BBC Radio 1 coined BURNS’ original record the “Ibiza Anthem That Never Happened.” As the global dance community settles back into a state of normalcy, Carl Cox’s techno-infused revival of “Talamanca” makes the transition that much more intoxicating.
Rebekah’s Elements label is putting out a new compilation featuring tracks made by a number of techno producers during lockdown.
The 10-track ‘X Compilation’ has its origins in the ’10×10 Production Challenge’, which Rebekah curated in 2020. It saw her set daily creative objectives for producers to work outside of their comfort zones and deliver a finished arrangement each day.
‘X Compilation’ is made up of music made from that process, with Rebekah contributing a track herself, in addition to cuts by the likes of unperson, Vera Grace and Tess. Tracks cover a range from dancefloor-focused techno to more experimental electronic music.
In a statement about the release, Rebekah said: “I am really honoured to present this compilation as an insight to what was achieved within the 10×10 creative challenge. Connecting once more to music and fellow producers in this way brought much-needed light within a period of uncertainty in the scene and the world as a whole as we fought our way through the pandemic.”
Elements will release ‘X Compilation’ on 24th June.
Oberheim has officially announced the OB-X8, a new synth that they say brings back a legendary analog synth sound after over 40 years, but with state-of-the-art features that expand on the capabilities of the originals.
The Oberheim OB-X8 combines the three different voice architectures of the classic OB-X, OB-Xa, and OB-8 synths into a single instrument. The individual filter types and other unique characteristics of each model have been faithfully reproduced, along with an uncompromising 100% analog signal path.
As a result, the Oberheim OB-X8 is much more than a reissue, it’s a new Oberheim design that offers better synthesis options and expressive capabilities than its predecessors, including:
Additional SEM filter modes add high-pass, band-pass, and notch functions to the classic OB-X filter
Vintage knob allows variable amounts of voice-to-voice variability to emulate the behavior of vintage instruments
Velocity sensitivity adds expressiveness to volume and filter
Enhanced unison allows variable voice stacking from 1-8 voices
Variable triangle wave cross-modulation
Over 600 user-programmable preset locations
Programmable per-program pan allows wider stereo presence
Variable oscillator and noise levels
OB insiders know that the myriad of “Page 2? functions unlocked the hidden power of the original OB-X, OB-Xa, and OB-8. The OB-X8 features all of the classic page 2 parameters and new ones for 2022, giving you direct access to 40+ nuanced controls, such as additional SEM filter modes, per-voice panning, LFO keyboard tracking, Mod delay time and envelope inversion, independent pulse width control, and much more.
For even greater expressiveness than the originals, the OB-X8 features a premium-quality Fatar keyboard, with velocity and aftertouch sensitivity.
8-voice, pure-analog polyphony with saw, square/pulse, triangle, and noise
Two discrete SEM/OB-X-lineage VCOs per voice deliver classic Oberheim tone
Discrete SEM-lineage VCFs deliver authentic OB-X-style tone and presence
Genuine Curtis filters add bold OB-Xa/OB-8 character
Meticulously modeled envelope responses match each OB model: OB-X, OB-Xa, and OB-8
The 61-key FATAR velocity- and touch-sensitive keyboard offers expanded expression and responsiveness
Bi-timbral capability allows two presets simultaneously for splits and doubles
400-plus factory programs, including the full set of factory sounds for the OB-X, OB-SX, OB-Xa, and OB-8
Integral, fanless, heatsink-free power supply
Real walnut end cheeks
High-resolution OLED display enables patch management and easy access to advanced features
Classic Oberheim Pitch and Mod levers allow expressive note bending, vibrato, and access to arpeggiator functions
Pricing and Availability
The Oberheim OB-X8 is available to pre-order now, priced at $4,999.
Moscow-based instrument maker SOMA Labs has unveiled a new microtonal synth encased in wood.
The TERRA synth can create a vast array of digital sounds, its manufacturer says. It comes with 32 different algorithms, each of which is designed to be a complete instrument on its own.
The synth is also equipped with a unique keyboard that has an assortment of sensors to allow for timbre control and pitch shifts. SOMA Labs says people can use the keyboard to tune notes with high accuracy, while the sounds it can produce are capable of mimicking the range of a grand piano.
