New Korg ARP Odyssey (2015) vs. Classic ARP Odyssey mkIII (1978)

This video, via RetroSound, captures a head to head comparison of the new Korg ARP Odyssey (2015) vs a classic ARP Odyssey mkIII (1978) synthesizer.

Check out the comparison and let us know what you think of the two synths in the comments!

Here’s what Retrosound’s Marko Ettlich has to say about the comparison:

Here is the A / B comparison test. It is very important to say that compared to my old ARP Odyssey Mk.III from 1978. The synth is 100% technically ok, calibrated and in practically in mint condition.

On the new KORG ARP Odyssey are three different filter types (Rev.1 to Rev.3) available and only filter type III is used here in the test. The owner manual for this filter is to comply with the 24 dB/oct low-pass filter (filter 4075) of the Odyssey Mk.III. Furthermore, the Drive function of the new ARP Odyssey is deactivated because it is not this the original. In order to maintain absolute equality, the audio samples were recorded directly via the same audio input without any external effects, compressors or equalizers and then recorded on HD.

In the audio examples, it was not aware of keyboard acrobatics, the focus was more on the key features of sound production as basic sound of the oscillators including pulse width modulation, the filter, ringmodulator, the VCO sync function and especially the speed of the envelopes to make a meaningful comparison to get.
If the old ARP some sounds louder sounds than the KORG, then is that the result of all the parameters.
For example, the sound filter in position III thinned at a high response from KORG out much more and loses its foundation as the old Odyssey MK.III. On both synths is the VCA fader on top position. The sound of the new KORG ARP is more clean, especially in the bass spectrum. The old ARP is a bit noisy and sounds a bit more organic.

some sounds are sequenced over cv/gate with the Doepfer Dark Time step sequencer.

54 thoughts on “New Korg ARP Odyssey (2015) vs. Classic ARP Odyssey mkIII (1978)

  1. One thing i miss about these vs. tests, is another old ARP Odyssey, so we can compare those 2 old ones, and see what difference 40 years of age have done to them and if they sound the same at all. Perhaps its actually the Korg that sounds like what the old ones used to sound like before they aged.

    1. Agreed. That to me is the special thing about ancient analogs- the unpredictable nature of component degradation over decades. I’d say few original Odysseys sound identical by now, especially after servicing. Close enough is good enough for me. Even if the Korg didn’t sound the same, so what? It still has the same features that make the Odyssey badass. In a way I was hoping it would sound different, offering a fourth Odyssey to choose from, making it the mk IV.

      1. This is why I age all my synths in oak casques before using them. I have a vintage 1982 polysix in the cellar that’s due to come out next month and I can’t wait.

      2. You can also calibrate the vcf’s, vca’s, osc’s, etc.. differently if you open them up which further speaks to the “no two arps sound the same” argument.

    2. Another thing to consider, in addition to how age affects the sound, is that no two analog synths sounded EXACTLY the same. If an A-B comparison was done on 2 old MK3 Odyssey’s, there would likely be differences between them (or for that matter two NEW Korg models). This was true also for old Hammond B-3s and comparing 2 of the same model of Steinway grands.

      1. Keep in mind that one factor is DIRT, a knob that roland put on its recreation organ to similate the dirt that gets into tonewheels and contacts.
        It why some B3s got nicknames, so when the record an album they could request the certain B3 sound they want

      2. Are the keys the same size? I had read that the keys were actually smaller on the new odyssey – for one wanting to play leads with any particular virtuosity, this could be a concern. The old pratt-read keyboards that all american synths had up to and through the mid 80’s were so nice.

  2. Tonally, they sound very close, any differences being no more than you might get comparing 2 originals side by side.

    That being said, to my ears the original still sounds that bit bigger and phatter.

    No getting away from the fact, however, that Korg are to be applauded and at the price this is a nice piece of kit.

    1. Yes, and that is a bit of the problem, because subconsciously our brains tend to equal louder with better sounding. This makes it harder to do a fair comparison when watching (listening to?) this video.

      1. If the old ARP some sounds louder sounds than the KORG, then is that the result of all the parameters.
        For example, the sound filter in position III thinned at a high response from KORG out much more and loses its foundation as the old Odyssey MK.III. On both synths is the VCA fader on top position.

