Sonic LAB: Review -ARP Odyssey Reboot From Korg

A classic synth re-issued      20/03/15

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Buying Choices

We know the ARP Odyssey is a legendary synthesizer, back in the day it was the go to synth for both sides of the Atlantic and for different reasons, in the UK it formed the basis for emerging electronic pop scene with John Foxx and Billy Curry and many others, and in the US with Jazz Fusion's Herbie Hancock and George Duke (again and many others) - you want to see one of the finest synth solos ever? Check out  George Duke on Frank Zappa's Inca Roads..

Anyhow, history speaks for itself, this year in conjunction with one of ARP's founder members David Friend, Korg have rebuilt it. It's 86% scale, with those contentious slim keys, has USB MIDI, all three filter types (Whiteface, Moog infringing and Rev 3) plus a new drive circuit.

First up, it comes in a very sexy black sniper type case as standard - my luggage fetish sensor was highly stimulated. IN the box is the power supply (wall wart) and a couple of mini jack cables for the CV/GATE/Trig connectors.

Before we get into it, do check out GForce Software's Dave Spiers video, comparing his MK3 Odyssey with the new one here.

MIDI

Lets get this out of the way - it's very basic, there's a MIDI in which gives you an additional MIDI port for your computer, but the keyboard only sends single channel fixed velocity values. There's no controller information at all, no sliders/switches nor the pitch/mod pads transmit anything.

Why?

This is the thing, the Odyssey has a unique sound, it's a very musical synthesizer even though on paper it's not got the most impressive specification, with twin VCOs, Low pass resonant filter, single LFO, ADSR and AD envelopes, it's capable of some unique sounds. Primarily it's due to the oscillator sync and the ring mod (in this version it's digital)  functions which have a great way of voicing using the interval of the second key pressed as this does have duophonic capability, though that should be more like paraphonic really.

Filters

Yes you get all three types: Type I - Whiteface which is an 12dB Low pass filter - which sounds fantastic. Type II - the Moog infringing filter - 24dB resonant filter which while more resonant loses a lot of bottom end at high resonant settings. Type III - this is from the MK3 Odyssey and has a smoother resonant character with a warmer bottom end at low resonant settings.

My favourite is the Type I by a long way, especially when using resonance, speaking of which you need to be in the top 3rd of the range to really get the Odyssey to self oscillate.

The addition of the switchable, post filter drive circuit boosts the signal and gives it an extra edge.

Limitations

So with that, I should point out the limitations of this synthesizer, especially when going up against modern alternatives.

The first is that each  of the two VCOs are free pitch tuning coarse and fine tune on sliders, so you need to dial them in by ear or using an external tuner - this may be an issue for some, especially if you plan to use this live. Speaking of which, obviously the slim keys are not for everyone and experienced players may find that they can't be quite as dexterous - it does take a little bit of getting used to.

Additionally, the proportional pitch and mod pads are quite horrid to use, there's no getting away from that fact - and you can't send mod or pitch controller data from an external MIDI source.

But

If you want that Odyssey sound, this is it  - and it's very, very close - without the hassle of servicing a 30+ year old instrument and certainly at a considerably lower price. I think that there is a premium for this as there are obviously some extra "brand" associated costs which take it up to a higher level. Consider the MS20 Mini is a couple of hundred pounds less. But it does have a great selection of classic sounds, CV connectivity and a really musical quality to it. I wonder, if like has happened to the MS20 used prices, we may see the Odyssey used market dip as a response.

Available now £749 $999. The main model has the MK3 paint job, but there are limited units available in Whiteface and classic brown/gold livery too.

 

z

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