ARP synthesizers are loved by countless musicians for their innovative sound. The classic models, produced from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, had an enormous impact on the subsequent history of synthesizers and the overall history of music. Today, ARP continues to be remembered as one of the great synthesizer brands. Below we present some of the most important ARP synthesizers as well as their history.
The birth of ARP
ARP Instruments, Inc. (subsequently referred to as ARP) was founded in 1969. The name came from the initials of one of the founders, Alan Robert Pearlman. Co-founders included Lewis G. Pollock and David Friend, who was the chief engineer and later designed the ARP Odyssey.
It was an age when gigantic modular systems dominated the synthesizer world. However, the tuning of these instruments was usually unstable and each manufacturer struggled with this problem. ARP decided that the development of a highly stable oscillator was important so they dedicated research and product development towards achieving this goal.
The model they first developed was the ARP 2500, a large modular synthesizer. The design on this model used a large number of matrix switches, placed above and below the knobs and switches of the panel, replacing the patch cord design that was used on other manufacturers' products of the time. This unique design strategy eliminated the complex tangles of patch cords that obscured the panel. Thanks to ARP's research, tuning was now extremely stable and the ARP 2500 became a hit product as a research tool for universities. It even appeared in the film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977) as a device used to communicate with an alien spacecraft.
ARP 2500 (1970)
The next well-known model was the ARP 2600, which appeared in 1971. More compact than the 2500, this mid-range model was designed with the sound generator and the keyboard as separate units. It was a three-VCO unit in which the main modules were internally wired, but patch cords could also be connected to create complex sounds. Some additional characteristics, rarely seen on other models, were a built-in speaker and spring reverb. The special features and sounds caused the ARP 2600 to be used in many recordings and by musicians such as Stevie Wonder and Joe Zawinul.
ARP 2600 (1971)
And then, the classic ARP Odyssey
Then in 1972 the ARP Odyssey was released, establishing ARP's position as the world's leading synth brand.
The ARP Odyssey is a duophonic unit with two VCOs, most notable for its sharp sound and the versatile sound-creating possibilities that were not easily available on other small synthesizers of the time. With functions and modulation options such as oscillator sync, sample & hold, pulse width modulation, high-pass filter, and two types of envelope generator, it featured a rich array of sound-generating potential not provided by other companies.
The ARP Odyssey's signal path, designed by David Friend and other ARP engineers, had a major impact on synthesizer manufacturers that followed. It became the standard for subsequent eras, influencing even the polyphonic and digital synthesizers that were to come later.
ARP Odyssey Rev1 (1972 - 1974)
After it went on sale in 1972, the ARP Odyssey continued to undergo improvements. Broadly speaking, there were three versions divided by their date of production. The white model 2000 produced during 1972—1974 is known as the Rev1, the black model 2810 produced during 1975—1976 is the Rev2, and models 2820—2823 with their black panel and orange printing produced during 1978—1981 are called Rev3. The main difference between these models was their design and their connection jacks, but also in the filter circuit that has such a great impact on the sound; this meant that different models of the ARP Odyssey would produce sounds of differing nuances.
ARP Odyssey Rev2 (1975 - 1976)
The ARP Odyssey was acclaimed for its tight sound and sound-creating versatility, and was used by many musicians including Herbie Hancock, George Duke, John Lord, Kraftwerk, and YMO. It is responsible for many songs that remain historical classics, and giving birth to new types of music.
ARP Odyssey Rev3 (1978 - 1981)
The spread of ARP synthesizers
The favorable reception of the ARP Odyssey gave rise to a further expansion of the ARP synthesizer lineup.
A preset synth, the ARP Pro Soloist (1972) and its successor model the ARP Pro/DGX (1977) were treasured by organists who used this synth as a "third keyboard". They appreciated its easy sound switching and the way in which aftertouch could modify the sound.
ARP Pro Soloist (1972)
The ARP String Ensemble (1974) was a revolutionary model featuring fully polyphonic oscillators and a chorus unit, allowing chords to be played with a spacious sound, and was used by a very large number of musicians.
The ARP Omni (1975) and its successor the ARP Omni 2 (1977) were simple polyphonic synths that became some of ARP's best-selling models. At the time, there was a great demand for polyphony, but full-fledged polyphonic synths with an oscillator and filter for each voice were extremely large and expensive. The Omni was the answer to this problem.
ARP Omni 2 (1975)
The ARP Axxe (1975) was a scaled-down version of the Odyssey. In spite of its simple structure, it was capable of a wide range of sound creation, and its ease-of-use earned it great support.
ARP Axxe (1975)
The ARP Sequencer (1976) was a 16-step analog sequencer distinctive for using the trademark ARP sliders rather than knobs for its CV settings.
The ARP Avatar (1977) guitar synthesizer used the sound engine of the Odyssey, making it possible to play the synthesizer from a guitar or bass.
