The Incredible Return of the ARP Odyssey Analog Synth
Almost as legendary as the Minimoog, Odyssey was ARP's highest selling synth back in the seventies, and it is still much sought-after, which makes Korg's announcement so exciting. The list of Odyssey users is as impressive as that of Minimoog users, a virtual who's who of rock'n'roll, pop and electronic music of the 70's, 80's and beyond:
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.
|KORG ARP ODYSSEY||KORG ARP ODYSSEY REV1||KORG ARP ODYSSEY REV2|
But the fact is that 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 (pic above) 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 had a few setbacks: 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, rather than three oscillators and monophonic. Features included 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 a richer, 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 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 ODYSSEY!
Korg has finally revealed their newly resurrected ARP Odyssey. The biggest surprise is that they didn't just pick one of the old Odysseys to be recreated, but all three of them! The main release, the Korg ARP Odyssey, is based on the last model, the MkIII version. The MkI and MkII models have also been recreated, but as (slightly more expensive) Limited-Edition synths: the ARP Odyssey REV1 (the "white" version) and ARP Odyssey REV2 (the "black & gold" model).
All three new ARP Odyssey synths are slightly smaller than the original - at 86% of the size. Which is not a problem at all, just means they are better designed! They also 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.
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. Long stopped, the wheels of history have again begun to move.
Please note - the sizes are just approximations.