The Behringer Odyssey. Something to do with Ancient Greece?
The word Odyssey means different things to different people. To some, it is one of the two epic Greek poems that have been attributed to Homer. He was a blind poet who would go from house to house, telling stories in exchange for a bed for the night.
It tells the story of Odysseus, King of Ithaca, in his struggles to get home after the Trojan war. But the real message is that the world needs heroes fighting for what they believe in and casting off evil. Now there is a lesson for today.
If you don’t happen to think of Homer, then possibly you will think of David Friend.
He was the co-founder of ARP and the designer of the ARP Odyssey. First released in 1972, it was a portable early synth that people could actually afford. This was against the price of a Moog, which most couldn’t. It became a best seller and a much-admired piece of electronics.
There have been a number of different versions over the years. It was re-issued again in 2015 by Korg, who were working with its original designer. But what has all that got to do with Behringer and this synth other than they share the same name.
We shall find out soon in tour Behringer Odyssey Review, but first, where did the synth come from?
From Russia with Love
In 1919 a man named Termen invented what may well have been the first synth. It was called a Theremin. Have you listened to Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys? That quivering vibrato is a Theremin.
However, Robert Moog is generally accepted as the man who really kicked it all off. For some, his Moog’s became a large part of their early sound. Pink Floyd, for one, who used it on ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and ‘The Wall’.
The size and weight of a small car…
But they weren’t what you would call user-friendly. Heavy great things that were at best rather unreliable; it took Yamaha to sort it all out. They made it portable, affordable, and just brilliant with their DX7 in 1983. Progress by half a dozen of the best companies in the world has pushed today’s synthesizers to new heights.
The Behringer Odyssey pays homage to that early legend, the ARP synth. It has many of the same features plus some new ones. Most of the Behringer products are designed in Germany, and built-in ‘Behringer City’ in Guangdong, China. The Behringer Odyssey is a little different, being designed and engineered in the UK. But wherever it has been made, it revives one of the great early synths.
But how does it sound? Is it a worthy reincarnation? Let’s take a look…
Behringer Odyssey – Overview
Behringer, if nothing else, is known for giving you some great products at very cost-effective prices. This tribute to the 70s legend in synths gives you all of the classic features. But nearly fifty years on, it’s able to give you new updates that are state of the art.
The original was a dual-VCO analog synth with 37 keys. Just like the original, the 37 keys on the Behringer are full size and weighted. But there are some additions, as we said.
A 32-step sequencer with built-in storage and arpeggiator are part of the new Odyssey. But also some world-class digital effects. Including Reverb, Delay, Chorus, Flanging, and Pitch Shifting, along with multi-effects.
An immense sound of the 70s
Way back when, the only way you could describe the Odyssey of the time was formidable. Big, fat sounds, it was aggressive. In the mix with a band, it didn’t ask guitars to move; it just cut right through them. Shoved them out the way. Quite right!
The Behringer Odyssey, with its pure analog signal path with its authentic designs taken straight from the 70s, does the same. It gets the feel and the sound of the original just about right. Perhaps the only difference is the advancement of technology. It is now easier to quickly create some devastating patches.
So, let’s take a closer look…
We don’t want to spend too much time on the build as there is so much more to look at. The look of the Behringer version is frighteningly similar to the original ARP. We suppose that should be expected as the Korg reincarnation was as well.
It is not too large that it can’t be carried around, measuring 26.2 by 7.9 by 19.5 inches and weighing just under 23 pounds. It has an all-metal chassis which makes it tough enough for a life on the road.
Plenty of controls, as you might imagine, with sliders, push buttons, and rotating knobs. There are 35 sliders that are illuminated but with dimming controls. The pitch and modulation controls are three pressure-sensitive buttons. There is also a small screen for performance status information.
Staying true to the original
Behringer has tried to stay as close to the original analog circuits as possible. They have used original filter, oscillator, and amplifier designs. By doing this, they have made it easy to once again create those 70s sounds that those that were there can remember, and those that weren’t have grown to love.
We should think that this was no easy task. But it is the reason that it is able to create scorching leads and big heavy bass sounds. Great sound-shaping that would have been missing if they hadn’t been so meticulous in their designs.
Let’s talk about those sounds
In the 70s and early 80s, it is no exaggeration to say that music was driven by prog-rock bands. And from the very first, bands were drawn to the Odyssey for its sound. But it wasn’t only the prog-rock innovators. It created a new genre in what was known as ‘Synth rock’, and then, of course, came Disco. They all relied on the synth sound. And at the forefront was the Odyssey.
All those sounds the Behringer Odyssey gets right. Fat sounds, screaming sounds, and everything in between. It just gets it right.
This is a Duophonic synth. That means you can play two notes at the same time. Having two voices is possible because of two analog VCOs, Voltage Controlled Oscillators. Each of them gives you choices. You can use a square or pulse wave with width modulation, sawtooth, or a sine/square wave LFO or Low-Frequency Oscillator.