The synth is still in the development stage, but a prototype will be unveiled at Superbooth, the Berlin trade fair for electronic music instruments, on 13th May. Various different versions of the synth will ultimately be made, according to SOMA Labs.
In a note on its website, unveiling the new product, SOMA Labs said: “The goal is to free the musician from long exhausting programming, setting hundreds of parameters for creating one timbre, and instead putting the focus directly on music and performance.”
You can watch a video demonstrating how the TERRA synth can be used below.
The first new Oberheim instrument in 35 years is something special. So let’s get an exclusive tour of what this instrument is like to play — from one of the people who programmed some of its new sounds. And yes, we’ve got sound samples.
Friend-of-the-site and veteran sound designer Francis Preve joins us for another unique synth tour. I’ll let him take it away: -Ed.
More in the news:
Life with the OB-X8
After programming it for a month (and comparing it to other analog gear in my rig), I can confirm that the Oberheim OB-X8 is a truly fantastic beast with an incredibly specific sound, much like last year’s spot-on reissue of the original Prophets 5 and 10.
When I first fired it up, I was startled by how much it instantly evoked the sound of artists who relied on it for multiple hits. Sure, Van Halen’s “Jump” brass sound is a trademark of the OB series, but it’s also the sound of Prince and Jam & Lewis (aka The Minneapolis Sound), as well as a striking number of UK synthwave artists from the early 80s. The Thompson Twins, Depeche Mode, Simple Minds, along with art-wave pioneers Japan and Ultravox, all used Oberheims in crafting their early records—and it’s astonishing how much these instruments influenced the sound of vintage synthwave. Familiar sounds practically fall out of the unit with minimal effort.
And thanks to Tom Oberheim, Marcus Ryle, and Dave Smith, the sound is… huge.
There are two distinct engineering aspects that make the OB sound so recognizable: The circuits and the architecture. The sound of the circuits and Curtis chips are fairly obvious to most vintage synth fans, especially the filters, which have a sonic fingerprint unlike other synths from the same era. But those chips and overall signal flow has been tweaked and customized, to recreate the original character of its forebears. As a result, they’re thick and beefy, even in 2-pole mode, and the 4-pole OB-Xa filter is insanely warm and round, despite (or perhaps because of) its subdued resonance behavior. If you want squelchy resonance, just pick one of the other low-pass options. We’ll get to those in a bit.
While the circuits/architecture will be the main attraction for most musicians, the user experience is just as important to the OB sound, because all three synths were designed during the first decade of mainstream analog synthesis, before the entire industry essentially committed to the workflow outlined by the Roland Jupiter and Juno series (also definitive analog synths, to be clear). While I plan to write a more in-depth analysis of this era… someday… for now it simply means that users coming from software—or contemporary analog hardware—are going to grapple with a bit of a learning curve.
The OB-X8 oscillators have a specific sound, but they’re also implemented in an unusual manner. To start, there’s no mixer section on the front panel. You can simply toggle them on/off via the filter section’s buttons, but you can’t set their levels unless you do a bit of menu diving.
This is actually super-useful in practice and the oscillator waveform selection process is equally unique. Each oscillator has two buttons for sawtooth and square/pulse. When both buttons are off, you get a smooth sounding triangle. Select sawtooth or square and you’ll hear their familiar harmonics. But select both saw and square simultaneously and you’ll hear a unique new waveform one octave higher. Why? Because the square wave is intentionally out-of-phase with the sawtooth, resulting in only even harmonics. Mathematically, this translates to another sawtooth an octave higher, but sonically it’s a bit grittier—and sounds incredible with pulse-width adjustments.
The oscillators include a few other extras that extend their usefulness and make the OB sound so identifiable. The front panel pulse-width knob controls both oscillators’ square waves simultaneously, which works well in context with their phase relationships. Hard sync has its own button, while a second button toggles between cross-modulation and/or routing the filter envelope to modulate the pitch of oscillator 2 for either hard sync sweeps or that trademark pitch “blip” in the iconic brass sounds. It’s also worth noting that these functions quickly illustrate how Richard Barbieri (of Japan and numerous progressive rock bands) was able to create some of his more unique textures.
