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Syntheziser The Oberheim 2 & 4 & 8 voice
#1
The Oberheim 2 & 4 & 8 voice

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Oberheim Eight Voice!!
The Oberheim polyphonic is an analog music synthesizer that was produced from 1975 to 1979 by Oberheim Electronics. It was developed by Tom Oberheim, and was the first production synthesizer capable of playing chords.
Technical specifications
Polyphony
FOUR VOICE X 2 = 8voice!!
Timbrality
Multitimbral
Oscillator
2 VCOs per voice with sawtooth or variable-pulse waveforms
LFO
1 with triangle wave
Synthesis type
Analog Subtractive
Filter
Low, band, high, notch filter w/ resonance
Attenuator
2 x ADR envelopes
Aftertouch expression
No
Velocity expression
No
Storage memory
16 patches via programmer module
Effects
None
Input/output
Keyboard
49-key
External control
CV/Gate
Oberheim took the idea and electronics of a Minimoog synthesizer and put them in a small box, making a few changes, and produced his SEM (synthesizer expansion module), the building block of his polyphonic synths. By strapping two, four, or eight of these SEMs together under keyboard control, he was able to create practical, albeit large, synthesizers that could play two, four, or eight notes simultaneously. Thus the Oberheim polyphonic was born. Each SEM in an Oberheim polyphonic defines one voice (or note) being played in a chord. In addition to multiple voices, on an Oberheim polyphonic you could save settings for sounds you created with a preset programmer (four and eight voice models) and you could glide from one note or chord to another using portamento.
The Oberheim polyphonic was later outdated by a new line of Oberheim synthesizers and Sequential Circuits synths that used more integrated circuits and also some digital embedded microprocessor control; these were less heavy and much smaller than the Oberheim polyphonic. Despite their maintenance cost and rarity, Oberheim polyphonic synthesizers are still adored by many musicians today for their unparalleled sonic 'thickness' and 'depth' caused in part by the random variance between each SEM module.
4 Voice
A big step forward after the initial Oberheim SEM and Two Voice synthesizers came from the bigger and better Four Voice. Four dual-oscillator SEM modules each with its own filters and envelopes are joined together along with a simple analog mixer and 49-note keyboard to give you a polyphonic/polytonal Obie-beast!
This combination gives you eight oscillators and four voices of polyphony because there are basically four discrete mono-synths all connected together. This has its pros and cons. What is cool is that this was a lot of simultaneous voices for the mid-seventies. And the ability to craft a different sound on each voice led to some diverse and complex sounds. However, it also meant you have to program each voice independently. Each voice also has its own independent audio output.
The Polyphonic Synthesizer Programmer, released in 1976 and added to the Four Voice stores 16 patches per voice (all of which can be different). The Four Voice could accommodate an additional four SEMs, making it just like the Eight Voice model which officially appeared in 1977.
Unfortunately the Four Voice was blown out of the competition by the release of the polyphonic Sequential Prophet-5, which offered true polyphony with a single set of sound shaping controls and comprehensive patch memory. The Four Voice has been used by 808 State, Depeche Mode, Styx, Pink Floyd, The Shamen, Gary Wright, Joe Zawinul and John Carpenter.
2 voice
Oberheim's first synthesizer was a single-voice mini-module called a SEM (Synthesizer Expander Module). However, in 1975, Oberheim created their first compact, programmable and polyphonic synthesizer by coupling two SEM modules to a 37-note keyboard and a simple analog sequencer. This was what became the Two Voice. Oberheim achieved a polyphonic sound not yet seen in ARP and Moog gear at the time by hard-wiring the two monophonic SEMs into the compact keyboard design.
In 1976 Oberheim came out with another module, the Polyphonic Synthesizer Programmer (see SEM). This could memorize the control voltages of many parameters for up to eight SEM modules. When these were added to the Two Voice, Oberheim finally had one of the earliest programmable and polyphonic instruments! Released alongside the Two Voice also came the Four Voice which had four SEMs installed, and a larger 49-note keyboard. And later, in 1977, a second tier was added above the four SEMs on the Four Voice to add yet another four SEMS, making the Eight Voice.
Two voices was great in 1975, and eight voices was pretty monstrous in the later seventies. But, a major drawback to these first Oberheim synths was that polyphony was achieved by having multiple modules. This meant that each voice had to be independently programmed. This also means that each voice has its own filter, making real-time filter sweeps of all your voices more than a handful! Fortunately the sequencer comes in handy for controlling each voice/module independently.
Despite its innovative features, the Two Voice was soon blown out of the water by the popular monophonic and truly polyphonic synths like the OSCar, ARP Odyssey and SH-101. The Two Voice has been used by Vince Clarke and Vangelis



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#2
A post to fill all musicians 'of a certain age' with equal measures of lust and horror!

8 voices with a separate control panel for each?
Without the addition of the programmer module, it certainly wouldn't be anyone's first choice of polysynth to play and patch live!
But as 8 monosynths in a box, to be mixed and layered at will, it must have been unbeatable in its day.

The rapid developments in analogue technology at the time, with falling costs and increased integration/miniaturisation - such as the 'voice on a card' and even 'synth on a chip' -, soon made all those knobs and switches disproportionately expensive, and such machines became as unthinkable as they were undesirable.

Tom Oberheim says that his favourite synth among all those bearing his name is the 2-voice (unlike the one pictured, most of which included a simple sequencer).
Anyone familiar with Krzywicki's (ElektroStudio) emulation OR2V will understand why!
https://music-society.de/showthread.php?tid=4753

For everything else Oberheim, WOK's SAM is still my go-to.
In mono mode, the standard version is architecturally identical to the hardware - and sounds glorious.
http://wokwave.com/old-plugins/html/sam_...lugin.html

T.O. was a true innovator (for example, it was the success of his 3604 add-on that prompted ARP to build the duophonic 3620 keyboard that shipped with the later 2600s).
But above all he had the brain of an engineer - and the heart of a musician.
(Something I would also say about the two plugin developers I mentioned.)
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