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Oxford Oscar: I'm getting the real thing!!!
Old 10th March 2010
  #1
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alexstringer's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Oxford Oscar: I'm getting the real thing!!!

I've enjoyed so much the imposcar plug in that i decided to make the plunge and get the real thing. It's shipping tomorrow.
My wishlist is getting smaller 1 unit. Just need a Jupiter 8, Waldorf Wave and Memorymoog Lamm and i'm set !!!
I'm very excited at the moment. Now, i'm reading a lot about this synth beeing quiet unreliable. I know there are several revisions but i couldn't manage to find the right questions before the purchase to ask any seller to determine which revision it is. I hope i'll just get lucky and that it's an M2.
Only later did i find this page that explains some of it
Technical Details
Also, Oscar users, how is the programming on this thing? Is it easy to get your way around it?
Please share...
Old 10th March 2010
  #2
Gear Nut
 
tpwuk's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I had one of these up until recently. I sold it for £1000. Not bad if you consider I only paid £250 for it and it was in dire need of a service!

I must say I enjoyed programming it although (and this is probably just my programming skills!) each patch I did for it all sounded quite samey.

Still, they're as fat as a bus load of fatties on their way to fat club! Fat cows!
Old 10th March 2010 | Show parent
  #3
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SWAN808's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
I think the Oscar is my most wanted Mono. Im not really prepared to pay the money tho....prob £1200 for a good one...IMO thats a lot for quite a unreliable synth...

OP-if you dont mind me asking-how much did you pay?
Old 10th March 2010 | Show parent
  #4
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alexstringer's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by SWAN808 ➡️
I think the Oscar is my most wanted Mono. Im not really prepared to pay the money tho....prob £1200 for a good one...IMO thats a lot for quite a unreliable synth...

OP-if you dont mind me asking-how much did you pay?
You say it's unreliable as fact because you've owned one or because that's your perception from reading the internet?

I paid $2800 which seems like average but i've seen them go from $2000 up to $5000. I never really understood why prices were so far apart but i've noticed that vintage synths that had a plug in version available skyrocked in price so while i'd be happy to find a buyer for $5000, i wouldn't have bought it if it commanded $5g's on a regular basis.
Old 10th March 2010 | Show parent
  #5
Mr Arkadin
Guest
I got mine in the '90s for £190. It soon developed a mad out of tune problem. A new EPROM was burned and hey presto. Also if you have the MIDI board its good to relocate it below the main board as in it's original position above the main board it could touch the metal panel and go ape-shit.

Since then it's been fine.

Dead easy to program though, although using the keyboard for certain functions (program change, waveform building) is a bit odd at first. There aren't too many hidden functions, just make sure you try shift-volume as this gets you to the filter drive, which can be overdriven nicely.
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #6
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexstringer ➡️

I paid $2800 which seems like average but i've seen them go from $2000 up to $5000.
I've never seen them go for anything like $5000 anywhere, ever. The midi version, in good condition goes for around $2000 all day long.
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #7
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Beermaster's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Oscars were not built well... I remember seeing four of them at Tony Allgoods ( UKs best synth tech ) - all of them with bad faults.... and I remember Tony saying that he didn't get what all the fuss was about.
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #8
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Beermaster ➡️
I remember Tony saying that he didn't get what all the fuss was about.
The fuss with Oscars (IMO) is about the uniqueness of the Oscars sonic character, which comes into it's own with sounds in the higher octaves. (think of Underworlds rhythmic upper octave sounds).

As a bass synth, it's less effective - which is what people assume an analog mono will excel at.
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #9
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alexstringer's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by yolkboy ➡️
I've never seen them go for anything like $5000 anywhere, ever. The midi version, in good condition goes for around $2000 all day long.
One sold for $4800 on Ebay last year and another one in the US i was interested in recently sold locally for $5000. It was listed for $5500.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beermaster ➡️
Oscars were not built well... I remember seeing four of them at Tony Allgoods ( UKs best synth tech ) - all of them with bad faults.... and I remember Tony saying that he didn't get what all the fuss was about.
Is it usually a hardware problem or midi implementation problem? Are the cards too close from each other inside the synth creating frequent overheating?
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #10
Mr Arkadin
Guest
Have to disagree with Allgood there - it's a good sounding synth. However it must be remembered it's not analogue (except the filter). The filter adds a lot of character as it is two 12dB filters rather than one 24dB filter: this is where the separation feature was born and how you get those unique 'vocal' sounds out of an OSCar.

The ability to use FM waves (preset and user programmable) was also in interesting feature. And not many mono synths even had memories, so good for gigs too.

Add filter overdrive, an arpeggiator and a step sequencer and it's an interesting package.

