Monday, March 19, 2012

Oberheim Four- and Eight Voice "Power of Polyphonics" ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1979


Oberheim Four- and Eight Voice "Power of Polyphonics" 1-page advertisement from page 49 in Contemporary Keyboard March 1979.

This was a fitting end to SEM family appearances in CK ads.

Much like the Oberheim logo is throwing punches (or dancing aggresively  :), this advertisement's purpose was to fight back against the growing tide of competitor's polyphonic synthesizers that were appearing on the market.

It's a quality advertisement that is well-designed, well-written, and summarizes nicely all that is great about this series of instruments - it's separately programmable voices and modularity. Unfortunately, this modular format also made the synth a little too bulky and a little prehistoric looking. A big PLUS in my books but back in those technologically-driven days, could have be seen as a bit of a negative.

The ad ended up appearing in the March and May 79 issues. And that was that. The end of an era.

Well, not exactly.

Okay - technically speaking it was the last time we saw this synth featured in an ad. But it wasn't the last we saw from the SEM family in the magazine.

I'll explain -

In this ad, it specifically states that the keyboard for the synth was available in two versions - the first being a single manual that could be expanded with an external five octave keyboard, and the second a dual manual version. Unfortunately, the photo chosen for the ad was for a single manual Four-Voice. Probably for space reasons. Understandable.  But I would have been much more impressed if they had included a dual manual Eight Voice photo. *That* was a beast.

Fortunately, for avid Contemporary Keyboard readers, the magazine did happen to include a small photo of a dual manual Eight Voice months after the ad ended - in the August 1979 Spec Sheet section when they chose to give Oberheim one last print-party.
"Oberheim Dual-Manual Synthesizer. The unit consists of eight synthesizer expander modules grouped in one case. They are used with dual keyboard, keyboard controllers, and eight-voice polyphonic programmer situated in a separate case. Each keyboard has its own keyboard electronics. The top manual has a four-voice configuration, and the bottom one has an eight-voice configuration. The upper keyboard is four-octave, the lower keyboard is five-octave. The lower keyboard electronics act as master for pitch-bend and overall filter control. Switching is: Mode Four - four voices on the upper keyboard and four voices on the lower keyboard; Mode Six - two voices on the upper keyboard and six voices on the lower keyboard; Mode Eight - eight voices on the lower keyboard. Keyboard electronics work for the most part independently on one another, enabling the user to have several voices in unison creating a complex sound or chord on one keyboard while playing polyphonically on the other. Also included is CV-IN and CV-OUT for all eight modules. Price is $12,500.00. Oberheim Electronics. 1455 19th St., Santa Monica, CA 90404."
Huh. Only $12,500, eh?   :)

Often you will see the dual manual Eight Voice described on the Web as "custom made". And they sold so few that maybe it would technically make each one a custom job. But, Oberheim's intentions doesn't look like they were pushing it as a custom-made piece.

I decided not to scan the small photo from the Spec Sheet - it just wouldn't do this synth justice. That thing is a beast and deserves a two-page advertisement just for posterity alone. But an ad with a big photo just wasn't meant to be - at least in CK anyways.

But, as luck would have it, more than 30 years later Internet fans would have a chance to view one of these beasts through the magic that is YouTube.

In December 2009, Kevin Lightner (Synthfool) was selling Patrick Moraz's dual manual Eight Voice. The blogs and synth sites went bonkers for the images and video that was posted. And rightfully so:


Another awesome photo of a BLACK dual manual Eight Voice has also been making the rounds on the Internet. I first ran into the photo below through the most awesome MATRIXSYNTH site, who found it through the also most awesome Vintage Synth Explorer forums long before I ever started lurking there. I've also seen the photo pop up in other forums too. Gorgeous.

From MATRIXSYNTH
According to the post, apparently an Oberheim employee owned and built this gothy unit from parts:
"I built it myself from parts purchased from Oberhiem directly. There was an employee purchase plan, where you could buy the part kits (all the pieces pulled from stock, and organized)." 
In the words of MATRIXSYNTH when he reported on it:

Wow.

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