1972: A Synth Odyssey. Photo (CC-BY-SA) Brandon Daniel (who also provides the great vintage ad scan below).

1972: A Synth Odyssey. Photo (CC-BY-SA) Brandon Daniel (who also provides the great vintage ad scan below).

We live in a strange world when it comes to music hardware. On one hand, there are near-daily introductions on Kickstarter of new hardware, and people willing to put up money for future products that don’t exist yet.

On the other, we’re seeing a new stream of historical recreations of products from the 1970s.

And then, in between, like some sort of 70s-turned-2014 steampunk-style mashup, a lot of people are making things with analog that are genuinely new.

It’s as though the entire industry has been given a time machine, at any moment ready to lurch forward into either the past or the future, or into alternative timelines.

KORG is certainly flirting with products that resemble museum creations. Last year’s MS-20 mini saw a surprising follow-up this year – a non-mini MS-20, distinguished from the original only by a USB and MIDI port. And now, the company will partner with ARP co-founder David Friend to recreate the ARP Odyssey. Due in September, KORG promises a faithful recreation. (We’ll see if it gets MIDI or not, but don’t expect much beyond that.)

David Friend, for his part, did go on to life after ARP – and recently stepped down as chief executive of the online backup company he co-founded, Carbonite.

To be clear, as apparently everyone isn’t: KORG and ARP are embarking on their first-ever relationship. The ARP Odyssey was made by ARP, not KORG!

KORG announces the development of an all new ARP Odyssey synthesizer. [US press release, with a tiny pic of the prototype - spoiler, it just sorta looks like an Odyssey]

The Odyssey of 1972 was a big seller in the 70s. But as a two-oscillator monosynth, it has younger, more agile competition today – even talking only analog instruments. Given the higher pricing of the MS-20, it’s not improbable that the ARP Odyssey will see collector-style pricing rather than mass-market.

And there, the Odyssey may not have the kind of relevance the 2013 MS-20 mini announcement did. The mini had a few things going for it: the MS-20 design is still fairly different from other products in the market, the pricing was within reach of average consumers, and it had novelty on its side – it was the first big-name re-release of this kind.

We’ll see how KORG brings the ARP to market, and how the synth lovers of the world respond. I’m curious to watch it happen. (See comments below for some early indications.)

But this is different from other really new analog creations. In a way, it’s strange that KORG’s press announcement puts the Odyssey in the same category as the monotron or volca series. That might miss the point. The monotron and volca, while rooted in analog ingredients, are new instruments, new designs – in sound and interface. They reference the past, but they’re a new species of the same genus. Bob Moog and Dave Smith themselves chose to re-imagine their past creations, mixing new tech with old. Roland chose to model the sound, and rethink the interface for modern tastes. A new generation of synth builders makes new designs, regardless of medium – new analog, new digital, and new hybrids.

Heck, you can choose from all these things from KORG alone. (They also make swell metronomes, and they’ll sell you those analog circuits in magnetic building-block form.) So it’s a danger to read too much of a narrative into this announcement.

In the end, you, the musician, get to decide. You can hop in the synthesizer DeLorean and set the clock for any time you want, past, future, or alternative present. And you’d be crazy to complain about that.

It’s a bit sad, though, that what you can’t have is a truly new ARP. But then, for lovers of the ARP who want to imagine its futuristic offspring, you have a clean slate on which to draw.

arpad

  • Greg Lőrincz

    I don’t think musicians today have any reason to complain when it comes to gears. Not only there’s a healthy selection of digital and analog gears but the manufacturers have been trying to come up with affordable gear (thanks, crisis!). This announcement is pretty exciting! Looking forward to the first post complaining about the lack of USB, polyphony or whatever…

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Not that that will stop us from complaining about … heh, everything, probably. ;)

  • just passing

    “the Odyssey may not have the kind of relevance the 2013 MS-20 mini announcement did”

    Or, on the other hand, given the Odyssey’s position as one of THE Big Two monosynths, the converse might be true – the excitement generated by the MS20 mini will pale into relative insignificance besides the excitement of being able to get a new (and more reliable, maybe?) Odyssey for a halfway sane amount of money (because if anyone can figure out how to bring economies of scale to bear on the Odyssey, it’s the company who just launched a new 3-oscillator all analogue, MIDI-controllable monosynth for £120). Also, exact authenticity is less of an issue for a synth which had three different filters (and two different filter strengths!) over the course of its lifetime, so Korg has a little leeway on that score too – not to mention that Moog’s filter patents, so troublesome during ARP’s lifetime, have long since expired.

