Tom Oberheim bekommt seinen Namen von Gibson zurück!

Oberheim GibsonOberheim Gibson

Nach Dave Smith von Yamaha seinen Namen Sequential zurück bekam, hat auch Gibson beschlossen, Tom seinen Namen als Firma zurück zu geben.

Eine ziemliche Sensation kommt jetzt in dieser Stunde von Gibson, dem Gitarren-Hersteller, der den Namen Oberheim seit dem Matrix 12 und dem Xpander übernommen hat und bis hin zu dem Verleih des Namens an eine italienische „Billigfirma“, die ziemlich gesichtslose Masterkeyboards herstellte unter dem Namen. Es gab nach Oberheims Fortgang nur den OB12, der von Viscount entwickelt wurde und nicht mit Tom zu tun hatte, danach wurde es dunkel aus der Sicht der Synthesizer-Freunde.

Der Name Oberheim und der Original-Schriftzug mit dem Notenlogo durfte von Tom nicht verwendet werden, weshalb er jedoch nach Namen wie Marion Systems und Seer dann einfach unter seinem Namen Tom Oberheim weiter machte und zunächst SEM-Module baute.

Nach über 30 Jahren sprachen Curleigh und Oberheim auf der letzten Winter NAMM 2019 über das Thema und Tom ist nun dankbar, dass das möglich gemacht werden konnte.

Das macht den neuen Ansatz von Gibson zumindest für Synthesizer-Menschen sympathisch.

Wir wünschen Tom eine gute Zeit mit dem Namen und hoffen, dass nach dem OB6 vielleicht noch ein toller neuer Synthesizer zu sehen sein wird, der möglicherweise auch noch in Planung sein könnte.

Tom Oberheim ist für seine Matrix-Serie, den OB-Xa und die 2,4 und 8-Voice Synthesizer bekannt, sie prägten die frühe Ära der polyphonen analogen Synthesizer und waren zudem Stilprägend für die Zeit, denn von Depeche Mode bis DAF haben sehr viele Acts Oberheim verwendet.

Neuer Oberheim-Synthesizer für 2019? Keine SEM / Two+Four-Voice Synthesizer mehr?


Es ist eigentlich nur ein einziger Satz auf dem die ganze Nachricht fußt, nämlich von keinem geringeren als Tom Oberheim selbst, es würde 2019 einen neuen Synthesizer geben. Und der wäre kein SEM-Synthesizer.

Jemand aus dem bekannten Forum „Gearslutz“ fragte Tom Oberheim persönlich und direkt per Mail, ob und was mit den SEM-basierten Synthesizer passiere. Daraufhin kam die Nachricht, dass der TVS (Two Voice Synthesizer) und das SEM (Synthesizer Expander Module) bald ausverkauft seien und nicht weiter hergestellt würden. Noch kann man die SEM-Synthesizer kaufen, welche auf den Entwicklungen von Tom Oberheim von 1975 basieren. Sie sind bekannt für einen sehr weichen Sound.

Tom Oberheim: Es kommt ein neuer Oberheim-Synthesizer!

Der neue Synthesizer oder irgendwelche Details sind nicht bekannt. Nicht gemeint ist der DSI/Sequential OB6, der unter Mithilfe von Tom Oberheim entstand. Der ist faktisch ein sechsstimmiger 6-fach-SEM-Synthesizer und erinnert optisch an die Blaue-Streifen-Serie (OB-Xa, OB-8). Nach einigen Modulvarianten und ähnlichem von SEM-Modulen scheint Herr Oberheim nun also doch etwas zu planen.

Interessant wäre durchaus auch eine Zusammenarbeit mit dem jungen Ingenieur mit dem Namen Shear. Die größte Wahrscheinlichkeit jedoch ist eine eigene neue Entwicklung, die faktisch alles sein könnte. Besonders nahe läge aber, dass in irgendeiner Form ein Multimode-Filter mit 12dB/Oktave enthalten sein könnte. Denn das ist „typisch“ für Tom Oberheim und es ist sein Verdienst, dass es diese so in dieser Form überhaupt gibt.

Was genau kommt, weiss niemand, dem Gerücht könnte man auch ein sehr viel weniger ambitioniertes „mal sehen“ unterstellen. Dennoch ist die Ansage, es käme etwas, deutlich genug. Es wird sogar ein Zeitraum genannt, nämlich frühes nächstes Jahr, was entweder jetzt sein könnte oder der Beginn des Jahres 2020. Realistischer wäre wohl eine Entwicklungszeit von 1 Jahr einzuplanen und auch dann nicht sofort mit einem funktionierenden Vorserienmodell zu rechnen.

Mehr dazu gibt es bisher nicht, aber was erwartest du eigentlich heute von Oberheim? Einen neuen Xpander? Ein neuer OB-X oder OB-Xa? New Stuff kann aber auch monophon sein oder deutlich weniger aufwendig als ein polyphoner speicherbarer Synthesizer, so wie man das von Tom gewohnt ist.

