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ARP Instruments

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ARP Instruments logo

ARP Instruments, Inc. was a Lexington, Massachusetts[1] manufacturer of electronic musical instruments, founded by Alan Robert Pearlman[2][a] in 1969. It created a popular and commercially successful range of synthesizers throughout the 1970s before declaring bankruptcy in 1981. The company earned a reputation for producing excellent sounding, innovative instruments and was granted several patents for the technology it developed.



Alan Pearlman was an engineering student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts in 1948 when he foresaw the coming age of electronic music and synthesizers. He later wrote:

"The electronic instrument's value is chiefly as a novelty. With greater attention on the part of the engineer to the needs of the musician, the day may not be too remote when the electronic instrument may take its place ... as a versatile, powerful, and expressive instrument."[3]


ARP 2500

Following 21 years of experience in electronic engineering and entrepreneurship, Pearlman founded the company in 1969 with $100,000 of personal funds and a matching amount from investors, with fellow engineering graduate David Friend on board from the beginning as the co-founder of the company.[4] The company derived its name from Pearlman's initials, and existed briefly as the ARP Instrument Division of Tonus, Inc.[5] [6] Their first instrument, the ARP 2500, was released the following year.[3]


ARP 2600

The ARP 2600 began production in 1971. As an engineer, Pearlman had little understanding of the music industry or its potential audience. He felt the best market for synthesizers would be music departments at schools and universities, and designed the instrument to be easy to use for this reason.[7] David Friend and musician Roger Powell toured the US demonstrating the 2600 to various musicians and dealers, and it quickly became a popular instrument.[8] The first significant user of the 2600 was Edgar Winter, who connected the keyboard controller of the 2600 to the main unit via a long extension cord, allowing him to wear the synth around his neck like a keytar. Stevie Wonder was an early adopter of the 2600, who had the control panel instructions labelled in Braille.[9]

Odyssey (rev.1)

Throughout the 1970s, ARP was the main competitor to Moog Music and eventually surpassed Moog to become the world's leading manufacturer of electronic musical instruments.[10] Performers found that ARP synthesizers were better at staying in tune than Moogs owing to superior oscillator design. The 2500 used a matrix-signal switching system instead of patch cords on a Moog, which led to some performers complaining about crosstalk between signal paths. The 2600 on the other hand, used hardwired ("normaled") signal paths that could be modified with switch settings, or completely overridden using patch cords. [11]

There were two main camps among synthesizer musicians — the Minimoog players and the ARP Odyssey/ARP 2600 players — with most proponents dedicated to their choice, although some players decided to pick and choose between the two for specific effect, as well as many who dabbled with products produced by other manufacturers. Notably, the 2500 was featured in the hit movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind;[12] ARP's Vice President of Engineering, Phillip Dodds, was sent to install the unit on the movie set and was subsequently cast as Jean Claude, the musician who played the now famous 5-note sequence on the huge synthesizer in an attempt to communicate with the alien mothership.[13]


The Odyssey was released in 1972. It was designed as a cut-down version of the 2600 for touring musicians, competing with the Minimoog, and contained a three-octave keyboard. Later versions featured a pressure-pad operated pitch control system.[14]

The best selling ARP synthesizer was the Omni, released in 1975. It was a fully polyphonic keyboard that used top-octave divide-down oscillators that had been used on electronic organs, and competed with the Polymoog.[14] In 1977, the company peaked financially with $7 million sales.[15] The Quadra was released the following year, and contained a number of synthesizer modules combined and controlled by a microprocessor.[15]


Avatar (top & front)

The demise of ARP Instruments stemmed from financial difficulties following development of the ARP Avatar,[16] a synthesizer module virtually identical to the ARP Odyssey without a keyboard and intended to be played by a solid body electric guitar via a specially-mounted hexaphonic guitar pickup whose signals were then processed through discrete pitch-to-voltage converters.[17]

