Oberheim has some absolutely iconic synths. They were originally built around the SEM, the Synthesizer Expander Module, which was a monophonic synth; it was pretty simple, although it had a really good, strong sound. Arturia has an emulation of the SEM, written pretty directly. It’s a really good emulation, but the SEM, by itself, is pretty limited. You’ll struggle to get some of the iconic Oberheim “sounds” out of the SEM, because while it was a core building block of those sounds, it wasn’t how those sounds were built.
Which sounds, you ask? Whew! Let me tell you, limiting myself to the music in my playlist:
- The opening “growl” of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” is an Oberheim.
- Most of the keyboards in Rush’s “The Camera Eye” – including that opening synth – is the same Oberheim on Tom Sawyer.
- Most of Rush’s “Signals” was done on an Oberheim as well. Those lush, beautiful analog synths that swamp the drums and guitars? They’re an Oberheim.
- Van Halen’s “Jump” is an Oberheim brass patch.
So if the SEM was only a building block for those sounds, what was the actual machine? Well, it was the next step up: an Oberheim SEM poly synth! This was a beast made with multiple SEM modules chained together to play from a single keyboard, with each SEM being individually set. They’re all similar sounds but they’re not the same sound; they’re directed individually in the stereo field, they have different frequency cutoffs, they have their own effects, they have their own tuning.
It creates a giant sound.
Arturia has a really good OB-8 emulation now, the OB-Xa V, and it’s a really good emulation of the actual OB-8 (and other similar machines, like the OB-X.) I have it; I love it. (It’s one of my go-to synths, actually, along with a few Moog emulators.)
Sonic Projects also has the OP-X Pro-II emulator, also targeting the same line of Oberheims; it’s also a really good emulator, with different strengths and weaknesses compared to the Arturia. (The strengths: it allows you to emphasize some of the filters compared to the slightly-more-tame OB-Xa; that “Tom Sawyer growl” is near-perfect with OP-X Pro-II but the OB-Xa’s version is kinda weak because the resonance can’t be overdriven as much.)
But here’s the thing: neither the OP-X Pro II nor the OB-Xa are Oberheim Polysynth emulators. They don’t give you six (or eight) individually addressable SEMs, although they get close to what the capabilities can be; there’s drift, but there’s not separate signal sources…
And that’s where G-Force’s OB-E comes in, because it literally provides you the individually-addressable SEM modules, from the looks of it. I don’t have it, but looking at it, I’m thinking I want it pretty badly.