    Moreover, it raises the possibility of other ARP resurrections. Korg Chroma, anyone?

    • Jaybeeg

      The Chroma was built around sixteen Curtis VCF and VCA chips that simply aren’t available anymore. This is the reason that Korg is rehashing the dawn of the affordable monosynth age — those designs can be affordably recreated using currently available parts.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Exactly.

      Though… I think we *can* still ask them for an SQ-10 mini ;)

      That does, however, raise some questions about what a polysynth should look like. Doesn’t have to be an authentic recreation, either.

    • LilFonky

      It should look like a Mono/Poly. With MIDI-capable knobs. Built from tungsten steel and with keys made of unicorn ivory. For $500. But seriously, I think all these re-releases are about re-building the institutional know-how to create something new. The volcas point to this. At some point we’ll see something truly awesome and unexpected come from all of this, or at least I hope so.

    • just passing

      I should perhaps clarify that I wasn’t being entirely serious with my Chroma suggestion… not that making a joke so obvious a blind idiot couldn’t miss it ever stopped a pedant on the Internet, but hey.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Heh, but – I think we’re actually all thinking about new analog polysynths. Seriously. :)

    • Jaybeeg

      Heaven forbid that someone attempts to explain why we’re not seeing a certain product category in a comment section. The Volcas aren’t “all analog,” either. ;)

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      That’s a fair point. I’m interested to see how the Odyssey resonates today.

      But I still think it’s a safer bet to think this will come toward the MS-20 (full-size) pricing rather than volca.

      volca is a mass-market product. I’ll be surprised if this is. And the volcas were designed not as a faithful recreation of anything – meaning they could be designed to hit a specific price.

    • just passing

      The midpoint between the volca and the MS20fs is £599. If I had to guess, I’d say that the Odyssey will be about £700. So yes, I agree, that’s a safe bet.

      But it’s also not what I said, is it? I said “sane amount of money” and “Korg can apply economies of scale”, with the intended implication “Korg should plan to sell buckets of these, and price accordingly”. You seem to have extrapolated the rest all on your own. Tut tut.

      As for the volca being designed down to a price – had you decided to produce an, um, Meeblip-202 (say), would you have been able to do it for £120? Or even £240? There’s more going on there than just designing to cost, I’m sure – and those same economies can be brought to bear on the (er) ReOdyssey.

    • just passing

      > I’m interested to see how the Odyssey resonates today.

      Well, you find the slider marked “resonance” and you push it up as far as it’ll go…

      *ducks & runs away*

    • SmilingBob

      I’d like to see a Quadra with it’s colorful control panel and LEDs

  • syntheticjuice

    Yea, i think you’re reading too much into the press release. :)

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      No, all I read into the press-release is that I expect this to be built for a similar market as the MS-20 remake announced last month. That’s not a dangerous prediction.

      My point is to do with the larger landscape. I have many people coming to me suggesting that there’s some sort of turn “back” toward analog. And I don’t think that’s what’s going on — hence the time-machine-any-which-way metaphor.

    • syntheticjuice

      Oh yea.. i meant about the mention of the volcas and monotrons. I think they are in different product niche too. I assumed they thew them in the press release just for the sake of mentioning them.

  • rc

    Hopefully they make a new 2600 :)

    • johnbmccreary

      It’ll never happen.

  • https://soundcloud.com/boulder-d4sh Freeks

    But why it has to be 1:1 copy with the original crappy sliders?
    If you have ever used arp you know what i mean. Nobody would complain if the sliders would be better.

