Arp Odyssey comes in several different versions, all equally good.
Early in my career as a synth nerd, Arp Odyssey was a pretty unknown creation to me. I knew it was a competitor to Minimoogen, but I had never really seen one and it was extremely unusual in the circles in Karlstad that I hung out in.
Nowadays, however, I know that an Odyssey is quite different in sound from the Minimoogen. Even between different Odyssey copies, there are differences – both acoustically and functionally. For example, the first copies did not have a CV / gate for external control. There are some different filters and even different vcos.
But the instrument makers who built them had a goal with each model. It would sound Arp and it would sound Odyssey. And that would sound good. And it does. If you are thinking of buying an Odyssey and browsing through various websites, you will find a lot of discussions and opinions here and there about whether one model sounds better than the other. The filter is incorrectly designed on some models, some claim. Take all this with a pinch of salt. All Odyssey sounds good.
The Odyssey has two well-sounding oscillators with a very large range. In addition, there are no fixed octave switches on them (at least not on mine), which means that you can sweep steplessly over a large number of octaves. I think it is very good for creating ambient sounds where you do not want to move within the usual way of thinking that you raise an octave here and there but you can pull a little in the rules until it sounds good. There is also a fine tune, so you are not completely gone if you want to set sounds where the vco’s should match each other.
On each vco you can choose between sawtooth or square with variable pulse width. Pretty standard then, but thanks to the fantastic sound quality, hardly anything more is needed. Two oblique-tuned oscillators in octaves are usually sufficient.
Odyssey also has the amazing feature that it works as a duophonic synth. In reality, it means you can play two-tone chords on it. However, it only has one filter and vca, but for example Kraftwerk used Odyssey’s duophony to play the chords on the Autobahn from 1974. It actually also accounted for most of the sound effects on the song.
The Lfo is very simple and I was a little disappointed when I first saw it. But it is actually superb. It has a rate rule, where you set the speed on the lfo – the modulator’s waveform is then selected on the receiver. If, for example, vcf is to be modulated by a square, you select it on the vcf, and if you also want to modulate vco 1 with a sine wave, you select a sine on vco 1. It may sound a little strange, but once you sit behind the levers it is easy to understand. Rate on lfo also controls the pace of b / w.
The first models of the Odyssey were white with black text (Whiteface) and according to rumors, these had a so-called diode charger filter. But this is not true, but in these was a 12-decibel filter designed by Arp, 4023.
When MKII, (Blackface, black / gold) was released in 1974, this filter was used again. However, the Moog filter, 4035, was inserted into the Odyssey manufactured in 1975. But since Moog had the patent for this, it was replaced, after a threat of lawsuit, with another, 4072. However, it contained a design flaw, so there was another , 4075, which was used in future products.
MKIII is black / orange and has basically the same design throughout. But, it’s a little jungle. The filter part also has the mixer where you choose how loud the different sound sources should sound and which of the waveforms the vcoes should have. Noise, vco 1, vco 2 and call mod. There are also rules for modulating the filter.
Odyssey has two envelopes to choose from and it is also possible to modulate with keyboard tracking and of course lfo. The Odyssey thus has two envelopes: an ar (attack, release) and an adsr (attack, decay, sustain, release). They are not as fast as in Minimoogen but still sound good. ■
Type: Duophonic synthesizer
Year of manufacture: 1972-1981
Effects: Ring modulator
Filter: 12/24 dB low-pass filter depending on version, high-pass filter
Keyboard: 37 keys, CC
Steering: cv / gate
Price range: Approx. SEK 20,000 – 45,000 depending on condition (used)
The article was previously published in Studio 3-2014