Oberheim OB-X8 Hands-On Review – “If You Can Afford It, Go For It!”

In the latest Sonic State Sonic Lab, host Nick Batt shares his review of the Oberheim OB-X8 synthesizer.

The Oberheim OB-X8 is a new synth design from synth pioneers Tom Oberheim and Dave Smith, in the same family as classic synths like the OB-X, OB-Xa and OB-8. It’s an 8-voice analog design, with discrete SEM/OB-X VCOs, Curtis filters and envelopes based on the originals. It offers 400-plus factory programs, including the full set of factory sounds for the OB-X, OB-SX, OB-Xa, and OB-8.

Batt calls the OB-X8 “a really, really nice analog synth” with “the essence of Oberheim”, summing it up by saying, “This guy is the real deal. If you can afford it, go for it!”

Check out the video and share your thoughts on the Oberheim OB-X8 in the comments!

Topics covered:

00:00:00 Start
00:00:24 Intro
00:01:45 GPU Audio
00:02:33 Overview
00:03:23 Some sounds
00:05:20 Oscillators
00:06:42 Page 2
00:07:42 unison and sync
00:10:00 X Mod detune , stereo
00:11:43 Vintage mode
00:13:30 more sounds
00:15:58 LFO
00:20:42 Karplucks
00:21:23 Filter
00:24:30 Portamento
00:25:37 Performance controls and Arp
00:30:33 Split and Double
00:34:45 Memories
00:35:37 envelopes
00:37:24 final thoughts

14 thoughts on “Oberheim OB-X8 Hands-On Review – “If You Can Afford It, Go For It!”

    1. As noted in the article, the OB-X8 is in the same family as classic synths like the OB-X, OB-Xa and OB, but it’s definitely not a reissue, like the new Prophet 5 or Moog Model 10.

    1. Does sound nice, and nice use of aftertouch/velocity. I wonder why it’s called that, though. Can you do Karplus-Strong on an OB-XA?

  1. “If you can afford it” is the battle cry of synthesizers. Its interesting to see the budget moves made over the years so people could have a Matrix-12, Jr. It seems a bit doubtful in 2022, but I wonder if Oberheim will release a smaller version of this? Its clearly not a mass market item, but a trimmed-down take on it would probably be popular. I’ve only been a $4K-level buyer here and there, but up to $2K is often doable. I’m glad I can mostly get there with software recreations.

    I’ll take a small risk and say that you won’t see a module version. The keybed and paddles are too important to the experience here.

    1. the panel is very simple i guess it’s mainly for keyboardist or whoever prefer to keep it simple, there is some depth to it by what you call “menu diving” but i think it’s more of a matrix control, twisting one encoder to choose parameter and the other to control it… not everything that is not “knob per function” is menu diving, especially when there is no “diving”
      i don’t know if mix is considered “necessity”, for some i guess it does, on the analogfour you can’t control the sub osc voulme at all….

  2. i’ve heard when you open it up there’s this tiny little circuit board and a bunch of empty space, it seems they could have put more 1:1 control on the panel. it also makes me wonder if the circuit board is so small, they could already have the desktop module available. ether way this is a beast and i think everyone would own one if they could.

    1. The first thing I said about this is that it looks like they left a lot of space on top where they could have added more controls and still had a clean looking design. I’ve watched two deep dive reviews on this and the reviewers have said the exact same thing. It is too bad this wasn’t noted in early design meetings as this seems to be a univeral observation. It does sound beautiful.

    2. you can’t evaluate electronics by the size of the pcb, not quality nor cost. if anything a small smt board have a much shorter signal path and less em interference.
      the front panel is clearly a decision by the creator to keep it simple to the eye and to give the impression of an “instrument” instead of an engineer tool. i don’t think they will sell many desktop unit for that price. i would love one by i would not pay 4000$ for a relatively simple module even if it’s awesome sounding.

  3. FS & Jakelin- I agree with you. I was selling synths when Roland’s great S-50 sampler appeared. The Roland rep said “Want to see something hilarious?” He opened the instrument and there was a single chip about 2″ x 6″ in the center of the bottom half. That was the entire ‘engine.’ On either side were glued two metal strips. He said “That’s to give it some weight so it doesn’t shoot out of your hands when you move it.” That’s how a Raspberry Pi can provide us with the Wavestate. 😀

    I can’t speak to meetings where the potential design and the budget bump heads, so I can’t say if 4 more rotaries and 2 more switches would make it a better synth. I prefer more up-front access as well, but Page 2 may be just fine if it saves another $1000 on it. There are some serious hard lines when you’re tooling up for a big item like this.

    Also… I wonder if OB-X8 assemblers get paid enough to keep up with their mortgages?

    1. You’re thinking of the Roland D-50. It had a rather small square main board on the underside of the unit (beneath the keys) that was shared with the D-550 rack mount. The S-50 sampler had circuitry running the full length of the unit under the top panel because of the need for lots of RAM and the video output (I/O board on left, main board in the centre, power on the right).

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