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Jamming with the Behringer Odyssey


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The Behringer Odyssey, clone of the ultra-famous ARP analog monosynth from the early '70s, has been out for a while now, but only recently I was able to get hold of one, and have some fun with it. I haven't been able to spend any quality time with an Odyssey in the last couple of decades (except for a brief encounter with the Korg version), so this was both a dive into the past, and a chance to look at something I once knew, but with fresh eyes and ears.

 

Since I had a lot of fun with my "non-review" of the Sequential Pro 3, I'm going to follow the same guidelines: I will not pretend to write a comprehensive review. Rather, I will give my honest impressions on those aspects of the Odyssey which mean the most to me.

At the end, a little video with some result of my tweaking.


I'm not going to explain the Odyssey architecture for the 234th time... I assume most of the readers here have some familiarity with it already. And except for a couple of murky details, all functions are clearly labeled on the front panel. Let's start.

 

 

APPEARANCE.

The Behringer Odyssey clones the third version of the Odyssey panel, which I approve. It's more or less the size of the original, quite heavy with its metal chassis (appreciated), and a solid feeling. The controls are placed in the same way as on the original, with a few exceptions. The sliders' tiny knobs are illuminated by small multi-colored LEDs, which helps to navigate the layout - but frankly, their main function is to titillate our nerdy streetboy side... ahem. Let's just say that the Christmas Odyssey looks good, and that there's a knob on the rear to set the intensity of the lights, or turn them off entirely.

The instrument includes all three filters from the different versions, and it adds a sequencer, arpeggiator, and digital effects on the output stage.

 

 

EXT CONNECTIONS.

Connections with the external world are quite spartane: CV, Gate and Trigger ins and outs. Then there's MIDI (in and out), USB, and the same jacks for pedal and portamento as in the old one.

The audio out jack has a weak and noisy output; you need an adapter from the XLR ouput to a couple of mono plugs. The stereo image is given by the effects only, btw.

Then there's the *external* power supply, which I'm going to tolerate in the light of the ridiculously low price of this instrument...

Normally, I wouldn't have found the CV-Gate-Trigger connecions too useful, because since I don't have a significant modular system, I could use MIDI, or the audio in, for most applications. But actually, those connections actually changed my view of the entire instrument. Let me explain: The Odyssey defaults to duophonic mode, so it's very difficult to achieve a "true mono" response, especially when you're playing fast. There's always that annoying instant when you are playing two keys simultaneously for a fraction of second, and that triggers the duophony. I don't need that. In fact, I didn't want the duophony at all. Well, connecting cv out to cv in gives you true mono, with multiple triggering. And connecting Gate out to Trigger in gives you single trigger!

Once I found this, I was ready for my....

 

 

FIRST JAM.

It took me a minute to set things musically on the panel - and almost half an hour to achieve tuning stability from the oscillators. Ok, so they cloned *this* aspect too! :D But I'm glad they did, because these oscillators drift, beat, whistle, scream, groan.... the only thing they never do is to sound straight and precise - thanks god. And then I started playing with the filters. Wow! These filters roar, rumble, fart, sting, phase - piercing and pleasant at the same time.

My favorite is the 2-pole, especially with a certain amount of resonance and the Drive control on.

Gain staging is essential: The relationship between VCA Gain, Env Amount and the ADSR settings can sometimes change every aspect of the sound. The mixer levels are crucial too.

The Odyssey could have been conceived as a scaled version of the 2600, but inside its unusual architecture it holds several depths: Ring mod, osc sync, S&H, and with some ingenuity you can convince those oscillators to FM at audio rate.

Frankly, this thing just sounds good. And it *does* sound like an Odyssey. In all my three half-an-hour sessions, I had a big smile on my face the minute I started tweaking those sliders. You can't just play the keyboard: Your left hand goes naturally to the panel, adjusting all the parameters that you can physically reach in real time. See the video below for an overview of these early jams; added info in the video and in the YouTube description.

The added digital effects are nothing special; nevertheless, I'm grateful for the addition. All sounds that you hear in the video have a dedicated effect setting, programmed for the occasion: No external effects - or any other processing - were added.
The effects, just like the synth itself, have no memory slots, except that every effect type retains the latest settings that you have used. Better than nothing.

 

 

PERSONALITY.