There is even a way to get the knobs into the positions they were for a preset using the octave LEDs, so you could backward engineers a preset.

Oh and the mod wheel can go negative as well as positive.
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #11
Deleted 46dc28f
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Arkadin ➡️
Have to disagree with Allgood there - it's a good sounding synth. However it must be remembered it's not analogue (except the filter).
Actually it's got DCO(yes, the digitally controlled analog kind) oscillators.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Arkadin ➡️
The ability to use FM waves (preset and user programmable) was also in interesting feature.
They are additive waves, not FM.
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #12
Deleted 46dc28f
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by yolkboy ➡️
The fuss with Oscars (IMO) is about the uniqueness of the Oscars sonic character, which comes into it's own with sounds in the higher octaves. (think of Underworlds rhythmic upper octave sounds).

As a bass synth, it's less effective - which is what people assume an analog mono will excel at.
Listening to this video, it's got potential for some amazing bass patches:



...The second patch is a pretty good example of the type of bass sound Orbital used it for.
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #13
Mr Arkadin
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by T71 ➡️
Actually it's got DCO(yes, the digitally controlled analog kind) oscillators.
Sorry, you're wrong there. No analogue oscillators here.

From the SOS article by Paul Wiffen (who should know):
"Like the Wasp family it would have all-digital oscillators and analogue filtering"


Quote:
Originally Posted by T71 ➡️
They are additive waves, not FM.
Yes you're right there - but it is 3am here and I'm working through the night and a bit tired.

PS. I agree that OSCar is not lacking the bass department.
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #14
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alexp's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I love the OSCar. It can go from nearly Pro 1 fatness to Alpha Juno type sounds. Still have yet to see one in real life!


alexP
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #15
Gear Guru
 
SWAN808's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexstringer ➡️
You say it's unreliable as fact because you've owned one or because that's your perception from reading the internet?

I paid $2800 which seems like average but i've seen them go from $2000 up to $5000. I never really understood why prices were so far apart but i've noticed that vintage synths that had a plug in version available skyrocked in price so while i'd be happy to find a buyer for $5000, i wouldn't have bought it if it commanded $5g's on a regular basis.
well if I'd owned one single model I dont that would be a representative sample of all Oscars out there. I dont think the Oscar unreliability is purely internet gossip-its been discussed at length by many ex and current users and its because they weren't that well built. I saw a video where the Orbital mentioned above talk thru their studio and their comment on the Oscar was 'Wicked sound - but it costs so much to keep going as we have to keep fixing it...'. But they may have picked up a lemon...
You could still have no problems - but I'd recommend finding a tech and allocating some contingency budget as it might need some looking after...
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #16
Deleted 8456dd3
Guest
Hey,

Its not such an unreliable synth. I had mine serviced and had the known problems fixed, like the ribbon cable replaced between the main boards and battery replaced, its been perfect ever since.
I think the OSCar has a reputation like the Chroma, but actually when they are serviced and have the known weak points sorted out they are actually very reliable.

Its a very cool sounding synth, i like slowly sweeping the seperation knob when playing a sequence, the filter is really great, its probably my faourite filter actually.
The envelopes are a little slow, so punchy bass isnt its strong point but it will do bass, i think its great for leads.
It certainly is a unique sounding beasty.
I had an issue with mine about a year ago and since i had that sorted its been great.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SWAN808 ➡️
I think the Oscar is my most wanted Mono. Im not really prepared to pay the money tho....prob £1200 for a good one...IMO thats a lot for quite a unreliable synth...

OP-if you dont mind me asking-how much did you pay?
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #17
Gear Guru
 
SWAN808's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by RobJB06 ➡️
Hey,

Its not such an unreliable synth. I had mine serviced and had the known problems fixed, like the ribbon cable replaced between the main boards and battery replaced, its been perfect ever since.
I think the OSCar has a reputation like the Chroma, but actually when they are serviced and have the known weak points sorted out they are actually very reliable.

Its a very cool sounding synth, i like slowly sweeping the seperation knob when playing a sequence, the filter is really great, its probably my faourite filter actually.
The envelopes are a little slow, so punchy bass isnt its strong point but it will do bass, i think its great for leads.
It certainly is a unique sounding beasty.
I had an issue with mine about a year ago and since i had that sorted its been great.
thats good news then - I guess the important issue is to find a tech with enough experience to know what the known weak points are - and have them sorted...
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #18
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alexstringer's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
If by any misfortune i get an early midi version, is there a way to upgrade the oscar to the latest midi version M2?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Arkadin ➡️
Have to disagree with Allgood there - it's a good sounding synth. However it must be remembered it's not analogue (except the filter). The filter adds a lot of character as it is two 12dB filters rather than one 24dB filter: this is where the separation feature was born and how you get those unique 'vocal' sounds out of an OSCar.

