When you think of musical instruments, you will probably first think of things like pianos and guitars. Electronic musical instruments, on the other hand, conjure up images of keyboards, electric guitars, and complicated synthesizers. Suzuki’s Omnichord, on the other hand, is an odd yet curious duck that stands somewhere in between these two extremes. First launched in 1981, this electronic device empowered anyone to make music or accompany a song even without previous musical experience or even reading notes. The Omnichord’s distinctive electronic sounds and novel design made it quite a hit, but the product faded into obscurity back in 1996. To commemorate its upcoming 40th anniversary, Suzuki decided to give today’s generation a taste of that unique experience with a new model that recreates the original so faithfully down to using the same analog circuits.
Imagine just pressing a few buttons and sliding your finger on a flat surface and then suddenly producing wonderful music. That’s pretty much the experience that the Suzuki Omnichord offered, presenting people, whether musically trained or not, the joys of creating music with ease and freedom. There are no wrong notes, just new harmonies and beats to be discovered and incorporated into your masterpiece. It’s like an adventure for novices but also a new territory for veterans who want to add a unique flavor to their music.
The new Suzuki Omnichord OM-108 tries to bring that 80s experience to the 21st century, reproducing the tonality that characterized that period while also adding modern features that cater to today’s more demanding audience. To accurately recreate the same tones of the OM-84, perhaps the most popular Omnichord ever released, Suzuki opted to go completely old school and apply the same analog circuitry that gave the original its distinctive electronic sounds. It also has that popular harp sensor or strumplate that lets you easily slide or tap your finger to produce the “notes” that will make up your music.
The new OM-108 model boasts 108 chords, hence the name, as well as many new functions, like a switch that changes the way chords and rhythms are played. There’s also a drum pad mode that turns the chord keys as well as the sturmplate itself into beats. And like with many modern electronic musical instruments, you can connect the Omnichord to external MIDI devices to mix tones to your heart’s delight. Plus, the built-in speaker can be turned on or off when you connect an external speaker, useful when you want to monitor your own sound during a live performance.
The Suzuki Omnichord OM-108 may look like a toy, but the unique sounds it lets you produce are pure joy, at least to fans of the electronica genre. Its revival coincides with the retro craze gripping many industries and is a perfect example of a design that manages to remain relevant decades after its last appearance. That said, you’ll have to wait a bit before you can get your hands on the newest Omnichord, as sales aren’t expected to start until July, with the price and market availability still unknown.