My last ARP live-setup

Since 2006 I have worked with an "upgraded" ARP Odyssey II (2811). Arp offers in conjunction with Max/MSP the sound and the variety of sound which I had long sought. The lost sounds! Thus, a small stage synthesizer is suddenly very attractive again. The ARPs brought me together with Eric van Baaren (SaintEric) and I realized that these instruments are better than ever for me, when they are serviced and customized by SaintEric! img

Back to the ARP includes two pedals (volume and expression) and a portamento switch. The ideal aural complement to the Odyssey is the ARP Little Brother. It´s simply fun to play this instrument and It is quite easy to handle.

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Thus the Odyssey also sounds "outside of pop music", it makes sense to modify it. The on my 2811 (with PPC instead of the pitch wheels) running mods are a) filter and audiopath Upgrade (makes the Ody hifi), b) Mono-/Duo-Switch c) acceleration and deceleration of the LFO by a factor of 2 (3 stage switch), d) Acceleration and deceleration of the envelope (AR / ADSR) by a factor of 10. With these mods, the Odyssey is much more powerful and keeps its wonderful sound.


What it means when the envelope is 10 times longer shows the following example. The envelope is placed on the pitch oscillator and the attack time is set to maximum. First, the normal course (approx. 5 sec), followed by the prolonged course (modified Ody = 50 sec). Also 100 sec are possible as a modification.

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This modification also brings greater speed. In the third position of the switch to normal time is divided by 10 (ie, the maximum attack time is only a 1 / 2 seconds). Percussive sounds are much more expressive and can be shaped easier. More about the modifications offered by Saint Eric below.

This example shows very clearly that the Odyssey without these modifications, although it´s a a nice synth, would be only fora very limited use. The values were simply inadequate. With the modifications, however, the Odyssey is a small, versatile, analog instrument, ideal for almost all requirements.

The associated software (Max/MSP) I mostly build modular. Currently I´m experimenting with the audio interface as a digital patchbay. The ARPs radiate magic in this network and create a much more personal, electronic sound than digital electronics alone can do.

Also on the road, the combination of Odyssey and Little Brother is really very good (not too big, too heavy or too much). ARPs are, however, through its sliders significantly more fragile than other synthesizers and must always be treated well.

My current ARP live-setup

In 2009 I had great luck and bought an almost unused Odyssey 2821. It was purchased in 1976 and then wrapped in foil. It really makes a difference whether an instrument has been used for 35 years or not - not because of functionality, but rather because you can feel that this instrument does not have any past - all contacts have been cleaned and some capacitors have been replaced - a beauitiful instrument! The Odyssey is changing its role in my setup and is becoming a synth-in-synth. While the more complex things are done with the modular synthesizer, the Odyssey is perfect for "quick action"- thanks to it´s Interface. Of course the Odyssey's audio output can be routed to the modular synth.

img The obtained complexity as well the inter-connection with the computer and the consonance of both instruments together is outstanding.

The modifications: Filter und Audio-Upgrade, LFO-Speed, ADSR-Speed, Mono-/Poly-Switch, the Filter (4075) was exchanged and an alternative VCA (CA3080) has been integrated.

The ARP Little Brother is part of the instrument again. The Axxe-Expander has been replaced by the MOTM Modular Synthesizer.

Here are a few notes of two Odysseys (2821 and 2823 before the audio and filter upgrade) and the Axxe Expander.

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Since the modifications are difficult to imagine, I made a sketch of the Odyssey, which shows all the modifications, that I have discussed with Eric (SaintEric). The multimode filter SE4109 is still in its beta phase, but promises to be a real highlight, as it represents several ARP filters. img I am also very excited about the new, more advanced VCA, because the VCA of the Odyssey is certainly it´s vulnerability. This can be heared when compared with the Axxe. But Gain can be suited, however.

The SE2607 module with the additional waveforms of the ARP (2600) is also available alternatively with switches. For Extremists two SE2607 (for both VCOs can be fitted! Of course, the mods are always different and the locations of the pots and switches may vary. Maybe not all mods should take place at once and not all modifications are useful in the same instrument - but gradually - more like other adjustments to the desired functions. The Mods "highest/lowest note priority" and "mirror" (reversing of the keyboard) came into through my demand - Eric just offered to do this work. img This is really great when we can say: "I could/would like to ..."; - and then you get a new switch, potentiometer or input/output to the synthesizer with just that function. The problems of the often-maligned 2-octave Transposition Lever of the Odyssey, Eric van Baaren resolved for me by a 1-octave switch.

This photo of a heavily modded Ody I got sent from SaintEric. It´s name is "the Norwegian".

Joy Sticks

The interface of the EMS Synthi AKS always excited me through the matrix and the joystick. So I decided to spend the Odyssey two joysticks as controllers. After some research I have found suitable models ordered them from Doepfer, and "compiled" everything. The assembly of the Doepfer Kits couldn´t be easier (12 cable soldering).

img The Wheel Electronic (WE) produces MIDI Data that will be send to the ARP over the Aux-Outs of the Kenton Pro2000 MkII. I removed the return springs in the joysticks, so that the levers remain in their current position. Since this isn´t communicated: the Doepfer (ALPS) Joy Stick 1 keeps the position without return spring very well. Without the strong spring It feels even more worthy". Knipping off the spring was not enough, however - remains of the spring offered some resistance. After disembowelling the potentiometer (open and removing the remains of the spring) the action was very nice.

Build a good case, it is the harder part of the task. In order to minimize the functional design of the synthesizer, I have the WE board housed in a separate enclosure (not in the photo). Thus, I am also avoid the cable issue: Network and MIDI cables run in the second box.

My ARPs in the 80th

The consequences of the bankruptcy of the Company ARP 1981 brought some "cheap" Rhodes Chroma´s on the market (one third of the original price). So it was THE chance to get an REAL synth and find out that a real basis, whether playing synthesizers has something for me; I could find the money and got this battleship. img A year later I made my first synthesizer production for a play by Ivan Klima. A bang.

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The Sound was the ultimate in that time. Cassette interface, computer interface for Apple II (!) and full with ciruit-boards. I think that the hardware represented 16 ARPs - the reason for the exuberant variety of sounds. There were however some disadvantages: the immense weight, the lack of modulation possibilities, and the technical vulnerability - almost all of Chromas which I saw had at least a failed module (which were 2 voices). The Chroma is analogous, but with a digital interface. Thus, the parameters needed to be modulated with one (1!) specific fader. Oh well. There were two shifter levers which were really good to use (I still miss them today). The Rhodes Chroma was/is a monster in every way!

img Because of the urge to modulate I then headed for an ARP 2600 (Bj 70 -81). I could buy it cheaply for the equivalent of approximately 500 euros. It was completely out of fashion - but there was no Internet, and service work were difficult to obtain - most shops would not touch the parts. My 2600 was great, alive (and noisy) and I made the experience that I had so much wanted.

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Above all, I used the ARP 2600 for live performances of improvised music until 1989. Pretty dangerous for half-knowledge people like me at that time ;-). You could get lost in the bewildering number of circuits and wiring. But it was a fantastic instrument on a good day! Wow. What a Trip! The transport of Chroma, Arp 2600, and Fender Rhodes however, was quite hard.

Why I believe that ARP Odyssey is a great choice

The different Odyssey models

The "Expander" building alteration of the ARP Axxe

ARP synthesizers.