From the panel, there are three options: OB-X, OB-Xa, and OB-Xa 4-pole. Each of these sound remarkably different. Resonance fans will dig the first two, while the 4-pole Xa offers a much richer flavor at the expense of some resonance attenuation, delivering that arena sound associated with Van Halen’s “Jump” and other 80s rock hits.
That alone would be enough for most users, but if you dig into the Page 2 settings, you’ll find the classic SEM 2-pole low-pass, high-pass, notch, and band-pass options. These aren’t state-variable (i.e. continuously sweepable) but it’s really nice that they’re all included, as they dramatically increase the X8’s versatility. In fact, one of my patches uses an LFO swept notch filter to emulate a phaser. Super fun.
In addition to the standard amp and filter envelopes, there are dual LFOs. The front panel LFO is a fairly unusual design for its time, with separate depth knobs that can be assigned to specific destinations. The first knob handles pitch for oscillator 1 and 2, as well as filter cutoff. These are toggled on/off with dedicated switches for each. The second depth knob can be routed to pulse-width for each oscillator and/or volume.
The waveform options cover sine, saw up, saw down, square, and sample-and-hold, but there’s a really cool twist lurking within, as you can assign the source for the sample-and-hold function. If you want the classic “random” sound, keep noise (the default) as the source, but for more clever patterns, you can sample the output of the “Vibrato” LFO which includes a similar set of waveforms. I used this feature on several of my presets, since you can sample the output of a triangle wave to create filter arpeggios (included in the Triplex audio example). It’s just a matter of getting the timing of both LFOs sorted. Tiny changes to either can yield dramatically different results.
It’s a bit exotic by modern standards, but the Vibrato LFO is managed in the paddle section, which includes the arpeggiator as well. The destinations are limited to either or both oscillators, but that makes sense here, since it was used primarily for pitch modulation when these synths were first released. Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” organ vibrato is a prime example of this application—and it becomes obvious that the LFO slow-down at the song’s end was done by grabbing the Rate knob in this section.
Page 2 is another iconic Oberheim inclusion, with every feature from the original OB-8 included, along with an array of modern options. Here you can deeply tweak the details of your sounds, like the individual volumes of oscillators, pulse-width offsets for each, filter modes, voice panning, fine-tuned cross-modulation, and far too many other details to cover in the span of this overview. In deviating from the originals, the inclusion of an OLED for navigation is a godsend and well worth scrolling around and experimenting as you work with the unit. Frankly, I got totally lost a few times (the cross-mod features can wreak havoc with patch tuning if you’re not careful) but it’s well worth the extra effort for accessing features like the aforementioned sample-and-hold tricks.
The Oberheim approach to arpeggiation requires a quick glance at the manual, as there’s a lot more than the panel indicates. For example, by holding the Mode and Arp buttons simultaneously, you can alter the interval jumps for the arpeggio. On most hardware arpeggiators, we expect standard octave jumps, but once you get the hang of it, you can create interval jumps a la Ableton’s arpeggiator. For several presets, I used fifths, which can be a wonderfully musical alternative to octaves.
The pitch-bend and modulation paddles will confuse some users, since they default to inverted—you pull to pitch-bend up and push to bend down—but this can be changed in the Global settings. Another oddity is the fact that the modulation paddle only works in one direction. By default you can add vibrato by pushing up, but nothing happens when you pull back. New users might think that something’s wrong, but in early days of hardware this was simply a design decision and knowing this, it’s quite easy to get used to.
As for glide, it’s polyphonic, which means you can get all kinds of pitch sweeps in wild directions when it’s set to longer times. Page 2 also lets you select between linear and exponential if you have a preference. That said, Oberheims were among the first (if not the first) mainstream synths to offer quantized glide—meaning that these pitch-sweeps are set in chromatic steps, creating smooth glissandos between notes. I included a subtle version in my “Oh Swell” audio example if you want to hear it in action.
Thanks to Page 2, a pair of unison functions are also customizable, with the ability to select the number of stacked voices and the note priority: Last note, high note or low note, with envelope triggering options for each.
As mentioned previously, part of OB-X8’s massive sound is the inclusion of both split and layered keyboard options. Split keyboards were a common feature in the early 80s, allowing live keyboardists to assign two different sounds to the upper and lower halves of an instrument. What’s cool about this in the modern era is that it allows you to sequence two discrete parts in a studio environment, as well. That said, layering will probably be an even bigger bonus for many users, as it lets you stack two patches for much bigger, more complex sounds—which, in tandem with the OB-X8’s clever voice panning options (yes, it’s stereo) makes this synth sound absolutely massive.
