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Anyone know of Stephen Sank? (Or mods to an OB-3?)


MuzikTeechur

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So, I have an Oberheim OB-3² module that I use on gigs.

I was browsing eBay recently and came across an auction for a Viscount module, probably a D-9, which is essentially an OB-3, the precursor to the OB-3². The thing that caught my eye is that this one was supposedly stroked by Stephen Sank, who is known in the audio community for his work on Beyer m260's and other vintage ribbon mics. He is not, however, known for his ability to return emails or for his promptness in repairs (or even actually completing them). I gather from reading in several forums that if the guy wasn't such a genius he'd be long out of business.

So, the eBay ad reads like this: (The auction itself is here: Ebay Auction )

SWEET ORGAN MODULE by Viscount

Stephen Sank Upgraded

 

Seriously upgraded for warm rich audio by Stephen Sank. Stephen Sank is known for his legendary mods. His mods are known in the pro audio community as well as the ultra high-end home audio circles.

 

Made in Italy, this unit started off pretty sweet. I personally asked Steve to mod this about 2 years ago for a recording session. It was a major improvement over the stock sound, making a great unit fabulous. With the ultra high-end burr-brown chips added to replace the less desirable chips that came stock, the sound becomes rich and warm. The depth and beauty of the tone is further enhanced by a series of high end caps with greater capacity for power storage in the audio path. The result is fabulous. This is the only one in existance with the Sank mod.

 

Stephen Sank is the son of former RCA designer Jon R. Sank. Read about the Sank historical connection with RCA online here. It is an interesting story that starts in the 1930's. Stephen Sank is also the designer behind the new Cloud Microphones line. Check our other auctions for the Cloudlifter as well as new and vintage ribbon microphones.

 

So, the question is, does anyone know of this mythical mod to the OB-3/OB-3² or have a direct line to Stephen Sank? For the clubs and functions I play, the Oberheim is well-suited to the task, but for my own enjoyment I'm always looking for a bit more authenticity. I tried emailing Mr. Sank at http://www.stephensank.com, but no response. I even offered to pay for the information and do the work myself, but no response. It's probably a dead end trail, but there are some amazingly knowledgeable folks here on this forum so perhaps some one knows something...?

 

Please and Thanks;

 

Lonnie

 

 

Muzikteechur is Lonnie, in Kittery, Maine.

 

HS music teacher: Concert Band, Marching Band, Jazz Band, Chorus, Music Theory, AP Music Theory, History of Rock, Musical Theatre, Piano, Guitar, Drama.

 

 

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My guess is he replaced the opamps in the analog output driver stage with Burr Browns. Maybe added some decoupling caps. This procedure is "en vogue" in the audio DIY community these days but usually in things like mic pre-amplifiers.

 

I don't think it would really make that big of a difference, personally. We're talking about a clonewheel here, not a high-gain mic preamp.

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http://www.thuntek.net/~bk11/bk11.htm

 

I had to look it up, because I knew the Sank name, but only in conjunction with microphones.

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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Seems I may have spoken too soon, although it looks as though it may be more complicated than it's worth. "For a few dollars more..."

 

From Mr. Sank:

I don't delve into synth stuff too much, so I had to do a bit of googling. Seems like the Viscount D9e that I mod'd is the same or very similar unit as the OB3, but the OB3 squared is stereo & may be a substantially different animal inside. Although it's been quite a while, I do recall that the D9e used quad op amps, which put a wrinkle in things, due to the fact that the desired Burr-Brown opamp, the 134-series, for some odd reason is made only in surface-mount SOIC-14 on the quad OPA4134, so upgrading requred installing each on an SOIC-DIP adapter board before then installing in the unit. I would hope the OB3-2 either uses duals(the OPA2134 is available in DIP) or is already surface-mount, but it seems more likely that it will present the same complication as the OB3/D9e. The rest of the work mainly involved improving the size, performance & long term reliability of the power supply & signal coupling caps, of which I don't recall there being terribly many of them. As memory serves, the D9e mod was a $250-300 job, and I would say it's a safe bet the OB3-2 would be cost a hundred more or so.

