Sequential OB-6 ► 150 custom sounds
Presets compatible with desktop / rack & keyboard.
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What’s in the bundle?:
You will receive all the sounds from all my demos plus extra (136 unique patches + their variations = 150 presets in total). The sequences that I play from the OB-6 onboard sequencer are also stored as patch data:)
What format / import method?:
My soundbank will come to you in two formats: sysex format and OB-6 Sound Tower editor format. You will have the choice to put my pack into banks 0&1 (000-199) or 2&3 (200-399).
What genre / style?:
There is no one style, because it is you who decides what style these patches will be played in. It’s a wide variety of sounds that are meant to inspire, make you look at the synth in a different light and give you a great choice of directions. Some patches are bread & butter, some offbeat; they’re the result of me trying to find the limits of the instrument. The patches are ready-to-use in music or can serve as starting points; you can pick the textures or the dynamics that you like and tweak them to suit your exact taste or purpose.
Any external stuff?:
I did not use any external FX in the demo, no layers, etc. All the delays and reverbs are part of the OB-6 engine.
Notes on grades lower than 3/3:
[modern]: rather a “vintage” type of architecture / sound, but also hi-fi
[organic]: a little bit tame, the VCOs sound as if they were DCOs
[engine]: interesting features, but only one lfo, unflexible setup
[flex]: nice fx, but still not enough tools to bend the sound out of recognition
[soft / mgmt]: no patch names, editor / librarian only third-party & paid
LOVE IT OR SELL IT
The OB-6 is an interesting example in the synth world. If I tell you I’ve seen a lot of people instantaneously falling in love with it since day one, I won’t be saying anything original. You probably know this and you probably know some of those people yourself. What’s more interesting is that I’ve also heard about quite a number of people – more than in any other synth case – who were very disappointed with it.
Here’s the thing: anybody who’s expecting to hear a 1970’s VCO sound from the OB-6 will be disappointed. I made that mistake too. Back in the day I used to believe that Sequential had returned with a mission to revive the “real analogs” and that their new products would be “the vintage analogs born again”. But when I actually had the chance to play these “modern vintage analogs” (OB-6, Prophet-6), all I got was the familiar impression that I had heard that “pro” sound before and I knew it all too well – from my time with the Nord Leads or Novation Nova synths in the past, or from stock music database sites of today.
Now that I’ve explored the Prophet-6, the Trigon-6 and the OB-6 and many more contemporary models, I can confidently say that my definition of “real vinatge analogs born again” is met not by Sequential synths, but by synths like Korg Prologue or Arturia Matrixbrute / Polybrute. If you want that extra piece of dirt, that genuine gritty-ness and instability, in my opinion Korg and Arturia are unsurpassable. The OB-6 and the Prophet-6 do have a couple of engine features to spice up the sound, but it’s always a “hi-fi” dirt & drift, if you know what I mean. In this respect these polite & stable synths are somewhat underwhelming. The big positive hype around these synths is well-deserved because they are great-sounding, easy-to-use instruments, but in this context it’s easy to understand why some people who have certain expectations get disappointed.
THE OBERHEIM SOUND
When I borrowed the OB-6 from a friend, I asked about his thoughts why this synth sits on the bestseller list while it costs so much. I mean, there are the Deepminds, and the Odyssey clones, and the Microfreaks, and the OB-6 among them looks like a macaw in a field of cabbage. “It’s the sound”, he said, “people pay for the Oberheim sound”.
Very soon I started to “get” this sound (literally and figuratively), and some of my patch creations managed to enter the league of “the unbeatables” (LP/BP filter morphs, x-moded basses, synthetic brass-like tones, etc). The mixer creates so much beef and the envelopes are so snappy and punchy that I could swear the sounds are running through a compressor / limiter if I hadn’t made them myself.
Regardless of our expectations, I think it will be agreed on by the majority of people who have heard or played the OB-6 that it’s one of the most original and characterful timbres in the contemporary synth crowd. It has that special, paradoxical quality: it’s very dominant & “in your face” without being invasive or overwhelming.
The modulation possibilities of the OB-6 are severely limited in some aspects – but this is only a piece of the picture. Let me throw in the TAKE-5 or Prophet REV-2 for comparison. The TAKE-5 / REV-2 have much more modulation options, but the core sound is “stiffer” or “tighter”. That’s why in the opinion of many folks (myself included) those synths need all those modulations to get the most mileage out. But even if you apply the modulations, the effects of said modulations may fall short of your imagined or anticipated results.
The OB-6 (or Prophet-6, or Trigon-6), on the other hand, has a more “cooperative” sound from the get-go, so it’s easier to modulate it into something convincing or appealing. It does not need a mod matrix; it’s the softest sounding Sequential / DSI synth (well, maybe the Trigon-6 is even softer). Still, the scope of timbres (or “plasticity”) of the OB-6 is below average in a world of Hydras and Modwaves. It’s quite a common thing; synths that have a very original & “wow” sound suffer from limited plasticity of this sound. Thank god it has the state-variable filter which saves the score and at the end of the day gives the synth a new life and makes it a more interesting & shape-shifting instrument than the previously-mentioned Prophet-6.
