In celebration of our sister magazine Classic Pop running an 80s Synth Pop Special and the news of a new ARP Odyssey coming out later this year, we’ve decided to round up the ten synths (and two samplers) that made 80s synth pop.
Like the Prophet 5, the Odyssey came in three revisions, increasing in reliability with each one. Each version was designated several different model numbers – the Mk2, for example, comprised five different models, the first of which is arguably the most sought-after. The Odyssey was released as a cut-down, simpler and cheaper ARP 2600 and as such it won a huge number of fans. In fact, over the years this two-oscillator analogue synth has reached legendary status, so the news that Korg is remaking it had many a middle-aged geek – well, me, anyway – going weak at the knees…
To buy: More common than other synths but you are looking at anything between £1,900 and £2,700 to snap one up.
Selected 80s synth users: Ultravox, Gary Numan, Tangerine Dream, John Foxx, Vangelis
Regarded by many as one of the finest analogue synths ever produced, the 2600 semi-modular was also seen by others as a bit complicated to use. So, look down its list of users and you’ll find a small but experienced bunch of some of the biggest pioneers in synth music, although not necessarily synth pop music (although Vince Clarke arguably IS synth pop). There are several models, which all got progressively more reliable but less great in terms of their sound quality, so like others here it’s a case of the best-sounding being the rarest.
To buy: You’re having a laugh! As rare as unicorns and rumoured to fetch over £10k when they do show up.
Selected users: Brian Eno, David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Jean Michel Jarre, Kraftwerk, Ultravox, Vince Clarke
Roland Juno 106
We could quite easily have gone for the 60, but this has the same sound engine plus added MIDI and patch memories. It has six voices of polyphony and a very straightforward interface, mixing up slider controls from the analogue past and slightly ‘digital-style’ buttons from the future. It’s therefore very easy to use and won fans from not only the synth pop wave of the 80s, but also the next wave of electronic dance music from the 90s.
To buy: You’re looking at close to £500 for a good-condition one.
Selected users: The Blue Nile, Covenant, Pet Shop Boys, a-ha, Depeche Mode, Vangelis, Erasure