The Return of an Analog Synth Classic Cambridge MA

In contrast to most second comings of great analog synth names, the SEM is almost identical to the original. In fact, the external cosmetics are changed far more than the innards.

Cambridge Music Center
(617) 491-5433
1906 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA
Types of Instruments Sold
Digital Piano, Electronic Keyboard, Drums & Percussion, Sound Reinforcement, Recording Equipment, Guitars & Fretted Instruments, Print Music

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Williams Piano Shop Inc.
(617) 232-8870
123 Harvard St
Brookline, MA
Types of Instruments Sold
Electronic Keyboard

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Music Work Shop Of Blm
(617) 484-6938
373 Trapelo Rd
Belmont, MA
Types of Instruments Sold
Digital Piano, Electronic Keyboard, Organs, Band & Orchestral, Drums & Percussion, Sound Reinforcement, Guitars & Fretted Instruments, Print Music

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Tavian Music Center
(781) 497-1556
Po Box 75
Arlington, MA
Types of Instruments Sold
Electronic Keyboard, Band & Orchestral, Sound Reinforcement, Recording Equipment, Guitars & Fretted Instruments, DJ Equipment

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Needham Music
(781) 444-6429
947 Great Plain Ave
Needham, MA
Types of Instruments Sold
Digital Piano, Electronic Keyboard, Organs, Band & Orchestral, Drums & Percussion, Guitars & Fretted Instruments, Print Music

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Daddy'S Junky Music
(781) 270-0058
159 Mass Ave 165
Boston, MA
Types of Instruments Sold
Digital Piano, Electronic Keyboard, Organs, Band & Orchestral, Drums & Percussion, Sound Reinforcement, Guitars & Fretted Instruments, Print Music

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Keyboard Korner
(617) 387-9707
38 Wilbur St
Everett, MA
Types of Instruments Sold
Digital Piano, Electronic Keyboard, Organs, Print Music

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Wood & String Music Center
(781) 641-2131
493 Massachusetts Ave
Arlington, MA
Types of Instruments Sold
Digital Piano, Electronic Keyboard, Band & Orchestral, Drums & Percussion, Guitars & Fretted Instruments, Print Music

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Lexington Music Center
(781) 894-9781
402 Moody St
Waltham, MA
Types of Instruments Sold
Electronic Keyboard, Band & Orchestral, Drums & Percussion, Guitars & Fretted Instruments, Print Music

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Boston Organ & Piano
(508) 655-1550
677 Worcester Road
Natick, MA
Types of Instruments Sold
Acoustic Piano, Digital Piano, Electronic Keyboard, Organs
Store Information
Instrument Rental: Yes
Website Sales: Yes
Lesson Information
Lessons: Yes
Instrument Repair Information
Service is truly the backbone of any business, but here at Boston Organ & Piano, we take it personally. Sure, like in other industries, we have professional technicians who will respond to your needs rapidly and professionally, but our technicians understand our customer’s needs because they are musicians first. Our Service Manager, Artie Doran, plays several different instruments besides the piano and has played with several local bands. Retired Service Manager and now consultant, George Burk
Hours
Summer Hours
Mon.- Thurs. 9-8PM
Friday and Saturday 9-5PM
Sunday 12-5PM
Regular Hours
Mon- Thurs. 9-9PM
Friday 9-5PM
Sat 9-6PM
Sun 12-5PM

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The Return of an Analog Synth Classic

0310 Tom Oberheim SEM

In 1974, Tom Oberheim released the first Synthesizer Expander Module, or SEM. Players loved this easy-to-use, ballsysounding synth, and its unique multimode filter gave it a distinctive sound. The SEM went on to become the basis for some of the world’s first polyphonic synths, such as the Oberheim Two-, Four-, and Eight-Voice, which were essentially multiple SEMs in the same cabinet as a keyboard. Beginning in the late ’70s, these gave way to more compact analog polysynths (the Oberheim OB-Xa behind Paul Shaffer on page 28 among them) but analog tone nuts still hunt for original SEMs. Much to their delight, Tom has now reissued it.

HANDS-ON

  1. You get 33 patch points on 1/8" mini jacks. The SEM is compatible with all one-volt-per-octave analog synths, transforming the SEM into a powerful synth expander module, hence the name!
  2. Large coarse tuning knobs for each oscillator offer a five-octave range; small pots above fine-tune over a range of about a major third.
  3. Unique multimode filter operates in lowpass and highpass modes and is continuously variable between modes with a knob — at 12 o’clock it’s a notch filter. Slide switch activates bandpass mode.
  4. These knobs combine the oscillator waveform and mixer functions found in separate sections on other synths: Center is off, left makes the sawtooth louder, right does the same for the pulse wave.
  5. Slide switch bypasses the VCA. Translation: infinite sustain. This also lets users run external audio inputs through the filter without triggering the envelopes — handy.

THE SIMILARITY STARTS HERE

In contrast to most second comings of great analog synth names, the SEM is almost identical to the original. In fact, the external cosmetics are changed far more than the innards. Tom tells us that just one component was changed from the original design due to lack of availability, and it doesn’t affect the sound. He kept the wedge-shaped beige case, and even the knobs are the same parts as on the originals. Some details have changed: two separate tuning knobs work better than the original’s touchy concentric arrangement. The biggest difference is the 33-jack patch panel. Since “bringing out” patch points is a common mod on originals, Oberheim took it one more step — a large step — providing fantastic flexibility for interfacing with other analog gear. Modular and Moogerfooger maniacs rejoice!

0.0000midipanel MIDI AND THE SEM The SEM’s extensive control voltage I/O is a boon for serious fans of analog, but what if you want to just wail on it from your MIDI keyboard? Tom Oberheim will soon release the SEM MIDI edition. This replaces the SEM’s left-side patch panel with a nicely outfitted MIDI-to-CV converter, and adds rear-panel MIDI jacks. Along with standard note on/off reception, there’s an auxiliary CV that you can control with your choice of velocity, mod wheel, or other continuous controllers. The aux CV destinations include oscillator frequen...

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