I picked up an old Arp Odyssey recently.
It was one of those snap eBay purchases – a synth listed just moments before with a Buy-It-Now price that seemed unusually low. I’ve made a lot of those types of purchases in the last couple years. It all started with an Oberheim OB-1 that I got for $300 (plus the seller wound up throwing in a semi-functional SH-101 for free). I’m not a gambling man (or at least casinos and lottery tickets don’t really phase me), but the thrill of that split-moment decision became a little addictive.
I began watching eBay listings in most of my spare moments. I bookmarked the page of newly-listed analog synths and made a habit of routinely checking it. I’d check in the grocery aisle, on the L, at a stop light, or during breakfast. Checking at a rate of about a dozen times a day, a good deal seemed to show up every two to three months. Sometimes I was a little trigger-happy and wound up with a purchase I wished I could take back. But once I got a TB-303 for $150. That was certainly the high point, heartily nudging out the OB-1 snag from its gloried throne. I’ve bought two Minimoogs, a Matrix 12, an AKG C414, a Roland RS-09, a TR-808 and probably a few other odds-and-ends using the same technique.
Sometimes the items are in pretty-much perfect shape (like the 303 or 808). But most of the time, there’s a lot of repair work needed. The two Minimoogs required re-bushing the keyboard, heavy cleaning, some moderate electronics repair work and, for one of them, a new wooden case. The OB-1 had some filter issues but, more alarmingly, actually had a piece of the case sawn off. I ultimately had to find a local welder who specialized in aluminum welding. The Odyssey falls into this later category of synths. It’s in sad shape. Like the Minimoogs, the uneven keys are a tell-tale sign of needing new rubber bushings. A couple of the sliders are snapped off. The case seems to be missing all but one lonely screw. I believe it powers on but I think the seller claimed that it “makes funny sounds”. For an analog synth, that could mean anything from “totally broken” to “works like usual”. For the price, it’s probably still worth all the work. But lately, repairing broken down gear feels like all I do anymore.
This blog is actually a nice illustration of how I feel at the moment. I started it out in that great blog tradition of just wanting to meander about the subject and share what I’ve been up to. I thought I’d perhaps post semi-completed songs or talk about what excites me about certain pieces of music. Instead, the blog has veered deeply into the subject of my latest gear acquisition, and how I’m in the midst of repairing it.
So I’m trying to take a step back from repairing synths. And more broadly, from buying synths. And perhaps even getting rid of some synths. I suppose that calling the Odyssey “the last project” was a bit melodramatic. I still have a number of items that I intend to fix up (I’m looking at you, Lexicon Prime Time). But I’m trying really hard to stop this behavior of gear acquisition. At least for a little while.