All in all, I had a blast programming the OB-X8 and the attention to sonic detail, authentic feature set, and gargantuan sound truly honors Tom Oberheim legacy of contributions to the history of analog synthesis. Welcome back!
Sound samples, direct from the source
All tracks are 44.1/16-bit .WAV files, recorded direct from the synth on a standard 1/4” cable into my interface. There are no effects, EQ, or dynamics processing (other than fade-outs). This is the raw sound of the unit.
I intentionally created and recorded more exotic sounds, since there will be a deluge of “Jump brass“ and more common rock and synthwave patches from influencers and reviewers. I felt that certain patches would better demonstrate the filtering, layering, and overall character of the synth, which is remarkably distinctive and thick.
Francis Preve – CDM’s in-house synth sound design expert and “wacky neighbor” who pops in – has been busy. Through pandemic lockdowns, he worked on four synths for Korg, 15+ projects for Roland, two Sequential synths, Tonepaper, Ableton Live 11, and Mixed In Key’s new Captain Epic, among other efforts.
Do call it a comeback. Oberheim returns to the world of synthesizers – both for those who love the name, and a new generation discovering it for the first time. And the instrument to mark the occasion is an 8-voice dream synth.
So for those deciphering the teasers and leaks, yes, the OB-X8 builds on some familiar legacy. But what founder Tom Oberheim and team have done is to mix together three 80s classics – the OB-X, OB-Xa, and OB-8 – into a new 8-voice, all-analog polysynth.
It’s a momentous landmark in synth history because Oberheim Electronics – founded in 1989 – ceased operation in 1985. So yeah, there have been some flukes here and there – limited-run instruments and co-creations under other names. But this is a full synth launch under Tom’s own name for the first time in over 35 years.
You’ll spot Sequential’s name come up again – they’ve partnered with Dave Smith’s Sequential, which is now a Focusrite group company, in order to “design, manufacture, distribute, and support new instruments on a global scale.” But that means bringing the whole band back together – Tom, working with Dave Smith (with whom Oberheim helped create the MIDI standard), Marcus Ryle of both Oberheim and Alesis fame, and the full team.
No, I’m not reaching into my pockets and buying this one – US minimum advertised pricing is US$4995. But this is one for history, and one the rest of us I’m sure will work to borrow or find at a synth library or at least admire from afar.
Coming end of June.
I could copy all the lavish praise from famous people, but let’s skip ahead to specs. The basics:
And don’t miss our exclusive hands-on (for people who like to read and who like pristine audio samples, both!) with sound designer Francis Preve, who has spent a month making factory sounds for this beast.
A trailer for the new docuseries ‘Dear Mama’, about 2Pac and his mother Afeni, has been shared online by broadcaster FX.
The short teaser for the five-part series, which is directed by Allen Hughes, was debuted over the weekend to coincide with Mother’s Day in the US, ahead of the debut of the series later this year. The video features images of the late rapper set to a voiceover from his late mother describing a life lesson she taught her son.
“It was my responsibility to teach 2Pac how to survive his reality,” Afeni says in the clip. “So, 2Pac do something wrong, take your little sorry self in that corner, get The New York Times and let’s have a debate about it. Not a discussion, a debate. Let me hear what your idea is, stand up, defend it.”
‘Dear Mama’ takes its title from the rapper’s 1995 track of the same name, which was a tribute to Afeni Shakur. The series is said to trace the bond shared between the rapper and his mother and is “told through the eyes of the people who knew them best”.
The late rapper’s estate gave the series its blessing in 2019 when work on the show was initially announced. Director Allen Hughes previously worked on the July 2017 HBO documentary ‘The Defiant Ones’, about the creative and business partnership between Dr. Dre and Interscope label founder Jimmy Iovine.
Swedish House Mafia are returning to Ibiza this summer for an exclusive headline show at Ushuaïa.
Taking place on Sunday, 17th July, the gig will come ahead of the Swedish trio’s upcoming world tour in support of debut album ‘Paradise Again’, which was released last month. Ushuaïa was also the sight of their last appearance together in Ibiza, in 2019.