The ability to use FM waves (preset and user programmable) was also in interesting feature. And not many mono synths even had memories, so good for gigs too.

Add filter overdrive, an arpeggiator and a step sequencer and it's an interesting package.

There is even a way to get the knobs into the positions they were for a preset using the octave LEDs, so you could backward engineers a preset.

Oh and the mod wheel can go negative as well as positive.
I agree with you, i think you get quiet a lot for the money. I mean, i saw some peepz paying $3500 for a Minimoog D or $2500 for a Korg MS50.
For me there is no questions about it! $2800 got me an unbelievable sounding vintage synth with arpegiator, user banks, midi, great filters...
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #19
Mr Arkadin
Guest
I thought there was still somewhere to get MIDI kits for OSCar, but I'm having trouble finding it.

Here's what SOS say:
"Most OSCars sold were MIDI ones, and only 50 or so MIDI kits were installed, which means that there must be around 250 non-MIDI models somewhere."

So the odds are in your favour at least.

As to reliabilty, apart from my one-time problem, it has been fine since (ribbon cables replaced, new EPROM,MIDI board relocated). Just need to check my battery (can't remember if I had it replaced). Like most old kit it will leak after a while. I think the reliabilty issue is a bit overplayed. A Juno 106 is more likely to stop producing any sound before this, and that's by the usually reliable Roland.
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #20
Deleted 8456dd3
Guest
Kenton do a midi kit still, i believe.
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #21
Mr Arkadin
Guest
The Kenton was what I was looking for. Odd, I can't find it on their site, but their current price list has it for a reasonable £100:

http://www.kentonuk.com/kenton/price...-01jan2010.pdf

Oh, another cool feature of the MIDI is that playing on the OSCar's keyboard actually transmits MIDI polyphonically.
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #22
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oldgearguy's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I had a couple over the years. If you can get someone with an M2 version to burn the EPROM, you should be good. In my recollection, there was no hardware changes necessary to go form M1 to M2.

As far as reliability, I sold both of mine due to constantly haing to mess with it.

Minimum work needed to get it stable -new battery, replace the board connector between the main board and the CPU board, run power and ground direct from the power supply to the CPU board, move the MIDI board under the CPU board (if not already done).

An issue is that from what I was able to determine, the power on reset circuit was living a bit close to the edge and as components aged and tolerances drifted, the system wouldn't reliably be stable before the reset signalled "All OK" and the synth would get into that locked up state (one or more transpose LEDs lit solid). Often, power cycling quickly would get it back (especially with a good battery fitted), but the real answer is to work on the power on reset circuit and redo it.

The filter was the best part of the sound, especially as you modulated the pole distance. The oscillators could get into a weird locked/sync state by carefully turning the tune knobs, even without sync - watch/listen to the waveforms. Don't remember exactly, it was one of those things I noticed as I was testing the unit out.

Oh, and while I'm here, discussions of vintage synth prices are no longer relevant. Given the interest, the relative scarcity, the worldwide exposure via eBay and other places, and the amount of money people have to spend, someone is almost always willing to pay a given price (no matter how crazy) if they absolutely have to have that synth right now. So save the bandwidth, redirect the braincells, and get on with using rather than discussing pricing.
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #23
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alexstringer's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I'm glad i started this thread, i'm learning a lot of good infos .
Thank you guys, keep it coming...
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #24
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analogbass's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I find a lot of the opinions here to be quite misleading. Not suited for bass-talk about limited thinking. That video proves that incorrect. Unreliable...hmmm. One of those things that's easy to propogate and hard to disprove except by a limited number of previous owners.

I owned an OSCar in the mid-80s, sold by David Frank of The System. Also owned several Memorymoogs, picked up at Moog/Norlin in Buffalo in the late 80s. Both of these are said to be "unreliable". My experience has been entirely the opposite - *IF* common sense is applied at every step.

That means not buying a board that already has serious problems and/or is in bad condition to begin with-some of the problems discussed are very clearly due to ignoring this. The board should be solid to begin with, or have minor things that should ideally be discussed with a tech prior to purchase. Then after purchasing a solid board, exercise yet more common sense by avoiding any gigging with vintage equipment-keep them inside and don't abuse them-no rough treatment. Essentially keep them as immobile as possible.

I found the build-quality of the OSCar to be good, and the design and layout were the best I've seen in a mono. I think more vintage monos and even monos today would've been better off with the rubber protective barriers and bumpers, wheels and knobs that make a whole lot of sense in terms of both protection and usability.

