ARP Omni

Last updated
ARP Omni Mk1.jpg
ARP Omni 1
Manufacturer ARP Instruments, Inc.
Dates Omni 1: 1975 - 1977
Omni 2: 1978 - 1981
Technical specifications
Polyphony 49
Timbrality 2 [1]
Synthesis type Analog Subtractive
Filter 24dB/oct Low Pass
Attenuator Strings: AR
Polysynth & Bass: ADSR
Storage memory None (Preset voicings)
Effects 3-Voice Chorus Phaser
Keyboard 49-key non-weighted organ type
External control Gate & Trigger Out VCF CV, ADSR Release
ARP Omni 2 ARP Omni Mk2.jpg
ARP Omni 2

The ARP Omni was a polyphonic analog synthesizer manufactured by ARP Instruments, Inc.

Analog synthesizer synthesizer that uses analog circuits and analog computer techniques to generate sound electronically

An analogsynthesizer is a synthesizer that uses analog circuits and analog signals to generate sound electronically.

Synthesizer electronic instrument capable of producing a wide range of sounds

A synthesizer or synthesiser is an electronic musical instrument that generates audio signals that may be converted to sound. Synthesizers may imitate traditional musical instruments such as piano, flute, vocals, or natural sounds such as ocean waves; or generate novel electronic timbres. They are often played with a musical keyboard, but they can be controlled via a variety of other devices, including music sequencers, instrument controllers, fingerboards, guitar synthesizers, wind controllers, and electronic drums. Synthesizers without built-in controllers are often called sound modules, and are controlled via USB, MIDI or CV/gate using a controller device, often a MIDI keyboard or other controller.



The Omni featured preset, electronically generated Orchestral ensemble String voices including polyphonic Violin and Viola sounds as well as monophonic Bass and Cello. The instrument also included a monophonic Bass Synthesizer section and a polyphonic Synthesizer section. The Synthesizer section featured a 24 dB/oct Voltage-Controlled Low Pass Filter (LPF); an ADSR envelope generator and a single waveform (triangle) Low Frequency Oscillator (LFO) were both routed to control the VCF Cutoff frequency. A Waveform Enhancement switch allowed selection of a square wave voice waveform vs. the default quasi-sawtooth waveform. The ARP Omni had a unique logo that was painted on to the back face of the unit.

Violin bowed string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths

The violin, also known informally as a fiddle, is a wooden string instrument in the violin family. Most violins have a hollow wooden body. It is the smallest and highest-pitched instrument in the family in regular use. Smaller violin-type instruments exist, including the violino piccolo and the kit violin, but these are virtually unused. The violin typically has four strings tuned in perfect fifths, and is most commonly played by drawing a bow across its strings, though it can also be played by plucking the strings with the fingers (pizzicato) and by striking the strings with the wooden side of the bow.

Viola bowed string instrument

The viola (; Italian pronunciation: [viˈɔːla]) is a string instrument that is bowed or played with varying techniques. It is slightly larger than a violin and has a lower and deeper sound. Since the 18th century, it has been the middle or alto voice of the violin family, between the violin (which is tuned a perfect fifth above) and the cello (which is tuned an octave below). The strings from low to high are typically tuned to C3, G3, D4, and A4.

Double bass Acoustic stringed instrument of the violin family

The double bass, or simply the bass, is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra.


The String and Synthesizer sections of the 49-note Omni utilized the Mostek MK50240 Top Octave generator IC along with divide-down circuitry; as a result, these sections were fully polyphonic, as opposed to subsequent polyphonic synthesizers such as the Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 and Yamaha CS-80 which featured dynamically allocated, limited polyphony of 5- and 8-voices respectively (although these units featured a far more comprehensive and complex synthesis architecture).

The three sections of the Omni - Strings, Synthesizer, and Bass - were all simultaneously available and mixable; the String and Synthesizer sections featured separate audio outputs on the rear panel of the unit which allowed separate amplification and signal processing of these sections for stereo effects. The Omni was single-oscillator in nature; normally, the String section alone was processed through the on board, patented ARP 3-voice Chorus Phaser circuit, producing the lush, moving sound the instrument is most known for. However, the Synthesizer section was processed through this circuit when a front panel "Chorus Phaser" switch was activated, simultaneously summing the String and Synthesizer section outputs and slowing the Chorus speed.

String section section of a larger symphony orchestra composed of string musicians

The string section is composed of bowed instruments belonging to the violin family. It normally consists of first and second violins, violas, cellos, and double basses. It is the most numerous group in the typical Classical orchestra. In discussions of the instrumentation of a musical work, the phrase "the strings" or "and strings" is used to indicate a string section as just defined. An orchestra consisting solely of a string section is called a string orchestra. Smaller string sections are sometimes used in jazz, pop and rock music and in the pit orchestras of musical theatre.

