The Return of an Analog Synth Classic Pittsburgh PA

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.

Trombino Piano Gallerie
(412) 765-0600
942 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh, PA
Types of Instruments Sold
Digital Piano, Electronic Keyboard, Organs, Print Music

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Swissvale Music Store
(412) 351-5882
2037 Noble St
Swissvale, PA
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Digital Piano, Electronic Keyboard, Drums & Percussion, Sound Reinforcement, Recording Equipment, Guitars & Fretted Instruments, Print Music, DJ Equipment

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Steel City Musicland
(412) 271-7454
635 Braddock Ave
Braddock, PA
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Digital Piano, Electronic Keyboard, Organs, Band & Orchestral, Drums & Percussion, Sound Reinforcement, Guitars & Fretted Instruments, Print Music

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Armens House Of Music
(412) 835-5172
5920 Library Rd
Bethel Park, PA
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Electronic Keyboard, Band & Orchestral, Drums & Percussion, Guitars & Fretted Instruments, Print Music

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Pittsburgh Piano
(412) 835-1776
2412 Longcrest Ave
Bethel Park, PA
Types of Instruments Sold
Digital Piano, Electronic Keyboard, Organs, Drums & Percussion, Sound Reinforcement, Guitars & Fretted Instruments

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Anthonys Guitars
(412) 341-6912
920 Berkshire Ave
Pittsburgh, PA
Types of Instruments Sold
Acoustic Piano, Digital Piano, Electronic Keyboard, Band & Orchestral, Drums & Percussion, Sound Reinforcement, Guitars & Fretted Instruments, Print Music

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Hollowood Music & Sound
(412) 771-3060
601 Chartiers Ave
Mc Kees Rocks, PA
Types of Instruments Sold
Digital Piano, Electronic Keyboard, Band & Orchestral, Sound Reinforcement, Recording Equipment, Guitars & Fretted Instruments, Print Music, DJ Equipment

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Piano Piano
(412) 571-9336
1630 Washington Rd
Pittsburgh, PA
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Digital Piano, Electronic Keyboard, Organs, Print Music

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Pianos N Stuff
(412) 828-1003
468 Freeport Rd
Pittsburgh, PA
Types of Instruments Sold
Acoustic Piano, Digital Piano, Electronic Keyboard, Organs, Band & Orchestral, Drums & Percussion, Sound Reinforcement, Recording Equipment, Guitars & Fretted Instruments, Print Music, DJ Equipment

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Yadco Music
(412) 824-5578
1000 E Pittsburgh Mckeesport Blvd
North Versailles, PA
Types of Instruments Sold
Digital Piano, Electronic Keyboard, Band & Orchestral, Drums & Percussion, Sound Reinforcement, Guitars & Fretted Instruments, Print Music, DJ Equipment

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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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