Analog + Digital Compared: OP-X PRO-II vs. The Oberheim OB-X

Here’s an analog vs virtual analog comparison, via virtualoberheim, of the SonicProjects OP-X PRO-II virtual Oberheim VSTi software synth for Windows and a vintage Oberheim OB-X Rev.2.

The lower manual in the video is an USB MDI master keyboard (an Emu Xboard 61) which drives OP-X PRO-II hosted in Steinberg Cubase 5. No effects or any other treatments were involved, both OB-X and OP-X PRO-II were recorded directly to disk, OB-X over the line inputs of an RME HDSP 9632.

The video switches quickly back and forth between the two sources, making it easy to listen for differences.

Check it out and let us know what you think! Can you hear differences between the vintage Oberheim and its virtual recreation?

Patch Details:

The exact detunings (deviating filter settings, warm up pitch drift, etc.) and the individual pan settings of the voices of OB-X have been copied with the voice-based tuning features of OP-X PRO-II.

To copy the bright sound OP-X PRO-II uses the BRL (brilliant) filter setting (DMP button, second button above voice mutes). which is dedicated to copy the sound character of the early OB-X and allows the filter to open into the ultra sound area and adds some extra shine in the heights.

The patches as used in the video:

  • 00:02 Preset 04 B3 – Slow Upsweep
  • 02:05 Preset 03 D8 – Resonance Pad
  • 08:01 Preset 05 D2 – Sync Unison
  • 08:26 Preset 01 D4 – Soft Brass
  • 09:53 Preset 06 D6 – Soft Strings
  • 10:44 Preset 02 C7 – Fullanalog Strings

The used patches can be downloaded here.

The letter number combinations are the physical memory locations of the patches in the used original synth which were copied with OP-X PRO-II for the comparison.

See the SonicProjects site for details on OP-X PRO-II.


31 thoughts on “Analog + Digital Compared: OP-X PRO-II vs. The Oberheim OB-X

  1. Great emulation, really close, and good enough for me! Some of the sounds and parameters differ, but only slightly. Well done, but we need an OSX version!!!
    Come on, its about god damn time!

  2. The digital is close…but to me lacks something….a blind scomparison would be better and inperson…the thing is the same digital synth will all sound identical to all it’s clones…where as every individual analog synth is going to sound just a little different. Fo a lot of music that utilizes synths as part of the make up of instrumentation digital fits the bill for cost, useability etc…for geres like Minimal Techno and the various derivations of sub genres the difference between analog and digital begin to become more important…. If you are going to make a recording of a virtuoso voilinist playing a great piece of music you want to capture the highest quality perfromance and sound. If you could you would want to have them on a great violin. Not a okay mimic of one. Same holds true for synths, digital vs. analog….it is all in the purpose and use….basically its all good.

  3. Real OB-X seems somehow fatter to my ears. That’s what lacks to the emulation : that “something”, that particular fatness/warmness.
    It’s good anyway !

  4. What’s “missing” in any software synth is the low-order distortion, or “warmth,” that people perceive as a full, rich tone. I’ve played several hardware Oberheims and frankly, the OP-X IS extremely close. I suspect you could dial in just a touch of distortion or tube-amp and become indistinguishable from the real thing. Besides, if you’re looking at an oscilloscope instead of playing the synth, whassamatta with u? Its a nice piece of work, period.

  5. Buy the instrument and you have an instrument. Buy the software and you have software. How long will you have the computer the software is installed on and when will the software no longer be compatible with the OS of computers in the future? I bought a MiniMoog model D 36 years ago. I can plug it in and still get a great sound out of it. Could the same be said of this software 36 years from now?

    1. Fair enough. But how much did you pay for the MiniMoog 36 years ago? I bet it was a whole lot more than a couple hundred bucks. And how much have you spent maintaining it, carrying it around, buying electricity to power it, etc. It’s a much bigger feeling of potential loss when you invest thousands rather than a couple hundred. Spending $200 every 5 years on a new software synthesizer for the next 36 years would only cost you $1440. And you would get the benefit of current instrument advances every time. To keep it realistic, you would also need to factor in the machines to run it on and you add another few thousand, with a declining cost curve as time goes on. But you were already buying those machines anyway to do multiple other tasks, so that cost can’t be applied in full to this scenario.

      The software route offers way more benefit. I’ll admit hardware has the edge for certain types of sound, but software has the advantage in every other way, and has it in heaps. The sound quality issue will be gone within 5 years, and we can finally put this tiring argument to rest.

      1. I’m one of those who has shrunk from a hardware stack to a Mac-centric world for reasons of creative logistics and financial expense. I can work with few issues and its dazzlin’ to be that liberated. In the end, I am satisfied that essentially ALL of these instruments are sufficient-to-outstanding.

        The bigger issue is storage and having to upgrade formats every 5-10 years. I have cassettes from 1975 that still perform well. I’ve had 10-12 CDs die on me, 4 of them commercial. I store everything I do in 4 or more physical places, with hard disks I DISconnect after I update and a box full of flash drives. Our music is only as robust as the means to preserve it and the time we give to both creating and listening to it. Will your grandkids care enough to listen to your noodlings once you’ve kacked it, or even be able to do so, if USB becomes the new wax cylinder? Even if you’ve never touched a hardware Oberheim and you are knocked out by your OP-X, you’re still in The Club. Play, polish it, share it Now. Seeking immortality is for wussies.

        1. >Our music is only as robust as the means to preserve it

          This is true and it brings up a simple blunt fact that is almost always overlooked or left unsaid: There is only ONE historically tested and proven method for preserving music from generation to generation and that is SHEET MUSIC. The J.P. Morgan Library and Museum has an online collection of hand-written manuscripts from people like Beethoven, Chopin and others. You can actually see the music the master wrote with their own hands. And the manuscripts still do today exactly what they did a hundred years ago, they communicate music.

