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Having introduced a clumsy if powerful form of polyphony in its 2-, 4- and 8-voice SEM-based synths in the '70s, Oberheim was left in the dust when Sequential Circuits' programmable, polyphonic Prophet-5 hit the scene in 1978.
So Oberheim revisited and refined its approach to polyphony (and programmability), unleashing the mighty OB-X in 1979. A big, brash, two-oscillator synth sold in two, four and eight-voice configurations, it offered Oberheim's now-classic 12dB filter and a means by which to store 32 patches. The OB-X would be the first of Oberheim's synths that could be interfaced with Oberheim's pre-MIDI parallel bus System.
1980 brought with it the OB-Xa, with sleeker styling, an added 24dB filter and (eventually) up to 120 slots for user patches. Splits and layers were included, though the OB-X's cross-modulation would be swapped out for oscillator sync.
The OB-Xa, too, would be supplanted in 1983 by the last in the series, the OB-8. This brought MIDI, a spiffy arpeggiator, and a second layer of control accessible via a second panel page. More dependable than the previous OBs, the OB-8 has a cleaner, more refined sound than that of its predecessors.
With their bold, boisterous and B-I-G sound, the OB series became firm favourites among rock musicians of the day, while their ability to produce stunning brass patches earned them favour with purveyors of pop and funk, too.
So, let's check out some of the artists and tunes who turned the OB synths into icons.