During its period of production, the original ARP Odyssey had different filter designs, three of them to be exact. They all contributed in different ways to how the sound evolved. It is accepted that they were at the very heart of the sound of the ARP Odyssey.
In this synth, Behringer has included the option of choosing any of the three. All controlled by the simple flick of a switch. A great idea.
To add to the sonic aggression of this synth Behringer has built-in a new Drive circuit. This really gives the filter a hard hit and takes the sound of the synth a stage further in the ‘angry’ stakes.
What about the Modulation?
Modulation is important on a good synth. In fact, some would say vital to sound creation. It changes the properties of the sound of wavelength, time velocity, and phase. Modulation is not an effect in itself. It is a set of parameters that help you to create a sense of depth, movement, and dimension to the sound.
Plenty of Modulation options
There are two envelope generators and controls for Attack, Decay, Sustain, and Release (ADSR). Switches are included for AR Gate/LFO Repeat and ADSR Gate/LFO Repeat. A sample and hold feature will let you create a gliding effect taking you smoothly between voltage steps. This is assisted by the Portamento, which also gives you smooth transitions.
You are able to set the Low-frequency oscillator (LFO) so that you can trigger it from the keyboard. That will create a really nice and smooth wah effect for every note played.
The British link up
You may have been surprised to read earlier that this synth was designed and engineered in the UK. Behringer has developed working partnerships and the use of UK-designed audio. One of those is with Klark Teknik. They are based in Kidderminster in Worcestershire in the UK.
Founded in 1974, they have a worldwide reputation for excellence and were given a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 1986. Behringer has used Klark Teknik effects in this synth.
This 24-bit, studio-quality effects engine was created especially for Behringer for this synth. It is now at your disposal to provide professional effects to develop your sounds.
Onboard Arpeggiator and Sequencer
One of the extras that Behringer has built-in is an onboard sequencer. This is something that the original didn’t have. With this, you can set up 32 note steps and keep them as a pattern. You have the ability to record and to save up to 64 patterns. These are stored in eight banks of eight each for instant recall.
Likewise, the onboard Arpeggiator allows you eight patterns. This can be set up and triggered simply by playing a chord.
These are located on the rear of the synth. There is a headphone out that has its own level control and a ¼ inch audio in. Plus, there is a balanced XLR and ¼ inch jack socket.
There is also comprehensive connectivity for USB/MIDI and sockets for optional footswitches.
What we think?
In reviews in the past, we have casually light-heartedly mentioned futuristic designs as being ‘Back to the Future. This synth has that accolade, but we are not being light-hearted. It is like a musical time machine.
It will grab the power and the sounds that were and bring them into the future. And then give it a little bit of the future in its sound options. Dr. Brown would be impressed.
One thing we haven’t even alluded to is the price point. We were waiting until you were seated. We have come across some rather ordinary keyboards that are more expensive than this.
It is quite an amazing price point for an amazing instrument. Behringer has done it again with a little help from the Brits.
So, let’s recap on what we have seen with this superb synth.
Behringer Odyssey Review Pros and Cons
- An All-metal chassis with illuminated slider controls with dimmer switches.
- Classic features of the original with new state-of-the-art additions.
- 37 weighted full-size keys.
- Built-in 32 step sequencer and an Arpeggiator.
- 24-bit, studio-quality effects engine by Klark Teknik.
- Built-in Reverb, Delay, Chorus, Flanger, and plenty more.
- Some very effective modulation options.
- Three different filters are chosen by a switch.
- Duophonic design allows you to play two notes at the same time.
- There is going to be a serious learning curve. (But that is half the fun for synth lovers).
- Nothing else.
Looking for more great synth options from Behringer?
Then check out our in-depth Behringer Deepmind 12 Review and our Behringer Neutron Paraphonic Analouge and Semi Modular Synthesizer Review.
Or if you’re interested in other brands, have a look at our comprehensive Roland Juno DS88 Review, our Korg SV188BK-88 Key Digital Piano Review, our Kawai ES100 Review, our Kmise 61 Key Portable Electronic Keyboard Review, our Yamaha Arius YDP-181 Review, our Roland RD-2000 Review or our Casio CGP-700BK Review for more keyboards you can buy in 2021.
Behringer Odyssey Review – Final Thoughts
There is one thing that is becoming very noticeable. Behringer is plowing some serious development energy into their synth production. There are some great tools out there at the moment. We have looked at a few of them, and this is another.
If you are thinking of spending a few thousand on a big-name synth, put your wallet away. Take a look at this one first. We don’t think you will be disappointed.
The ARP Odyssey was a synth of the past. The Behringer Odyssey takes the past and brings it into the future. And it works.
Fire up the DeLorean Marty!