each VCO could select saw or pulse not both.  X8 can set both, triangle also available.  Combined with page 2 VCO Square Mode this permits some sound design tricks.
- OB-X/SX were only models that offered crossmod (XMOD) using VCO2 ramp waveform to modulate VCO1 at fixed depth.  X8 not only duplicates XMOD but it adds another crossmod using VCO2 triangle waveform with variable modulation depth.  Both can be used on the X8.
- all the legacy VCF types (including SEM HP/BP/Notch modes), envelope shapes, LFO quirks
- Legacy models had VCF Keyboard tracking but fixed to 1V/oct.  X8 allows variable keyboard tracking, AND the tracking follows the TRANSPOSE buttons in the lever box.
- Transpose/Mod/Arp buttons in lever box can be stored with each program.
- VINTAGE knob on front panel emulates voice-to-voice imperfections of tuning, envelope times, VCF cutoff, VCF EG depth, etc.
- X8 has programmable volume per patch - OB-X/Xa did not.
- X8 unison mode can use (x) number of voices from 1 to 8.  Legacy models were all voices.
- X8 adds note priority modes (low, high, last, single/multiple trigger) in unison mode.  Originals were only low note single trigger.
- X8 is quieter.  When no voices are firing, the OB-X produced background noise that got worse with increasing number of installed voices.
- Original OB-X/Xa/SX did not have OB-8 Page 2 functions of OB-8.  In the X8, Page 2 functions can be used on ANY model.
- LFO can be analog (OB-X/Xa) or digital (OB-8)
- Alternate keyboard scales (64)
- “case candy” - bumper stickers and an Oberheim coaster!
- solves an annoying problem with MIDI-retrofited vintage Oberheims: with increasing filter resonance (12dB mode) the voices get louder and there’s no programmable volume on OB-X/OB-SX to compensate and the MIDI retrofits can’t control volume.  Since I use inline effects, the drastic change in volume was a problem.  The OB-X8 has programmable volume which solves this.
- UNISON mode on the legacy models sound great but eight voices firing at once was a little much and there was a drastic increase in volume.  See previous point.  OB-X8 offers an option to set UNISON mode to fire anywhere from one to all eight voices - single voice is better for monophonic solo patches
- While I love my vintage OB-X, it tends to lose patches between power cycles.  This is due to an inferior power down reset circuit.  Too risky to gig.
- Market value US$: OB-X8=$5K FVS=$20K OB-X=$15K OB-Xa=$10K OB-8=$8K OB-SX=$4K

Why get vintage and not X8?
- only if you must have the real deal (and all the maintenance/restoration headaches that come with it)
- Long out of warranty through hole components can still be repaired

The best thing about the OB-X8... no calibration or tuning foibles (anyone who owns/owned a vintage Oberheim knows this too well).  Calibration is painless using the firmware

In a nutshell, the OB-X8 is destined to be a classic.  Hard to make a bad sound on this thing.  top

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