OBIT­U­ARY

Alan Robert Pearl­man, de­signer of the fa­mous ARP range of syn­the­sis­ers and Moog’s most fa­mous (and in­fa­mous!) com­peti­tor, has died aged 93.

Australian HIFI - - CONTENTS -

Alan Robert Pearl­man, rocket sci­en­tist, mu­si­cian, au­dio­phile, graphic arts de­vel­oper and mu­si­cal in­stru­ment de­signer has died, aged 93.

ARP (his child­hood nick­name) was, lit­er­ally, a rocket sci­en­tist. Af­ter serv­ing briefly in the US Army and then grad­u­at­ing from the Worces­ter Polytech­nic In­sti­tute in Mas­sachusetts, he started his ca­reer in elec­tron­ics work­ing for NASA, where he was in­volved in de­sign­ing and build­ing in­stru­men­ta­tion am­pli­fiers for the Gemini and Apollo space­craft. He left NASA to co-found (with Roger No­ble) Philbrick Re­searchers and then later founded Nexus Re­search Lab­o­ra­tory, whose pri­mary busi­ness was de­sign­ing and build­ing solid-state op­er­a­tional am­pli­fiers. Both com­pa­nies were sold to Tele­dyne in 1966, which cre­ated Tele­dyne Philbrick Nexus.

Three years later, af­ter hearing Bob Moog’s syn­the­siser, Pearl­man and David Friend es­tab­lished ARP In­stru­ments to man­u­fac­ture syn­the­sis­ers of their own de­sign. This switch to mu­si­cal in­stru­ment pro­duc­tion wasn’t such a stretch for a rocket sci­en­tist, be­cause Pearl­man was a pro­fi­cient pian­ist and his se­nior the­sis at Worces­ter Polytech­nic had been an en­ve­lope fol­lower which could sense the at­tack, volume, sus­tain and de­cay of any note played on an elec­tronic in­stru­ment.

Pearl­man in­tro­duced his first syn­the­siser, the ARP 2002 in 1970. It was fol­lowed then by the ARP 2500 and then the more

suc­cess­ful ARP 2600, as well as a range of other synths in­clud­ing the Soloist, Omni and Quadra.

The early ARP syn­the­sis­ers had the ad­van­tage of us­ing ma­trix switches to in­ter­con­nect the dif­fer­ent syn­the­siser mod­ules, which meant users didn’t have to use patch cords that were om­nipresent on com­pet­i­tive mod­els. How­ever, Pearl­man knew that the switches on the 2500 were noisy, so with the ARP 2600 he re-in­tro­duced patch cords that could be used op­tion­ally, for those users want­ing qui­eter cir­cuitry.

One area where ARP ini­tially started clearly ahead of its com­peti­tors con­cerned pitch sta­bil­ity. Early Moog syn­the­sis­ers were renowned for go­ing out of tune, a prob­lem caused by tem­per­a­ture dif­fer­ences be­tween the dif­fer­ent os­cil­la­tor mod­ules. Pearl­man solved this by putting both os­cil­la­tors on a sin­gle chip, so the tem­per­a­tures were the same. Pearl­man was con­temp­tu­ous of one com­pany’s so­lu­tion, which was to mon­i­tor the tem­per­a­ture of all the mod­ules and use heaters to equalise their tem­per­a­tures. ‘Tem­per­a­ture cor­rec­tion de­vices? Pp­phh!’ he said in a NAMM in­ter­view ( tinyurl.com/AHFARPZ1).

Fa­mous ARP 2600 users in­clude Jean Michel Jarre, Joy Divi­sion, Depeche Mode, Weather Re­port, Xpando, Chem­i­cal Brothers, Rick Wake­man, Pete Town­shend, Ste­vie Won­der, Nine Inch Nails, and Edgar Winter.

De­spite the fame of the 2600 it was so ex­pen­sive that very few were ever built (in­dus­try es­ti­mates put to­tal pro­duc­tion at fewer than 3,000). ARP’s best-sell­ing syn­the­siser was its Odyssey, in­tro­duced in 1972 and cre­ated specif­i­cally to com­pete with the low-priced MiniMoog. The Odyssey went through mul­ti­ple in­car­na­tions cul­mi­nat­ing in the MkIII in 1981, released just prior to ARP’s bank­ruptcy, but in 2015, Korg re-is­sued its own ver­sion of the Odyssey, which is cur­rently avail­able as an in­stru­ment, as soft­ware and, most fa­mously, as an iOS app.

De­spite his some­times-ac­ri­mo­nious com­mer­cial re­la­tions with Robert Moog, who claimed that Pearl­man had stolen the de­sign for his volt­age-con­trolled fil­ter, (ac­cord­ing to a story told in the book ‘Ana­log Days, The In­ven­tion and Im­pact of the Moog Syn­the­sizer’, by Trevor Pinch) Pearl­man was happy to give Moog credit where it was due, even to the point of pub­li­cally ad­mit­ting that Moog’s syn­the­sis­ers had ‘more in­ter­est­ing sounds’ than his own. Pearl­man reg­is­tered more than two dozen patents con­cerned with sound syn­the­sis, a list of which can be found at www.tinyurl. com/AHF-ARPZ2

Iron­i­cally, at the time of ARP’s bank­ruptcy in 1981, it was sit­ting on a gold­mine in the shape of a yet-un­re­leased prod­uct, the Chroma, a mi­cro­pro­ces­sor-op­er­ated touch-sen­si­tive poly­phonic syn­the­siser. As a part of the bank­ruptcy set­tle­ment, CBS Mu­si­cal In­stru­ments ac­quired the man­u­fac­tur­ing rights for the Chroma and sold more than $3 mil­lion worth of them in the fol­low­ing 12 months.

Fol­low­ing ARP’s 1981 bank­ruptcy, Pearl­man moved into the field of com­puter graph­ics, es­tab­lish­ing a com­pany called Selva Sys­tems, and also col­lab­o­rated with Ray Kurzweil, help­ing de­velop syn­the­sis­ers for his com­pany Kurzweil Mu­sic Sys­tems. He also col­lab­o­rated with Korg on the de­vel­op­ment of the Korg Odyssey and with Way Out Ware on the de­vel­op­ment of its Time­warp 2600 em­u­la­tor.

In a man­ner be­fit­ting Pearl­man’s ini­tial ca­reer as a rocket sci­en­tist, an ARP 2600 was used to help cre­ate the vo­cal­iza­tions for R2D2, and an ARP Odyssey to help cre­ate Peter How­ell’s up­date of Roy Grainger’s orig­i­nal theme for Doc­tor Who.

One area where ARP ini­tially started clearly ahead of its com­peti­tors con­cerned pitch sta­bil­ity.

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