ARP Avatar

ARP Avatar Image

In 1977 ARP pushed into designing a synth that could respond to in-coming guitar signals using pitch-to-voltage technology. This gave rise to the Avatar, which in turn, was such a dud it practically sank the whole company before ARP finally sold off it's last and would-be greatest project - the Chroma - to CBS Musical Instruments. The Avatar was too expesnive for its own good ($3,000). It did seem to work, however; you use a hex pickup for your guitar which allows the guitar to play the synth sounds. Today the Avatar is used more like an expander module with other ARP and CV/Gate type synthesizers.

It has two oscillators and is very much like the ARP Odyssey in terms of its sounds, programming and interface. Many of the features that make the Odyssey great (oscillator sync, ring modulator, sample and hold, portamento, envelope follower and more) can be found on the Avatar. The Avatar makes a great and more affordable way to get Odyssey sounds. Use it to fatten up you're current Odyssey or incorporate it into you're synth studio as an analog synth module via CV/Gate.

The Odysseys have been used by Cirrus, ABBA, Bomb The Bass, Gary Numan, Tangerine Dream, 808 State, Chick Corea, George Duke, Josef Zawinul, Genesis, Herbie Hancock, and film-maker John Carpenter. The Avatar makes a great alternative buy to the Odyssey since it is capable of all the same sounds that the Odyssey has provided for these artists and countless others. But you will need CV/Gate or MIDI-to-CV/Gate ability to use the Avatar. And since only about 300 were ever made, they can be rare and hard to come by.

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Are you looking to buy or sell a ARP Avatar? Post an ad in Gear For Sale or a request in Gear Wanted. For spare parts and repair services check out Gear Services & Other Goods. Our forums also has a Buyer’s Guide section where you can ask for advice on buying synthesizers.

15 Visitor comments
July 14, 2010 @ 2:16 am
I just found a video featuring this synth. Add Julien-K to the list.
Trey Yancy
May 16, 2010 @ 12:42 am
ARP was key to Heart's early sound and when they hit the airwaves it made an iconoclastic impact among musicians that hadn't been seen since the release of Hendrix' amazing single, Are You Experienced? A great thing about ARP's approach with its non-modular synths and with the Odyssey's layout in particular was that if you could imagine a particular sound you could quickly work from left to right to dial it in. On the other hand, the lack of patch memory in all but the last machines made the overlays an awkward necessity in live gigs.
March 28, 2010 @ 10:01 pm
'Magic Man' pre-dates the Avatar, but it was used for a solo on the track 'Lighter Touch' from the 'Dog & Butterfly' album. An early ad said that Pete Townshend got one, but I don't know that he ever recorded with it.
Trey Yancy
May 11, 2009 @ 8:08 pm
The hex pickup doubled as a standard pickup, which had a warm solid circuit tone. Due to its extremely narrow tolerance for the daily degradation of guitar strings, users had to set the sensitivity for each string nearly every time it was used.

This led to an awkward playing style, as heard in the notably mechanical horn solo in Led Zeppelin's "In Through the Out Door". An example and a great Avatar performance is heard in Heart's head-turning "Magic Man".

Some Avatars suffered from crumbling slider caps and they would also shift slightly in pitch as the unit heated up during a gig.

Due to the frustration of wrestling with the Avatar as a guitar-driven instrument, most owners snagged an Omni or String Ensemble, and used the Avatar as an expansion module. Many gigging musicians also added a sequencer module for their nightly Who cover but, between this and "Magic Man", the Avatar was rarely used live.
April 28, 2009 @ 4:04 pm
Pretty much an Mk III Odyssey. All the good things about that synth apply. Thinking of modifying the filter to be switchable between the standard 12db and the Moog 24db. I'm also considering full modular mods like those from CMS but I just can't bring myself to poke all those holes in the front panel (maybe if I can find a trashed one). These are quite rare however, they still seem to be trading lower than a comparable Odyssey. Something to consider if you don't need the keyboard. Just grab a midi to cv converter and you’re in business.
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Rated 3.59 (251 Votes)

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  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - Monophonic
  • Oscillators - 2 VCOs: Sawtooth, Square, Pulse
  • LFO - Sine, Square
  • Filter - Model 4075 4-pole, 24dB Low Pass Filter
  • VCA - Env 1: ADSR, Env 2: AR
  • Keyboard - None
  • Memory - None
  • Control - CV / Gate
  • Date Produced - 1977 - 78
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