Although an excellent, groundbreaking instrument by all accounts, the Avatar failed to sell well. ARP Instruments was never able to recoup the research and development costs associated with the Avatar project[18] and after several more attempts to produce successful instruments such as the ARP Quadra, ARP 16-Voice & 4-Voice Pianos, and the ARP Solus, the company finally declared bankruptcy in May 1981.[19]

Chroma Polaris (descendant of Chroma)

During the liquidation process, the company's assets and the rights to the manufacture of the 4-Voice Piano and also the prototype ARP Chroma – the company's most sophisticated instrument design to date – were sold to CBS Musical Instruments for $350,000.[20] The project was completed at CBS R&D, and the renamed Rhodes Chroma was produced from 1982 to late 1983. The instrument has a flexible voice architecture, 16-note polyphony, weighted, wooden keyboard action with 256 velocity levels, a single slider parameter editing system (subsequently implemented on the Yamaha DX7); and the inclusion of a proprietary digital interface system that predated MIDI.[21] It was controlled internally by an Intel 80186 microprocessor.[22]


Rhodes Chroma, Expander, and Apple IIe

In 2015, almost three and a half decades after it closed its doors, the company's second flagship instrument, the ARP Odyssey, was brought back into production by Korg, working in collaboration with David Friend, Alan Pearlman's co-founder at ARP.[4]


  • 1970 – ARP Soloist (small, portable, monophonic preset, aftertouch sensitive synthesizer)
  • 1971 – ARP 2600 (smaller, more portable analog semi-modular synthesizer, pre-patched and patchable with cables)
  • 1972 – ARP Odyssey (pre-patched analog duophonic synthesizer, a truly portable performance instrument, a competitor of the Minimoog)
  • 1972 – ARP Pro Soloist (small, portable, monophonic preset, aftertouch sensitive synthesizer – updated version of Soloist)
Explorer I
String Synthesizer
String Ensemble
Omni (rev.2)
Omni (rev.1)
  • 1975 – ARP Omni (polyphonic string synthesizer with rudimentary polyphonic synthesizer functions)
  • 1975 – ARP Axxe (pre-patched single oscillator analog synthesizer)
  • 1975 – ARP String Synthesizer (a combination of the String Ensemble and the Explorer)
  • 1976 – ARP Sequencer (desktop analog music sequencer)[25][26]
  • 1977 – ARP Pro/DGX (small, portable, monophonic preset, aftertouch sensitive synthesizer – updated version of Pro Soloist)
  • 1977 – ARP Omni 2 (polyphonic string synthesizer with rudimentary polyphonic synthesizer functions – updated version of Omni)
  • 1977 – ARP Avatar (an Odyssey module fitted with a guitar pitch controller)
  • 1978 – ARP Quadra (4 microprocessor-controlled analog synthesizers in one)
  • 1979 – ARP Quartet (polyphonic orchestral synthesizer not manufactured by ARP – just bought in from Siel and rebadged)
  • 1979 – ARP 16-Voice Electronic Piano[27] (model 3363) / ARP 4-Voice Electronic Piano (model 3553)
  • 1980 – ARP Solus (pre-patched analog monophonic synthesizer)
  • 1981 – ARP Chroma (microprocessor controlled analog polyphonic synthesizer – sold to CBS/Rhodes when ARP closed)

Notable users[edit]

Some notable ARP users and endorsers include:

(in alphabetically order of group or family name)


  1. ^ The name of founder Alan Robert Pearlman seems to be sometimes possibly incorrectly described as "Alan Richard Pearlman", as seen as below:
    • "'Alan Richard Pearlman': 4 results". Google Books Search.
    • Eberhard Höhn (1979). Elektronische Musik: Klangfarben, Klangentwicklung, Klangspiele. Hueber-Holzmann. p. 120. ARP: Amerikanischer Synthesizerhersteller, benannt nach dem Begründer Alan Richard PEARLMAN. (German: "ARP: American synthesizer manufacturer, named after founder Alan Richard PEARLMAN.")
  2. ^ Vocalist/keyboardist, Mark Mothersbaugh reported that the instrument broke down in such a way that it created an entirely new sound which would have been otherwise impossible to achieve. The "broken down" Odyssey is apparently featured in the Duty Now for the Future song, "Pink Pussycat".