Behringer teases Oberheim, Roland remakes; hints at production delays

Behringer are busy teasing still more analog synth remakes. But messages from the company suggest they may be struggling to produce their Minimoog clone.

Right now, Behringer are shipping the synth that represented their first major foray into the synth business. That would be analog polysynth DeepMind 12 – a 12-voice keyboard loaded up with extras, including built-in Wi-Fi and a bunch of effects from TC ELECTRONIC and KLARK TEKNIK. And it represents a significant acquisition of engineering talent, as Behringer has brought the MIDAS team into the fold.

The DeepMind is unquestionably inexpensive for a polysynth and, from people I know who’ve had it for longer tests, at least reasonably good. If you don’t need 12 voices, you can get a number of great instruments, some of them for less than the DeepMind. And if you’re willing to spend a bit more, Novation, Moog, Dave Smith and others have offerings, as well. But it is fair to say the DeepMind 12 has found a sizable market for itself, at least for now.

Irrespective of the price, the DeepMind seems to face the challenge all synths do at the moment: potential customers are far more familiar with classic instruments of the past. And remakes of a classic Moog, Roland, KORG, Yamaha, or even Oberheim or Sequential instrument seem to earn more immediate attention and recognition than anything new. (Make of that what you will.)

And so it is that Behringer have managed to upstage… themselves.

The DeepMind was itself accompanied by a whirlwind of teasers and spec-by-spec leaks from Behringer across social media and forums, and … then all hell broke loose. There was an unexplained “spy” shot of someone holding an SH-101 (with different lettering) on a day Roland planned a press briefing. There were threads asking users what remakes they wanted to see. There were random photos of gear and prototypes that might or might not represent something they would make. And then there was the weirdest moment of them all – various clones of drum machines and synthesizers suddenly appeared on the official Behringer website, only to be immediately followed by the suggestion that maybe that was all just a dream.

The Behringer synth story over the past twelve months has had as many unexplained appearances as a season of LOST. (Sorry, dated reference. Hey, you know – retro, like synths.)

In the midst of this, there was one synth we know to be real, and we know to be in production – a rack-mount model D based on the original Minimoog circuit design (minus the keyboard, of course). And Behringer got as far as bringing a prototype around for people to test and hear – with reasonably good results.

But while Behringer was busy teasing the Minimoog recreation – and many other synths – Roland went ahead and actually shipped their own compact Minimoog-style instrument, partnering with independent US maker Studio Electronics. Unlike the other Boutique Series from Roland, the SE-02 is analog – should you care about such things. The SE-02 has some extras, too, like a step sequencer, cross modulation, and filter feedback loop, and sound characteristics that come from SE’s Boomstar line.

And you can buy it now.

So what about the Behringer model D? Well, you should be able to buy it soon. I’ve seen preorders at Germany’s Music Store, though haven’t talked to anyone who’s got one in-hand.

Let me turn it over to Uli Behringer, then, who this week wrote:

Please allow me to clarify that the first batch of Model D’s had arrived at our German retailer Music Store right before yearend, which you can easily verify with them.

The next batch will hopefully leave the factory by end of coming week with some units being air-shipped to the US. The production is still relatively slow due to the fact that each unit takes over 30 minutes to warm up followed by a meticulous one-hour calibration and quality assurance procedure.”

Wait… back up. Couple things here.

First, this suggests that in the midst of teasing literally dozens of remakes, Behringer are stumbling on shipping just this first one. The Model D was shown publicly at Superbooth in Berlin in the first half of last year, with preorders taken early in the summer and shipping promised soon. This represents a significant delay – acceptable maybe for a small builder, but less so a massive instrument manufacturer.

Second, the Minimoog authenticity here may have gone a bit far. Recall that there are reasons other than cost that synthesizer engineers largely moved away from pure analog oscillators, opting for digital oscillators or digital-controlled analog oscilllators.

Thirty minutes to warm up? An hour to calibrate?

Some manual tuning is evidently involved in this instrument, just like on the original. And that’s consistent with the specs, which mention an A-440 tuning reference. Note that one feature of the Roland/Studio Electronics SE-02 is temperature-stabilized oscillators with automatic tuning. That plus the extra features on the Studio Electronics piece (and a better stock outlook) make the Roland look like a better compact Minimoog alternative than the Behringer.

Reading through Uli’s convoluted messages, it generally seems Behringer for all this hype are now lowering expectations for their analog clones.

And that should mean reevaluating their impact on the industry. Low price is one thing, but availability matters, too.

Of course, the model D delays are conveniently here buried by Behringer teasing still more instruments – based on the Oberheim OB-X and the Roland VP-330 vocoder / string machine.

But again, availability is an issue. There’s no pricing, and no ship date. There’s no information on the vocoder at all. And the OB-Xa is described as being fairly far off, if in the hands of the same Midas team who did the DeepMind:

Since this is more a labor of love than a commercially viable project, our engineers can’t work full time on this synth and will use some of their free time, hence the project will likely take more than 12 months.

