It wasn't long ago that the future of Oberheim was in question; indeed, in recent years, the once-famous moniker languished under Gibson's evidently uncommitted (or at least distracted) ownership. Now, revitalized with new distribution management, and offering a range of keyboards and modules made in Italy by Viscount, Oberheim is off life support and beginning to look pink.
With the new OB5, a dual-manual Hammond B3 simulator, Oberheim dives into competition with Roland's similar VK77 organ, not to mention the panoply of other B3 wannabes. The OB5 seems to have been constructed with great care to be as close to the B3 as possible. Rather than the 91 tone wheels inside the original B3, the OB5 has 91 digital generators, each dedicated to producing a single pitch. Mixing the drawbars produces spectral, rather than harmonic, combinations -- another feature true to the original B3. Designers even strove to mimic the inherent imperfections found on the B3. For instance, when percussion is applied to the attack of the tone, the percussive sound doesn't trigger on every note when many notes are played in quick succession.
LCD aside, the OB5 is cosmetically the spitting image of an original B3.
Senior editor Robert L. Doerschuk, a connoisseur of all things keyed, stamped his seal of approval on the OB5's action, feel, and tone emulation.
Connections? The OB5's got 'em. There's an 11-pole connector if you want to hook up an original Leslie speaker, three pedal jacks for footswitch and expression pedals, stereo effects sends and returns, MIDI in/out/thru, stereo outs, headphone jack, and a connector for an optional 13-, 17-, or 25-note pedalboard. The organ itself will list for $2,995; prices for the real wood pedalboard and stand were not yet set as of this NAMM show.
MC 1000 Keyboard Controller
Oberheim's MIDI controllers -- such as the MC 3000 and MC 2000EX -- were among the company's few recent products to attract critical acclaim. Yet, they're somewhat cost prohibitive for Joe Musician. The new MC 1000-series changes all that. You get control over 32 external MIDI channels, plus another 16 internal MIDI channels with the optional WaveBlaster soundcard. A self-explanatory, front-panel button grid and a three-digit LED manipulate the 128 user programs. Two sliders, a pitch bend and mod wheel, and two keyboard zones further user control. A chilly blue finish, identical to the color of the OB12 virtual analog, tops it all off.
The MC 1000 series consists of a 76-key, weighted action controller for $795, and an 88-key, hammer-action board for $995. Both models are scheduled to ship in October.