KILL THE EFFECTS?
I can’t for the love of Christ understand this advice I’m seeing for almost every synth out there which says “DO NOT USE THE INTERNAL FX BECAUSE IT KILLS THE BEAUTIFUL ANALOG SOUND”. Geez. Is there a best hearing ability contest out there?. If the OB-6 effects are bad, then the PRO-3 / REV-2 effects must be called nothing else but an abomination.
Do not underestimate the FX section! On paper it looks pretty standard: delay, reverb, chorus, flanger, phaser. But bear in mind that you can combine 3 of the effects at the same time (any 2 of the ones mentioned above + the hidden distortion). So if there is any trick that you can employ to widen the sonic palette of the OB-6, the FX is the place to go. The effects sound good and they can go to solid extremes and mangle the timbre noticeably. This transforms the FX unit into another sound sculpting module, which can’t be said about the FX design of other synths, say, Korg Minilogue XD, whose FX section is rather a decorative element.
One more thing: pay attention to the ring modulator too: in its non-usual mode, it tracks the pitch of the lowest note that you play on the keyboard. Combine it with the seqeuncer and you can go pretty mental.
USER INTERFACE – NO MENUS COME AT A PRICE
The interface should win an award; it’s a classic design and an instant-gratification synth. I know, I know – there are numbers instead of patch names, no possibility to edit the sequence without relying on software, no automation via touching knobs, etc. But you wanted oldschool and now oldschool is back.
On a more serious note: it’s natural to praise synths which have every feature laid out on the front panel and bemoan the ones which have some menu-diving. But we have to remember that many times the “easy” synths have everything on the panel because their engines are limited. That’s why there is enough room on the panel for all the controls. On the other hand, the synth that requires some menu-diving does so because (usually) it has much more potential. If manufacturers tried to fit all those knobs for all those features, the synth would end up being as big as a cow barn. It’s true that such synths do exist (or rather did exist: Yamaha CS-80, ARP 2500, etc), and when a picture of one pops up somewhere on the Internet it’s causing synth nerds to drool, but those times are over… We live in a time of compromise. There must be some menu-diving if we want better versatility.
So yeah, the OB-6 should win an award for its “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” user interface, but at the same time it should get a spanking for the obvious and irritating limitations of the engine. We can’t have everything. Read my Prophet-6 write-up where I describe in detail the “shared amount knob” feature – both synths suffer from this architecture limitation.
Just like the products of its countrymen from Moog, this Sequential synth is a top quality instrument with even less shortcomings – if any! It’s great that Dave Smith decided to use a “no force necessary” type of buttons, and guys at Moog have yet to figure out this is the correct way to go (I abhor the buttons on my Moog Sub-37). There is not one thing in the OB-6 that seems likely to break or malfunction (provided, of course, that you protect it from dust). Perfect resistance of knobs, nice keyboard – not too heavy, not too light.
OUTRO / WHAT TO DO?
If you want me to compare the OB-6 to other synths, let me start by comparing it to a classic: OB-6 reminds me heavily of the Nord Leads. One: it sounds as if it was already mastered in a studio. Two: the sound is kind of “thin” but lucid, so that’s the good kind of thin (it never gets muddy / brassy / woody like in the case of REV-2 or Polybrute). Three: the interface is hands-on, you get what you see, no menu diving, etc. Four: the build quality is top of the tops (actually much better / more sturdy than Nord Leads). Five: made in the country of design (USA for OB-6, Sweden for NL).
Of course in the end the OB-6 becomes much more than the Nord Lead thanks to its FX, filter morphing and modulation routings. But the first three characteristics alone (“pro” sound, timbre clarity, immediate user interface) are a recipe for success among the synth crowd that rarely fails.
If you’d like to compare it to something from the same time period, I’d say the Korg Prologue is a synth made in a similar vein. Its modulation options are very limited, but it has a nice UI and it has that special, vintage (organic) sound. If you belong to the group of disappointed people I mentioned in the opening paragraph of this write-up, I suggest you should try the Prologue, since it’s more dirty and unpredictable, less “hi-fi” than the OB-6.
Here I will just offer a one-sentence comparison: OB-6 is the frothy / organic-sounding synth with a stronger sonic signature, while the polished / “laid-back” Prophet-6 has less dominant character and for this reason can be perceived as more versatile.
Trigon-6, on the other hand, is an ambiguous beast. It can sound softer than the OB-6, but it can also sound very gnarly and toxic. Bear in mind we are comparing 3 similar synths coming from the same company, so the level of nuance is really great here. So great that you’ll probably need to hear the synths in person to form a meaningful opinion.
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