• George Napier

Pt 2: Vintage Synth Repair: An OB•12 and The Hero's Journey

Updated: Mar 2

Part 2 of 3


I think I went through the seven stages of grief while staring at my newly purchased, DOA OB•12:

  1. Shock - I can't believe I've been ripped off!

  2. Denial - Maybe I'm not starting it up correctly. Maybe all it needs is a factory reset...

  3. Anger - That SOB knew this keyboard was busted and just unloaded it on me!

  4. Bargaining - Maybe it's the cord. (I tried three different power cords.) Maybe the outlet....?

  5. Depression - It's done. I'm out the cash, and I have a pretty doorstop. It's my own fault for jumping so impulsively.

  6. Testing - Maybe there's something on an OB•12 FB group. I can't be the only one with this problem!

  7. Acceptance - OK. It's dead. I'm out $800 and I'm going to have to spend more money if I want to get this working.

So at this point you might ask why I didn't simply report the transaction to eBay and demand my money back from the seller. The answer is ... complicated.

  • I finally had an OB•12 in my hands again!

  • The thing was gorgeous.

  • I was still about $500 below what I see these go for on eBay and Reverb.

  • See #1...

I did in fact contact the seller. He swore that it worked when he shipped it. So, I thought, maybe something simple like a connector became dislodged in shipment. If I could get it into a shop, and repair it for less than $500, I'll still come out ahead of current eBay prices AND I'll have an OB•12 in GREAT shape!


By the way, I forgot to mention that rationalizing spending money on equipment is one of my few, true superpowers.


So first things first: I hit the OB•12 Facebook groups for guidance and info. The two groups I belong to are great. The members are helpful, supportive and generous. I found all sorts of information on resetting the OB, files for the OS and sounds, and a manual. One member was even able to provide me the schematics/service manual! (Thank you Ralf!)


But no matter what I tried, the OB wouldn't reset or load any files. I needed to put it in a shop. Fortunately, I have a synth repair shop in the area that has a great reputation. I dropped the keyboard there at the end of February 2020. They said they could have the problem diagnosed in about 2 weeks....mid-march at the latest.


Then, the world changed.


By mid-March, the entire country was entering lockdown because of the Pandemic. The shop was closed...and remained closed for the next 4 months.


With everything going on in life (work disruption, school disruption, 90 year old parents to attend to, etc.), the OB fell to the back burner. In fact, I didn't inquire about it again until the late fall. Turns out the shop hadn't even looked at since the spring. They reached out to Viscount Italy for help, but never got a response. (At least, that is what they told me.) Eventually they admitted that they could not sort out the issue and I should come pick the board up.


So, I did. When I got it home, it was in worse condition then when I left it. Whereas there were minimal signs of life before, there was absolutely no sign of life now. Not only that, but the synth case wasn't re-assembled properly AND it was scratched. And for all of this, they charged me only $125...


I was pretty bummed.


Fortunately someone on one of the FB groups pointed me to some old information about a service representative for Viscount based in North America. Digging a bit more, I found out that he was still active. Better still, he was located just three hours away in Pennsylvania. I brought the keyboard home from the shop, and reached out to Mr. Robert Darnall...