Oberheim OB-8

Oberheim OB-8 Image

The OB-8 was the last of the classic OB series that included the OB-1, OB-Xa and OB-X. The OB-8 is a very warm and rich sounding eight voice polyphonic synthesizer with that classic Oberheim sound. Because it was released just before MIDI debuted, the OB-8 had no MIDI implementation originally, but some models were retrofitted with 9-channel MIDI implementation. The OB-8 did use Oberheim's very own digital buss system making the OB-8 the center-piece of your OB-studio, allowing it to connect to the DSX polyphonic sequencer, DMX drum machine and other OB-synths. In a time before MIDI, this type of instrument connectivity was truly awesome!

The OB-8 is totally programmable and loaded with powerful analog sounds and style. Dedicated knobs, sliders and a traditional layout make programming a snap and very hands-on. Each individual voice can be de-tuned for a very thick (or weird) sound. Syncable VCOs and a nice 8-note arpeggiator are also on-board on this cool analog synth. It has the OB-Xa's switchable 2 or 4-pole VCF (filter) with ADSR. Tons of LFO modulation controls and effects are possible. The OB-8 also introduced a second layer of programming functions - hit the "Page 2" button and all front panel controls were assigned to an entire second set of parameters! The earliest models did not label these hidden "Page 2" functions on the front panel, but that was rectified on later models.

Oberheim OB-8 Image

Up to 120 patches of memory storage were also available to keep your amazing sounds around. And 24 additional patches are available for doubled/layer presets. A full 61-note keyboard with Oberheim's unique pitch/modulation benders only sweetens this synth's deal. It is used by Depeche Mode, Prince (the Artist), The Police, Trent Reznor (NIN), Thompson Twins, Rush, Simple Minds, Jimmy Edgar, Jimmy Jam, KLF, Van Halen, Stevie Nicks, Styx, Future Sound of London, Space, REO Speedwagon Paul McCartney, and The Time.

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38 Visitor comments
March 25, 2010 @ 9:26 pm
OB-8's rev 1 had the ECO changes that made somethings problematic, but as later revisions were released this machine became a truly great work of engineering skill. Tom Oberheim is an engineering genius, who assembled a company of like minded people, and built an empire and legacy in music. The OB interface was a parallel buss interface, built for speed in an 8 bit/16bit world, because at the time serial was too slow, being FSK @ 1200 baud/2400.
We are talking magic with snails on razor blades!

Much time/troubleshooting/documentation/blood/sweat/tears - went into the making of these instruments and they are true masterpieces of engineering technology, even to this day. The retrofits came as a matter of necessity, but too late to save the company from the inevitable digital downfall, or I should say download of Yamaha's DX 7 debut and the death of American dinosaur synthesizer manufacturers Oberheim Electronics and Sequential Circuits Inc.
January 14, 2010 @ 9:57 am
Great big American analog polysynth with a great big sound.....easy to program and play.....these can still be found for prices lower than a Prophet-5, Memorymoog, or JP-8.....and they're just as great!!!
April 2, 2009 @ 4:54 am
Big synthetiser
Big sound
I try OB1 ; OB8 ;Matrix 6 after 1987 ( composer friend )
I like. Big Dimension. sTRANGE FEELING ON KEYBORD...
For PRO NOT novice i THINK ...
Sorry for my bad english ! Bye !
March 21, 2009 @ 12:37 pm
I noticed some here mentioned that the OB-8 was not good for rock, but look at the rock names that used them: Van Halen, Queen, Rush, Steve Stevens (messed around on them), Trent Reznor, Yes, and Depeche Mode (not so rock) to name but a few. Yes it was a cleaner sounding synth, but that was the intention. Alot of bands were looking for this design. A powerful bottom end for arpeggiation, and a clear defined mid to top end, as a counterpoint for dual leads with the everdeveloping processed guitar sounds of the eighties. Not a bad thing. It's not a be it end all design, but it is a landmark instrument. You can spot it in second.
March 7, 2009 @ 5:19 pm
I have owned both an OB-Xa and an OB-8 (which I still own). I bought both keyboards for under a grand ($750 & $900 resp.) I bought them both around 5 years ago. I would have kept the OB-xa but it was missing 3 of the 8 voice boards so it sounded flat & kept dropping voices. At that time, voice boards were(and still are) expensive and hard to find. It would have cost me around another $1500 to buy the 3 boards which is double what I spent. Two of the sellers did not "guarantee" if they even worked. So, not having all that money to to spend, I sold the OB-xa 3 years later for almost double what I spent! Just from my experience, I would give the sound notch to the OB-xa but not by much. The fact that the OB-8 has midi and being more stable, offsets the lack of true punch of the other.
Bottom line, get what you can now-it's only going to cost more later on! I also had a chance to get back then a Jupiter 8 for $1650 and a Prophet 5 for $1400. Well....coulda, shoulda, woulda........
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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 - 8 voices
  • Oscillators - 2 vco's per voice: saw, pulse, triangle
  • Memory - 120 patch programs, 12 split programs, and 12 double programs; external cassette storage; MIDI SysEx data dump
  • Filter - Switchable 2-pole or 4-pole VCF w/ ADSR
  • LFO - Triangle, Square, Ramp, Samp+Hold
  • Keyboard - 61 keys (can be split or doubled); no velocity or aftertouch
  • Arpeg/Seq - 8-note arpeggiator with external sync source
  • Control - MIDI (Channels 1-9) added as a retrofit
  • Date Produced - 1983 - 1985
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