Dave Smith Instruments OB-6

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Dave Smith Instruments OB-6

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The OB-6 is what you get when you combine two great synth designers – Tom Oberheim and Dave Smith.

As you cast your eyes over the OB-6 you’re likely to recognize the Prophet-6 from the Dave Smith back-catalog.

However, it’s the additions from Oberheim with some key internal components that makes this synth so special.

Taking inspiration from the vintage designs from the 1970s, the OB-6 is capable of creating famous vintage tones as well as punchy, modern sounds.

It is pricey but if you’re looking for an instrument to make your wild synth dreams come true then investing in the OB-6 would be a wise move!

Two Kings of Synthesizer Design Combine

The OB-6 is a magnificent piece of engineering and it was always going to be when you put two synth greats together. The result of combining both Tom Oberheim and Dave Smith design ideas is the all singing, all dancing OB-6 and there is a lot to talk about, so let’s begin.

At the core, you’ve got six analog voices each with two oscillators. Both are designed with different features to give you a multitude of sonic options. OSC1 is able to sweep between sawtooth and pulse shapes and OSC2 is designed to shift between triangle, sawtooth, and pulse.

The ability to continuously shift these waveforms around instantly gives you a lot more potential and versatility than the standard static waveforms seen on most synths today. Other OSC features include hard sync, low-frequency mode, a square-wave sub-oscillator, and white noise.

The filter section is one of the standout points of the OB-6 and it comes as no surprise to see the vintage Tom Oberheim designs here. A state-variable, 2-pole filter inspired from the original SEM allows you to smoothly sweep through lowpass, highpass, bandpass, and notch modes.

Another feature, that SEM users have been after for years, gives you the ability to modulate the filter via the envelope and LFO. This can result in beautiful, sweeping sounds unheard of in other analog synths. Voltage-controlled amplifiers are also included to complete the analog signal path.

Dave Smith’s X-Mod was always going to make an appearance and it gives you all of your modulation needs. OSC2 and the filter envelope act as the mod sources with the filter mode, filter cutoff, and the OSC1’s frequency, waveshape, and pulse-width all acting as destinations.

Another feature brought in from Dave Smith is his “slop” control which is now labeled as Detune. This works best when you bring in all six voices and detune them in a powerful Unison mode. Although tuning is fairly stable, the Poly mode works well if you want vintage-esque instability.

To top this section off we need to mention the two digital effects engines on-board the OB-6, it wouldn’t be classed as a top-rate synth without them. It comes with professional delays, chorus, reverbs, and some excellent Oberheim ring mod and phase shifter recreations are also available.

What else has does the OB-6 have to offer?

Looking at the OB-6 you can instantly recognize the Prophet-6 as it uses the same chassis design. The blue lines across the front panel and the sturdy knobs give the synth that retro vibe. The red LEDs also work well and conveniently standout against the dark panel.

The buttons themselves seem to be made from plastic and come across as a little bit cheap. A surprise when you consider the total price tag for this synth. The buttons are not bad to use as such but it would have been nice to see some extra thought and luxury in this area.

The keyboard comes with a 4-octave keybed and offers quality control and action, as you would expect from a $2000+ synth. The keyboard is also velocity and aftertouch sensitive which adds to the playability and will please the likes of those who come from key playing backgrounds.

We’ve still got plenty of features to run through so first we’ll take a look at the poly step-sequencer. You can program up to 64 steps with up to six notes per step available. It’s fully loaded with functions with the likes of rest and sync giving you options to explore your sounds.

The arpeggiator is also available and has been linked up with the Hold button that allows you to latch notes. Meaning that you can extend any notes or chords being played after the keys have been released. These Arp/Seq features also make the OB-6 useful in live environments.

You have a huge range of presets available with 500 factory programs to play through and another 500 spare slots for personal storage. Connectivity is also widely covered as you would expect from any Dave Smith/Oberheim synth product.

On the back you have 2 x 1/4″ (left, right) audio outputs, 1 x 1/4″ headphones jack, and 1 x USB Type B. In terms of MIDI you’ve got In/Out/Thru/USB. The OB-6 also includes four pedal inputs – sustain, sequencer start and stop, filter cutoff expression, and volume expression.

Summary

The OB-6 synth comes with a high level of status on the names of Tom Oberheim and Dave Smith alone.

A synth that combines the technology of two very successful manufacturers would surely lead to great things and the OB-6 doesn’t let either of the sides down.

It’s the quality of the components that make this synth sought after and the resulting sounds prove that Smith and Oberheim are masters of their trade.

It’s a pricey synth and it always will be. However, if you can work out a budget to get your hands on one then we don’t think you’ll be disappointed whatsoever.

The unique analog designs have been combined with modern features to create an all-powerful synth that is ready for today’s music scene.

The OB-6 is a truly powerful analog polysynth with a special production twist… a Dave Smith and Tom Oberheim designed synth? Yes, please!

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