The ARP 2600 is a 1970's semi-modular system with a fixed selection of basic synthesizer modules internally pre-wired - a feature generally unheard of at that time. The 2600 was ARP's answer to the modular system, creating a more compact, more stable and more intuitive synthesizer.
Originally intended to be an “educational instrument” – hence the clear layout, the graphics on the front panel and the self-sufficient concept (with loudspeakers and spring reverb) - the instrument’s target group was “schools” and “synthesizer beginners”. However, their simple design, educated choice of built-in modules and portability soon made the instrument popular with users such as Edgar Winter, Pete Townshend, Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock.
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, as well as additional features such as an envelope follower, ring modulator, noise generator, LFO with sample and hold, built-in spring reverb and a pre-amplifier with stereo speakers.
Produced from 1971 to 1980, the 2600 has undergone several revisions comprising four model generations:
Model 2600 also known as the "Blue Marvin", named after Marvin Cohen, ARP's CFO at the time, was hand built in a bright blue aluminum case with a funky and fragile wood and metal enclosure. Approximately 25 of these original units were ever made.
Model 2600C or "Gray Meanie" was produced mid-1971, this time under factory conditions. The name comes from the replacement of the original blue face plate with a gray version. The unit also included an updated keyboard, model 3604C.
Model 2600P brought along the suitcase-style enclosure, more stable VCO chips and a new duo-phonic keyboard with LFO, model 3620.
Model 2601 featured the bold new orange-on-black design, a revised suitcase and the newly-designed filter - model 4072 - which is considered inferior to the previous ladder-filter design.
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 Follower
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
Date Produced - 1971 - 1980
The Gear Rack