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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
ManufacturerOxford Synthesiser Company
Dates1983 - 1985
Technical specifications
Polyphonymonophonic with limited duophonic capabilities
Oscillator2 digital oscillators
LFO1 triangle/sawtooth/square/sample & hold
Synthesis typeAnalog/Digital Hybrid Subtractive Additive
Filter1 resonant multi-mode (lowpass/bandpass/hipass) filter
Attenuator2 ADSR
Storage memory24 patches
Keyboard37 keys
External controlMIDI

The OSCar was a synthesizer manufactured by the Oxford Synthesiser Company from 1983 to 1985. It was ahead of its time in several ways and its later versions were among the few mono-synths of its time to have MIDI.[1] Around 2000 were made.[2]


When synthesizer manufacturer Electronic Dream Plant folded in 1982, Chris Huggett went on to form the Oxford Synthesiser Company.[2] The OSCar synthesizer was launched in 1983. Chris Huggett designed the electronics while independent product designer Anthony Harrison-Griffin was responsible for the unique look and build of the OSCar.[3][better source needed]

Design and features[edit]

Harrison-Griffin's use of distinctive black rubberized components to protect the controls and main casing became one of the instrument's most distinctive visual features. He even built a dummy 3-pin mains socket into the ends to safely store the plug.[4]

While the basic structure of the OSCar is the common subtractive synthesis model, it has many unusual features and design quirks. The main difference from other synthesizers of the time was its digital oscillators and control system. The oscillators have an array of standard wave shapes including triangle, sawtooth, square and a variable pulse-width modulation, but the digital system also provides additive synthesis. New waveforms can be created by changing the amplitudes of up to 24 harmonics, widening the available sound palette in comparison with purely analogue synths. The two oscillators can either be played together monophonically, or the OSCar can be set in a duophonic mode where they keyboard controls one oscillator and the sequencer the other.[2]

The filter consists of two 12 dB/Oct analog filters that can be combined into either a 24 dB low pass, a 24 dB high pass or a 12 dB bandpass filter. A similar design had been known from other analog synths of the era, such as the Roland Jupiter-6, but the OSCar has its own unique twist on it, by having a "Separation" control that allowed separate cutoff frequencies for the filters. The resulting two resonance peaks can give a unique "vocal" character.[2]

The OSCar has an elementary sequencer. In duophonic mode it allows the user to play a monophonic lead whilst a sequence plays simultaneously. Many sequencers at the time could only play notes of a fixed length but on the OSCar it was possible to lengthen individual notes or insert rests.[5]


Although only 2000 OSCars were made they found their way into many professional hands. Ultravox used one for the solo on "Love's Great Adventure", and it is used for the bass on Stevie Wonder's "Skeletons", Jean-Michel Jarre's Revolutions Overture, and "Do They Know It's Christmas?".[2] It can be seen in the video for S'Express' "Mantra for a State of Mind".


The GForce impOSCar is a software emulation of the OSC OSCar.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Russ, Martin (2004). Sound synthesis and sampling. Oxford: Focal press. p. 153. ISBN 0-240-51692-3. Retrieved 2010-08-23.
  2. ^ a b c d e Wiffen, Paul (September 1999). "LIFE OF OSCAR". Sound on Sound. ISSN 0951-6816. Retrieved 2010-08-22.
  3. ^ "Anthony Harris-Griffin (blog)". Retrieved 2010-08-22.
  4. ^ https://medias.audiofanzine.com/images/normal/osc-oscar-1516159.jpg [bare URL image file]
  5. ^ "Oxford Synthesiser Company OSCar". Retrieved 2010-08-23.

Further reading[edit]

  • Mark Vail, Vintage Synthesizers: Groundbreaking Instruments and Pioneering Designers of Electronic Music Synthesizers, pub Backbeat Books (2000), ISBN 0879306033

External links[edit]