In use

The Omni was very popular in its time, as it was amongst the first available polyphonic electronic keyboard synthesizers. Examples of the capabilities and sounds of the Omni can be heard in recordings such as "Good Times Roll", "Moving in Stereo" and "All Mixed Up" from the American Pop/New Wave band The Cars' eponymous debut album. Cars' keyboardist Greg Hawkes stated in a 1979 Keyboard magazine interview that all keyboard sounds heard on "Moving In Stereo" were produced by the ARP Omni. An example of the Waveform Enhancement mode can be heard as the lead line in the 1982 hit "I Melt With You" by the English band Modern English from their album After The Snow. Journey's keyboardist Jonathan Cain is reported to have used an Omni on the 1981 album Escape in particular on "Don't Stop Believin'".

"Moving in Stereo" is a song by the American rock band the Cars. It appeared on their first album, The Cars, released in 1978. It was co-written by Ric Ocasek and the band's keyboard player Greg Hawkes, and sung by bassist Benjamin Orr.

The Cars American pop-rock band

The Cars were an American rock band that emerged from the new wave scene in the late 1970s. The band originated in Boston in 1976, with singer, rhythm guitarist, and songwriter Ric Ocasek; singer, songwriter and bassist Benjamin Orr; lead guitarist Elliot Easton; keyboardist Greg Hawkes; and drummer David Robinson.

Gregory A. "Greg" Hawkes is an American musician best known as the keyboardist for the rock band The Cars.


ARP Instruments introduced an updated version of the Omni as the Omni-2 in 1978. The Omni-2 utilized an all-steel chassis with ARP's orange and black color scheme and an updated Chorus Phaser circuit which ARP claimed to be superior to that of the original Omni. Additionally, the Omni-2's Bass voice utilized a single oscillator waveform circuit coupled with a preset 2-pole, Low Pass Filter and preset Attack Decay Release (ADR) envelope generator. A Staccato switch controlled the Bass section's envelope contour Decay time vs. the original Omni Bass voice ADSR assignment via its Synthesizer section. Further, the Omni-2 Bass section had its own audio output on the rear panel in addition to the Strings and Synthesizer outputs; separate amplification of these three distinct outputs was referred to in ARP literature at the time as "Tri-phonic". The Omni-2 also featured selectable Single- or Multiple-Trigger keyboard control of envelope contours and re-branded the original Waveform Enhancement panel control switch as "Hollow Waveform".

Notable users


Joy Division English post-punk band

Joy Division were an English rock band formed in Salford in 1976. The band consisted of singer Ian Curtis, guitarist and keyboardist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook and drummer Stephen Morris.

Kansas (band) American progressive rock band

Kansas is an American rock band that became popular in the 1970s initially on album-oriented rock charts and later with hit singles such as "Carry On Wayward Son" and "Dust in the Wind". The band has produced nine gold albums, three multi-platinum albums, one other platinum studio album (Monolith), one platinum live double album, and a million-selling single, "Dust in the Wind". Kansas appeared on the Billboard charts for over 200 weeks throughout the 1970s and 1980s and played to sold-out arenas and stadiums throughout North America, Europe and Japan. "Carry On Wayward Son" was the second-most-played track on US classic rock radio in 1995 and No. 1 in 1997.

Modern English are a new wave/post-punk band from Colchester, Essex, England best known for their songs "I Melt with You", "Hands Across the Sea", and "Ink and Paper". The group disbanded in 1987, only to reform two years later and then disband after another two years (1991). They reunited again in 1995 and have continued in various lineups since that time, with four fifths of the original lineup currently back in the band.


Billy Joel American singer-songwriter and pianist

William Martin Joel is an American singer-songwriter, composer and pianist. Commonly nicknamed the "Piano Man", he has been making music since the 1960s, releasing popular albums throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Jonathan Cain American musician

Jonathan Cain is an American musician, singer, and songwriter best known for his work with The Babys, Journey, and Bad English. Cain was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Journey on April 7, 2017.

Journey (band) American rock band

Journey is an American rock band that formed in San Francisco in 1973, composed of former members of Santana and Frumious Bandersnatch. The band has gone through several phases; its strongest commercial success occurred between 1978 and 1987 when Steve Perry was lead vocalist. During that period, the band released a series of hit songs, including "Don't Stop Believin'" (1981), which in 2009 became the top-selling track in iTunes history among songs not released in the 21st century. Its parent studio album, Escape, the band's eighth and most successful, reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and yielded another of their most popular singles, "Open Arms". Its 1983 follow-up album, Frontiers, was almost as successful in the United States, reaching No. 2 and spawning several successful singles; it broadened the band's appeal in the United Kingdom, where it reached No. 6 on the UK Albums Chart. Journey enjoyed a successful reunion in the mid-1990s and later regrouped with a series of lead singers.

Regional Mexican Bands

Further reading

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