 

Stephen Sank, Owner

Talking Dog Transducer Co.

2112 N. Dragoon St. #13

Tucson, Arizona [85745]

505-410-4951

http://stephensank.com

Muzikteechur is Lonnie, in Kittery, Maine.

 

HS music teacher: Concert Band, Marching Band, Jazz Band, Chorus, Music Theory, AP Music Theory, History of Rock, Musical Theatre, Piano, Guitar, Drama.

 

 

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Seems I may have spoken too soon, although it looks as though it may be more complicated than it's worth. "For a few dollars more..."

 

From Mr. Sank:

I don't delve into synth stuff too much, so I had to do a bit of googling. Seems like the Viscount D9e that I mod'd is the same or very similar unit as the OB3, but the OB3 squared is stereo & may be a substantially different animal inside. Although it's been quite a while, I do recall that the D9e used quad op amps, which put a wrinkle in things, due to the fact that the desired Burr-Brown opamp, the 134-series, for some odd reason is made only in surface-mount SOIC-14 on the quad OPA4134, so upgrading requred installing each on an SOIC-DIP adapter board before then installing in the unit. I would hope the OB3-2 either uses duals(the OPA2134 is available in DIP) or is already surface-mount, but it seems more likely that it will present the same complication as the OB3/D9e. The rest of the work mainly involved improving the size, performance & long term reliability of the power supply & signal coupling caps, of which I don't recall there being terribly many of them. As memory serves, the D9e mod was a $250-300 job, and I would say it's a safe bet the OB3-2 would be cost a hundred more or so.

 

Stephen Sank, Owner

Talking Dog Transducer Co.

2112 N. Dragoon St. #13

Tucson, Arizona [85745]

505-410-4951

http://stephensank.com

It seems, based on this email, that Mr. Sank's reputation as a flake may be ill-deserved. That's about as detailed and considerate a technical service request response as I've seen in nearly 30 years in engineering.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

-Mark Twain

 

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This is an intriguing thread as I've never heard of this kind of mod. I wonder what wonders he could work on other gear???

 

To the original poster - I personally don't think this upgrade is worth $300-500 or whatever it might be at the end. I'd probably take that amount, sell the OB3 unit and get something more modern.

 

Regards,

Eric

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This is an intriguing thread as I've never heard of this kind of mod. I wonder what wonders he could work on other gear???

 

To the original poster - I personally don't think this upgrade is worth $300-500 or whatever it might be at the end. I'd probably take that amount, sell the OB3 unit and get something more modern.

 

Regards,

Eric

 

I agree. He's only cleaning up the signal to noise ratio in the audio chain. He's not enhancing the B3 emulation - which by today's standards (IMHO as a former OB3 owner) is pretty limited.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

-Mark Twain

 

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Oh, I agree - I could sell my OB-3² for $300 (or more on a good day on eBay), pocket the $350 - $400 I'd spend on any mods, add $200 and then scout a good deal on a used Red Board or even an XK-1.

I was more interested in any quick and dirty chip changes - if you price Burr-Brown chips online they go for $3 - $25 depending on the model. However, sounds like he was doing some fabrication as well.

 

Also, I certainly didn't mean to slander Mr. Sank. I had never heard of him and turned this up on a google: http://www.electrical.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?p=184366

Turns out there are some unhappy customers, but I think there were extenuating circumstances in his life. Please note that when I posted his reply I prefaced it with "I may have spoken too soon..."

 

Wastrel:

The OB-3² is worlds better than the OB-3 (I've owned both), but it's still ten+ year old technology. Again, though: in the clubs I play it's all pearls before swine (not to slander the customers: they're very NICE swine, and they pay very well).

Muzikteechur is Lonnie, in Kittery, Maine.

 

HS music teacher: Concert Band, Marching Band, Jazz Band, Chorus, Music Theory, AP Music Theory, History of Rock, Musical Theatre, Piano, Guitar, Drama.

 

 

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