  1. ^ "The Rise and Fall of ARP". RhodesChroma.com. Retrieved August 11, 2022.
  2. ^ High Fidelity. Vol. 28, no. 1–6. ABC Leisure Magazines. 1978. p. 114. {{cite magazine}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ a b Vail 2000, p. 49.
  4. ^ a b "Korg Announces the development of the ARP Odyssey synthesizer". Korg. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  5. ^ "ARP Instruments, Inc. - People - National Music Center". National Music Center. Retrieved November 5, 2020.
  6. ^ "ARP Synthesizer Patents". J. Donald Tillman. September 2007. Retrieved November 5, 2020.
  7. ^ Vail 2000, p. 124.
  8. ^ Vail 2000, pp. 124–125.
  9. ^ a b Vail 2000, p. 125.
  10. ^ Vail 2000, pp. 50–51.
  11. ^ Vail 2000, p. 50.
  12. ^ "ARP 2500". Sound On Sound. August 1996. Archived from the original on February 6, 2015.
  13. ^ Vail 2000, p. 56.
  14. ^ a b Vail 2000, p. 51.
  15. ^ a b Vail 2000, p. 52.
  16. ^ Vail 2000, p. 53.
  17. ^ Vail, Mark (1993). Vintage Synthesizers. Miller Freeman Books. p. 46. ISBN 0-87930-275-5.
  18. ^ Vail 2000, p. 54.
  19. ^ Vail 2000, pp. 55–56.
  20. ^ Vail 2000, p. 57.
  21. ^ Vail 2000, pp. 186–187.
  22. ^ Vail 2000, p. 187.
  23. ^ Kylee Swenson Gordon, ed. (2012). Electronic Musician Presents the Recording Secrets Behind 50 Great Albums. Backbeat Books. p. 184. ISBN 978-1-476-82136-8.
  24. ^ "ARP Axxe & Little Brother (Retro)". Sound On Sound. May 1996. Archived from the original on June 6, 2015.
  25. ^ "ARP Sequencer". Music Trades. Vol. 124. Music Trades Corporation. May 1976. p. 31. 3 FOR THE SHOW 1. ARP Sequencer The long-awaited ARP live performance sequencer is here. Loaded with elegant features, the sequencer interfaces with the ARP Axxe, Odyssey and 2600 synthesizers. ... MUSIC TRADES. MAY. 1976 31.
  26. ^ Down Beat. Vol. 43. Maher Publications. 1976. p. 3. The new ARP Sequencer adds rich new textures to your music while it frees both hands for playing keyboards. Just patch the ARP Sequencer into an Axxe, ... {{cite magazine}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  27. ^ ARP PIANO (brochure), ARP Instruments, Inc., 1979. (courtesy of Kevin Lightner) seen on: "ARP 16-Voice Electric Piano". Synthmuseum.com.
  28. ^ a b c d e f g "CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE ARP KIND". soundonsound.com. August 1996. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  29. ^ "Korg Oasys: On Tour with Tony Banks and Genesis". dv247.com. Archived from the original on July 10, 2011. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  30. ^ a b "David Bowie – Low (CD, Album)". Discogs. Archived from the original on August 8, 2010. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  31. ^ "Dr Who (How To Remake TV Theme)". youtube.com. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  32. ^ "Vince Clarke Music • Studio". vinceclarkemusic.com. Archived from the original on September 7, 2015. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  33. ^ "Chick Corea – My Spanish Heart (CD, Album)". Discogs. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  34. ^ Keyboard Magazine. March 1977. p. 33. {{cite magazine}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  35. ^ "Deodato - Very Together (Vinyl, LP)". Discogs. Retrieved March 21, 2021.
  36. ^ "Styx – Styx II (Vinyl, LP)". Discogs. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  37. ^ "Captain And Tennille – Love Will Keep Us Together (Vinyl, LP, Album)". Discogs. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  38. ^ Miller, Johnathan (2004). Stripped: The True Story of Depeche Mode. Omnibus Press. pp. 247–248. ISBN 1-84449-415-2.
