ARP Odyssey

ARP Odyssey I Image

Odyssey Mk I (Model 2800)

While the Minimoog proved to be a runaway success as the first compact studio synthesizer, ARP responded with a compact and user-friendly studio synthesizer of their own with the Odyssey in 1972. An almost equally legendary machine itself, the Odyssey was ARP's highest selling synth back then, and still is to this day in the second-hand market.

The Odyssey essentially gives you a simplified hard-wired ARP 2600 in a much smaller and affordable package. The Odyssey is a 2-oscillator analog synth (with duo-phonic capability) and it sounds really nice; the Minimoog has three oscillators and is capable of thicker sounds. The Odyssey comes well equipped with all the tweakable features and analog goodness you'd expect: a resonant low pass filter, ADSR envelopes, sine or square wave LFO, and a sample-and-hold function.

The Odyssey also added a few new features such as a high pass filter that could be used in series with the low pass, oscillator-sync capability, and pulse-width modulation. It is a very professional and expressive machine that can create nice analog basses, interesting leads, great effects and sweeping sounds straight out of a Tangerine Dream album!

There were many versions of the Odyssey over the years, each a little different. They can be broken down into 8 models spanning 3 Mark "Mk" versions:

Odyssey Mk I (Model 2800)

First came the Odyssey Mk I (Model 2800) produced between 1972-75. These used a smooth but tinny sounding 2-pole voltage-controlled filter design (model 4023) similar to those used in the Oberheim SEM modules. From 1972 to 74 the Odyssey was produced with a white-faced front panel with black lettering. During 1974 to 75 they switched to a redesigned black front panel with gold lettering. However, all Mk I's can be identified by the rotary knob they use for pitch bending. None had any interface jacks, but a factory modification was available to add interface jacks as well as a PPC pitch bender in place of the rotary knob.

Odyssey I Model 2800 photos: Front, Left, Right, Rear, Rear 2, Panel 1, Panel 2

ARP Odyssey II Image

Odyssey Mk II (Model 2813)
Image from ANALOG, U.S., INC.'s Ebay store.

Odyssey Mk II (Models 2810-2815)

Then the Odyssey Mk II series came along, featuring 5 models (2810-2815) which were produced between 1975 to 78. Visually, they continued with the black and gold color-scheme seen on the late Mk I's. But under the hood, the Mk II series had several improvements. The VCO design was improved for better tracking. The power supply was improved. The sample+hold memory was improved. The keyboard current source was improved allowing for CV and Gate control to be added. The rotary pitch bend knob was also replaced by ARP's own PPC (Proportional Pitch Controller) - three pressure sensitive buttons, either by factory modification kit on earlier models, or from the factory on later models.

But the biggest change in the Mk II was in its filter. Early versions of the 2810 model still had the 2-pole model 4023 filter used in the Mk I but were soon replaced with a beefier 4-pole VCF (model 4035). This filter used a ladder design that was very similar to the Moog filter. While rumors persist that Moog sued ARP over this, no suit ever occurred. Arp and Moog came to an amicable agreement and a small licensing fee was paid by ARP for units previously manufactured. ARP soon after designed a new 4-pole, low pass filter - the model 4075 filter - which was used in all subsequent Odyssey models. Unfortunately, while the new model 4075 version of the filter was still beefy at low frequencies and very stable, it also had a well known bandwidth limit error around 12 to 14 kHz, resulting in a weak sound at high resonance or when driven into self-oscillation. This has made the rarer black and gold 2810 Odysseys with the model 4035 Moog-like ladder filter the more sought after and pricier models.

Odyssey II Model 2810 photos: Close-up, Rear
Odyssey II Model 2813 photos: Front, Left, Right, Rear

ARP Odyssey III Image

Odyssey Mk III (Model 2823)

Odyssey Mk III (Models 2820-2823)

Another cosmetic make-over saw the release of the Mk III series (Models 2820-2823) produced from 1978-81. These models are virtually the same as the Mk II except that the overall look and quality were set to match the look of the latest ARP synths with the orange and black color-scheme, and a more rugged steel chassis. In addition to its 1/4" outputs, XLR outputs were also added. The Odyssey Mk III is the most commonly found model.

Odyssey III Model 2823 photos: Front, Panel 1, Panel 2, Rear

Over its 30-plus year history, Odysseys have been used by ABBA, Bomb The Bass, Ultravox, Gary Numan, LTJ Bukem, Air, Tangerine Dream, 808 State, Apollo 440, Nine Inch Nails, Astral Projection, Chick Corea, George Duke, Josef Zawinul, John Foxx, Vangelis, Elton John, Jethro Tull, Jimmy Edgar, DEVO, Sea Level, Boz Scaggz, The Starship, Kansas, Jean-Luc Ponty, Brand-X, Wigwam, R.E.M. and Herbie Hancock.