So, here’s the current status:

DeepMind 12: shipping now. ($999 with 49-key keyboard, 12D without $899)
DeepMind 6: shipping now. ($699 with 37-key keyboard, six voices)
Model D: limited quantities, still a preorder. ($299)
Vocoder Plus: unconfirmed; status unknown.
OB-Xa clone: confirmed, 12+ months out, pricing unknown.

(Prices/availability confirmed for US retailers, starting with Sweetwater. Model D appears to be backordered both in Europe and stateside – though you’re welcome to “call and confirm” as Uli suggests.)

Everything else is just vaporware until proven otherwise.

And here’s the weird thing: Behringer have managed to steal the show from themselves and the fact that the full DeepMind range is shipping.

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Behringer go nuts, plan to clone every historic synth, drum machine

The ARP 2600, Octave’s The Cat, the Synthi VCS3, Korg MS-20, the Wasp, the 909, the 808, and more… it seems Behringer are going to make cheap versions of just about everything.

In placeholder product pages on their site, you’ll see a whole bunch of remakes of historic classics, from synths to drum machines, Synthi to Roland. Product images aren’t there yet, but a lot of these will ship as keyboard instruments.

Also, in what could disrupt the boutique-heavy modular market, Eurorack versions appear to be planned for many or all of these.


Synths and Samplers at Music Tribe

Drum Machines

Pricing and availability aren’t there, either, but the timing now suggests that NAMM is coming – and Behringer seem to be in the habit now of pre-empting rivals by teasing stuff before they announce it. (Whether that’s meant to take the wind out of the sails of rival press events, or spook competitors, or amp up would-be customers, or a combination, tough to know.)

The models:

Synthopia break down the synth side of this, bringing together specs and including some videos of the original models:

But there are drum machines there, too: 808, 909, “999,” an apparent Linn Drum clone (LMX) and Oberheim DMX (OMX here). has a run-down of those:

Some of the product names get slightly scrambled, but others don’t.

Of course, this also means Behringer are now getting into remakes of products whose creators and original brands still exist – KORG, Roland, Roger Linn, Tom Oberheim, and so on. It’s not unexpected – they’ve got access to inexpensive analog filters and oscillators that exactly replicate the originals.

But it does suggest a shakeout is about to happen in the business, especially if these prices are disruptive. Will customers still be willing to pay more for independent makers (let alone other big brands)? Will the availability of cheap remakes make it tough to bring out new designs – or, alternatively, will it effectively mandate coming out with something new to compete?

For now, we’re in the position we so often are with Behringer: speculating, as the brand gets way ahead of everyone else with a teaser, long before the specifics of price and design emerge. And that seems to be part of the design.

But this story may not end here. It’s possible giants like Roland and KORG could find legal reason to go after Behringer, depending on how the products are presented. They might also find other mechanisms in marketing and sales to take action.

You’ll find specs on Behringer’s site. Let us know what you think.

ARP image (CC-BY) Rosa Menkman.

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Chicago’s Knobcon is where gear makers converge to show their wares

We’ve come full circle: the informal meetup seems to be eclipsing big trade shows. And for modular and boutique makers, KnobCon is now an American mainstay.

We saw Russia’s upcoming Synthposium. Moscow is as much music festival as it is gear conference. KnobCon in Chicago is mostly just gear – mentions of performances double as demos, and even the Friday party promises “gear-centric performances.”

With the ever-growing cadre of small modular makers in the USA, though, Chicago’s KnobCon is looking like the one place everyone will come together. A handful of bigger manufacturers (Roland, Yamaha, Elektron) join a mostly-boutique lineup – and Doepfer from Germany, who started the whole Eurorack thing.

Tom Oberheim, who’s gone from being historical legend to modern-day gear rockstar, will “headline” the event with a keynote. Maybe the most interesting feature is the Demo Derby. Sign up for dedicated time slots on a system, with the venue open to people bringing their own studio setups. (It’s a bit like a model train meetup – you can create any modular setup you like, in a defined area.)

Here’s the full lineup of gear makers:

1010music LLC
4ms Company
Amplified Parts
Art For The Ears
Audulus LLC
Blue Lantern Modules
Catalyst Audio
Chase Bliss Audio
Conductive Labs
Copper Traces
Couture Voltage
Dave Smith Instruments
Detachment 3
Division 6
Doctor Synth’s World of ROMplers
DOEPFER Musikelektronik
Dwarfcraft Devices
Elite Modular
Erogenous Tones
Family Room Recordings
Five12 Inc
Future Retro
Great Lakes Modular
Grove Audio
Industrial Music Electronics
Isla Instruments
JMLS – Logan Soloman Synth Research
Make Noise
Metalphoto of Cincinnati
Michigan Synth Works
Modular Addict
Mystic Circuits
Nerd Audio
Noise Engineering
Rabid Elephant
Schlappi Engineering
SDIY Chicago
STG Soundlabs
Synth City
Synthesis Technology
SysEx Dumpster
TipTop Audio
Universal Audio


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