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ARP Odyssey

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Production period:

Quantity produced:

- a black and orange Odyssey
- an off-white Odyssey
- Odyssey brochure (courtesy of Kevin Lightner)

Famous Fingers
Who played this instrument?

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ARP Odyssey

ARP Odyssey

owner: William Blakeney

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.

[from The A-Z of Analogue Synthesizers, by Peter Forrest, published by Susurreal Publishing, Devon, England, copyright 1994 Peter Forrest]

Famous Fingers
Who Played This Instrument?

808 State, ABBA, Don Airey, Apollo 440 - used an Odyssey mark II, Peter Bardens, BBC Radiophonic Workshop - used both mark I and mark II Odysseys, Boris Blank, Brand X, Bomb The Bass, Darius Brubeck, Bob Casale with Devo, Chemical Brothers, Chick Corea, Tom Coster with Santana, Billy Currie, Curve, Rick Davies - aka 3070 (Cybotron), George Duke, Ian Dury of The Blockheads, ELO, Electronic Dream Planet (a black & gold), The Enid, John Entwistle - of The Who, John Evans with Jethro Tull, Johnny Fingers, Dave Formula, John Foxx - on "Metamatic", David Freiberg, Gas Chamber Orchestra, Brian Gascoigne, Rupert Greenall, Dave Greenslade, Stephen Hague, HAI, Herbie Hancock, Richard Harvey of Gryphon - quote "because there are some sounds I just can't get from the Moog, and I like the sample-and-hold", David Hentschel -on early Elton John recordings (Rocket Man, Funeral for a friend,etc),Tony Hymas of Ph.D., J.M. Jarre - "Oxygene", Jbone Cro of Jaloppy, Jefferson Starship, Kansas, Die Krupps, Chuck Leavell, Ron Levy of the B.B. King Band, Webster Lewis - the bassline on Herbie Hancock's "Ready or Not", Jon Lord - two mark I's, Duncan Mackay - modified with the keyboard split from controls, Dave Macrae, Manfred Mann's Earth Band - on "Blinded by the Light", The Mometers on their album Meet the Mometers, Gary Numan - even as late as his 1985 tour, Nine Inch Nails, Ohio Players -on "Gold", David Palmer with Jethro Tull, Jean-Luc Ponty, Andrew Powell, Roger Powell, R.E.M. - on "New Adventures in HiFi" album (on the songs "Undertow" and "Leave"), Andy Richards, Rufus, Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk, Sea Level Bill Sharpe, Klaus Schulze, Tim Simenon of Bomb the Bass, Styx, Tangerine Dream, Tony Thorpe, Pat Travers, Ultravox, Vangelis Blue Weaver, Yello Magic Orchestra, Allan Zavod

[Let us know if you have any further additions to this list.]

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