Oberheim Four Voice

Oberheim 4 Voice Image

A big step forward after the initial Oberheim SEM and Two Voice synthesizers came from the bigger and better Four Voice. Four dual-oscillator SEM modules each with its own filters and envelopes are joined together along with a simple analog mixer and 49-note keyboard to give you a polyphonic/polytonal Obie-beast!

This combination gives you eight oscillators and four voices of polyphony because there are basically four discrete mono-synths all connected together. This has its pros and cons. What is cool is that this was a lot of simultaneous voices for the mid-seventies. And the ability to craft a different sound on each voice led to some diverse and complex sounds. However, it also meant you have to program each voice independently. Each voice also has its own independent audio output.

The Polyphonic Synthesizer Programmer, released in 1976 and added to the Four Voice stores 16 patches per voice (all of which can be different). The Four Voice could accommodate an additional four SEMs, making it just like the Eight Voice model which officially appeared in 1977.

Unfortunately the Four Voice was blown out of the competition by the release of the polyphonic Sequential Prophet-5, which offered true polyphony with a single set of sound shaping controls and comprehensive patch memory. The Four Voice has been used by 808 State, Depeche Mode, Styx, Pink Floyd, The Shamen, Gary Wright, Joe Zawinul and John Carpenter.

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14 Visitor comments
August 10, 2009 @ 4:02 pm
Warmest Oberheim synth tone I have ever laid ears on. The SEMs are not as versatile as the later Oberheim synths, they trade features for a better sound. What sounds this synth can make, they are made very well. My Four-Voice was serviced about 2 years ago and has stable tuning. Its not as easy to find the out of tune oscillator as on later OB synths with auto-tune.

Think of the four-voice not as a poly-synth but as a mono-synth quartet. A lot of people complain about having to change the settings on each SEM when are creating a sound, but I think of it as blending and voicing the four SEMs together. Bass/Chord split sound are very easy and fun to make, you can look at all the knobs at once instead of switching between patches/sections on a modern synth.
Goldy B.
November 9, 2008 @ 6:34 pm
prince used it on 1999
October 20, 2008 @ 11:30 am
What a great synth. I wish I still had mine. In the unison mode that thing was a monster. I didn't like the first note priority on the keyboard though.
October 13, 2008 @ 9:59 am
This one is unique. Of course better than to describe it is to listen to it. Best examples are the early works of Pat Metheney Group, and keyboarder Lyle Mays' solo album "Lyle Mays". The sound is incredible warm - you can really hear the voltage flow. Compared to other synths, the modulation routings are very limited, but that is simply not the point - you just can't get this sound character out of any other machine.
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Rated 4.24 (268 Votes)

  • Check Price
  • 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 - 4 voices
  • Oscillators - 8 VCO's (2 per voice) with sawtooth or variable-pulse waveforms
  • LFO - LFO with triangle wave only
  • Filter - Low, band, high, notch filter w/ resonance
  • VCA - 2 ADR envelopes
  • Keyboard - 49 keys
  • Arpeg/Seq - None
  • Memory - 16 patches via programmer module
  • Control - CV / Gate
  • Date Produced - 1975-1979
  • Resources & Credits
  • Images from

    Thanks to Bonnie Goodwin for this information.

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