Likethe ARP Odyssey after which it's modeled, Gmedia Music's Oddity offersa user interface that's a bizarre combination of utilitarian blockdiagram and festive color-coded sliders.
Back in the day, when my older brothers worked to expand my musicalhorizons beyond Cannonball Adderley and Gerry Mulligan, they introducedme to the world of synthesizers and taught me such revered names asMoog and ARP. Now analog synths — virtual ones, anyway —are hot again. Fittingly, the sound of the classic ARP Odyssey livesagain in the Oddity ($129.95), a VST instrument with attitude.
Gmedia Music, in partnership with Ohm Force, designed the Oddity towork in any VST host under Mac OS 8.6 or higher (including OS X) and inWindows 98, 2000, ME, or XP. I tested it in Emagic Logic Platinum underMac OS 9.2 and Windows XP, and it installed easily and functionedperfectly on both platforms.
All Things Old
Oddity successfully captures the sound and spirit of the ARPOdyssey. Improving on its namesake, Oddity's two oscillators can belinked in mono mode or used independently in dual mode. Oddity featuresa 4-pole resonant lowpass filter and a highpass filter. Two envelopegenerators are available — an AR and an ADSR — as is adedicated LFO that can sync to tempo. You can also use VCO 1 as asecond LFO.
Oddity's layout is intelligent and efficient but initially daunting— as is the layout of the original Odyssey. If you'reunaccustomed to the Odyssey's design, you might fiddle with the slidersand switches for several minutes before actually getting a sound out ofit. Fortunately, Oddity has the advantage of presets, so your sonicexplorations will have plenty of good starting points. AlthoughOddity's routing capabilities fall far short of a modular synth's,numerous switches allow you to choose modulation sources for mostparameters.
Are New Again
Several aspects of Oddity's user interface are noteworthy. Theprogram incorporates some innovative mouse techniques, including theability to throw the sliders at various speeds. If you click just aboveor below a slider and then move the mouse away, you initiate a smoothmovement of the slider from its current position to its upper or lowerextreme. The more slowly you move the mouse, the more slowly the slidermoves. It's great for generating smooth controller data, and as aresult, the mouse feels like a better performance controller thanusual. After a few practice tries, I was able to throw a slider at anyspeed, taking from half a second to more than 30 seconds to cover itswhole range.
Here's another cool mouse trick: dragging sideways provides finerresolution. Drag up and down, and your mouse moves the slider as if youwere physically grabbing it. Drag to the left or right, and the controlmoves down or up, respectively, in much smaller increments. EnhancedMouse Mode improves control even more by causing the mouse pointer todisappear until the motion stops, at which point it reappears, stillpointing to the slider. Using my trackball, I had the sensation ofactually grabbing and moving a slider. It is a minor feature, but itmakes adjusting parameters remarkably comfortable, easy, andaccurate.
Unlike its predecessor, Oddity features a fantastic patch-morphingfunction that causes all the controls to glide to their new settingsover a user-defined period of between 0 and 99 seconds when you changePresets. That feature lets you easily automate gradual timbre changesby saving your edits as Presets and then morphing from one to the next.You can even record parameter changes into a sequencer as MIDIcontroller data. All of Oddity's parameters are preassigned tocontroller numbers, making it easier to operate the synth from acontrol surface. You can change those assignments with Oddity'sAuto-bind feature and save them as Presets.
If you're looking for a virtual synth with a sound that can grabyour attention, download a demo of Oddity and take it for a spin. It'sintelligently designed, it's fun to tweak, and it delivers plenty ofbang for the buck.