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Monday, January 28, 2008

ARP Odyssey

via this auction
"The ARP Odyssey was an analog synthesizer introduced in 1972. Responding to pressure from Moog Music to create a portable, affordable (the Minimoog was US$1,495 upon release) "performance" synthesizer, ARP scaled down its popular 2600 synthesizer and created the Odyssey, which became the best-selling synthesizer they made.

The Odyssey is a two-oscillator analog synth (the Minimoog has 3 oscillators and its sound is considered "fatter"). The Odyssey was the first synthesizer with duophonic capabilities (the ability to play two notes at the same time). Many cite ARP's semi-modular 2600 as the first duophonic synthesizer; however, the 2600 was originally shipped with a monophonic controller keyboard, with a duophonic keyboard not being released until after the Odyssey's release. One potential appeal of the Odyssey is the fact that all parameters, including a resonant low-pass filter, a non-resonant high-pass filter, ADSR and AR envelopes, triangle (not sine) and square wave LFO, and a sample-and-hold function are editable with sliders and buttons on the front panel.

The Odyssey is first duophonic (ability to play two notes at the same time) synthesizer. This 37-note synthesizer was used as an educational tool in ARP's "Learning Music with Synthesizers" book. A very popular keyboard for ARP, it was almost as popular with musical groups as the Minimoog.

The Odyssey was made in three versions. The first version was off-white, the second (in 1977) was black with gold markings on its front panel (see photo above). The third (1977 and later), and more common, version was black with orange markings. The third version has an external audio input, a steel frame, and "is also equipped with Proportional Pitch Control (PPC), ARP's latest contribution to more expressive synthesizer performance. The triple-pad, pressure-sensitive controller lets you bend notes sharp and flat, and add vibrato, all without moving a single slider or switch."----[from the ARP Odyssey promotional brochure courtesy of Kevin Lightner]

The PPC is basically three rubber pads underneath the keys. One to the left of the key for flattening the pitch, one in the middle for vibrato, and one to the right for sharpening the pitch. The pads were pressure gradient from back to front. If you pressed hard on the front, you get a semi-tone change, but if you press hard on the back you get up to a fifth change.

Later models have good CV/gate interface. Later Mark I's have mini-jack sockets squeezed in on the right of the back panel. Some Mark II do not come with CV/gate interface, though they do have the PPC. Mark II Odysseys have XLR outputs. Also some of the earlier models have some of their circuitry encased in resin, a trick ARP used often in their earlier years to maintain temperature stability (or as some say, to guard trade secrets). For whatever reason they did it, having their sockets enclosed in resin makes it difficult, if not imposible, to repair some units.

Both VCOs are switchable between sawtooth, square, and pulse waveforms with oscillator sync, a ring modulator, and pink or white noise. Pulse-width can be modulated manually or with the LFO or the ADSR envelope generator. There is a high-pass filter, as well as a low-pass self-oscillating VCF. The filter can be controlled by either of the two envelope generators, an ADSR (attack, decay, sustain or "delay", release) and a simple AR (attack, release) and modulated by the LFO, sample-and-hold, the keyboard, or a separate CV (pedal) input on the back panel.

As the legendary first compact studio synthesizer, the Minimoog, proved to be a runaway success, ARP responded with a compact user-friendly studio synthesizer of their own with the Odyssey. An almost equally legendary machine itself (the Odyssey was ARP's highest selling synth), the Odyssey essentially gives you a somewhat scaled-down & hard-wired ARP 2600 in a much smaller and more affordable package. The Odyssey is a 2-oscillator analog synth (with duo-phonic capability) and it sounds really nice; the Minimoog has three oscillators and is considered fatter. The Odyssey comes well equipped with all the tweakable features you'd expect: resonant low pass filter, ADSR envelopes, sine or square wave LFO and even a sample-and-hold function. It also added a few new features such as a high pass filter in series with the low pass, oscillator-sync capability and pulse-width modulation. It is a very professional and expressive machine that can create nice analog basses, interesting leads and great effects and sweeping sounds or noises straight out of a Tangerine Dream album! Over its 30-plus year history"


cebec said...

whoah. i don't get why people can't give a synth a decent cleaning before they photograph it for auction or send it to the buyer.

matrix said...

I never understood that either, especially with music and pawn shops. The first thing I do when I pick up a used synth is go through a cleaning ritual.