The ARP Quadra (1978) was a large model that combined four sections in a single unit: bass synth, poly synth, lead synth, and string ensemble. Each of the four sections could be played separately or layered, allowing the creation of an extremely rich sound. It also provided a simple memory function and an arpeggiator.
ARP Quadra (1978)
The ARP Solus (1980), a two-VCO model mid-way between the Odyssey and the Axxe, was popular for a body that was built into its own case for convenient portability. The distinctive ARP filter and ring modulator were also provided, giving it a broad range of sonic potential in spite of its compact size.
ARP Solus (1980)
In 1981 the company developed the Chroma, later to go on sale under the Rhodes brand. This model was a full-fledged polyphonic synth with up to 16 voices (eight voices if two oscillators were used for each voice). There were 50 memories and sound data could be saved on a cassette tape. Another major feature was its 64-note piano-touch keyboard that allowed the musician's playing velocity to affect the dynamics. Although it is a relatively rare synth, it had a major influence on subsequent synthesizers, and Herbie Hancock was one of its notable users.
ARP synthesizers, reborn for today
Since the beginning, ARP has greatly influenced synthesizer development and been involved in the birth of numerous musical styles. However, in spite of its success in producing numerous classic models, the legendary company regrettably closed its doors in 1981.
Now in 2015, ARP is reborn. Korg, a Japanese synthesizer manufacturer, welcomes ARP Co- founder David Friend as an advisor in the resurrection of a classic ARP synthesizer–the ARP Odyssey.
The ARP Odyssey was the main force driving the music of 1970—1980. Because of its versatile sonic range and wonderful tone, the new ARP ODYSSEY can be used to create retro, current, and new sounds. ARP synthesizers span the ages, supporting the music-making of today and tomorrow.
Forty years later, a complete revival.
The legendary analog synthesizer that transformed its age.
The ARP Odyssey was an analog synthesizer originally produced in 1972 by the American manufacturer ARP Instruments, Inc. that quickly garnered a faithful following among musicians. Well respected for its high value, ease to play and portability, the ARP Odyssey had undergone several improvements during its history and continued to be a long-seller until manufacturing stopped in 1981 due to economic hardships and the digital surge. Loved by a wide range of musicians as a historical classic, its sound can be heard on numerous classic songs.
Now in 2015, KORG has brought back the ARP Odyssey for today. 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 nailthe 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.
Complete reconstruction of three generations of circuitry, with the founder as advisor
The distinctive synthesis of the ARP Odyssey has been reproduced from the circuit level up.
The original ARP Odyssey was a 2VCO duo-phonic instrument. Its most distinctive feature was its sharp, penetrating sound and its rich range of tonal variation. With a variety of functions and modulation possibilities provided by oscillator sync, sample & hold, pulse width modulation, high-pass filter, two types of envelope generator, and pitch bend using the PPC, it was able to create a versatile range of sounds.
The ARP Odyssey reproduces the sounds of these components at the circuit level. Under the supervision of David Friend, parts were carefully selected and every detail was adjusted to replicate the original unit's distinctive synthesis.
Filters of all three generations are provided
Broadly speaking, there were three versions of the original ARP Odyssey, divided by the date of production, with the major difference being the filter circuit. The ARP Odyssey provides all three of these different filter circuits, and allows you to select one of them with a single switch.
TYPE I (Rev1) is a 12 dB/Oct circuit that produces a sharp, punchy sound. TYPE II (Rev2) is a 24 dB/Oct filter with great-sounding lows. TYPE III (Rev3) maintains excellent stability even when resonance is raised. These distinctive filters have been reproduced just as they originally were.
Portamento behaviors of both Rev1 and Rev2/3 are provided
On the original ARP Odyssey, the behavior of portamento when using the transpose function differed between Rev1 and Rev2/3. The ARP Odyssey reproduces both of these behaviors and lets you select the desired one with a switch.
An evolved ARP Odyssey that preserves the basic design of the original
Compact body, highly operable sliders, and a slim keyboard that's easy to play
The ARP Odyssey has been downsized to 86% of the original ARP Odyssey. Carefully selected parts are used in the familiar slider section, providing an operating feel that's even smoother than the original. The keyboard uses a 37-note slim keyboard that features lighter weight and excellent playability. While making the instrument more compact and easier to use, we have also paid attention to ensuring that the mini-keyboard is uncompromisingly "playable." Although the keyboard has 37 keys, the transpose function lets it cover a broad range of seven octaves.
The new DRIVE switch
In order to deliver a more powerful analog sound, a DRIVE switch is provided as a new function. Turning this switch on makes the VCA distort, generating a rough and raw sound.
Added connectors such as MIDI and headphone output
The connectors provided on the original ARP Odyssey differed by production date, but based on Rev3 of the original, the ARP Odyssey brings the specifications up to a modern standard. In addition to a MIDI IN connector and USB-MIDI port, we've added a headphone jack with adjustable volume (*). The XLR output jacks which had been unbalanced have been changed to noise-resistant balanced outputs.