    I like it anyway. Would prefer to get new 2600, but this will do if the price is right. MS20 mini was not that interesting, Original MS20 was rather common synth anyways, but not many have Odyssey.

    It’s great that Roland have chosen different path. It would be super boring if all companies would be just be releasing retro stuff. Analogue is great, but so is digital. Synths rule!

    • Robert W.

      Wow, I don’t think you really know what you’re talking about… The original MS20 is a “common” synth and not many people have an Odyssey??? :)

      The Odyssey was produced for nearly 10 years, there are thousands of them in existence, and furthermore, as someone who has used and owned 6 of them, the sliders are not “crappy” as you say, you’re just repeating something you heard from someone else who’d never used an Oddy— they work great if properly maintained and lubricated.

      What difference does it make, you’d casually “prefer” a 2600 anyway, right? No “crappy sliders” there, lol.

    • https://soundcloud.com/boulder-d4sh Freeks

      You must be from US then. I have seen loads of MS-20′s in studios, but rarely Odyssey.

      ” they work great if properly maintained and lubricated.”

      That’s the thing. Not many maintain their synths so Arp sliders are wobbly and don’t move well. I prefer sliders from any current midi controller over sliders in Arp or SH-101.

      2600 is more modular that is not tweaked like keyboard synth. At least i realtime tweak keyboards a lot more than my modular.

    • Matti V.

      How can you know the sliders are going to be crappy when it’s not even out yet? I can’t believe what you’re saying… I bet they’re not going to use the original sliders anyway from 40 or so years ago…

    • johnbmccreary

      The MS20 was more common because it was way less money than an Odyssey. The Odyssey is more powerful & towers over the MS 20 hands down.

    • Sherlock

      “why it has to be 1:1 copy”

      Is it? Take a look at the picture, and compare with a picture of an original ARP Odyssey. The panel component spacings, the switch sizes…
      Also take a look at the keys, and compare them with the keys of the MS-20 Mini and full-size Korg keys.

    • johnbmccreary

      Why is it a 1:1 copy? Maybe because Arp commands it. Perhaps you prefer a mini version like Korg did with the MS20. Might as well be a toy.

    • ENDIF

      Why would the manufacturer intentionally replicate the flaws?
      I have no doubt that the sliders will be quality.

  • Stephan Kochen

    It is so modern and minimalist! Wonderful timeless design. Congrats Korg! Like authenticity and the way they are exploiting their legacy way better than the ugly Roland Aira series. (Midi at least would be cool though)

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      To be fair, ARP is not KORG’s legacy. ARP and KORG never worked together – ironically, until now. ;)

    • Stephan Kochen

      Alright, that was a mix up. Still the way Korg handles the reissues of classics suits me very well and certainly better than Roland’s way.

    • Frank

      maybe Korg just reacts on the vintage analog market demand?! not a bad thing but is the MS20mini really cheaper than the original, if comparing from the 20-30years of using perspective…
      I like the Aira TR8 concept…even if the sounds were good quality samples (but there is synthesis which sounds really good),we will have a drum machine with full mixer section,efx’s,side chain and full integration with DAW for just 500. On paper, I like it very much…the perfourmer is waiting for the audio in on this machine :)

    • just passing

      > is the MS20mini really cheaper than the original, if comparing from the 20-30years of using perspective…

      Launch price of MS20 in 1978: $750 (according to Wikipedia, so… salt to taste)
      Value of [1978$]750 today: $2800.
      Current price of MS20 mini: $600 (at Musician’s Friend).

      I’m going to go out on a limb here and say… yup.

    • Frank

      ok I compared the build quality,let say you spent 750 and was enjoying it for 30years,because it was before everything was build more durable…todays trend is to make cheap stuff,so you pay less but it will last less…maybe you will need to buy a new ms20mini every 5 years…would be that still cheaper alternative? I meant it something like that ;)

  • teej

    no longer feeling horribly regretful about selling my (barely working) black MKI a few years back.

  • pinta_vodki

    Makes you think about the future. It seems that in the last 40 years the synth industry has come full circle back to analogue synths and adding digital stuff today we have all we could ever want. What comes next then? Is it just small iterations from now on much like guitar market?

