Thursday, May 6, 2010

360 Systems 'The System' - Slavedriver and Oberheim SEM, Synapse, Summer 1978

360 Systems 'The System' advertisement, consisting of the 360 Slavedriver and Oberheim SEM, from page 10 of Synapse magazine, Summer 1978.

Interesting. If you have been following my posts recently, then you know I've been focusing on the 360 Systems/Oberheim partnership. The latest of which was the blog post about the Slavedriver/OB-1 dual advertisement that appeared in early 1978.

But, by the summer of 1978, it seems that 360 Systems decided to tone down the Oberheim connection a bit. Kinda. In a way. Not really? You be the judge.

Gone is the Oberheim logo practically holding hands with the 360 logo, and also gone is the Oberheim OB-1 - replaced in the photo with an Oberheim SEM.

In fact, compared to the Slavedriver/OB-1 ad, even the ad-copy in this ad doesn't seem as 'clingy' to Oberheim in general, and 360 goes as far as to admit that the Slavedriver 'works with most popular synthesizers'.

That's not to say that Oberheim was booted out the door. Far from it. As mentioned above, you still have the photo of the SEM in the advertisement, and the smaller photo even includes them nicely tucked into bed together in an Anvil case (ask your dealer...). The ad-copy also includes all the reference info for the SEM.

The most interesting part of this ad to me is the fact that 'The System' now consists of the SEM rather than the OB-1. But I think the prominent inclusion of the Anvil case in the ad gives us a hint as to the first of two reasons why the switch was made.

1. Portability.
Lugging around an OB-1 could get a little annoying. But now, you get the same Oberheim sound AND the Slavedriver in one portable case. The only trade-off is that you don't get the easy sound accessibility with the eight memory locations of the OB-1. But, I'm guessing that 360 Systems were finding (or betting) that at least a few guitarists were used to the on-the-fly programming that was common with their non-memory-based guitar pedals.

And the second reason to make the switch to the SEM?

2. Cost. An SEM only cost 695 bones. Quite a bit cheaper than dropping $1895 for an OB-1. 360 Systems must have realized that they were marketing mainly to guitarists that were used to shelling out hundreds of dollars for pedals. Not thousands of dollars.

The 360 Systems' Spectre Guitar Synthesizer

Eventually, 'The System' of the SEM and the Slavedriver merged completely, to become the 360 System Spectre.

MATRIXSYNTH has had a few auction posts in the past that included photos of the Spectre. In particular...
  • A post in November 2006 includes some info on how they had a deal with Oberheim to buy SEMs.
  • A later post in November 2007 also has a great photo of the Spectre.
A quick email to Tom Oberheim helped confirm that they were indeed "custom" SEMs. Tom "knew Bob Easton (President and CEO of 360 Systems) before the Slavedriver because of a mutual interest in electronic music equipment in the early 1970s".

End note: It wouldn't be a retosynthads blog post if I didn't comment on the general design of the ad at least a little:

As far as the design of the ad itself goes, everything is tip-top except the font used for the words 'The System' that appears at the top of the ad, and as subtitles in the ad-copy. It just doesn't seem as endearing or as futuristically timeless as the 'Slavedriver' font to me. Its more 80's futuristic. (Is 'futuristically' even a word?!?)

Plus, the 'echo' design effect used around '360' at the top of the ad also kinda dates the ad a bit.

My 2 cents.

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