Synth pioneer Tom Oberheim has a long and storied career in the development of electronic music instruments and tools, ranging from guitar amplifiers in his early days, to creating Maestro’s classic RM-1A ring modulator and PS-1 phase shifter pedals. He was the first ARP Instrument dealer on the West Coast. He showed his first 2-note synth at the AES show in 1974. This was followed by his 2-, 4- and 8-voice synths under the Oberheim brand and in 1977, created the OB-1, the first programmable monophonic programmable synthesizer. He also launched a hardware polyphonic digital sequencer (DSX), the DMX sampled sound drum machine and the OB-X — all of which formed the “Oberheim System” — a pre-MIDI production environment. Ironically, a few years later, Oberheim was involved in the team that created the MIDI standard, which made his system obsolete.

Shipping in June 1979, the Oberheim OB-X was a polyphonic (4/6/8-voice) analog subtractive synthesizer whose rich, powerful and lush sounds — thanks in no small part to its Oberheim S.E.M. filters — made it an instant success and it soon found itself being used by artists ranging from Rush, to Queen, to Madonna, Styx, Prince and even Jean-Michel Jarre.

Other versions followed, adding features and flexibility, but retaining that classic Oberheim sound. And even today at age 85, Tom Oberheim shows no signs of slowing down, and will be launching the new OB-X8 — a new, expanded version of the OB-X — at The 2022 NAMM show.

Award Year
Created/Introduced Year
OB-X Synthesizer