Octave Electronics Inc.

Cat SRM (model 1853)

Updated: 2004-02-19

A couple of years ago, when I not only had the interest but also some money to buy the stuff I wanted I read everywhere about the ARP Odyssey being a classic. OK, I thought, but does it have to be that UGLY??? Now I know there's the white faced Odyssey too, but I still hate the appearance of the other two versions. At the same time I read everywhere about the Octave Cat being a copy of the Odyssey and that Octave Electronics got sued over the design or something like that. This made me curious what the Cat was like. I mean, it looks about 100 times better and is often a lot cheaper!

I studied the splendid book(s) "A-Z analogue synthesisers" by Peter Forrest and learned about the different incarnations. There happens to be three of the Cat as well though this is coincidental. Cat was the first, Cat SRM the second and Cat SRM II the last. Mine is an SRM and the SRM stands for "Series Revision Model" though I like Peter proposal "Serves'em Right the Muthas!" better! ;) 

When the opportunity arose I got myself a Cat SRM and my unit is semi-famous since it used to belong to the "Museum of Synthesizer Technology". Don't know of the history before that though... I have just tested an Odyssey briefly but I must say that the Cat has won itself a faithful master. The only thing that's scary is the unreliable resonance. Great sonic experience but hell in a pair of headphones! And it's not much like an Odyssey either, it's more like a Moog on speed or something like that.

The interfacing possibilities are great on the SRM's with cv-control over filter, one vco separately and the usual cv/gate along with audio in and a foot switch possibility to turn glide on and off. There is a switch to turn this monosynth into duo mode, but then you get one oscillator (+ sub dito) on each voice and the keyboard is certainly not the best.

The oscillator section is very flexible with numerous possibilities and advanced combination of waveforms unlike the Odyssey. It's very disturbing to find the envelopes in the top left corner. The little control section contains the crappiest pitch bend control known to man. It isn't even center-sprung. 

The end cheeks are made of real wood and are thick and sturdy. The metal chassis is made in one piece which guarantees a synth that doesn't fall into pieces when gigged around. Bottom however is fake wood and weak indeed. Nice sticker eh? ;)

Inside there are nice SSM2040 for the filter and discreet oscillators. Best of two worlds so to speak... There's no doubt which serial number mine has, it's written everywhere and here too. On the little sticker on the back it's hardly no longer readable. It has one of the ugliest PSUs I've seen this far though I guess the screening is a good idea.

It's easy to access the soldering side of the board from the bottom, but if you want to reach the components it gets messier. And I still have to find out if this is a mod or a SRM-upgrade/fix.

The Cat entered the scene in 1976 and the last unit left the factory in 1981. I think the first SRM version came in 1978 or 1979. 

Wicked waveform mixer, daddy!

Octave Electronics Cat SRM specifications;

Keyboard  37 keys, 3 octaves
Oscillators 2, simultainous outputs for suboscillator, sawtooth, triangle, pulsewidth on one and suboscillator, square and saw on the second.
Filter Lowpass (24 dB) and vicious indeed!
Envelopes one ADSR and one AD
LFO 1, with outputs for sine, squarewave and sample and hold.
Noise white
Connections audio in, glide switch in, vco1 in, vcf in, cv in/out (stereo socket), gate in/out (stereo socket), high and low out.
Housing Wood and steel.
Dimensions 612 x 496 x 148 mm
Weight approx. 9,5 kg
Released 1978
Quantity produced
approx. ? (cannot even guess, a couple of thousand maybe?)
Pros Sonic mayhem, good-looking, sturdy, good interfacing possibilities. 
Cons Crappy keyboard, a bit unreliable as far as tuning stability (at least mine) and filter goes, bad reputation because of the Odyssey copy mess...
Price? (bargain,
fair, horrible)
$400, 800, 1200

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