June 21, 2013

Hit That Perfect Beat, Boy...

by Chris Randall

Analog Beatz. #RT60

As anyone that follows me on Twitter knows, I'm currently in Hood River, Oregon at my family reunion. I spent a chunk of time earlier in the week at J-Hi's studio recording the rhythm parts for what will be the next RT60 release (which, as it happens, will be a double A-side 7" only, no digital. Sue me.)

While there, I became a convert vis-a-vis the SEM module. While I appreciate the power of Oberheim synths, their general sound has never done anything for me. I had not, however, ever used a real SEM. The original one in the picture above (run via CV/Gate outs from the A4) changed my mind in a hurry. I don't know how close the new ones sound to this vintage one, but jesus fuck, what a cool sounding synth. I think I'd need to do a side-by-each comparison, but I may break my moratorium on GAS if the new ones are even in the ballpark.

Speaking of GAS-moratorium-breaking, I recently got a Craigslist score in the form of a like-new DK Synergy II+ with all the Wendy Carlos cartridges, which will get a video and "review" as soon as I get back. Suffice it to say, mind: blown by this thing. I've been trying to coax an emulated Kaypro II in to being able to program it, and I feel I'm not far from success in that regard, but honestly, there are only so many hours I can dedicate to that task that would be better spent doing, you know, my job and stuff.

Anyhow, that's it for now from the Great White North(west). Back to our favorite family sport, trying to belittle each other to the point of tears.


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Jun.21.2013 @ 9:22 PM
The new SEM and the SE Boomstar have been tied on my "synths I don't really need but kinda want" list.

Jun.21.2013 @ 9:58 PM
Duke Fame
Here is recent muffwiggler thread on SEM love:

link [www.muffwiggler.co...]

I know I read SOMEWHERE just recently some folks claiming the reissues don't sound as good as the originals. Maybe I can find it in my browsing history. Nevertheless, the majority of the people I've read with the reissues seem to be quite happy with them.

Anyway, damn you for another seal of approval on this $900 sonic widget. Unlike synthetic, don't need but LUST. It's like passing that dream guitar in the front window of the local pawn shop everyday...

Jun.22.2013 @ 8:22 AM
Mike Nickel
I'm sure you have your reasons for making the next RT60 release vinyl only but, that's disappointing. In all honesty, I'll probably still buy it for the "one day" pile but I don't even own a turn table and only listen to music from my computer or phone.

Jun.22.2013 @ 8:28 PM
The 35 year old SEM is better than the new one. It's surface mount instead of through whole components and the older stuff is better than the new stuff. I have two two-voice, three-voice patched out, four-voice, two standalone units, and one I still need to fix.


Jun.22.2013 @ 11:22 PM
Threads like this bring back memories of "the synths I missed." In this case, it was a synth I ignored: an OB-X for $425, at Starving Musician in Sunnyvale, CA in the late 1990s. I didn't know much about Oberheims at the time. It turns out that the OB-X is essentially 4, 6 or 8 SEMs, with everything voltage controlled. Same VCO/VCF/VCA designs as in SEM. Very different from later Oberheims, where Curtis chips took over most of the heavy lifting.

As far as the new SEMs sounding like the old ones, it probably comes down to whether or not surface mount technology sounds like the older ICs. I would presume that the answer is "sure, why not," but I have zero points of comparison for this. There will probably be a few parts substitutions for the OTAs, with the CA3080 replaced with the LM13700 or something similar.

Jun.22.2013 @ 11:41 PM
When I want that feeling - that perfect beat boy feeling, I use an Arturia Oberheim SEM V. Well I think it sounds good.

{slinks away in shame}

Jun.23.2013 @ 5:50 AM
Alan Tomlinson
I find whenever Oregonians are getting out of hand in their fits of self-love, that a brief mention of the Klan's long history in Oregon tends to get people to shut the fuck up; albeit, alas, briefly.

I've heard OB-Xs and OB-8s and I don't recall hearing them sounding like a SEM.


Alan Tomlinson

Jun.23.2013 @ 7:04 AM
Actually, a OBX have two CEM3310s per voice instead of the SEM version which is discrete. (I have an OBX, two OBXa's, and an OB-8.)


Jun.23.2013 @ 7:20 AM
Chris Randall
Yeah, none of the OBs sound remotely like a SEM. Totally different topology. I always just assumed a SEM was like a single voice of an OB-X or whatever, but that's not the case at all.

Regarding surface mount versus through-hole, that's not a deciding factor, because physics. Also: math. But the component quality (less) and consistency (much less) are factors. Have to try it for myself.


Jun.23.2013 @ 1:06 PM
I looked to see if Control Voltage in PDX has an SEM in stock. Looks like the answer is no.

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