The Oberheim OB-8 Synthesizer

The Oberheim OB-8 is a vintage analog synthesiser launched by Oberheim in 1983 and discontinued in 1985. It features 8-voice polyphony and is highly programmable, making it a popular classic synth keyboard.

It features a 61-note piano keyboard, LFO modulation, filters, external cassette storage, MIDI capability and 120 memory patches, and used the Z80 CPU.

According to EM’s Julian Colbeck:

The OB-8 was last in the line of classic Oberheim analog synthesizers that included the OB-X, OB-Xa, and OB-SX, each of which is well regarded for its warmth and richness. Although Tom Oberheim said that the OB-8 is too perfect, lacking the earlier models’ grit, it’s still a human-sounding instrument. Most synthesizer aficionados agree that the OB-8 doesn’t sound inferior to the OBXa, and they appreciate the OB-8’s extra programming facilities, stability, and economy.

The OB-8 is a superb instrument for players and programmers. Although OB-8s are not plentiful, they are still somewhat of a bargain at current prices and well worth looking out for.

Artists who have used the OB-8 include Prince, Queen, Van Halen, Styx, Kool & The Gang, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, The Police, Silent Running (Belfast band) , The KLF, Future Sound of London, Barnes & Barnes and Nik Kershaw.

If you’ve used the Oberheim OB-8, leave a comment with your thoughts!

Specifications:

  • Synthesizer Components: 8 Synthesizer Voices, 3 LFOs, Noise Source, Arpeggiator
  • Number of Programs: 120 Patch (sound) Programs, plus 12 Split and 12 Double Programs
  • Keyboard: 5 Octaves; keyboard modes: FULL, SPLIT (splits OB-8 into two
    independent synthesizers), and DOUBLE (plays both independent
    synthesizers simultaneously); programmable split point and
    transpositions anywhere on the keyboard (in split or double)
  • Outputs: Stereo and Mono
  • Foot Controls: Sustain, Hold, Program Advance footswitches
    Volume, Filter, Vibrato pedals (voltage controllable)
  • Power: 95 -240 Volts AC, 50i60 Hz, 45 Watts
  • Dimensions: 40″(101.Gcm) wide, 20;'(50.8cm) deep, 6″(15.24cm) high

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7 thoughts on “The Oberheim OB-8 Synthesizer

  1. I had an OB8. Lots of fun, but expensive breakdowns were common. Thing spent most of its time in repair.

    I was pleased to get rid of it.

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  2. Having worked @ Oberheim Electronics during that time and speaking as a player, sound-wise, of that series, the OB-X had a subtle but better overall sound, followed by OB-Xa and OB-8. The OB-X just had more bite. I think the problem was that the output impedance of the voice cards on the OB-Xa and OB-8 were not well matched for the final summing amps.

    FWIW, the Prophet V had the best filters even with Curtis chips. After analyzing the filter circuits, I found Seq Circuits had buffered the filter feedback, where OB did not. Prophet just sounded juicier.

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  3. As an OB-8 owner I am curious… Can I have my synth modified to duplicate how Seq Circuits had buffered the filter feedback, so that my OB-8 will sound juicier too? Also can I correct the matching of the output impedance of the voice cards to make them betterl matched for the final summing amps like to OB-Xa and OBX? Thanks! Mark

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  4. I fell love with the glorious sonic character of the OB-8 in early 80s. Back then the Australian cities of Sydney and Melbourne had incredibly vibrant music scenes and there were many competent bands exploring all manner of musical styles – many of whom employed music technology is wonderful ways – including the OB-8: Pseudo Echo, The Venetians, Real Life (JP-8), Koo De Tah, Eurogliders (Wave PPG 2.2), Kids In The Kitchen, Wa Wa Nee to mention but a few. I had tears in my eyes when I was lucky enough to experience Simple Minds in a small intimate venue (also OB-8 uses). I just had to own one you see. It took ten years before I did – I still own it and love it to death.
    Yes the OB-8 has a sound, but for me this a good thing. Far more exciting than yesterdays “Rompler”. It can be dirty or sweet. Wet and Lush or dry and in your face. Consider early Prince (an OB-Xa but close) – now consider the ethereal splendor of Simple Minds “New Gold Dream” – or the funky lines of Chaka Khan (yes I’m showing my age – but). Even today I amazed how often I hear an OB-8 in so many dance tracks – only a finite number of them were actually made as I understand it!!
    There are many wonderful electronic instruments that have earned their CLASSIC status. I believe they do so for very good reason – their sonic character is distinct, rich, superior.
    My list of the greats would have to include: The OB-8, Minimoog, Arp Odyssey, E-mu E-III, Wave PPG 2.3, Fairlight CMI, Yamaha TX-816, Roland JD-800, Korg TR-rack and the Kurzweil K series. I own and very much enjoy some of these instruments. Romplers and even samplers can get close – but thats all. In a studio, through a good desk, the difference is clear.
    I’ve been blown away by Herbie Hancock playing a Casio – so its not about gear – but I still LUV my OB-8.

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  5. I own this synth for 27 years and still use it professionally. To me it represents the apex of classical polyphonic analog synth technology. At the time of purchase, I could have chosen between it, the OB-X and the OB-Xa. I find true that the OB-X had somewhat richer sound (due to the x-mod feature, dropped since OB-Xa), but much more advanced programability, sophisticated performance controls, MIDI and capability of splitting and layering voices made me finally go for the OB-8. Amazing how rich and fresh it still sounds, almost 3 decades since its production times.

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