NAMM 2020: The VS-1 synth promises the soul of the Oberheim OB-X, but with digital control

NAMM 2020: Released in 1979, the Oberheim OB-X remains a true synth icon, and it’s also the inspiration for Abstrakt Instruments’ VS-1, a new synth that’s based on its design. However, this being 2020, the company has added modern digital control.

As on the original OB-X, each voice can call on two analogue VCOs with saw and pulse waves, a 12dB multimode filter and VCA. There are two digital LFOs per voice and two global analogue LFOs.

Then we come to the digital elements, starting with a 600MHz ARM-Cortex-M7-based System on Module. There’s also 16-bit DAC, which promises to enable smooth operation with no lag or stepping.

The VS-1 is bi-timbral and can operate in single, split and layer modes. In single mode, the selected program controls all eight voices, while the split and layer modes divide the voices into two groups of four called Part 1 and Part 2. The Cards per Voice setting determines how many voice cards are used per voice - 1, 2, or 4 (8 is the same as unison).

Abstrakt Instruments VS-1

(Image credit: Abstrakt Instruments)

There’s support for 15 alternative tunings, and you can choose between a low-res tuning mode that tunes the voices at the same number of points and resolution as on the original OB-X, a or a hi-res mode that tunes them at many more points at 16-bit depth. Authenticity or accuracy - it’s up to you.

Other features include a polyphonic step sequencer, arpeggiator, chord memory and assignable aftertouch (MPE support with polyphonic aftertouch is a stretch goal). A hi-res display provides visual feedback.

Connectivity includes audio I/O, CV and Gate I/O, Filter CV Input, assignable CV inputs and USB Host and USB Peripheral ports for connection to a computer and MIDI controller respectively. There are also standard MIDI In/Out/Thru ports.

The VS-1 is currently being crowdfunded and has already sailed past its target. Pledge prices start at $2,795 for a 4-voice version, $2,995 for a 6-voice version and $3,195 for an 8-voice model. You can also buy the 8-voice version in kit form for $995, though this is said to be “an advanced assembly and should only be attempted by those with significant experience in DIY electronics and synthesizers”.

Head to the VS-1 Kickstarter page for more.

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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