Monday, June 13, 2011

ARP Model 1601 Sequencer "Extra hand" advertisement - Part 1, Contemporary Keyboard 1976

ARP Model 1601 Sequencer 1-page advertisement from Contemporary Keyboard November/December 1976.

I had scanned and uploaded this ad a long time ago, but never got around to blogging about it. Then I recently came across a late model ARP Sequencer, and started doing a bit of research - which led to some confusion... and then more questions... But I'll get to that in a minute or two (depending on how fast you read).

First, a few advertising specifics.

Personally, I love this wonderfully creepy little ad, my eye drawn directly to that image of the hand. And that disproportionately-shaped hand with the embedded Sequencer front panel is only made creepier (creepier = better) by the well-defined veins and tendons. My mind doesn't even register the title and ad-copy at first. But that's okay, because the way the ad-copy is shaped into the outline of the wrist creates a visual line for the eye to follow from the image up to the top of the page and the title. Which then leads into the ad-copy, and then back to the hand. Nice. Full circle.

The advertisement only seems to have ran twice in Contemporary Keyboard - July/August and November/December 1976. But don't let that short run fool you, because even though the Sequencer didn't make an appearance in ARP's earlier "Only the Strong Survive" family of products advertisement that ran in CK in early 1976, it did get a checkbox in the "A few facts about synthesizers" ad that followed it in the spring.

And the Sequencer didn't just pop up in ads either. Readers could also learn a lot more details in a Spec Sheet promo that appeared in the April/May 1976 issue of CK. It provides a wack of historical reference information:
"ARP Sequencer. This 16-station analog sequencer produces either programmed or random sequences, freeing the musician's hands to perform on other keyboards. The unit is fully interfacable with other ARP instruments, and features dual quantizer circuits, which permit chromatically-scaled programming and control over accents, rhythmic patterns, and dynamic changes. The performer has the option of having the unit produce up to sixteen single-voice notes controlled by one quantizer (16/1), or up to eight 2-note chords controlled by two quantizers (8/2). Linear slider pots are supplied, and push-button switches for skip, reset, or start modes are provided. LEDs indicate the note being played, and five gate outputs, pulse-width modulation control, and pedal jacks for external control are supplied. Suggested list price is $795.00. ARP Instruments, 320 Needham St., Newton, MA 02164."
Those details were again seen by readers in the January 1977 issue of CK, when one lucky reader could win an ARP Sequencer in Giveaway #9. The description of the sequencer in the contest is pretty much exactly the same as the Spec Sheet, except for one important piece of historical information. The suggested retail price of the Sequencer was bumped up to $895.00. That's a $100 jump in less than a year.

The Sequencer could also be found in other printed pieces such as this ARP Software and Accessory Catalog from approximately 1977. It even included this ad in the catalog!

Put it altogether and you get about a year of solid ARP Sequencer advertising.

So, as I was writing earlier, I recently ran across a later model ARP Sequencer and decided to do a bit of research to see if it was worth the price of admission. And honestly, at first the research just confused me, although I think I sorted it out in the end.

The first problem is that ARP gave this thing a generic name - "Sequencer".

ARP usually had cool names for its different synthesizers - Odyssey, Axxe, etc., so why not give this thing a cool name as well? Or at least an "official" number like the 2600 had. Most people refer to it as the model 1601, so I've described it as such in the title and blog labels.

But, to make matters worse, much like the Odyssey went through a few different "looks" during its lifetime, so did the Sequencer. And, also like the Odyssey, each "look" had a few different model numbers associated with it.

Unfortunately, the time line for each of the versions and models doesn't seem to be well documented on the Web, and I believe this situation has led to some confusion on some of the most popular synth sites, even for such simple things as production dates. For example, at the time of this writing, Wikipedia and both list a manufacturing date of the Sequencer at 1979.

This 1976 ad, the 1976 Spec Sheet write-up, and other 1976 and 1977 ARP material would disagree.

Well - it was time to sort this all out. I decided to do a bit more in-depth probing, googling, cataloging, and organizing. It is what I do best. And so I did.

But those results will have to wait 'til Thursday. :D

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