Monday, April 2, 2012

Oberheim OB-SX "We call it..." ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1980

Oberheim OB-SX synthesizer "We call it..." 1-page black and white advertisement from the July 1980 issue of Contemporary Keyboard 1980.

Perfect. Or almost perfect. Haven't decided which yet. This advertisement just works on so many levels.

Right from the top, this ad pulls in anyone that may glance at this ad. The first thing a reader sees when they flip to this page is the ad-title: Oberheim OB-X for $2,995. Retail.

Those sneaky SOBs! Getting me all excited like that. Readers at the time would be thinking Oberheim has made a drastic price drop to their OB-X, when just a year before the four voice OB-X model was introduced at $4,295.

But the photo underneath the ad-title reveals the truth  immediately and readers are introduced to Oberheim's newest family member - the OB-SX.  Overall, the thin, top-heavy layout ensures that reader's eyes start at the top and reads downward, so there is little chance someone might get confused.

No harm. No foul.  Nice work.

The rest of the ad-copy fills in the details. Your $2,995 basically gets your a pre-programmed OB-X with 24 awesome sounds. "User programmability is not necessary". Better yet, buyers aren't limited to those 24 sounds because they ccould purchase and swap out other ROM chips with different patches. And even better, users could get custom chips made by sending in OB-X program cassettes to the factory. A musician could now keep his or her relatively expensive OB-X in the studio, and then when touring, just get the sounds used on the record dumped on a chip and put in a much less expensive OB-SX.

Brilliant thinking on Oberheim's part.

While researching this post, I found some historical debate on MATRIXSYNTH and elsewhere on whether the internals and sound of the OB-SX resemble the older OB-X or later-launched OB-XA. Indeed this ad compares it to the OB-X, but, that doesn't mean the internals and sound are anything like them. I can't really speak from a technical perspective, but from a marketing perspective, Oberheim didn't have a choice. The OB-XA hadn't been announced yet. So, even if internally, the technology had evolved enough to more resemble an OB-XA, Oberheim couldn't state this fact in this ad or they would have blown the OB-XA surprise.

My 2 cents.  :)

One other interesting note about this ad-copy... if you read right to the very last bullet point about the OB-SX's features, IT MENTIONS OBERHEIM'S COMPUTER INTERFACE! WTF?

Is this the Oberheim pre-MIDI interface, later known by Oberheim as "The SYSTEM", that I became a little infatuated with back in 2010? In one particular blog post I included this little bulleted timeline to explain it's introduction.

In my September 30, 2010 "The System" ad blog post, I did a little Contemporary Keyboard back-tracking to see just when Oberheim or the magazine might have first mentioned the connector:
"I found one of the earlier direct mentions of the multi-pin connector back in the June 1981 Keyboard review for the OB-Xa. The interface is mentioned very briefly in the description of the rear panel, where Dominic Milano writes that the owner's manual explains it "is for interfacing the instrument with future Oberheim products"."
Good lord, I'm quoting myself quoting other people now...   :D

Anyways, what I thought was the earliest mention was back in 1981.

1981: DSX, DMX, and OB-Xa start appearing in ads together.
1982: 1st generation "System" (OB-Xa/DSX/DMX) ad appears.
Early 1983: This OB-8 ad appears - no mention of the "System".
Mid 1983: DX drum machine ad appears - mentions the "System".
Late 1983: 2nd generation "System" (OB-8/DSX/DMX) ad appears.

Point is, this OB-SX ad came out almost A FULL YEAR before that June 1981 Keyboard review for the OB-XA, and that DSX/DMX/OB-XA ad that I also reference above.

Could this ad be the first reference to Oberheim's "System" technology? Way back in 1980? It's lookin' pretty likely.

Interestingly, most references I've found online, even Vintage Synth Explorer, suggest that the computer interface was added to the OB-SX some point later in it's production. But, this introductory ad clearly states that the computer interface was available right at introduction - in mid-1980. Nice.

I'll hopefully continue this OB-SX dialogue in my next ad post - with some guest commentary :)

There's some good resources out there!

End note: Can anyone tell me what the S stands for in OB-SX?  Maybe "Simple"? Gah. Sounds stupid.

Anyone... anyone...?

1 comment:

Micke said...

Hmm...maybe the S stands for "small", with other words...a small OB-X! I dunno.

Anyway, the instrument pictured in this intro ad is most likely a prototype or pre-production unit because it looks a little bit different from the "regular" OB-SX. To begin with, it has less knobs/controls on the front panel, and the OB-X logo is in a different position.

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