Monday, May 3, 2010

Oberheim OB-1 AND 360 System Slavedriver, Synapse 1978

Oberheim OB-1 synthesizer and 360 System Slavedriver guitar synthesizer interface advertisement from page 15 of Synapse Magazine January/February 1978.

Okay, I'll admit it. Now that you see this advertisement, you have probably figured out my last two posts were both part of a set up (I'll get back onto the Steiner-Parker roll in a few more posts). But, I figured I'd better catch up on each piece of gear separately by covering what were at the time the current OB-1 and Slavedriver's individual advertisements, before jumping into the deep end with this awesome piece of advertising history.

In fact, Oberheim's OB-1 advertisement (linked above) appeared in prime real estate in this same issue of Synapse - page 3 across from the Letters section.

Now lets take a closer look at this ad - what can you say except WOW!

You didn't see too many companies pairing up in those days. "The two most respected names in electronic music offer the finest guitar synthesizer system available today".

But Oberheim and 360 Systems knew they could hit a totally new market by combining their individual products. And since both companies were based in Santa Monica, it was probably very easy for them to get together and chat. Cooperation and all that stuff. Very Sesame Street. Very cool.

In fact, it was so unusual to see companies at the time pair up like this that Synapse even commented on it in the previous issue's What's Happening section when they got the news:
"If petty competition has got you down, take heart. A new advertising tact is being taken by 360 Systems and Oberheim Electronics. The OB-1 and the Slavedriver, a programmable synthesizer and a guitar/synthesizer interface, respectively, are being advertised as a package and may represent a first in synthesizer marketing."
And what better synthesizer to plug into your Slavedriver than Oberheim's awesome OB-1 synthesizer? It was one of their newest, less-costly models, had great sound, and could recall all those great sounds you needed instant access to on stage while strutting your stuff with your axe. Synapse's summer 1978 issue spoke of the OB-1 fondly in the What's Happening section:
"Although Oberheim is known by some as the "Rolls Royce of synthesizers", this time they have come out with the economy item model including the luxury options. The OB-1 is a completely programmable lead synthesizer. Parameters that are programmable include VCO tuning, waveform, VCF center frequency, VCF "Q", filter/keyboard tracking, envelopes, sync, noise, cross modulation, and volume. The system includes a switchable 12 or 24 db filter and an 8 patch memory. The $1895.00 synthesizer is available from Oberheim Electronics."
The pairing of these two companies isn't the only thing historically significant about this ad. Take a close look at the photo of the OB-1. The model used in the ad must have been a prototype. Compare it to this product model photo from

A few of the differences I can make out include:
  • The prototype has that awesome Oberheim logo above the program section. In the production model, the programmer section was above the logo.
  • The prototype has the 'write' and 'manual' touch-switches in the Program section beside each other. In the production model the switches are in separate top corners.
  • The prototype is missing the freq-wave selector switches below the modulation dials of VCO 1 and 2.
  • VCF section in the prototype is arranged differently than in the production model.
  • The switches in the Keyboard section on the left hand side of theOB-1 is arranged slightly differently.
If the historic pairing itself and the OB-1 prototype don't make this ad awesome enough for you, I'll add one more.

The logos!

Look at them - almost total opposites in style but yet both still standing the test of time and worthy of a tatoo. A big chubby Oberheim logo standing next to that skinny 360 Systems logo.

Almost as if Oberheim's swingin' arms want to go over there and give 360 Systems a big bear hug.

I know I would.

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