Friday, June 5, 2009

The New Oberheim SEM

Tom Oberheim has announced a new version of the Oberheim Synthesizer Expander Module (SEM). The basics are that it’s going to be almost exactly like the original SEM from the ’70s but with an included MIDI/CV interface. There’ll be a few differences, mostly because a few of the original’s odd switches and knobs are no longer being made. Also, most of the circuitry will be surface mount which will keep the cost down compared to through-hole. The new SEM should be available in six months or so and be under US$1000.

When I was just starting to get into synthesizers in the mid- to late-’70s, one of my favorite albums was Larry Fast’s first Synergy album. When listening to it, I had teenage visions of a giant Moog modular synth. However, when I re-read the liner notes a year or so ago I was surprised to rediscover he basically used only a Minimoog and an Oberheim SEM, and reading that reminded me of my teenage synth gear lust. I eventually got a Minimoog when I was 19 or 20, but I was never able to get an SEM, so to hear that Tom Oberheim is preparing to release a modern-yet-the-same SEM has made me pretty darn happy.

I wish I had some original information about this, but the announcement happened in a small show-and-tell session up in Boston. Fortunately, there’s a decent chunk of his presentation available on video on the Stretta blog, including an awesome sounding snippet of Tom playing a working SEM. There’s a good summary of all the news over on the Matrixsynth blog, of course, including links to Flickr sets and a pile of comments.

I wish there was more to say about the new SEM, but that’s pretty much all the info we have so far. I hope to get on a waiting list for one of these, but at the moment there isn’t one. In fact, Oberheim doesn’t even have a working website ready yet. Hopefully as the year goes on we’ll get more information, but I have to say that with only the little bit we know so far I’m incredibly excited about this.

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