Oxford Synthesiser Company OSCar

OSC OSCar Image

The OSCar is a classic mono-synth from British manufacturer Oxford Synthesiser Company (OSC). It came in 1983 and though it was in the same class as the Arp Odyssey and Minimoog mono-synths, its late arrival makes it one of the more advanced programmable mono-synths of its time! It's got a really cool sound, digitally controlled dual oscillators with analog filters, and plenty of programmability all packed into a quirky little plastic case with 37 keys. MIDI also appeared on later revisions as well.

Its sound starts out from its two DCO's. The synth is monophonic but can also achieve duophonic capability when using just one oscillator per voice. Waveforms offered include sawtooth, triangle, and square-, variable-, or modulated-pulse waveforms. In addition to these analog waveforms, there's an additive-synthesis function allowing you to create your own custom waveforms by simply mixing the amplitudes of any of its 24 harmonics using the keyboard. Up to 24 of these custom waves can be stored and used with either oscillator.

Once you've got some sounds it's time to hit the filter section - the real analog heart of this synth! It has two 12dB/oct filters which can be linked for a steeper 24dB/oct slope. It features switchable lowpass, highpass and bandpass filtering and your basic frequency cutoff and resonance type controls. The filter has its own ADSR envelope as well (a second ADSR envelope controls the amplifier section). The filter can also be modulated by the LFO. The OSCar's LFO offers triangle, sawtooth, square, and other wave shapes and can also be used to modulate the amp, pitch, or pulse-width. There's even a sample-and-hold function.

OSCar Image

A simple built-in sequencer gave the OSCar duophonic capabilities! It could play a sequence on one of the oscillators while the keyboard can be used to simultaneously play along with the sequence. It stores up to 24 sequences. When MIDI came on later models after 1984, you could easily synchronize your OSCar and other MIDI gear together and patches stored in memory could be dumped via MIDI to more permanent offline storage mediums. MIDI models also offered 36 programmable memory patches which are assigned to the actual keyboard keys (pre-MIDI models had 12 preset and 24 user patches). The OSCar is usually hard to find and they usually need some work (they're almost 20 years old), but it's a favorite and classic little beast which has been used by Hardfloor, Orbital, Ozric Tentacles, BT, Jean-Michel Jarre, Asia, Ultravox, Stevie Wonder, Sneaker Pimps, Keith Emerson, Sneaker Pimps, and Underworld.


Check out GMEDIA Music's impOSCar - an amazing, authentic, and realistic software synth modeled after the OSCar, with major enhancements including more polyphony, effects, patch memory, total recall, controller automation, and much more - all for less than $200!

Lookup Oxford Synthesiser Company OSCar Prices

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51 Visitor comments
ron
October 22, 2011 @ 8:08 pm
I won an OSC Oscar on eBay for $4000. A lot of money but worth every cent if you ask me. The later M2 MIDI versions are the ones to go for. The internal connectors are terrible and should be replaced asap along with a new battery. Then the Oscar should be pretty reliable.
ian
May 27, 2011 @ 8:06 am
Just picked one of these babies up. Have been wanting to get one since I discovered them in 1994 but has taken me this long to actually get hold of one. I simply cannot get over how far ahead of it's time this synth was. Mine has the last MIDI version with 36 patch memories and sequences. I've owned plenty of Minimoogs, ARP's, Rolands etc and the OSCar just knocks the spots off any of them IMHO. If you love programming and incredibly fat gritty sounds..this is the synth for you. My only regret is not getting one in the 90's when they were around £400! Now they are big bucks but I can see why!
jubilamvs
May 12, 2011 @ 6:01 am
Sneaker Pims used it, and also did Sneaker Pimps.

Cheers
ian
May 8, 2011 @ 4:12 pm
The first time I ever heard an OSCar in action was "Future Sound Of London - Omnipresence". Took me years to find out what that amazing bassline was created with.

check out the bassline from 2.07 onwards!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lLWHfyG1Ss
Mutascan
March 31, 2011 @ 8:29 am
I just got one that seems to work fine! What an amazing sound...it is really deep and grainy and you can come up with many unpredictable sounds with even the slightest knob tickle...can't seem to find a way to find-load the original sounds tho. :(
 
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  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - Monophonic (Duophonic via built-in Sequencer)
  • Oscillators - 2 DCO's with sawtooth, triangle, and square-, variable- or modulated-pulse waveforms and 5 preset digital wavefroms
  • LFO - 1 LFO with square, triangle, sawtooth waveforms, sample-and-hold
  • Filter - Two 12dB/oct analog filters which can be linked in series for 24dB/oct configuration. Lowpass, bandpass, highpass modes. Dedicated ADSR envelope, Frequency Cutoff and Resonance controls.
  • VCA - Two ADSR Envelopes
  • Keyboard - 37 keys
  • Memory - Pre-MIDI Model: 12 user, 24 preset patches. MIDI-equipped models: 36 programmable patches. Custom Waveforms: 24 waves. Sequencer: 24 sequences.
  • Control - Trigger In, MIDI available on some later models
  • Date Produced - 1983 - 1986

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