        1. that excuse is complete bullocks. The Korg Oddysey is CONSISTENTLY more quiet, across the board and we all know that louder is perceived as better. You should have known better. just look at the audio waveform of your video in Sound Forge and its easy to see the problem. You should have averaged out the volumes so they were on a fair and level playing field. I rode the volume on my speakers the whole video and it brought them much, much closer together in sound.

          all that being said…the original does sound slightly more solid and aggressive. like the amp envelope is slightly faster and the sound is running through a nice transformer. most telling at 7.35 when comparing the saw oscillators. But both are well capable of the same sonic pallet thats for sure. Ill be getting one!

  3. The new Korg sounds (just as) great. Used in a recording I bet no one would be able to tell the difference.

    I wish the testers here would have level matched the output though…

    1. Agree.

      About the only real difference is in the output volume.

      Maybe the Korg Arp VCA is just a little lower at the top end?

  4. sounds good enough to me…has a valid warranty…midi…it’s smaller and i hope it lasts as long as the original has. well done Korg.

  5. Ettlich’s description of the differences he hears is really spot on. I listened carefully for something to disagree with, but it nails it. The new one has a bit more high end, the old one a bit more grunge and dirt, and a little bit fatter. Perhaps the oscillators on the old one don’t track each other as well due to component age, but it does sound a little bit fatter because of that. Presumably though as the new one ages out it will also become more grungy.

    Personally I like the higher end and I also like the fat. Overall I am convinced though that the new one is a worthy copy of the old and will be picking one up.

  6. I’m surprised at how different they sound. The volume difference aside, the Korg sounds much more behaved than the Arp. That’s probably what they were supposed to sound like with tight tolerance components. I think if I’d ever buy a Korg Odyssey I’d immediately recap it to get some more crazy inside.

      1. Luck has nothing to do with it. Surface-mount is nothing to be afraid of, not with the size parts they’d be using in this (and did use on the MS-20 mini). You just need the right skills and tools, which is also true of through-hole.

        In this case, though, if I wanted to mess with it I’d start by playing with the tweakable calibration pots before I started changing out caps.

  7. definite similarities in terms of overall tonal characteristics (as expected). the ’78 seems to have a bit more body in the low end, and the original filters sound a bit more liquid to my ears. not unexpected mind you. either way, quite surprised by the overall similarities, well done korg!

  8. Clearly Korg has nailed getting the ‘Odyssey’ sound.

    Differences in volume and character are due to the fact that the new Odyssey is a ‘best of’ design, with elements from each of the three main Odyssey designs; the fact that part variations and aging do affect the sound of older synths; and the fact that they are using new components for controls like the sliders.

    There’s no doubt that the new Korg Odyssey is a more powerful synth – with the addition of the three filter options and MIDI.

    Getting rid of the original’s over-extending keys corrects a major flaw of the original, too. The old keys stuck out about an inch and a half, which is insane for gigging musicians.

    There’s also no doubt that the original ARP is archaically huge, give the state of today’s electronics.

    The wrench for me is the 86% keyboard. If the keyboard was full-size, there’d be no doubt that this was the best Odyssey ever. With the 86% keys, I think a lot of people are going to hold out until they get some hands on time with this to see if the reduced keys are an acceptable compromise or not.

  9. If you do a reissue, you go all the way, full stop.
    Korg have NOT gone all the way.
    Grave missed opportunity.
    I would have paid double if they’d at least made it 1:1 scale.
    That looks at least a third of the size smaller.
    Someone either miscalculated the dimensions or Korg’s being dishonest.
    Sound is okay, but the old one has more bite, snap and balls, so again, flop of the year.

    1. Kong says it’s 86% and that’s about right, at least for the width and depth:

      New Odyssey: 19.76″ W x 14.96″ D x 4.72″ H
      Old Odyssey: 24 1/4″ W x 17 1/4″ D (the keys extend about an inch and a half) x 4 1/2″ H

      Take it from someone that performs live and that’s used an Odyssey – it would be insanely stupid to make the Odyssey case full size (the keys are a different thing!)