Charting the History of Odyssey Models

Model Series Year Color Filter Boards Pitch Bend Interface Chassis
Mark I series
2800 mk I 72 - 74 White+Black 4023 A-I, B-I, C-I Rotary knob No interface jacks Wrap around vinyl bottom
2800 mk I 74 - 75 Black+Gold 4023 A-I, B-I, C-I Rotary knob No interface jacks Wrap around vinyl bottom
Mark II series
2810 mk II 75 - 76 Black+Gold 4035 A-II, B-I or B-II, C-II Rotary knob No interface jacks Wrap around vinyl bottom
2810 mk II 76 - 78 Black+Gold 4075 A-II, B-II, C-II Rotary Knob or PPC CV/Gate+Trig Wrap around vinyl bottom
2811 mk II 76 - 78 Black+Gold 4075 A-II, B-II, C-II Rotary Knob or PPC CV/Gate+Trig Wrap around vinyl bottom
2812 mk II 76 - 78 Black+Gold 4075 A-II, B-II, C-II Rotary Knob or PPC CV/Gate+Trig Wrap around vinyl bottom
2813 mk II 76 - 78 Black+Gold 4075 A-II, B-II, C-II Rotary Knob or PPC CV/Gate+Trig Wrap around vinyl bottom
2815 mk II 76 - 78 Black+Gold 4075 A-II, B-II, C-II Rotary Knob or PPC CV/Gate+Trig Wrap around vinyl bottom
Mark III series
2820 mk III 78 - 81 Black+Orange 4075 A-II, B-II, C-II PPC CV/Gate+Trig Steel chassis, leather endblocks
2823 mk III 78 - 81 Black+Orange 4075 A-II, B-II, C-II PPC CV/Gate+Trig Steel chassis, leather endblocks

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55 Visitor comments
June 12, 2010 @ 1:01 am
I had the Odyssey Mark 1 in 1985-88; sold it when I moved overseas. Using the tuning knob as a pitch bend was a bit of a joke on this early model, glad that got rectified later. It sounds best in bass with S/H on producing "electrified frog" sounds, and it does a stunningly realistic Oboe or Cor Anglais sound, ala Roxy Music's "Ladytron" (a real Oboe), but the problem was that tends to be THE main sound of the Odyssey Mark 1, unless you add effects; as Billy of Ultravox said he used to do for the solos.
Gabor Petroci
May 31, 2010 @ 7:28 am
Do not believe about the people who judge the earlier MK I model filters! Because everthing is depends..
I got SH 101, juno 106, yamaha cs 15, odyssey mk I, SCI Sixtrak, etc.
Every units have unique power. And every analog have fatness. Anyway...SH101 is may better in deep bass when you don't use resonace. But when you go for resonance and big leads and bastard sounds and arpeggios.. There is an arp for you... ;-)
Christopher Winkels
February 25, 2010 @ 8:07 pm
I took delivery of a CMS-modified Mk.1 (Whiteface) Odyssey last year, and it has quickly become one of my favourites. It has that delightfully nasal, biting quality that was so typical as the ARP sound. The ring mod sounds excellent and some interesting effects can be achieved with the comprehensive sample & hold circuit. There's a very lively, "full bandwidth" quality to this synth that one only ever seems to get on true VCO designs.

It has its down sides. There's only one full ADSR (the other is just an AR). There's no mod wheel, so routing LFO modulation to pitch requires one to move a slider up and down. There are no octave switches for the two oscillators; only a master switch that moves the keyboard voltage up or down two octaves. The sliders themselves are utter dust magnets.

But I love mine. It's a keeper and even though it's approaching 4 decades it still has oodles of life left in it.
February 21, 2010 @ 11:14 am
Hey, I just bought a Mark I 2800 goldblack face. I understand there were very few 2800's made with the goldblack, so I may have a very rare model! Everything works great, just considering possible upgrades. Trying to find out if it's possible to change out 4023 to 4035 filter, but it's looking like it would require a seperate PCB since the schematic is so different with so many more components. Also would like to try to get a PPC to install - that seems like a great feature and upgrade to the Mk II. Unfortunately, can't seem to find a vendor or ebay sale for it, so I'll live without for now. Otherwise, love the sound! Glad I wasn't holding out for a 2600. I think i much prefer the smaller package with fixed routing... but then of course there's the 1/8" jack patch mod too... :)
juice master
February 13, 2010 @ 5:14 pm
i have magically come across a mark 2 2813 goldblack face with a moog filter copy (the 4035). its bass richness is extreme, my friend was horrified his white face could be red faced (tho the white's sonic qualities are depths and brightnessesof their own) i was most pleased with "where did all that bass come from!?" comments elicited from him.

it really is a wonderful machine but hard to play and takes a few days to get comfortable with knowing the routings and interwovenness of this machine. however this is worthwhile and when you get it, the rewards are unlike anything else on the market. unique like a moog,as an arp is. worth restoring, tho iv had mine 5 years and nothings gone wrong. full sets of replacement sliders can be bought online for $150US and key motion remains fine. good luck!
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Rated 4.07 (654 Votes)

  • Check Prices on eBay
  • The link above will take you to a 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 / Duo-phonic
  • Oscillators - 2 VCO's: saw, square, pulse, pwm (can be modulated by: sine LFO or ADSR envelope), white/pink noise; oscillator-sync modulated by: ADSR, square/saw LFO, sample-and-hold
  • LFO - Sine / Square; sample-and-hold
  • Filter - Model 4023 (Early models): 2-pole bi-quad design with low pass output.
    Model 4035 & 4075 (later models): Four-pole resonant 24dB lowpass filter, high pass filter (static); can be modulated by: keybd track, sample-and-hold, sine LFO, ADSR, AR; ring modulator
  • VCA - EG 1: AR; EG 2: ADSR
  • Keyboard - 37 keys
  • Arpeg/Seq - None
  • Control - CV/GATE (models 2810 - 2823)
  • Memory - None
  • Date Produced - 1972 - 1981
  • Resources & Credits
  • Images from Ebay auctions and Tone Tweakers

    Review updated September 2011

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