Celebrating the history of the Oberheim OB-Xa with Arturia

Oberheim may not be a household name like Moog or Yamaha to many, but their influence on popular music cannot be overstated.

To celebrate the release of Arturia’s V Collection 8 on Rent-to-Own, let’s explore the history of the OB-Xa, Oberheim’s flagship synthesizer adored by the likes of Prince, Madonna, and Van Halen.

The history of the Oberheim OB-Xa

Oberheim was founded in 1969 by Tom Oberheim as a manufacturer of effect boxes and sequencers. They introduced their first polyphonic synthesizer in 1977 with the TVS-1. However, their breakthrough launch was the OB-X, which went to market in 1979. Positioned as a competitor to Sequential Circuits’ Prophet-5, the OB-X came with a printed circuit board called a voice card (the ‘X’ stood for the number of voice cards), in four-, six- and eight-voice models.

The OB-X was succeeded by the OB-Xa in 1980, which brought several new features. The keyboard could be split into two halves to simultaneously perform different voices, multiple voices could be layered, and the interface was improved across a number of areas.

The impact of the OB-X and OB-Xa

The rich and versatile sounds of the OB-X and OB-Xa were prominently featured on a number of records. The OB-X was a favorite of Prince, and was used on the records Dirty Mind and Controversy. In fact, the main riff on “When You Were Mine” was performed with this synth.

The synths were used on other notable records like Queen’s Hot Space (heard on the David Bowie collaboration “Under Pressure”), Earth, Wind, & Fire’s Raise!, Madonna’s self-titled Madonna, and John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy.

The OB-Xa also left its sonic signature on tracks by the likes of Van Halen, Billy Idol, and countless others.

Even in modern times, producers continue to revere the OB-Xa for its sound design capabilities. If you’re looking to incorporate its punchy basses, analog pads, and other distinctive timbres into your own tracks (without shelling out thousands of dollars on an original hardware instrument), check out Arutria’s faithful emulation, OB-Xa V, which is available in the latest iteration of V-Collection.


Try OB-Xa V and other synth emulations for free with a three-day trial of Arturia’s V Collection 8, and then Rent-to-Own the collection for $24.99/mo until you own it outright:

January 5, 2021

Ken Herman Ken Herman is a Content & Community Manager at Splice who produces electronic music as Kenneth Takanami and Exitpost.