MATRIXSYNTH: The OB-Mx Story

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The OB-Mx Story


Click here for a sordid tale of the Gibson Oberheim OB-Mx. If you haven't read this before, make the time to do so. It's an interesting bit of synth history.

"D.N. "Lynx" Crowe and Don Buchla were called in to salvage the OB-Mx very late in the game. They weren't told the whole story of the project to that date; they gradually uncovered the archeological and forensic evidence in the drawings and code. Some details still aren't known, but thanks to the process of Discovery in several civil suits, including depositions of many of the people mentioned here, enough is known to show the mismanagement, fraud, and incompetence that doomed G-WIZ, the OB-Mx, and ultimately OpCode and any other hi-tech company that is fooled into trying to work with Gibson Guitar and its Technohick CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz. Everything spelled out in this narrative is either from my own memories of the time, or from depositions and exhibits already in evidence in the case."

Pictured are two shots of the prototype OB-Mx via Analog Synth Service


Update: OB-Mx Preservation Page.

11 comments:

  1. I was peripherally involved in this; I was a GWIZ employee at the time, although I didn't work directly on that project. While there is some truth to the various Lynx accounts, everything there should be taken with a shaker of salt.

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  2. Anyone want to elaborate on how Don Buchla can be difficult?

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  3. He's a hippie with a soldering gun!

    Seriously though, it's a shame that Juszkiewicz was such an idiot and that Buchla wasnt given a real chance to create an awesome instrument.

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  4. The Lynx Crowe account may not be entirely accurate, but it does fit in with Gibson's sorry history of buying good companies and running them into the ground. Trace Elliott, Steinberger, Oberheim, Zeta, Opcode... And then there's the equally sorry history of introducing products that are absolute vaporware (what's the latest on when MaGIC is coming out?...)

    A real shame, but maybe not a complete loss. I'll be a lot of the ideas Don and Lynx devised for the OB-mx can be found in the 200e now.

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  5. This story should be re-posted every year or so, just to make sure no new company started by nice young people gets anywhere near a man like Henry Juskiewicz.

    I know some... people who've dealt with him, and the description of Henry's cluelessness and nasty tactics jibes perfectly with the accounts I've been given.

    Be aware that, if he finds out about this blog post, and these comments, Gibson will probably sue Matrixsynth. Any other commenters should be sure not to name any personal or company names, or they'll get sucked in too.

    Friends don't let friends buy Gibson. In my opinion.

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  6. i love when people describe the Lynx Crowe account as less than accurate and never counter anything.

    i'm open to anything, but where exactly are the inaccuracies? when the integrity of an account like that is called into question, even in an off-hand manner, new data must be presented.

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  7. This webpage claims Guitar Center stopped carrying Gibson products since 2001, but I saw scads of Les Pauls and the like there recently.

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  8. I can say as an ex-Opcode employee, that I personally believe the views expressed in that story. While I was not part of the executive staff at Opcode, I was friends with some of them, and worked on top-level marketing, packaging, and design projects - and saw Opcode being systematically disbanded and crippled.

    Most of the Opcode folks settled with Gibson, and it's all in the past - but Henry Juszkiewicz's lack of vision and misguided ideas pretty much ground the top music software and hardware company into the ground.

    I remember working on whitepapers with some of the product managers and also other engineering staff - new products which would have done pretty well at the time, and proved to do well when introduced 1 or 2 years later by competitors - and being told about what Gibson wanted Opcode to do. My jaw hit the floor with the sheer stupidity.

    And then - the crowning glory of Gibson's vision finally comes out... GMICs or whatever it's called now. Who the fuck wants to run each of their guitar strings to a different amp? That's what you dismantled what was the top music software and midi interface company at the time?

    So, I simply never bought another Gibson product. And I encourage you to do the same.

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  9. I try not to comment on things posted by that wordy fellow, "anonymous", but:
    In the title-link-website Lynx claims things like:
    [re OB-Mx]
    This synthesizer is basically a crippled version of the Buchla 300 that Lynx and Don created roughly 10 years earlier.

    Then I guess that the Buchla 300 was basically a crippled version of the RCA Synthesizer. Each of these statements have about the same amount of truth in them.

    I certainly don't want to come off as a Juszkiewicz apologist, but the companies that Gibson "runs into the ground" are already on very thin ice. Juszkiewicz seems to like to buy companies that are failing, and try and turn them around. This worked very well with the Gibson turnaround, but poorly with most of the other companies mentioned. Juszkiewicz has reputation in the industry as a... let's say... loose cannon, and in my experience it's well deserved.

    There are myriad inaccuracies in the Lynx account, but I'm not going to iterate them here, certainly not in response to "anonymous"

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  10. Chris: As a complete outsider, I am certainly not in a position to comment on the inner workings of Opcode etc. I'm aware that some of these companies were in financial trouble when Gibson bought them. Could they have turned it around if they hadn't been dismantled? I don't know. The only thing I can tell you is, some years ago when I was ready to upgrade from my 1x1 MIDI interface to something more serious, I tried to order an Opcode interface from Sweetwater. The salesman called me back and gently steered me to MOTU instead. Shortly after that, Sweetwater dropped the Opcode products from their catalog. It took me several years to understand why.

    I have talked to several people who run mom-n-pop music stores. They call carry Fender, but none of them carry Gibson. About that, they all say the same thing: Gibson is too flaky to do business with. When they order stuff from Fender, they usually get what they ordered and it arrives when they said it would. When they order stuff from Gibson, who knows what they will get or when it will arrive. They do all say the Gibson stuff is quality work, but if it's not what they ordered, it doesn't matter.

    I do note, though, that Sweetwater has recently begun carrying Gibson guitars again. Perhaps things are changing in Nasville?

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  11. That was a fascinating read. Bisnes as usual, huh?

    Looks like the page is gone now. Found it on the 'way back machine'

    Link:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20010423234143/http://stephengoldin.com/gibson/technohick01.html

    ReplyDelete

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