          But how many people make it a priority to learn traditional notation? To practice it?

          In all the conversations about DAWS we’ve had here at Synthtopia, how many people have championed Sibelius 7? Or even mentioned it?

          I love the convenience of USB drives and SD cards and standardized file formats for MIDI and audio and even videos. But I get in notation practice every day, too. Sheet music is forever, REALLY forever.

          1. About SHEET MUSIC: interesting point. The hand-written notes have survived over the centuries, that’ s true. But the way the music was performed leaves many room for speculation and (mis-)interpretation. This is especially true for very old notated music from Gregorian Chant to early Renaissance and Baroque music. Scholars and specialized musicians do try to guess but we will never know for sure.

            But at least we are able to TRY to bring that old music to life, thanks to hand-written sheet music.
            200 years form now will we still know how an Oberheim OB-X sounded? Will we still be able to listen to the electronic music that is created today?

            The good news is: That doesn’t stop us making music and noises TODAY.

    2. And if you had invested your $1,500 in 1976, it would be worth about $12,000 now, so you could buy a Minimoog Model D, a Minimoog Voyager XL, the Oberheim OB-X and OP-X PRO-II and still had more than you started with.

      Or you could have cornered the market on TB-303’s back in the 80’s!

      The possibilities are endless!

  6. In the end hardware is always cheeper, but soundwise perhaps the difference is not that great to overcome the initial cost.

  7. I don’t think you are dis-allowed from thumbs-up or thumbs-down. I think the thumbs are broken right now for everyone. (Programmers can build granular soft-synths and emulate classic hardware synths, but apparently no programmers in the world can build a comment system that works for more than two days at a time.)

    1. markLouis – we switched on HTTP compression last night for several page elements on the site to increase page load speed. We use a lot of graphics and embeds, so we’re doing what we can behind the scenes to make pages load as fast as possible.

      Some browsers barfed on using the compressed thumbs up thumbs down script, so we switched it back to the way it was.

      1. It would sound more exciting if you said the Anonymous hackers were attacking Synthtopia for May Day because the site is so popular, and the software was battling them while trying to maintain full functionality. But, yeah, “http compression” is good, too, I guess.

  8. I clear difference is that the digital version doesn’t have the tuning vagaries the analog synth occasionally demonstrates!

  9. I have both here! OP-X and the OBX ith 8 voices . The real OB-X sounds much fatter and more raw. the filter sound is different. The OP-X software is good but for me no 1:1

  10. For me personally the software wins because of the workflow as well as the huge space constraints I have (as long as it sounds good, which in this case it clearly does). I tend to get more, better sounding music done with plugins then my hardware synths in general, for whatever reason.

    But man, I would love to have a real OBX, or even just a chance to play with one for a little while. Its just a beautiful sounding instrument, plain and simple. That’s the beauty of being a synth user in 2012 and beyond, you have so many options to find what works for you.

  11. Cheers fellow synthesists, for having a clear-headed discussion about a subject that could easily lead to a bitter and worthless 6 month argument on Gearslutz lol. Of course real instruments are great, pretty much everyone agrees on that. But software has opened up lots of musical possibilities for many of us which have helped us create music we never could have before. I’m a plug-in slut for sure, but I’m also constantly on the lookout for affordable analog equipment just as a violinist craves a Stradivarius. Even though the golden age of rock is well over and the music industry ain’t what it once was, for me it’s a great consolation to be able to work with such a wide variety of sounds and create the sort of tracks that George Martin’s engineers might once have spent a month to pull off.

    It ain’t digital vs analog, it’s digital And analog for most of us! Our musician forefathers would have sold their own limbs for the kind of studio most of us have these days, I’m sure of it.

    1. Well said!

      I’d love to have a studio full of awesome vintage gear and a huge modular synth and all, but I can’t afford that yet.

      I CAN afford a small setup and some software synths, and the state of what soft synths can do is incredible now. The Korg iMS-20 is fantastic – it’s deep and it sounds great. Makes me want to get a real MS-20! But I think we’re lucky that synth apps let you get great sounds and learn about synth patching without having to spend thousands of dollars.

      1. I really like iMS-20 also – much of the excellence of the hardware for a tiny fraction of the cost and space. DS-10+ is also very well done and rather amazing for something that runs on a handheld game player! If I upgrade to a new iPad/iPhone/DS/etc. at some point, I may be sorely tempted to keep my old one(s) around as synthesizers.

  12. Even in this crappy mp4 video you can tell that…. the real Oberheim is sometimes really out of tune!! 😉 (Though maybe it was intentional at 7:50?)
    The software sounds good and occasionally sounds *great*!
    The Oberheim sounds fabulous all the time, even when it’s out of tune – it almost sounds like a piano or something.
    I really like the Oberheim waveforms – I think they sound particularly good and fuzzy in the lower registers, though the software seems slightly tinnier. Sometimes the software reminds me a bit of my P’08, which is high praise since it’s a great instrument!
    Of course maybe the original poster will tell us that he switched the sounds to trick us…in that case, I’m buying the software I guess!
    In any case, cheers to Tom Oberheim for creating such an iconic instrument and sound.

  13. Actually the difference between them is that op-x uses interpolated oscillators that REALLY LACKS the highs but on the other hand ob-x has analog 6db/oct rolloff true saw.Filter resonance on the OP-X needs to be raised to obtain something close ( and hi-rezo sweeps sound rather unnatural).

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