Last year I finally bit the bullet (more like a fiscal cannon ball really) and purchased myself a vintage ARP 2600 synthesizer. I’ve wanted one of these machines since I first used one in college. The model I was lucky enough to procure was a late-model orange-and-black version with all the upgrades (filter, reverb tank, etc). It even came with a monstrous case that is literally large enough to hide a body in.
In addition to the gallery below I’ve posted one full size image of the ARP 2660 for those wanting to scrutinize details.
ARP 2600 Synth
ARP 2600 Front
ARP 2600 Oscillators
ARP 2600 Filter EG and Output
ARP 2600 Noise Processors and S&H
ARP 2600 Speaker
ARP 2600 Keyboard Controls
ARP 2600 & Jupiter 8
ARP 2600 Flight Case
What Make the Arp 2600 So Great
Great Sound - Yes, it sounds fantastic. From all those spacey 70s leads and sound effects to innumerable other sonics, you can cook up all manner of timbers. It’s not quite as mutable as my Dot.com, but its 90% as mutable with about 20% of the effort thanks to its extensive pre-wiring. Its filter is particularly juicy and the spring reverb adds a complimentary sheen of grit, hiss, and “sprong”.
Great Ergonomics - I can’t stress this enough. Because so much of the system is prewired the distance between grabbing a few sliders and producing a fun sound is invitingly brief and invariably fun. You sit in front of the thing and in a few minutes you’re creating all sorts of interesting tones. The built-in speakers also go a long way in this regard. No booting up the DAW or turning on the monitoring system. You flick a switch and it’s ready to go. So many manufactures look down on built in speakers but I think they’re a total plus.
Quirky/Bad Ergonomics - A good dash of chaos does wonders for the creative process and the ARP has ‘em in spades. Why does only VCO 2 have a sine wave? Why do the two EG work so differently from each other? Why such disparate pre-wiring choices? Who knows, but these odd design decisions prove quite inspirational. They give the unit character and so often lead you in novel sonic directions.
Great Form Factor – For all its semi-modular goodness it’s surprisingly compact. Everything is in one box and easily reachable. Again, I love my Dot.com but it’s BIG. Even if I tried to recreate an ARP 2600 with a smaller Eurorack system I suspect it’d be quite larger than the ARP when you accounted for all the normalized connections.
I Love the Software Recreations
I know it’s popular to deride soft-synth recreations of classic synths but I like both Arturia’s V2600 and Way Out Ware’s TimewArp 2600. They serve as portable versions of the ARP and have enough unique creative options of their own to engender even more creativity. They also allow me to “save” ARP 2600 patches by recreating them in one of the soft-synths (usually the TimewArp as it closer to the real thing). Later I can listen thru these patches, find one to my liking, and re-patch it on the real unit.