In advance of the NAMM TEC Awards, Jan. 21, happening as a part of the global NAMM Show, Music Connection spoke with NAMM TEC nominee Dave Smith of Dave Smith Instruments. Their OB-6 Synthesizer is nominated in for outstanding technical achievement in the “Musical Instrument Hardware” category.
Music Connection: Dave, you've collaborated with other celebrated designers in the past to design new products, such as drum-machine inventor Roger Linn. Can you talk about the collaborative process that produces a new synth? How is it best to approach such a process and what are the pitfalls to avoid?
Dave Smith: It’s all about interacting on different levels; it can be a challenge since we are used to being in complete control of our own projects, but there is so much to be gained by cooperating on a new design that it’s a lot of fun. The instruments end up being so much better by having input come from two different directions.
MC: Talk about your collaboration with Tom Oberheim that has produced the new OB-6 synthesizer. How long did it take to bring it to fruition?
Smith: It was actually very quick; barely six months from the initial idea to demonstrations at NAMM. This was largely due to the fact that we had the basic technology and structure developed for the Prophet 6, so it was not too difficult to design the new synth core based on Tom’s SEM synth module. We tend to work quickly normally, but this was fast even for us!
MC: Did you consult with and get feedback from musicians while you were developing the new OB-6 synthesizer?
Smith: Not really. We were working with Tom, and as soon as we built the first proto, it was obvious that it sounded like an Oberheim! We of course had musicians involved for developing factory programs and other testing, but the product was pretty much done by then.
MC: What's next for you and your company?
Smith: More synths! We have another major announcement at NAMM, and we’re planning another surprise later in the year.
For more information, visit davesmithinstruments.com.