Thursday, March 22, 2012

Oberheim "New OB-X" introductory ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1979

Oberheim "New OB-X" introductory 1-page advertisement from page 29 in Contemporary Keyboard June 1979.

What the...? Do you see it too? Or... more accurately... do you *NOT* see it too?

At first I'm thinking: "Oberheim, this is messed up". No photo? Really - you are introducing a new synth, and no photo? I was almost angry at first.

My mind was racing to try and figure this one out. Why would Oberheim choose not to include a photo?

Well, one reason a photo may not have been included would be that the ad would theoretically need to be submitted a month or two before the June issue was printed, and it could very well be that the exterior look of the synthesizer wasn't quite ready yet.

But a photo *was* ready by the time the July issue printed - because even though this ad appeared in the June and July 1979 issues of CK photo-less, readers could find a photo of the instrument in Contemporary Keyboard in the July Spec Sheet section.
"Oberheim Polyphonic Synthesizer. The OB-X is a programmable polyphonic synthesizer available in either four-, six-, or eight-voice configuration. It can store 32 programs internally. It can also be linked with a cassette tape recorder for further storage of programs. The unit is microprocessor-controlled and its features include a 5-octave keyboard, automatic tuning, edit mode, polyphonic portamento, polyphonic sample-and-hold, a noise generator, dual modulation levers, ADSR envelope generators, two oscillators per voice, and switchable 115/230 volt power. The unit also includes an array of footpedal control inputs: vibrato, volume, filter, sustain, and program advance. Oberheim is also offering a roadie kit for maintenance on the road. Prices are: four-voice, $4,295.00; six-voice, $4995.00; eight-voice, $5,495.00. Oberheim, 1455 19th St., Santa Monica, CA 90404."
The Spec sheet is pretty much a carbon copy of the ad, except that the ad actually includes things this Spec Sheet doesn't - in particular the size and weight, and it's Note/Chord hold switch function.

Another reason it may not have included a photo is that it might help build intrigue in the instrument. Previous to this ad, Oberheim had been pushing two extremely different looking machines - the prehistoric-looking Four/Eight Voice synth, and their first programmable synth, the OB-1, and any new mysterious instrument Oberheim would launch would probably follow the evolution of one of these two paths. Intriguing! But I'm still doubting that theory.

Finally - it could be they didn't want to steal thunder from the Summer NAMM show that took place in June at the Atlanta World Congress Centre. The OB-X got fairly high billing near the beginning of the Contemporary Keyboard article that featured the findings at the show - listing off a few of the voice and programmability features as well as a price range from $4,200.00 - $5,400.00. Notice that price range is slightly different from the prices quoted in the July CK Spec Sheet promo.

But, what really makes this NAMM article interesting is that they include a photo of the OB-X. Although NAMM was in June 1979, the article didn't make it into the magazine until October 1979, but the instrument in the photo is definitely NOT the finalized version of the OB-X that I'm familiar with. This instrument had an OB-X logo in a very 'normal' font. Not that awesome Oberheim font we all know and love.

And, when I noticed this difference, I went back and took a look at the photo of the OB-X included with the Spec Sheet - and it too was different from both the NAMM version and the final version. It only included a large Oberheim logo in the top center of the front panel.

So, these are both different from what I call the "finalized" version of the OB-X, with the classic OB-X logo in the top left corner, and the Oberheim logo in the bottom right of the front panel.

I've included photos all three versions below with a bit of descriptive text to help explain these differences.

OB-X photo from Contemporary Keyboard NAMM article
Notice OB-X logo in top right in 'normal' font. Boo!
OB-X photo from the July Spec Sheet in Contemporary Keyboard
Notice no OB-X logo, just big central Oberheim name
FINAL Version from MATRIXSYNTH Flickr
Notice OB-X logo on top left in awesome Oberheim font
and Oberheim logo in bottom right of front panel
So, it does look like the early photos are prototypes of some sort.

But, there may be more than a few of these early prototype instruments out there with the early look. For example, a photo of the OB-X similar to the NAMM photo did make it into this early French ad. Maybe it was taken at NAMM, or the photo was provided to distributors for early ads...? but I'm not convinced that would be the case. Especially if Oberheim wasn't using the photo in their own ads.

No matter, in the end, Oberheim was definitely better off leaving a photo of the instrument out of this intro ad. The final version of the synth with that delicious Oberheim OB-X font in the top left of the instrument and the Oberheim logo on the lower right side of the front panel is definitely the yummiest of the bunch.

1 comment:

Wahid Saïdi said...

Hi ! :)

For give a awser about the french add : this add use a early picture of the OBX because is isn't a Oberheim factory add, it is a ad creat by the french importer of this machine, the Piano Center Shop, nearly in Paris ! :)

For translate the text, they says "new ! OB-X Oberheim 4,6,8 voices. Polyphonic and extensible (4,6,8 voices), fully programmable, edition of the programmes, cassette interface included, five octaves keyboard, auto-chords, modulation by a pedal, compact and light weight"

For the price hum it is pretty difficult to convert in our Euro, but the Oberheim DMX cost 22 000 Franc in 1983, so maybee this information will help you.

BTW excuse me for my bad english, i'm french you guess and it is notorious the frenchs have a poor level in english :P but i'm a truly synth enthusiast, and your blog are a endless mine of information about synth :D

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