Tickets for the Swedes’ appearance at Ushuaïa are on sale now, and available here.
Aroent will release a new EP, ‘Say’, via Infinite Machine this month. Listen to ‘Bobcat’ below.
The Greek-born, Berlin-based DJ and producer’s debut for the Mexico City label slots easily into its experimental catalogue. Aroent uses his love for UK club styles and soundsystem culture as a jump-off point for three mutated dancefloor slammers. Inspired by labels like Timedance and Livity Sound, Aroent puts a bracing industrial techoid twist on UK funky and Jersey Club-like beats, dressing them in hi-tech sound design, randomised digital zaps and altered samples (spot the Breaking Bad vocal interjections in the title track).
Capped off with a “skeletal tool” remix of the title track from Timedance affiliate Ploy, this release is a thrilling introduction to Aroent’s amorphous production technique. We can’t wait to hear more.
Korg, in collaboration with noted publisher Bjooks, has announced the Nu:Tekt NTS-2, a DIY oscilloscope & multifunction tool for musicians; and Patch & Tweak with Korg, the latest book in the popular Patch & Tweak series.
The NTS-2 Kit and the book were conceived and developed to complement each other, providing not only fundamental knowledge, but also the tools to “guide and inspire synth lovers through their music journey”.
The Nu:Tekt NTS-2 is a DIY multifunctional tool for musicians. Building on a 4-channel oscilloscope that makes it easy to monitor and analyze audio and Control Voltage signals alike, the NTS-2 also includes a flexible waveform generator and spectrum analyzer, as well as tuner functions.
Patch & Tweak With Korg is a comprehensive guide to semi-modular synthesis and the music that it has inspired, presented with a focus on the MS-20 Mini, the groundbreaking volca modular, the reimagined ARP 2600 M, and the SQ-1 and SQ-64 sequencers. Dozens of tutorials, tips, and tricks cover everything from the basics to advanced sound design methods.
The book also features interviews with famous and emerging artists, insights from KORG and ARP engineers, and detailed timelines of KORG synthesizers and ARP’s legendary keyboards.
The book also features a wide variety of tips and tricks that use the NTS-2’s many functions.
NTS-2: The modern musician’s Swiss Army knife
The NTS-2 is an oscilloscope, tuner, FFT, and spectrum analyzer. And, using its dual stereo IN, dual stereo THRU/OUT, and two separate OUTPUTs, you can wire it into your synth rig and use its dual waveform generators to give yourself an extra pair of oscillators or LFOs.
The oscilloscope, a tool for visualizing signals and voltages, has been around for many years – but as scientific instruments, they might not seem like something a musician could easily use. The NTS-2 is an oscilloscope designed with the musician in mind. The NTS-2’s interface is simple, clean, and easy to use; rather than twiddling knobs and trying to understand obscure parameters, you can look at your signals and understand them in a matter of seconds. That way, your artistic focus can remain where it belongs: on making your music.
4 CHANNEL OSCILLOSCOPE – With its dual stereo inputs, you can study up to four signals at once, comparing and overlapping them with ease. A variety of display modes let you see your data in color.
FFT / SPECTRUM ANALYZER – To further dive into analyzing any signal, the NTS-2 also comes with a dedicated FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) mode with a real-time Spectrum Analyzer.
DUAL WAVEFORM GENERATOR – The flexible Wave Generator mode has 2 oscillators with dedicated outputs, so you can test your synth rig or just get creative! Each oscillator can create a variety of waveforms – sine, square, triangle, sawtooth, pulse, and noise – whose shape and phase can be adjusted to suit many applications.
These sounds can be used in the audio range or as control voltage sources, and they can be set to cycle continuously or act as one-shot impulses; that means you can turn them into LFOs, envelopes, triggers, and control voltage generators, as well as sound sources.
TUNER – coming from KORG, this multi-functional utility kit wouldn’t be complete without a precise and easy-to-use Tuner with multiple display modes.
The NTS-2 offers plenty of ways to connect to your studio, despite its small footprint. Besides its 4-channel input and dual waveform output features, its dual stereo THRU/OUT ports let you leave it wired into your system. This handy function lets you maintain your signal flow at all times – even when the NTS-2 has been powered off.
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