This is not a multi-purpose synths: It has its own sound, biting and acidic, and any good patch that you can program is usually a variation on five or six basic settings. For someone spoiled by incredibly versatile machines like the Pro 3, Evolver, SE-1, Xenophone etc., its architecture could appear limited... but you can NOT reproduce the *exact* Odyssey sound(s) with those machines.

So I loved it, despite its shortcomings.

 

 

SHORTCOMINGS OF THE *BEHRINGER* ODYSSEY.

Mainly, the keyboard. Horrible action. Spongy and inconsistent. The black keys have a totally different response from the white keys. True, Behringer did even worse with the Poly D - and Korg set a new low for key actions with the Wavestate-Modwave-Opsix series. Yes, you say, but these are all low-cost instruments. Ok, I say, but I refuse to be grateful just because they are at least giving us full-size keys. This action stinks, end of story. Give me a half-decent keybed, and I'll pay a couple hundred more without saying a word.

They included velocity response, a nice addition. But you have to enable/disable it via software, and there's no way to scale it: It's either on or off, for amp, filter, or both. Urgh.

 

 

SHORTCOMINGS OF THE *ARP* ODYSSEY.

Well, as I said, the original Odyssey had its own scratch-your-head quirkiness, so now I'm going to have a little fun and pretend that I'm seeing an Odyssey for the first time, commenting on those aspects.

- There's no octave switch for the individual oscillators; you have to tune the oscs by riding the sliders. Eeehh?! Good luck doing that on stage.

- With a three-octave keyboard, you expect, at the very least, an octave switch for the whole instrument. Ok, there's one. But it switches TWO octaves up or down, with no intermediate stop!! Now, there's absolutely nothing you could say, that could convince me that there's some logic to it. Pure madness.

- The pitch/mod "controls". No amount of practice could ever give you 'control' over those things, easily the worst left-hand "controls" of all time.

- The sliders. I usually prefer rotary knobs, but for a synth with no patch memory, sliders could give an useful glance on the current patch. Only thing, why should the slider knobs be so small?! They are so tiny that they offer little grip to my big fingers.

- What? No patch memory? :D

 

 

SEQUENCER AND ARPEGGIATOR.

I beg your pardon? :D:D

 

 

FINAL CONSIDERATIONS.

A very easy chapter to write: This is probably the most... *fun* synth you can ever play. Given the terrible keyboard action and illogical left-hand controls, I was about to suggest that a desktop version would be ideal. But having everything in an integrated package helps to see it as a whole instrument - and after some practice, those shortcomings tend to become part of the experience.
I'll skip any consideration about the ethic of Behringer cloning here. I just say, having the chance to get a very convincing-sounding, *new* Odyssey, with all three filters and added functions, for a fifth or so of the price of an used one, is amazing. This one will stay for a while, as a great companion for my Model D. Next step, make some layers and connections...

 

 

THE VIDEO.

I played three half-an-hour sessions, playing and tweaking as I went along, then I chose the best bits. Since I shuffled the order of the clips a little bit, there are sometimes jumps in luminosity and color during the transitions.

The first part of the video has mono audio; that's because it comes from the first of the three sessions, when I didn't have the right adapter for the audio output (see above).
 

 

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most excellent review, maestro. I sold mine 18 months ago during a downsizing period. Couldn't find anything in your review that I disagree with, most notably the octave button switching 2 octaves instead of one. An eternal head scratcher there. Thanks for taking the time to do this. :cheers:

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thx for your report and video, marino !

 

The synth itself sounds good IMO, they should make expanders with CV/Gate and MIDI only.

No keys, no PB and Mod pads etc..

 

OTOH, the original (white) ARP Odyssey had a horrible action also, stinkin´ rotary pod for pitchbend and an annoying plastic case in addition.

When I layed a friend´s one for the 1st time, I alreadyhated it because of these "features" and didn´t buy.

 

☺️

 

A.C.

 

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3 hours ago, Al Coda said:

OTOH, the original (white) ARP Odyssey had a horrible action also

 

You are right. Perhaps Behringer wanted to reproduce that for maximum "authenticity". :freak::D
Funnily enough, the bad action would be less of a problem, without the velocity feature. The fixed velocity response is rather crude, and controlling it from that keybed is not easy.

 

3 hours ago, Al Coda said:

stinkin´ rotary pod for pitchbend

 

Oh yes. How could I forget that? So maybe the so-called "Proportional Pitch Control" isn't the worst left-hand pitch control ever, after all. The Odyssey Mk1 had a - rotary knob! I believe that the original 2600, too, had a similar "controller".

