ARP Odyssey

Originally released in 1972, the ARP Odyssey was the company's answer to the incredibly successful "MiniMoog", and was basically a scaled-down version of the infamous ARP 2600. A 2 oscillator Analog synthesizer, featuring what at the time was a very innovative design in terms of functionality, here revisited by King Korg as an (almost-86% of original size)) untouched rebirth of one of the greatest synthesizers of all time! All 3 versions (MK1, II, III) are available, with a few added features like MIDI, and USB connectivity to allow for modern day DAW integration, and have all been re-created with such an attention to the detail-whether its the circuitry, or the look of the machine-taking us back even further than the previous great release of the MS20, to the time when bands like Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk were just beginning to take hold in what was then called Electro-Acoustic Music.

 

Both oscillators provide Saw and Square waves, as well as Frequency Modulation, and are identical to each other with the minor exception that oscillator 2 allows for Phase Sync with oscillator 1, and the use of Sample and Hold, or the pedal as a source of FM, while oscillator 1 allows for switching between the triggering of the sound source by the keyboard, or using it as a Low Frequency source (not triggered by the keyboard) that can be varied with the Fine Tuning sliders. Other modulation sources for FM include the LFO's Sine, Square, S/H (Sample and Hold), or the envelope, and both provide Pulse Width for your square waves, along with Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) via the LFO's Sine wave, or the envelope; which is incredibly useful in giving character to your sounds, from thick and overpowering, to shrill and fierce. 

 

The modulation section here is pretty straight forward, giving you the option of Sine or Square waves for Low Frequency Oscillation, as well as a neat sample and hold architecture, allowing for the mixing in of the square or sine waves from oscillator 1, or the Noise Generator, as well as the square wave from oscillator 2. The sample and hold feature can be triggered via the keyboard, or LFO, and there is also the option for adjusting the output lag from S/H; which can add an interesting delayed effect to this specific layer of your sound. 

 

We move on to the Filter where things get very interesting. During its decade of production, the original Odyssey had 3 different filter designs. MKI had a 2-pole filter, which while great at what it did, was not "beefy" enough for deep basses and leads. Shortly after MKII came around (earlier models still had the 2-pole filter), the company pursued a similar design to that of Moog's patented 4-pole "Ladder" design, making it much more suitable for low-end manipulation. While it was always supposedly rumored that Moog had sued ARP over the use of this filter design, the two parties had actually come to a good licensing agreement for synth units already sold, leaving ARP to soon design yet a new version of the 4-pole (4075). This version, interestingly enough, has made the 2810 version of the MKII very sought after in that its filter has a well known bandwidth error around 12hz; making the sound a bit more passive when driven into self-oscillation or resonance peak. 

 

For this new re-issue, Korg, consulting all along with ARP founder David Friend, decided that the 3 versions should contain all 3 filters in one box; all of which can be called for duties at the flick of a switch. Offering the standard Cutoff and Resonance, here presented in the all too cool sliders, also featuring a High Pass filter running parallel to the VCF, with a new "Drive" feature meant for saturation and aggression. The synth also offers control of the filter from the keyboard via CV (KBD Tracking), as well as how much it is affected by either the S/H feature, or LFO, as well as a neat filter envelope which can be set between AR (Attack and Release), or full-on ADSR. 

 

Next we find the Audio mixer section, which also uses sliders to allow you to control the signal amount of both VCO's, as well as the Noise Generator, Ring Modulator, and Amp (you can also choose between AR, or ADSR). The envelope section is also very straight forward, and here is where the Odyssey gets interesting, and why the sliders became so popular. If ADSR affects the shape of the signal wave, then it stands to reason controls should mimic this for the user. If you have ever played around with the envelopes of almost any other synth, then you have likely noticed how counter intuitive it seems to have knobs do this job, since it is a bit harder to visualize the way the wave is being shaped. With sliders, the wave is literally shaped right in front of your eyes as you make each setting, giving you much more clarity as to what you are doing. This is one of the biggest reasons why even today, the Minibrute incorporates sliders, making this machine, like the Odyssey, very intuitive and user-friendly. 

 

It is such an honor to be alive during a time that seems almost too good to be true. The Odyssey, like Moog, and even the MS20, have all redefined music forever, but none really quite in the way that ARP has; especially when dealing with the Odyssey. From early forms of Electro music like Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk, and beyond, machines of this type of unique character-and there aren't many-have allowed us to push deep beneath everything we thought music could ever be, allowing us to come back with recordings that many times are a world of their own.

 

Get this as soon as shipments are available (starting mid-February), you won't be disappointed. Having the opportunity to have such an amazing synthesizer in your arsenal will certainly make your music stand out above the rest. 

 

 

 

Written by: Santino Fernandez

 

 

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Edition: 
February 2015