Last night (for those of us in Europe), many thousands of synth fans stayed up late to watch the highly anticipated launch of the new ARP Odyssey from Korg. Broadcast live on YouTube, we waited until kick off time (11pm GMT) and were promptly delayed by 30 minutes, but we didn’t seem to mind too much, such was our excitement.
Finally, a suited guy came on stage and began rattling off a whole bunch of marketing spiel, quoting stuff from his iPhone and generally being rather annoying. Again, it was bearable. On stage we could see multiple Odysseys and a few Kronos keyboards, something that was also being launched at the event. However, the “suit” proceeded to (poorly) present a range of slides about a whole bunch of little things that Korg were also announcing (tuners, iOS apps, valves, etc). So when the “suit” called upon the “product guy”, we thought things were about to kick off.
No, the “product guy” proceeded to enthuse about the Kronos and, bizarrely, started demonstrating it with one hand (the other was holding his microphone, even though there was a mic stand at the keyboard he was playing) and waxing lyrical about Korg’s workstation legacy. However, all of his playing around was unseen because Korg had not thought it might be useful to see what someone is doing with a synth and mount an overhead cam to capture the stuff this guy was talking about.
“Product guy” finally gave way to a professional player, and it was no surprise that perennial new product endorsee, Jordan Rudess, took to the stage. Now, I fully appreciate Jordan’s talent, pedigree and history, but could Korg not think of anyone else? I mean, it’s a running joke in the industry that Rudess endorses pretty much anything. He attends the opening of an envelope! But here we were, and so Mr Rudess, who also had to deal with a handheld mic and poorly positioned stand, proceeded to demo the Kronos, getting all excited about the touch screen and “showing” us how you could raise the lid on a grand piano by simply dragging it on the screen, except we couldn’t see this as there was no camera positioned to pick this up. He then performed two pieces, most of which were pre-programmed into the unit and had Jordan noodling, albeit impressively, on top.
Next up was some Swedish dude from a band called Dirty Loops (nope, I’ve not heard of them either) who flicked through a few presets, smiled (A LOT), said, ‘um, er’ (A LOT) and then sang a bit.
After this, we all sat up, ready for the Odyssey. However, after a bit more marketing bollocks, we had two of Korg’s engineers take to the stage. Now, to give credit where credit is due, these guys were probably the most interesting part of the whole affair, telling us of their devotion and passion for the instrument and some good, interesting details, such as the fact that the casing is made by the same company who made the original casing. Oh, and everything, in typical Japanese fashion, is 14% smaller.
Then Korg wheeled out David Friend, who used to be President of ARP, who proceeded to reminisce about the good ol’ days, show some slides of him or his wife with famous people and then played a selection of clips of his favourite songs to use an ARP synth, ending on “his favourite”, Baba O’Reily by The Who which, to my knowledge, didn’t feature an ARP synth anywhere, but DID feature a Lowery Organ and its Marimba Repeat feature for that distinctive arpeggio that permeates the entire track. What I’m sure David meant to play was “Won’t Get Fooled Again” which features the same Lowery Organ but played through an ARP 2500 with its Sample & Hold providing the gated effect and its LFO the filter sweep.
So, I’m guessing, at this point you are getting a bit frustrated and wishing I’d hurry the fuck up and tell you about the Odyssey. Well, that’s exactly how we all felt last night, struggling to keep our eyes open. But finally, after yet more hyperbole from the “suit”, we got Cory Henry on stage and we held our breath.
Good job we exhaled soon, because Cory promptly ventured off into some jazz-type keyboard wankery, mainly on a Kronos, with a few embellishments from an Odyssey atop of it. Just a single patch, no messing around, no walkthrough, just some jazzy stuff and then, it was all over.
Yup, we sat through two hours or more to hear 5 minutes of one patch setting.
Not even the promo video gives us a clue as to how good or bad this thing sounds. It’s almost as if it isn’t ready or, worse still, actually any good…
As I write this, I am feeling angry again, just as I did at 01:00 this morning. So, I’m going to stop before I blow another fuse. I’d post a link to the video but I really wouldn’t want to subject you to it. Anyway, you’re bright people, you can find it.
Suffice to say, I am FAR from alone in feeling like this, and it was all compounded this morning when I learned that the synth will cost just shy of £1000. Now, consider that GForce Software have just launched their Oddity2, a full recreation of all versions of the hardware with so much more to boot, and it costs about a tenth of the (K)ARP? I’m sorry, but tactile features or not, I’m sticking with my Oddity2, a review of which is forthcoming very soon.
Korg, you dropped the ball on one of the most hotly anticipated product launches in recent history. Whoever was behind that ought to be in line at the Job Centre this morning. I’m sure the product is lovely, but we have no idea because you failed to show us.
You’re better than this, Korg. WAY better. C’mon!!!
And if you want someone to do your product launches infinitely better, just drop me an email. I’ll happily do it.