  39. ^ "Sonic talk to DEVO". youtube.com. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
  40. ^ "George Duke – Guardian Of The Light (Vinyl, LP)". Discogs. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  41. ^ "YouTube – Dave Formula's Custom Prodyssey". youtube.com. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  42. ^ a b "Steve Hillage – Rainbow Dome Musick (CD, Album)". Discogs. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  43. ^ Jackson, Blair (2006). Grateful Dead Gear – The Band's Instruments, Sound Systems, and Recording Sessions, From 1965 to 1995. Backbeat Books. p. 190. ISBN 0-87930-893-1.
  44. ^ a b c d Holmes, Thom (2008). Electronic and Experimental Music: Technology, Music, and Culture. Routledge. p. 247. ISBN 978-0-415-95782-3.
  45. ^ Rideout, Ernie (2008). Keyboard Presents the Best of the 80's. Backbeat. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-87930-930-5.
  46. ^ "Herbie Hancock - Thrust (CD, Album)". Discogs. Archived from the original on September 16, 2010. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  47. ^ "Jean Michel Jarre – Equinoxe (CD, Album)". Discogs. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  48. ^ "Elton John – Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy (Vinyl, LP)". Discogs. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  49. ^ a b "Equipment / The Kraftwerk FAQ – Kraftwerk Frequently Asked Questions". kraftwerkfaq.hu. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  50. ^ "Ekseption – Trinity (Vinyl, LP, Album)". Discogs. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  51. ^ "Kansas (2) – Song For America (CD, Album)". Discogs. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  52. ^ "R.E.M. – New Adventures In Hi-Fi (CD, Album)". Discogs. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  53. ^ "Fleetwood Mac – Heroes Are Hard To Find (Vinyl, LP, Album)". Discogs. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  54. ^ "Gary Numan – Telekon (Vinyl, LP, Album)". Discogs. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  55. ^ "ARP Claims Synthesizers are Source of Jimmy Page's Musical Gifts". Synth Magazine. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014. Retrieved February 18, 2014.
  56. ^ Dann, Jonathan. "Anthony Phillips FAQ". Retrieved December 15, 2012.
  57. ^ Future music, Issues 113–117. Larpress. 2001. p. 104.
  58. ^ Justin Kleinfeld (April 1, 2004). "Skinny Puppy on recording and producing The Greater Wrong of the Right". Electronic Musician Magazine. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  59. ^ "Eliane Radigue – Triptych (CD)". Discogs. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  60. ^ "Klaus Schulze – Picture Music (Vinyl, LP, Album)". Discogs. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  61. ^ "Caravan – For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night (Vinyl, LP, Album)". Discogs. Archived from the original on September 2, 2010. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  62. ^ "In pictures: Todd Terje's Oslo studio". musicradar.com. August 6, 2014. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  63. ^ Borgli, Kristoffer (January 29, 2013). "WHATEVEREST". Retrieved April 11, 2018 – via Vimeo.
  64. ^ "Won't Get Fooled Again". youtube.com. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  65. ^ "Joe Walsh – Barnstorm (Vinyl, LP, Album)". Discogs. Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  66. ^ Baraka, Imamu (1976). "Weather Report". Down Beat Magazine. Vol. 43. p. 46.
  67. ^ "Zawinul Online - Keyboards". zawinulonline.org. Retrieved February 26, 2012.

External links[edit]