ARP’s 2600 is without a doubt one of the finest analog synthesizers ever produced. For decades, it has been used in all forms of music and in the hands of many famous artists. This unique semi-modular monophonic synthesizer was designed for professionals but was also user-friendly enough to be used as a teaching instrument. The 2600, in fact ARP as a whole, competed directly against the synthesizer systems coming from Moog throughout the 1970’s. The 2600 was ARP’s answer to the modular system, creating a more compact, more stable and more intuitive synthesizer.
The 2600 is an analog beast capable of producing some amazing sounds. Its basic architecture consists of a totally analog signal path with three oscillators, one 24 dB/oct filter, one ADSR envelope, one VCA and one mixer section. Additional features include an envelope follower, ring modulator, noise generator, LFO with sample and hold, built-in spring reverb and a pre-amplifier with stereo speakers. Truly a model of analog subtractive synthesis, the 2600 has plenty of switches and sliders to satisfy all your creative sonic needs. If you have a keen understanding of how the different synth modules operate, with some creative patching and routing you can construct some truly expressive and musical analog sounds. Or you can forego patching the signal and rely entirely on the 2600’s standard internal pre-wiring which routes the signal through a traditional synthesizer signal path.
In its ten year run, no more than an estimated 3,000 units were produced. With those numbers, the 2600 can be considered somewhat rare, although its impact on music has been anything but rare! Famous 2600 users include Orbital, Underworld, 808 State, Meat Beat Manifesto, Hardfloor, Jean Michel Jarre, BT, Joy Division, Depeche Mode, Weather Report, Rebirth, Xpando, Add N To (X), Chemical Brothers, Front Line Assembly, David Holmes, Tony Banks, Rick Wakeman, Pete Townshend, Roger Joseph Manning Jr., Patrick Moraz, Matthew Sweet, the Crystal Method, Stevie Wonder, Vince Clarke, Freddy Fresh, Nine Inch Nails, and Edgar Winter. It was even used at Skywalker Sound to create the vocalizations for R2D2!
Polyphony – Monophonic
Oscillators – 3 VCOs: VCO 1 saw / sqr; VCO 2 saw / sqr / tri / pulse / sine; VCO 3 saw / sqr / pulse (Model 4011 VCO on early 2600s, replaced by Model 4017 VCO, replaced by Model 4027 & 4027-1); White Noise Gen: Continually variable from LF to pink to white (Model 4016 Noise Gen replaced by Model 4022).
LFO – Patchable with tons of modulation sources and shapes; Model 4015 Sample and Hold.
Filter – 24db lowpass, self-oscillating; Digital Ring Modulator: AC or DC coupled. Model 4012 VCF (1970-76). Model 4072 VCF (1976-81).
VCA – Env 1: ADSR Env 2: AR; Linear or Exponential control; Envelope Followe Model 4010 VCA on early 2600s, replaced by Model 4019 VCA.
Effects – Spring Reverb
Keyboard – Remote Keyboard with 49 keys (Models: 3601, 3604, 3620)
Arpeg/Seq – YES via ARP Model 1601 Sequencer
Control – CV/GATE