Those recent price quotes are crazy; part of that is clearly that they're not available in large numbers. I bought and sold mine for around $500 in 80s dollars.

Obviously anything bought and shipped has to have full insurance coverage, which can then be used if necessary to address any problems when it arrives.

Sound-wise I found other things I liked more, but you can get some good sounds out of it. Pretty fat.
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #25
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oldgearguy's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by analogbass ➡️
I find a lot of the opinions here to be quite misleading. Not suited for bass-talk about limited thinking. That video proves that incorrect. Unreliable...hmmm. One of those things that's easy to say and hard to disprove except by previous owners.

I owned an OSCar in the mid-80s, sold by David Frank of The System. Also owned several Memorymoogs, picked up at Moog/Norlin in Buffalo in the late 80s. Both of these are said to be "unreliable". My experience has been entirely the opposite - *IF* the boards are serviced and in or brought to good operating condition to begin with, and *IF*vintage boards aren't gigged, are kept inside and taken care of-not moved around, not abused, not treated roughtly (aka common sense) they're unlikely to have any problems, and if they do occur the problems are likely to be relatively minor.
and this is in line with the discussions. You bought it basically new, back when the components were new, the board connectors were fresh and tight, and the OSCar had seen limited use up to that point.

Fast forward 25 years later and everything is different. OSCars have been shipped around the globe (maybe multiple times), they've seen who knows what kind of rough handling, and components and connectors have had 25 years of aging take place. Buying an OSCar today is much different than buying one 25 years ago. So in fact, both views are correct (for the timeframes specified).
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #26
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analogbass's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by oldgearguy ➡️
and this is in line with the discussions. You bought it basically new, back when the components were new, the board connectors were fresh and tight, and the OSCar had seen limited use up to that point.

).

Your assumption is flawed, and takes only one side in to consideration. Anyone with basic experience with electronics would know that it can work both ways.

The newness of the thing often really has nothing to do with it-a lot of the components if solid to begin with and properly arrayed, don't break down even over a period of time, or require minor tweaking from a tech.

In fact your assumption can backfire-in the real world, it's often a new piece that can have more bugs (see Toyota, new cars), while an older piece that has proven itself over time and is properly cared for can function for long periods of time without problem (see "if it ain't broken, don't fix it").
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #27
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oldgearguy's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by analogbass ➡️
You're applying an incorrect assumption that i've not found correct whatsoever.

The newness of the thing really has nothing to do with it-a lot of the components don't break down even over a period of time, or require minor tweaking from a tech.

In fact your assumption can backfire-it's often a new piece that can have more bugs (see Toyota, cars), while an older piece that has proven itself over time and is properly cared for can function for long periods of time without problem (see "if it ain't broken, don't fix it").
I'm repairing some piece of music gear almost every day, but this will be my last input to this topic.

You are making the assumptions here - the OSCar design isn't stable, hasn't been proven over time, and most of them have not been taken care of.

If the circuit design is marginal, any drifting of tolerances will have an impact and it's my opinion that some of the OSCar's circuit design is marginal. Not all parts are stable forever. Electrolytic caps are/were designed with about 2,000 hours of use in mind (on average - some caps are 'long life' with double or triple the hours).

Certainly by adding the burden of the MIDI board the original design was changed in an unanticipated way. If you want to argue the non-MIDI units are more stable, I might be persuaded to buy into that, but taking a marginal design (in some ways) and adding another board's worth of components to it doesn't help the reliability.
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #28
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tpwuk's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
My example was a non-midi version. I bought it in the early 90's. It was about as stable as walking stick with a wheel on it!

I got a few nice sounds out of it but it's reliability wasn't great. It spent the majority of it's time in the loft!
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #29
Mr Arkadin
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by tpwuk ➡️

I got a few nice sounds out of it but it's reliability wasn't great. It spent the majority of it's time in the loft!
Did you ever get it serviced? Did you replace the ribbon connectors? Did you try getting a new EPROM flash? Replace the battery? I bet it would have been fine if you had. Also keeping stuff in a loft probably won't help its reliability any.
Old 11th March 2010 | Show parent
  #30
Gear Nut
 
tpwuk's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Arkadin ➡️
Did you ever get it serviced? Did you replace the ribbon connectors? Did you try getting a new EPROM flash? Replace the battery? I bet it would have been fine if you had. Also keeping stuff in a loft probably won't help its reliability any.
Nah, I didn't bother with any of that but it was kept in the loft in a custom made flight case.

TBH, the thing wasn't that precious to me, even up until I sold it not that long ago. IMO, the sounds it's capable of can be produced just as well using impOSCAR.
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