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ARP Odyssey 

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So what can be said about the second best synthesizer in the world (as some people say) and the best popular synthesizer ever (as some other people say)? Hmmmm. I personally see it as a huge milestone due to three reasons: it's a player's synth + it's an explorer's synth + it has the ultimate quality sound. An all-time, never-short-of-the-standards, classic and ultimate analog juice. A little bit brutal, but still juicy and most importantly - inspiring. Instead of horsing around and trying to wrap yourself around it in order to drive it, it immediately wraps around you and drives you towards your performance.

The Odyssey seems to be a modular idea that had been packed into one box (many more modulation routings than in the Minimoog), so the sounds you can get out of this box place the Odyssey in the group of the most versatile monosynths. The low frequencies are really, really... low, even to the extent that you can almost feel the gush of air from the speakers on your chest when you hit the bass. I'm not kidding - wear a scarf while playing or you'll catch a cold. I usually detest the cliched "vintage solo lead" sounds, however, with da Odyssey it's really enjoyable to expose your ears to the crisp & rich sound. Yet if you're after vintage leads, I guess you buy the aforementioned Mini - the epitome of vintage leads. It would be a waste of money, transistors and knobs to buy the Odyssey with a view in mind to play traditional solos on it. Its personality and versatility qualify and empower it to create much deeper & more creative stuff.

There are several versions of this synth, and all the synth nerds seem to get into a frenzy as to "which is which" - "which Odyssey has the best components / Moog filter" or whatever. I'll pass over this trifle & boring issue, however, what makes me kind of surprised is the idiotic pitchbender in my model - the pitch is controlled with a knob! The other model has three push-down buttons for that... doesn't seem to be a great solution either. Various pitch-bend controllers have always garnered as much criticism as support (most prominently the Nord Lead pitch-stick solution), so I'll leave that. Just one more nasty thing on this synth is the fact that oscillators do not have dividers (for equal octaves like 8, 16, 32) but simply a loose slider, which makes it quite hard to place it back in the prior position after you've moved it and detuned the sound. It's really finicky.

As long as you're not a die-hard Rush / Kraftwerk / SBB fan, I think you'll be much better off by choosing this one over the Minimoog. Maybe you won't be getting as much legend and silkiness that way, but for half of the price you'll get get a lot of crazy modular-type trips and synth-cojones from such a small, comfortably square box. As for the year 2014, Korg has announced that they will be producing an "all new ARP Odyssey replica", whatever the fuck that oxymoron means, so you'll have yet another option to consider. It could be something highly attractive (provided they equip it with patch memory & midi, otherwise it's just plain stupid). The most interesting aspect of this event for me, though, was the excitement and hysteria this piece of news caused. In just one evening I was bombarded by email from three various acquaintances. And witnessing the panic and bewilderment of the current Odyssey owners as to whether it will retain or drop its value - whether is better to keep or to sell the original Odyssey (ah, the Shakespearean dilemma), and the collective mental therapy that ensued, reaching the conclusion that at the end of the day the original is the real deal, and nothing won't ever succeed in encroaching on it, so us owners of the original Odyssey can sleep soundly, was priceless entertainment and revealed a kind of gloomy truth about a portion of the community and their motivations.



Watch the video demo:



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