  • BestCheckYoSelfFool

    Maybe Korg can strike a deal with Roland and produce faithful (analog) reproductions of the SH-101, Jupiter 8, TR-808, TR-909, TB-303, System 1, etc…

    Hahahahahahahah

    But seriously, I’d be in line to buy each.

    • https://soundcloud.com/boulder-d4sh Freeks

      Why not just buy second hand SH-101? Those are not expensive and new one would cost the same anyways.

      I’m pretty sure that Roland makes loads more money with Aira than Korg with analogs. Profit is the only thing that investors care about.

    • PlainZero

      Why would Roland need Korg? They are still in business and still making keyboards. If they thought a remake of the Jupiter 8 would sell, they would make and market it themselves and not share the profit.

  • SmilingBob

    I would have rather they made the Arp Quadra instead. Now that was a piece of work!

  • UMCorps

    It is surely only a matter of time before Korg co-opt Robin Wood and start producing 1:1 flatpack editions of the VCS3.

  • REGEND

    This is awesome news. Everyone rejoice. Analog synths belong in our homes. I really like my Korg R3 but wouldn’t it be awesome to go into Radio Shack and find an MS-20 kit you can build yourself? Or that Realistic analog synth that was licensed from Moog? Kids need synths. Buy synths and be happy instead of curmudgeons. I AM REGEND.

  • Pugface

    I am so pleased about this re-creation. I couldn’t even afford the ARP Axxe when I saw it in a music shop years ago in the 70s.
    My guess (I am hoping too) it will about the same price as the MS20mini. The complexity of building one in manufacture should be about the same. In fact the Odyssey will have less external parts.
    It would sell incredibly well if it was £499
    I will get one immediately at that price. Priced above the sub-phatty will make me get the sub-phatty.
    If Korg marketing are listening. There is a big price break at 500. People think twice about buying above that price. They run out and get one thinking its a bargain below 500.

    • LilFonky

      I think the Odyssey will do well so long as it’s below $1000; $500 seems a bit low insofar as even the MS-20 mini was $600. Above $1000 you’re into Moog, DSI, and Studio Electronics territory and it becomes a much tougher sell. If I can get a working Odyssey for the price of a Boomstar 4075, I’m gonna buy the Odyssey. I think the big price determinate will be whether the thing is given the full-size treatment vs. cutdown and the quality of the mechanical bits, connectors etc., and whether or not it turns out to be fully MIDI automatable. I actually prefer the mini form factor because I’m running out of studio space, but I know many will feel differently.
      What I’d really like is a Monopoly, but I think that’s a little bit improbable…

  • Studio 139

    I for one am looking forward to it. While I am all for synth designers like Dave Smith pushing ahead with his designs, I am happy some classic instruments like the MS20, S.E.M. and now the Odyssey are all (going to be) available again. We are talking about instruments, and as such the beauty and character outlast technological developments, Fender has updated the P-Bass and the Telecaster, but the recreations of the original models are still being produced. Roland could product the Jupiter, Juno and TR series again and have a market because they are classic instruments. Korg could put out the Monopoly and the Polysix. Yamaha could put out a smaller, lighter version of the CS-80. It would be the new golden age!

  • ushaped

    I hope it’s the Odyssey with the squishy pitch bend buttons!

  • Fin

    Very excited! gives us a new opportunity to get our hands on the synths that begun it all without paying an over inflated price for a battered original and worrying about it dying. I’m certainly enjoying my MS-20 re-release! Bringing these pre-midi synths back, equipping them with midi, and re-introducing them to musicians today will open new doors and for the way they’re used within music in this day and age, a rebirth! I only wish Roland would follow Korgs lead on this, Korg are certainly holding the torch these days as far as I’m concerned, bring on the Odyssey :-)

  • http://jnicvideo.weebly.com Jason Young

    I saw two orignial Odysseys years ago..should have picked both up, now will be able to own an Odyssey, even if it’s a reboot…can’t wait to see it in stores!