Patch cables included
Quarter-inch and mini-size patch cables are included. If you connect a patch cable from the newly added headphone jack to the external audio input jack, you can produce a powerful sound by applying self-feedback. If you connect the GATE OUT jack to the TRIG IN jack, the EG won't be retriggered, allowing you to play legato.
Dedicated semi-hard case included
A dedicated semi-hard case that's ideal for storage and transportation is included. It sports the classical ARP logo, and has a sophisticated finish in a black tone. The corrugated shell structure ensures excellent impact resistance, and internal cushioning and pocket for small items is also provided.
Rev1 and Rev2 designs also revived as limited-edition models
Of the various designs that differed by production date, the ARP Odyssey uses the Rev3 design with a black panel silk-screened in orange. The white-paneled Rev1 and the black panel with gold-printed Rev2 designs have also been revived as limited-edition models. If you're an original user, you can choose the design that brings back those fond memories; if you're a new user, choose the model that you like best.
- 37-note (Slimkey, No velocity sensitivity, No aftertouch)
- 2 voices for duophonic; normally monophonic
- Transpose Positions: 2 octaves down, normal, 2 octave up
- Proportional Pitch Control: b (Pitch down) Pad: about -2 / 3 octave, - (Modulation) Pad, # (Pitch-up) Pad: about +2 / 3 octave
- Noise Spectrum Types (white and pink)
- Maximum Speed: about 0.01 msec./oct. Minimum Speed - about 1.5 sec./oct
VCO (Voltage Controlled Oscillator)
- Waveforms: Sawtooth, Square, Pluse (Dynamic Pluse)
- Frequency Range: VCO-1 in low freq. mode, 0.2 Hz – 20 Hz: VCO-1 and VCO-2 (audio range) about 20 Hz – 20 kHz
- Warm Up Drift: 1/30 semitone from turn on max
- Pulse Width: 50 % – 5 %
- Pulse Width Modulation: ADSR, +45 %, LFO, +15 %
- Voltage Controlled Response: 1 V/oct
- Maximum Frequency Shifts: LFO sin wave, +1/2 oct., LFO square wave, +1.5 oct., ADSR, +9 oct., S/H, +2 oct.
* VCO-1 is low note priority, VCO-2 is high note priority.
VCF (Voltage Controlled Filter)
- Types: Low pass (I: 12 dB/oct., II III: 24 dB/oct.)
- Frequency Range: 16 Hz - 16 kHz
- Maximum Usable Q: 30
- Resonance: 1/2 - self oscillate
- Voltage Controlled Response: C3 key (left edge): 0 V, C6 key (right edge) 3 V
VCA (Voltage Controlled Amplifier)
- Type: Digital
- Input Signal: VCO-1, VCO-2 (square wave)
Sample & Hold
- Command Sources: Keyboard or LFO trigger
- Sampled Signals: VCO-1 sawtooth wave and square wave, VCO-2 square wave and pink noise
ADSR Envelope Generator
- Attack Time: 5 msec. - 5 sec.
- Decay Time: 10 msec. - 8 sec.
- Sustain Level: 0 - 100 % or Peak
- Release Time: 15 msec. - 10 sec.
AR Envelope Generator
- Attack Time: 5 msec. - 5 sec.
- Release Time: 10 msec. - 8 sec.
Control Input Jacks
- Pedal: φ6.3 mm monaural phone jack
- Portamento Foot Switch: φ6.3 mm monaural phone jack
Audio Output Jacks
- LOW: Connector: φ6.3 mm monaural phone jack, Maximum Output Level: -20 dBu@ 10 kΩ load, Output Impedance: 10 kΩ
- HIGH: Connector: XLR connector, Maximum Output Level: +4 dBu@ 1 kΩ load. Output Impedance: 330 Ω
- Connector: φ6.3 mm stereo phone jack
- Maximum Output Level: 50 mW + 50 mW@ 33 Ω load
- Output Impedance: 10 Ω
* Controllable by volume knob.
External Audio Input (Ext Audio Input) Jack
- Connector: φ6.3 mm monaural phone jack
- Maximum Input Level: -10 dBu
- Input Impedance: 22 kΩ
CV IN/OUT Jacks
- Keyboard CV (IN/OUT): 1 V/oct.
- Connector: φ3.5 mm monaural phone jack
GATE IN/OUT Jacks
- GATE IN: +3 V (minimum)
- GATE OUT: +10 V, key down; 0 V all keys up
- Connector: φ3.5 mm monaural phone jack
TRIG IN/OUT Jacks
- TRIG IN: +3 V pulse min., 10 μsec. Duration minimum
- TRIG OUT: +10 V pulse on key depression, 10 μsec. Duration
- Connector: φ3.5 mm monaural phone jack
Dimensions (W x D x H)
- 502 x 380 x 120 mm / 19.76" x 14.96" x 4.72"
- AC adapter, phone cable, mini-phone cable, owner’s manual, dedicated semi-hard case
- VP-10 Volume Pedal, PS-1/PS-3 Pedal Switch
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