The ARP Odyssey Duophonic Analogue Synthesizer was one of the most popular synths in the seventies, and rivalled Moog's Minimoog as the discerning musicians' favourite synth. With Korg resurrecting it at NAMM 2015, here's all the info you need to know. It's time to get excited!
Almost as legendary as the Minimoog, Odyssey was ARP's highest selling synth back in the seventies - and it is still very much sought-after today, which makes Korg's announcement so exciting.
The list of Odyssey users is extremely impressive - a who's who of rock'n'roll, pop and electronic music of the 70's, 80's and beyond. Some of the artists include: ABBA, Bomb The Bass, Jimmy Page, John Carpenter, Daft Punk, Ultravox, Gary Numan, LTJ Bukem, Air, Tangerine Dream, 808 State, Apollo 440, Nine Inch Nails, Chick Corea, John Foxx, Vangelis, Elton John, Jethro Tull, Jimmy Edgar, DEVO, Jean-Luc Ponty, R.E.M., Herbie Hancock, 808 State, Apollo 440, ELO, Elton John, Jon Lord, Gary Numan, BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Jean Michel Jarre and many others.
Find the new models here!
Just like the Minimoog, the ARP Odyssey was a versatile synth full of personality, capable of a wide range of very distinctive sounds which made it stand out from other synths.
To compare an ARP to a Moog amp is almost as pointless as comparing Fender and Gibson - they are different beasts, and each one does something that the other can't.
To say which one is the best depends on each musician's taste - but even Bob Moog himself said that ARP oscillators were superior to those on the Moogs.
This stability gives a clarity of sound that is different from any Moog: it is richer, warmer, fatter - and essentially different.
ARP had already put its mark on popular culture, thanks to the ARP 2500 and ARP 2600 synthesizers.
The original ARP 2500 was designed by NASA engineer Alan R Pearlman (ARP!) and, coincidence or not, was used by Steven Spielberg on Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
In the famous scene when the scientists communicate with the aliens by using five musical notes, what you're hearing is an ARP 2500 synth!
The 2500 was one of the most revolutionary musical instruments ever, but it also had a few problems.
Many found this ARP to be too big, too expensive, and almost impossible to programme!
This led to the creation (in 1971) of the more user-friendly ARP 2600 semi-modular synth, which went on to become very popular and was used by everyone from Pete Townshend and David Bowie to Depeche Mode and Joy Division. It was also used to create the blip sounds of Star Wars' R2-D2!
Townshend was a massive enthusiast of ARP and used it extensively in The Who, including Quadrophenia and Tommy. In this video he uses an ARP 2600 to explain how he got the 'Won't Get Fooled Again' synth sound:
The Odyssey was pretty much a simplified, hard-wired version of the ARP 2600 - but unlike the ARP 2600, it was a duophonic 2-oscillator analog synth, as opposed to utilising three oscillators and being monophonic.
Features included a resonant low pass filter, ADSR envelopes, sine or square wave LFO, and a sample-and-hold function.
The oscillators generated all the basic waveforms - sawtooth, square wave, pulse, and pulse width modulation (PWM), something even the Minimoog lacked. PWM was responsible for the rich, lush analogue timbres, and it made the Odyssey sound 'bigger' than it was. With oscillator sync and a ring modulator, ARP's twin oscillators actually made the Odyssey sound arguably more versatile than a Minimoog.
The ARP Odyssey combined more sound-shaping features than any other non-patchable synth of its era. It was small, portable and considerably cheaper than the previous models, but still delivering the same fat, warm sounds that made ARP famous. Jimmy Page was an early user and had several models, which he used in Led Zeppelin tracks (such as Bonzo's Montreaux) and solo work.
The New Korg ARP Range
The new ARP models from Korg include a few modern features such as MIDI and USB connections, but the distinctive synthesis of the ARP Odyssey has been reproduced from the circuit level up.
With the advisory assistance of David Friend - the co-founder of ARP Instruments - Korg has completely reproduced the original circuitry for artists looking to recreate classic sounds and explore new ones.
Together the engineers at Korg and ARP were able to nail the sound and feel of the original. Every detail has been carefully considered to stay true to the quality of the original, down to the sophisticated semi-hard case.
The legendary ARP sound is loved to this day, and although long stopped, the wheels of history have again begun to move.
It's clear that Korg took great care to reproduce one of the best loved portable analogue synths ever, and there's no doubt that the new Korg Odyssey will once again become one of the most popular synths around! Welcome back to the future...