Monday, April 9, 2012

Oberheim OB-Xa "Latest result of the evolutionary philosophy..." ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1981

Oberheim OB-Xa "Latest result of the evolutionary philosophy..." 2-page colour synthesizer advertisement from page 42 and 43 in the February 1981 issue of Contemporary Keyboard.

Hubba hubba! This is my kind of centerfold.  No, I'm not talking about that J. Geils Band song everyone used to roller-skate to. I'm talking full-on pure centerfold gear pr0n.

Early side note: Just for sh*tz and giggles, I decided to Google "centerfold", and sure enough not one, but two links for the song of the same name by the J. Geils Band, are actually the top links.  Yup - that song beat out anything related to Playboy. How popular do you have to be to do that?!? Although unfortunately, the Wikipedia page for the song doesn't mention roller-skating at all. Very disappointing. :)  And yeah, don't try the image search though, unless you are 1. alone and 2. not at work.

But back to the ad.

Oberheim obviously thought they got some good bang for their buck with their first ever 1-page colour ad for the OB-SX, and so decided to keep the colour machine running when launching the latest instrument in the Obie family - the OB-Xa - with not just one page of colour, but TWO. 

Like their only previous 2-page ad (in black and white) for the OB-X, a good majority of the two pages of real estate was reserved strictly for imagery. Rightly so - that OB-Xa baby speaks for itself with its gorgeous texture and colouring, the big-ass OB-Xa logo with that cute little "a", and all those other fine details such as the red accent line running along the bottom of the ad that we were first introduced to in the colour 1-pager for the OB-SX. TOberheim - you are on a roll.

As for ad-copy, again Oberheim keeps their long-standing theme of "evolution". And their positioning as a higher-end synthesizer manufacturer by including such lines as "collaboration between Oberheim staff and professional musicians" - with the keyword being "professional".

I used the word "launch" to describe the purpose of this OB-Xa ad, but were there enough changes between the original OB-X to consider it a whole new instrument? Heck yah! The bullet points angled down the lower-right hand side of the ad give all the details, except what I think is the most important one - the switch from discrete circuits for oscillators and filters to Curtis integrated circuits.

The Wikipedia page for the OB-Xa points out the obvious - this change "made the inside of the synth less cluttered, reducing the labor required to replace bad parts; and reduced the cost of manufacture". But, not mentioned (but probably inferred), is that this switch also resulted in a change to the sound of the OB-Xa when compared to the OB-X.

I wasn't the only one interested in this difference. The sound comparison question has been asked on the 'net on numerous occasions, but I found two sites in particular with some good information. The first was a conversation on the GearSluts forum back in 2009. And a post in that thread took me to a good Oberheim OB overview from the September 1998 issue of Sound on Sound. There are other interesting conversations out there too. And, unlike some comparison conversations I've witnessed, the Oberheim crowd tend to keep it on-topic and it rarely devolves into name-calling. Gotta like that.  :)

Did you notice that curious end to the ad-copy? This little gem is something new for Oberheim: 

"Don't take any wooden nickels"

I took it as an obvious message to musicians not to accept cheap alternatives (and a jab at other manufacturers).

Not sure how I feel about the inclusion of that little sentence - did they really need to "go there". Maybe it was more of an in-joke thing?

This particular ad appeared a couple of times at the beginning of 1981 to introduce readers to the OB-Xa. And it certainly wasn't the last we would hear from Oberheim about this instrument. But, the OB-Xa (and OB-SX) would have take a back seat to the new DSX digital polyphonic sequencer and DMX programmable digital drum machine for the next while.

Short post - time to enjoy the extra long weekend (which by the time this goes live will almost be over. Drat.

But yeah - nap time.

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