 

 

 

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  • 10 months later...
On 4/15/2022 at 7:13 PM, Al Coda said:

thx for your report and video, marino !

 

The synth itself sounds good IMO, they should make expanders with CV/Gate and MIDI only.

No keys, no PB and Mod pads etc..

funny shooter 2

OTOH, the original (white) ARP Odyssey had a horrible action also, stinkin´ rotary pod for pitchbend and an annoying plastic case in addition.

When I layed a friend´s one for the 1st time, I alreadyhated it because of these "features" and didn´t buy.

 

☺️

 

A.C.

 

That's right, I have the same experience as you, the smell of plastic is really unpleasant. 

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On 3/9/2023 at 9:53 PM, likelyinsecure said:

That's right, I have the same experience as you, the smell of plastic is really unpleasant. 

 

For some of us, that's a cologne called "Nostalgia." Some synths become a sneak gas attack as they heat up. 🙄 Its a rotten partner with a crap keybed.

Lab Mode splits between contemplative work and furious experiments.
Both of which require you to stay the hell away from everyone else.
This is a feature, not a bug.
Kraftwerk’s studio lab, Kling Klang,
 didn’t even have a working phone in it.
       ~ Warren Ellis

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  • 1 year later...

I just bought one used two days ago.

 

I had in the past (a very past) the original ARP Odissey and an Avatar (the guitar version of the Odissey). They sounded quite differenti, and now I understand why: two different version of the filter. A friend of mine still have the all black one with coloured sliders, which Is again different, maybe two poles filter?

 

Anyway the Behringer sounds good but a bit differenti too.

 

My ARP had a ring modulator I used to build fabolous bell like sounds: metallic, full of harmonics. 

 

The kind of sound you can hear on Japan Tin Drum or Oil on Canvas albums.

 

Until now I couldn't recreate this sound. 

 

Neither the Avatar did. Just my ARP Odissey I sold for little Money :(

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  • 3 weeks later...

Waaaay back when....I bought a white face ARP Odyssey off a friend of our drummer. Never had my eye on one, but it was a great deal and I needed one more synth for my rig. Probably did 200 gigs with it. I used it a ton, and it never let me down. I eventually sold it to help pay for a brand new DX7 when they first hit the streets. (Ya, it was that long ago) I honestly have never missed it - not even once, and would not buy another one, regardless of who makes it or how inexpensive they are. Too many better options out there these days. Odysseys always sounded a little too "thin" for my tastes. I much prefer a synth that can do "fat".....and any 37 note keyboards are generally an automatic  pass for me now.

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OT - just a comment on the original white face Oddy - I modified mine so I had an octave up/down switch. Also changed the pitch knob to one which had a notch sticking out so that I could curl my little finger round it and be confident that I could return it to the neutral position. And I managed to rewire the modulation slider on the first oscillator so that the second oscillator modulated too. It was all very ambitious of me, with not much real understanding of what I was doing, but it worked nicely. i hung onto it for years, only selling it off about 10 years ago. Nowadays I occasionally use the app on the iPad. It’s close enough for me.

Legend Soul 261, Leslie 251, Yamaha UX1, CP4, CK61, Hammond SK1, Ventilator, Privia PX3, Behringer 2600, Korg Triton LE, VB3M, B3X, various guitars and woodwinds, drum kits …

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Carlo, you make that Oddy sound fabulous! I have a black-face Oddy and Axxe in my garage, have had both since the '80's, and both need new sliders, probably new caps, and a ton of cleaning. But hearing you play it made me feel nostalgic for that sound! Given the price of the Behringer, it'll probably be cheaper to just buy a new one than to fix mine.

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Turn up the speaker

Hop, flop, squawk

It's a keeper

-Captain Beefheart, Ice Cream for Crow

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I remember seeing the ads in Keyboard and a picture of the Odyssey on the Musicians Friend catalog. I really wanted one but ended up with the MiniMoog because it was available. In the late 70's you didn't have a lot of choices in a small rural town. Was very interested when this came out but reviews of the horrible touch pads scared me away. Wish it had more jacks for interfacing with the Behringer 2600. Still, maybe someday. Wonder how it compares to the Korg version?

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This post edited for speling.

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