      The original Odyssey is huge, like a Pro One, and if you did that with the reissue, it would just be a big box of air.

      Look at how compact a MicroBrute is. There’s no reason that the electronics for an Odyssey should take up any more space than a MicroBrute. The only reason it needs to be bigger is to provide the user interface of the old-school Odyssey.

      So, with a full-scale reissue, you’d just be paying a bunch of extra money to: A) pretend you have an old-school Odyssey; and B) to carry around a big box full of air.

      Vanity or insanity, it’s hard to say.

      I have to agree with AnalOG, too, on the keys on the old Odyssey. They stuck out about an inch and a half from the keyboard, so it’s not uncommon to see Odysseys with a couple of chunks missing from the keys!

      I haven’t heard anybody complain about the call Korg made on that one, yet, but somewhere there’s probably a purist that’s freaking out that the Korg keys won’t break as authentically as the originals!

        1. “I’d pay more for the air and full size keys.”

          If that was true, you’d be playing the Odyssey you bought on ebay, not complaining constantly here in every thread with multiple comments saying the same thing.

          We get it, you don’t want to buy one of these. There’s no crime in that. But why post the same comment over and over?

          If you really want an Odyssey with full size keys and are willing to pay more for that, there’s lots of guys that will sell you one. So go, buy it and enjoy it. Constantly complaining about this issue accomplishes nothing.

  10. To my ears, they both sound awesome. The Korg model really shines on some of the patches when you want a more present high end and defined bass, while the original ARP oozes a sense of “uncanny hugeness” and shines where you want that vintage “warmth”(sorry, could´t help myself).

    For my money, I´ll live with the Korg.

  11. I guess it’s not a normative test for the reasons several have already given, but to my ears the original Odyssey sounds more raw, more aggressive in a way I absolutely love — especially the ring mod and hard sync. NOT that I’m unhappy with the sound of the new one; it’s a subtle difference and I think Korg should pat themselves on the back.

    1. i agree Xander there is an aggressiveness in the original thats missing in the Korg. part of it sounds to me like the VCA envelope doesnt sound as fast/snappy on the attack. it just sounds a little smoother/polite in the Korg version. i wander if there might be a mod to adjust this and make the new Korg snappier like the original. would be nice….we will see after it lands

  12. If you want the big keys, just plug in a midi controller. Plenty of outboard gear that will give you the grit of an original. If people are complaining about size/weight then obv they’ve never owned played or gigged with one seriously.

    As with any reissue, there are differences and I think that it’s really impractical nitpicking and frankly snobbishness of the modern vintage gear collecting community (note I say “collectors” not musicians.)

    If the differences are so “great” to you, then man up and buy a vintage instead of commenting and complaining about reissues- for 90% of musicians this is a welcome, awesome addition and any shortcomings are easily worked around.

  13. This has the same key bed as the MS-20 mini. Have you played the MS-20 mini? Those tiny keys are hilarious looking. The thing looks like a toy.

    You know how the Baby Looney Toons characters are smaller versions of the classic Looney Toons characters and how Baby Looney Toons aren’t really Looney Toons even though they try to make them Looney Toons and call them that?
    That’s how it feels to play these mini key versions of classic synths, like they’re trying to convince you that Baby Looney Toons are Looney Toons.

    1. dude get a master keyboard n stop plz. hammeraction 88 keys. then post your virtuoso playing that can only be done on your full sized keys. the community will be pleased.

  14. Like any of these A/B tests, you should minimize your browser and not watch the video while the audio plays. If you at any point think, “that sounds terrible”, pause and see which one it is. But to my ears, they are both wonderful boxes.

  15. You have to be depth to say they sound the same.. korg sound like a vsti and the original like pure organic analog stuff.

    how can people say they sound the same wow..

    1. Sounds like a VSTi? Worst comment ever. It sounds like a fully analogue synth because that’s what it is. And just as a point – I played an original side-by-side with a KARP recently, and everyone in the room agreed that the KARP had a slightly fuller bottom end. This is likely due to component age changing character, but it proves that there isn’t just ONE SOUND that an Odyssey sounds like, and the KARP is perfectly within sounding like an ARP

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