GForce Software has captured the huge sound of the legendary Oberheim 8-Voice synthesizer and stuck it in the OB-E virtual instrument for Apple Mac.
The classic Oberheim 8-Voice synthesizer was designed around eight SEM (Synthesizer Expander Module) modules stacked together and wired through a polyphonic synthesizer programmer and mixer and controlled by a 49-note keyboard. This is polyphonic synthesis achieved by connecting together 8 monosynths. In total you have 16 VCOs, 8 VCFs, 8 LFOs and 16 ADR envelopes and while that sounds like fun you do have to program each voice independently – they call it “Octophonic”.
GForce calls it an “authentic sounding emulation” and they are not wrong. What a magnificent thing! It’s the first time I’ve seen this particular synthesizer emulated and I’ve never come across anything where you have to program each voice like this. You can see why Oberheim moved onto polyphonic synths like the OB-Xa – octaphonic programming can be exhausting. On the other hand, it offers a unique opportunity to approach polyphony in a more modular fashion and that’s very exciting.
To get you started Gforce has included 600 presets which will take much of the heavy lifting out of exploring what’s possible. They’ve also included some zoom tools to help you focus on an individual SEM and then apply the changes to all modules at once. You can also save and load individual modules as well as entire patches.
They’ve also augmented it a little bit with Mono, Poly, Unison and Split modes, a 3rd oscillator that doubles as an LFO per voice. Of course, there are things like velocity, polyphonic aftertouch and MPE control that modern DAWs and controllers can bring to the party. You’ll also find an 8-step sequencer and a stereo delay stuck in there somewhere.
By all accounts it sounds like an awesome playground of a fat and juicy synthesizer. The only fly in the ointment is that it’s Mac only which I would call a synthesizer crime against humanity. Ho-hum.
OB-E is available now for macOS in AU, AAX, VST and standalone formats for an introductory price of £129.99.