by Adam Douglas | 4,1 / 5,0 | Approximate reading time: 6 Minutes
Suzuki Omnichord OM-108

Suzuki Omnichord OM-108  ·  Source: Suzuki

ADVERTISEMENT

Suzuki’s new Omnichord OM-108 combines the best of the old models with modern new features. And yes, you can play the Gorillaz on it.

ADVERTISEMENT

Suzuki Omnichord OM-108

Who had “Omnichord remake” on their musical instrument bingo card for 2024? It caught us here at Gearnews by surprise. Also surprising was just how popular our initial story on the new instrument from Suzuki was. It’s clear that many of you out there really love the Omnichord. When I got the chance to visit the company at its headquarters in Hamamatsu, Japan, and give it a play, I jumped on the next bullet train out of town. 

Suzuki Omnichord OM-108
Suzuki Omnichord OM-108 · Source: Adam Douglas

I’m happy to report that the Omnichord OM-108 (to use its full name) is everything you want it to be and then some. It’s a proper Omnichord that manages to incorporate the best of past models with fun new features. It also sounds incredible and, most importantly, is bags of fun to play. 

Here’s everything there is to know about the new Omnichord.

What Is An Omnichord?

If you’ve never sat down in front of an Omnichord before, it’s an instrument designed to be easy to play for anyone, even complete beginners. They all sport an array of chord buttons. There’s also a selection of rhythms and, when paired with the chords, it gives you arranger keyboard-like backing tracks. The real magic happens, however, when you engage the Strumplate, a vertical touch strip that emits gorgeous arpeggios that follow along with your chosen chords. It is a great example of an instrument that’s more than just the sum of its parts.

You are currently viewing a placeholder content from Youtube. To access the actual content, click the button below. Please note that doing so will share data with third-party providers.

More Information

Many Omnichord Models

ADVERTISEMENT

The Omnichord OM-108 is actually the 10th instrument to bear the name. From 1981 onwards, Suzuki has periodically released new versions of the teardrop-shaped device, some analogue and some digital. The most famous is probably 1984’s OM-84, whose Rock 1 preset was famously used by Damon Albarn on The Gorillaz’s “Clint Eastwood.”

If you’re interested in the history of the Omnichord, Suzuki has done a great job outlining all the models on its website

You don’t need to be an expert in Omnichord lore though to enjoy the new one. All you really need to know is that it includes some of the best features of past models (plus some new ones) and is loads of fun to play.

You are currently viewing a placeholder content from Youtube. To access the actual content, click the button below. Please note that doing so will share data with third-party providers.

More Information

Analogue Meets Digital

Suzuki has done an admirable job melding the old school and the new in the OM-108. Featuring both analogue and digital circuitry, it’s kind of an Omnichord greatest hits and should appeal to both fans of the old as well as modern newcomers.

Suzuki Omnichord OM-108
Suzuki Omnichord OM-108 · Source: Adam Douglas

You can hear this in Omni 1 and Omni 2, two of the most famous analogue Strumplate sounds from the past. Suzuki has painstakingly recreated them here in analogue and they are stunning. Yu Horiuchi, an engineer who worked on the OM-108, told me that getting it right was the most difficult part of the development process. He’s done a great job with it though. It’s the kind of sound you want to play all day long. 

While the rest of the Strumplate sounds are digital PCM samples, they’re also of very high quality. Sporting tones like harp, celeste, vibes and even FM piano, they sparkle and shine, with highly defined transients that tickle the ears.

New to the OM-108 is the sub layer for the Strumplate sounds. This is not a bass layer like a sub-oscillator but rather a second sound that sits under the main. Each voice layer has its own volume control, meaning you can solo them as well. Most are digital although Omni 1 features an analogue sub layer to complement its similarly analogue top sound.

The Strumplate itself features a capacitive design, making it responsive and fun.

You are currently viewing a placeholder content from Youtube. To access the actual content, click the button below. Please note that doing so will share data with third-party providers.

More Information

108 Chords

As with past models, the Suzuki Omnichord OM-108 has chord buttons. Most chord permutations, including major, minor and sevenths can be played as usual. However, OM-108 adds two new modes, sus4 and add9, bringing the total possible chords to 108, the most ever.

Suzuki Omnichord OM-108
Suzuki Omnichord OM-108 with overlay · Source: Adam Douglas

For the first time, the OM-108 also features a Keyboard mode, which allows you to play melodies – either monophonic or polyphonic – with the chord buttons. It includes an overlay that reveals the new functions when applied.

10 Rhythms

Another enduring feature of the Omnichord is its preset rhythms. The OM-108 has 10, including Rock 1 and 2, Slow Rock, Country, Swing, Disco, Hip Hop, Funk, Bossanova and Waltz. While all are digital, some bear the same pattern as ones from classic units. 

The OM-108 hides a secret rhythm mode as well. By starting up in a special way, you can access the classic sounds and rhythms of the OM-84. This is where the preset used on “Clint Eastwood” is hiding. Sneaky.

You can also play the percussion sounds on their own, either via single keys in Keyboard mode or using the Strumplate for stutter-like effects.

You are currently viewing a placeholder content from Youtube. To access the actual content, click the button below. Please note that doing so will share data with third-party providers.

More Information

Speaker and Connectivity

As with previous models, the Suzuki Omnichord OM-108 has an onboard speaker. The speaker sounds surprisingly good. Rather than employing modelling to improve the sound, Suzuki had a custom speaker made for the unit. 

Suzuki Omnichord OM-108
Suzuki Omnichord OM-108 connectivity · Source: Adam Douglas

Of course, there’s also a line out jack as well as headphones. Uniquely, you can set the unit to keep the speaker on for monitoring even when using the output jack.

MIDI out completes the connectivity, allowing you to control external instruments and drum machines with the Strumplate and rhythms.

Hands On With The Suzuki Omnichord OM-108

I should preface this by saying that this is not a full review. I only had a few minutes of hands-on time with the OM-108. However, from listening to it for about an hour, plus time spent playing it, I can say that it is loads of fun. 

I had never played an Omnichord before but was operating it in no time. Although my background is keyboards, Horiuchi-san pointed out that guitarists would also be able to pick it up quickly given that its chords are arranged like tabs.

It also sounds really, really good. I loved the analogue sounds, as I expected to given my yen for 1980s synths and gear, but I was also really taken by the digital ones. I could already imagine the songs that I wanted to make with it just by being in its presence.

Release and Price

The Suzuki Omnichord OM-108 is priced to sell at around $934/€861/£739 with a projected release date of July 2024. Pre-sales are now open.

Affiliate Links
Suzuki Omnichord OM-108
Suzuki Omnichord OM-108 No customer rating available yet

More Information

Suzuki Omnichord OM-108

How do you like this post?

Rating: Yours: | ø:
ADVERTISEMENT

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *