Thursday, March 1, 2012

Oberheim FourVoice 'So advanced, it's simple" ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1978

Oberheim FourVoice 1-page synthesizer and programmer advertisement from page 47 of Contemporary Keyboard magazine September 1978.

Okay... where was I.... oh yeah.

In my last blog post, I realized that I had a bit of a gap in my Oberheim blogging - mostly between 1979-1981. So, to help myself get back into Oberheim territory, I decided I needed to do a bit of a review. I started by covering off a few loose ends while reviewing Oberheim's early advertising history in CK and Synapse through 1976, ending with the September/October "Ultimate Keyboard Machine" ad.

But, there is still a bit of territory to cover between the end of 1976 and May/June 1978 when this "So advanced, it's simple" ad first made an appearance.  Don't worry - there isn't *that* much to review.   :)

At the end of 1976, Oberheim came out with an ad that nicely played off the previous "Ultimate Keyboard Machine" ad. The full ad-title of this new ad that appeared in the November/December 1976 as well as the February issue of Contemporary Keyboard was "Stepping stones to the Ultimate Keyboard Machine", which promoted the Synthesizer Expander Module aka SEM. Hence the "stepping stone" reference.Oberheim made a great argument that you could build up your synth addiction in small steps, all the way up to the EightVoice with the programmer option. Nice!

That February issue of CK also included the Spec Sheet promo for the Programmer - which I highlighted in that "Ultimate Keyboard Machine" post

Meanwhile, in Synapse magazine, Oberheim - either on purpose or not - didn't advertise in the November/December issue, instead managing to make appearances both in the "What's Happening" and "Equipment Review" sections. If you guessed those appearances were "Programmer"-related, you'd be right.

Oberheim actually received the honor of kicking-off the "What's Happening" section with "Oberheim Electronics will so be releasing an A/D, D/A converter so that patches can be stored on audio cassettes ad called up when needed, adding greater flexibility to their Polyphonic Synthesizer Programmer...".

The "Equipment Review" section also includes a few paragraphs on the Oberheim Polyphonic Synthesizer Programmer (PSP-1), starting off with this fine point:
"It can honestly be said that this is the most revolutionary new instrument on the market."
You can't buy that kind of advertising! The rest of the review is very factual, listing off the programmable parameters of the unit and other features. The review ends with a bit of a dig at Oberheim, along with some great historical pricing info - and not just for the PSP-1!
"For all this magnificent technology, however, an equally magnificent price must be paid. The PSP-1 by itself retails for $1395. A programmable four-voice system costs $5390; an eight-voice is $9785."
March and April 1977 were quiet months for Oberheim, but they came back swinging in the May issue of CK and the May/June 1977 issue of Synapse with their "Unquestionably the best" ad. Along with this hard-hitting ad is also CK's interview with Tom Oberheim, which I highlighted in the blog post.

The June  1977 issue of CK didn't need an Oberheim advertisement because they had another great surprise for readers - the CK give-away contest! But not for an Oberheim synth, or even a programmer. But for their DS-2A digital sequencer. This is really the only time the DS-2A is mentioned in CK as far as I can tell, and the description of the prize reads like a Spec Sheet promo:
"The DS-2A Digital Sequencer stores melodic/rhythmic sequences (which are played on a synthesizer keyboard) in its memory and plays them back automatically. Playback speed is variable, and pitch remains constant despite tempo variations. Sequences of up to 144 notes can be stored in the unit's memory, and different combinations of number sequences can be fed into the machine. For example: one sequence of 96 notes and one of 48 notes can be stored together and recalled by pressing the appropriate buttons; or three sequences of up to 48 notes each can be stored; and so on. Each note in a sequence can have a duration of about 1/20 of a second up to eight seconds, and synthesizer keyboards with up to 61 notes can be used to program the unit. The machine is compatible with all major brands of synthesizers."
That's gold, baby. Gold I tell ya! And probably the place many musicians first heard about the specs of this rare machine.

The July 1977 issue of CK and the July/August 1977 issue of Synapse featured one of my favorite Oberheim ads. Titled simply "Evolutionary" (an extremely short ad-title by Oberheim standards), this ad not only promotes what Oberheim has accomplished, but also hints at what is coming in the near future. Gah! Looking at it again just now makes me do the happy dance!

That July/August 1977 issue of Synapse also included another appearance by Oberheim - and again, not the synthesizer or the programmer - but the DS-2A sequencer. It appeared, along with three other sequencers (Sequential Circuits Model 800, EMS Synthi Sequencer 256, and the Thinc MMC-1) in a nice little round-up piece.A gooder.

In the September 1977  issue of CK, Oberheim opted to run the "Stepping Stones" ad again, which hadn't been seen for six months or so. And then they went silent again in October. And, in fact, that is the last you would hear from the SEM/Two/Four/Eight-Voice crew until May/June 1978 issue of Synapse, when this "So advanced, its simple" ad would appear.

That's because in the meantime Oberheim had a new kid on the block to promote - the OB-1! This introductory ad for the OB-1 titled "Programmer technology in a lead synthesizer" made it's first appearance in November 1977, and ran intermittently until April 1978. The ad also made appearances in Synapse magazine in the November/December 1977 issue, as well as the January/February and the May/April 1978 issues.

Oberheim also gets bonus points during this time period because the OB-1 also made a guest appearance in a 360 Systems Slavedriver guitar synthesizer ad that appeared during the winter of 1977 in Synapse.

And then... finally - this "So advanced, its simple" ad made one last appearance in the July 1978 issue of CK.

Wow. What a review.

But now I can continue on blogging about Oberheim. I promise something new next time.

Double promise.  :)

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