The recently announced Behringer UB-Xa is a classic analog 16-voice multi-timbral polyphonic synthesizer that has been designed to recreate the iconic sound of the Oberheim OB-Xa. This synthesizer is a blend of vintage and modern, offering a full-sized 61-key poly after-touch keyboard, dual Voltage Controlled Filters (VCFs), and 8 vintage modes.
FYI: as usual with most Behringer synthesizer announcements, the UB-Xa is currently not available anywhere (even the Buy Now links from the official web page are dead for now). When will it ship? Only God knows…
A Recreation (or a Knockoff?) of the Oberheim OB-Xa
The UB-Xa is Behringer’s take on the 1981 Oberheim OB-Xa, a synthesizer that has been used by artists like Depeche Mode, Tangerine Dream, and Prince. The UB-Xa has been in development for six years, with Behringer apparently investing $3.5 million to ensure that the synth is not just a recreation, but also includes modern features.
The UB-Xa features 16 voices of “true polyphony,” with two Voltage Controlled Oscillators (VCOs) per voice, plus dual pole or four pole VCFs. It also includes all of the original factory patches, and its VCOs and VCFs are heavily based on the original design.
Differences Between The Oberheim OB-Xa And The Behringer UB-Xa
The Behringer UB-Xa is a modern recreation of the classic Oberheim OB-Xa synthesizer, and while it aims to replicate the iconic sound of the original, there are several key differences between the two models.
- Voice Count and Bi-Timbral Playability: The original Oberheim OB-Xa was an 8-voice synthesizer, while the Behringer UB-Xa features a 16-voice analog polyphonic engine. This allows for a significant increase in the complexity and richness of the sounds that can be produced. Additionally, the UB-Xa offers bi-timbral playability, which means you can split and layer two different sounds, a feature not present in the original OB-Xa.
- Keyboard and Expressiveness: The UB-Xa features Behringer’s first 61 semi-weighted full-size polyphonic aftertouch keybed with velocity, allowing for more expressive playing. This is a modern feature not found in the original OB-Xa.
- Additional Features: The UB-Xa includes modern features such as an LCD display for visual feedback on parameter settings, 512 user program memory slots, and a “compare and match” feature for quickly matching all analog controls to stored settings. These features were not present in the original OB-Xa.
- Vintage Mode: The UB-Xa includes a new vintage mode with eight distinct synthesizer signatures, including the OB-Xa, OB-8, and more. This allows users to emulate the sounds of various classic synthesizers, a feature not available in the original OB-Xa.
- Price: The UB-Xa is priced at $1,500 (FYI the price in EUR and other currencies hasn’t been announced yet), making it more affordable than many professional analog synths, including the original Oberheim OB-Xa.
- One Letter: a U instead of an O in the name 😉
This is where the Behringer version shines. Despite its vintage roots, the UB-Xa is filled with modern features. It includes support for splits and layering, an arpeggiator, a step sequencer, and three full-size MIDI. It also has 512 user program memories and comprehensive MIDI and MPE-support implementation.
The UB-Xa also features a 16-voice analog polyphonic engine with bi-timbral playability, allowing you to split and layer two different sounds. This is a significant upgrade from the original OB-Xa, which had fewer voices.
Reception and Feedback
The UB-Xa has received mixed feedback from the music technology community. Some users have praised its sound and capabilities, while others have criticized it for not being able to fully replicate the sound of the original Oberheim OB-Xa. Time will tell, when the instrument will reach the market. However, to me, the Behringer version might not sound exactly like the original, but it’s definitely in that territory. So whether you will want to spend the extra money on the original or not, it depends on other factors (brand reputation, support, durability, etc.).
Speaking of build quality and durability (things where Behringer is not exactly a champion), it remains to be seen, among other things, whether their new in-house keybed will stand the test of time.
Design-wise, unlike many of Behringer’s (pretty ugly IMHO) synths, the UB-Xa doesn’t have obvious design changes and visual compromises, so that’a bonus!
The UB-Xa is priced at $1,500, positioning it to compete with professional analog synths from Korg, Dave Smith, Oberheim, and others. Despite its price tag, the UB-Xa is seen as a good value for its features and capabilities. Again, the instrument is NOT currently available and at the time of writing there is no official launch date either.
The Behringer UB-Xa is a powerful synthesizer at an interesting price point, that, on paper, combines the best of vintage and modern design. While it may not fully replicate the sound of the original Oberheim OB-Xa, it offers a wide range of features and capabilities that make it a versatile and valuable tool for any musician or producer. Plus it’s not as ugly as some other Behringer knockoffs. We will find out more about the sound and the build quality once the unit is actually available on the market. If I were you, I wouldn’t sell any of your precious analog poly synths yet!
If you are looking for a software alternative, I would recommend the GForce Oberheim OB-X, which provides an authentic experience enhanced with powerful features designed for the modern setup, vast sound design possibilities and an extensive preset browser.
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