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The Ultimate Guide To The Oberheim OB6 – How It Works, Who Uses One + Where To Buy It!

Oberheim OB6 – Lush Modern Analog!

The OB6 occupies a gap in the market no other synth can fill. The product of a collaboration between renowned music technology specialist Dave Smith and his longtime business rival Tom Oberheim, this synth takes the strengths of the Prophet 6 and goes above and beyond, giving users a unique experience with a digital and analogue hybrid polysynth which has a range of possibilities neither Oberheim’s synths nor any other Sequential products can offer alone. 

Oberheim and Smith had previously worked together on the development and introduction of MIDI, which Smith came up with the concept for. Oberheim himself was the inventor of SEM, which finally enabled musicians to play recorded sequences from a sequencer while simultaneously playing along live on a synth’s keyboard. This was a substantial breakthrough and SEM technology was used in many of Dave Smith’s synths as well as still being popular throughout the market today. The OB6 signal path runs from the oscillators through the filter and on to modulation, which is where it’s basis in the Prophet 6 lies. After this, users can also add analogue distortion and digital effects, as well as using the arpeggiator and sequencer. 

One of Smith’s most pioneering and creative inventions in the Prophet 6 and others was the use of voice cards, which he describes as essentially being a single monophonic synth on each card, making up the instrument’s polyphony and having full programmability.

Where Can I Buy A Oberheim OB6?

Unfortunately, the voice cards of the OB6 are not interchangeable with the Prophet 6 or with any other instruments using Smith’s voice card design. Nevertheless, they are a unique and innovative way of generating sounds and have made the instruments which use them, along with their SEM technology, highly sought after.

The OB6’s modulator is identical to that of the Prophet 6 and has two different modulators which set parametres either on a voice by voice basis or on a wider scale, applying the same controls to every single voice. The former is done by the X Mod control, the latter by the LFO, which has six different waveforms available which are continuously variable from triangle to ramp to sawtooth and so on, and which can then go straight to the output gain, to the filter mode, frequency, and to the pitches and PWM of the two VCOs. The X Mod section uses the outputs from VCO 2 and the filter envelope as sources which it can then direct to VCO1 to control pulse width, pitch, waveshape, filter frequency and mode, and additional modifications can be made with filter bandpass mode and swept mode. The X Mod can create both monophonic and polyphonic sounds, although because of the SEM technology, the FM capabilities of the OB6 are incompatible with polyphony. 

The OB6 is a small machine with a four octave keyboard with semi weighted keys and aftertouch, as well as four pedal inputs and a pitch bend wheel. While this can have a desirable feel for some, the reduced range could make it impractical for performance, and it doesn’t have any CV or gate inputs either. Nevertheless, it has very sleek and intuitive design with a sophisticated colour scheme and easy to use controls- generally, there are no submenus and each control is linked to only one parameter. It will also be very intuitive for those who are already familiar with the Prophet 6, as the OB6 is built around the modulation capacities, sequencer and back panel of the Prophet. 

Whilst it can be described as a digital-analogue hybrid, the OB6 actually has an entirely analogue signal path, with the only digital components being the effects such as ring modulation and delay. These can all be mixed in varying combinations of dry and wet, so there is plenty of precision, or bypassed entirely to go completely analogue. The OB6’s sequencer is pleasingly sophisticated and while it doesn’t allow for real time recording, the ability to hook up to a gate signal means that more complex timings can be experimented with, as well as nuances such as ties and the ability to push or hold back notes, meaning programmed sequences can have a warm, realistic, and human feel. 

How Much Does A Oberheim OB6 Cost?

Fortunately, the OB6 is still in production, and can be found on all leading online music retailers such as Andertons, where it is currently going for £2399- this is not a cheap synth, but it is the perfect way to bring vintage sounds to the modern day with modern levels of power. 

Like most synths, it is also available on Amazon and eBay, but best and most convenient is Sequential’s online map of retailers stocking their products, with Wunjo Guitars on London’s Denmark Street being listed as a retailer as well as several other brick and mortar stores in North London. Depending on where you are in the world, retailers can also be found in Paris and Hamburg as well as music hubs in the US like Nashville and Dallas plus chain stores like Guitar Centre. Outside a major city though, it’s easiest to buy online. For second hand synths, gear forums and musicians’ forums are worth checking, but with a brand with as much history and as large a fanbase such as Sequential, this once in a lifetime collaboration between two legends of synthesis is unlikely to be going spare! 

*prices generally seen on auction sites. If you see them cheaper, you may be on to a bargain.

Who Uses Or Used The Oberheim OB6?

With it’s pedigree, OB6 users have ranged from hardcore amateur enthusiasts to industry veterans and those with other musical endeavours such as high fashion catwalk soundtracker Body in the Thames, whose interview about the OB6 can be found on Sequential’s website. Although the number of Prophet 6 users vastly outstrips OB6 users, Culture Club are also notable OB6 players, and the wider world of artists using Sequential includes names as diverse as Blink 182, Jamie Cullum, Cage the Elephant, and Miley Cyrus. Whilst this is a synth which has been more widely adopted as a collectors item from a unique collaboration as opposed to a regular touring instrument, it is incredibly versatile and is a beloved part of many professional studios with rave reviews from music tech journalists and amongst Sequential’s online fanbase. 

Alternatives To The Oberheim OB6?

There are many different alternatives to the Oberheim OB-6 whether as hardware, software, analog or digital. These are as follows: Sequential Prophet 6, KingKorg, DSI Pro II, Deepmind 12, Oberheim Matrix 1000, Oberheim Matrix 6R, OBX-Pro II emulators, samples and VST’s.

However, when we compare it to the real thing it’s noticeable that the alternatives don’t quite stack up. They are a great option though for people with a lower budget.

Classic Oberheim OB6 Videos, Tutorials & Demos

A playlist of videos showing you the OB-6 oscillators, a no talking demo, a tutorial on ambient pads and a synth review from Sonicstate. Some great tips in here so be sure to check them out!

Other Classic Synth or Drum Machine Products?

The famous Roland synths, drum machines and effects include: SH 101, MC 202, TB 303, TR 606, TR 707, TR 808, TR 909, Juno 60RE-201 Space Echo. Behringer Deepmind 12, Behringer K2, Behringer Model D, Elektron Machinedrum, Korg MS-20, Moog Model D, Moog Grandmother, Nord Modular G1, Sequential Prophet 6, Yamaha DX7.

Where Can I Find A Oberheim OB6 For Sale?