The Oberheim OB-X vs. OB-Xa Synthesizers, Mano A Mano


This video, via Marko Ettlich of RetroSound, compares the classic Oberheim OB-X (1979) 8-voice synthesizer against the Oberheim OB-Xa (1981) 8-voice analog synthesizer:

In the video, Ettlich compares the two keyboards, using ‘identical’ patches. Here’s what he has to say about the video:

This video shows the different sound character.

The OB-X is discrete analog like the SEM modul and sounds very raw and wild.

The OB-Xa based on Curtis CEM ICs and sounds more smooth.

Both are great synths and I love both a lot. The king class of polyphonic analog synthesizers.

Have you used either of the Oberheims? If so, leave a comment and share your thoughts on them!

12 thoughts on “The Oberheim OB-X vs. OB-Xa Synthesizers, Mano A Mano

  1. Strange thing about Curtis chips is that no one has sought to reproduce the design.
    Some many synths used them and with such a surge toward analog design you think some chip maker would stand up and make some.
    Just don’t duplicate the juno 106 voice chips

    1. What would the advantage of doing that be over creating new designs using surface mount? I’d think that modern techniques would be cheaper and offer more options.

      1. it could be surface mount, they don’t have to be the exact chip but something like them
        with all this surge in analog and VA synth design you think a chip maker would do something

      2. Lots of old synths use the same voice chips but control them and effect them in different ways that give each is own character and utility. If nothing else, a reissue of certain chips and components would be a huge help for people trying to keep old synths in working order. Don’t get me wrong tho, new chips are welcome in spades too.

        Compare the synth industry to the guitar industry. Guitar makers have recognized for decades that people seek out famous vintage designs to revisit and find new and old ideas with. The Strats and Les Paul’s have been the spring board for reissues galore so everyone can keep that sound in their arsenal, or modify and form new models that tweak or radically enhance those core ideas. In synths meanwhile, we are only scratching the surface of this reissue and reinvention business model. Would guitar be as big of an industry as it is if every time fender and Gibson tried a new idea they also abandoned the production and maintenance of all previous models?? I think not.. It would be frustrating for consumers, whether rich or poor. The field shrinks and stays small when customers are frustrated instead of empowered by the instruments they need, and by the market within which they must test and compare the options.

        It’s tricky to have a reliable synth sound period. Every year the prices and reliability issues of classic synths go up and up, and very few brands and designers seen interested in truly keeping vintage sounds in use the way the SHOULD be… Sorry Roland but since the dawn of digital every brand has said they captured all the nuance of ‘old outdated’ analog beasts, and not once were any of us really convinced 😉 we hear the difference as musicians and so do our audiences! Everybody is still waiting for a reliable true thick synth that can sound like these OBs and Jupiters. It’s no secret! I’m starting to think getting into electrical engineering and synth design myself is the only way I’d get to see this idea come together before I’m an old man.

  2. Wow, this brings back memories. I was fortunate enough to have owned the following Oberheim synths:
    Modular 8 voice
    OB X
    OB Xa
    OB 8
    All of them were great and had their unique differences.
    I should have held on to the modular 8 voice. I moved through a series of Yamaha motif workstations and now use a Kronos 88. I like the ease of Kronos, Logic, Omnisphere.

  3. The OP-X plugin sounds pretty close to the OB-X and it’s now available in OS X AU 64bit! But I’d love to buy a new real OB-X from Mr. Oberheim because the sound (even of the plugin) is so unique! And Hardware is more fun. The 12db filter on a smooth brass pad… whoooouuummmmm….

  4. I think the OB-XA and my Mopho sound very similar. Both Curtis chips. As for the person talking about VA not being believable, The KingKORG and the new Electribe have the best sounding VA filters I have heard. Aira sounds good enough too. I went off VA’s for a few years, but I think within the next decade, the difference would be negligible. I have a monotribe and the only difference between the MS20 VA knockoff on the KingKORG and the monotribe was in the way it distorts. Great time to be alive, economic woes and destabilisations notwithstanding…

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