Behringer’s version of the classic ARP 2600 could be the one you’ve been waiting for.
What a time to be alive! Until early 2020, if you wanted an ARP 2600 you had to be prepared to pay eye‑watering amounts on the secondhand market. But in the last two years, there have been brand‑new 2600s available for all budgets. Korg were first out of the gate with the ARP 2600 FS (full‑sized) back in January 2020 (a limited edition that has now sold out). Behringer were next with their 2600 — on review here — and Korg subsequently announced a miniature version too, the ARP 2600 M. Considering the ARP 2600 hasn’t been available to buy for 40 years, the 2600 is like the proverbial bus — you wait for ages, then three come along at once.
The ARP 2600 is a 50‑year‑old design classic. It was the first semi‑modular synthesizer playable without a single patch cable. The internal connections needed for a fully functioning synth voice are pre‑wired but can be re‑routed with a patch cable. Its logical panel layout and use of faders instead of knobs made it popular with both beginners and experienced synthesists. ARP also made the shrewd marketing move of promoting it heavily to educational establishments. Lastly, the ARP 2600 was relatively affordable compared to the Moog Modular, Buchla 200 and ARP 2500 that preceded it.
The 2600 design offers the classic cornerstones of a good semi‑modular synthesizer: three oscillators with low‑frequency modes, noise generator, low‑pass resonant filter, five‑channel mixer, ring modulator, two envelopes, envelope follower, VCA, preamplifier, spring reverb and a host of CV and audio processing tools like inverter, lag, switch and DC sources. The 2600 is a classic because it offers enough analogue tools to keep the most prolific sound designer busy for decades.
Behringer’s recreation of the 2600 — which I’ll refer to as the B2600 from here on — sticks mostly to the original design. The basic design and layout are instantly recognisable. With that in mind, this review will focus mostly on what is different, without going over many of the details that we already know.
The B2600 comes in three flavours: the original ‘Christmas Tree’ orange and black design (on review here), the Grey Meanie and the Blue Marvin. These latter two are special editions that follow the colour schemes of the original Grey Meanie and Blue Marvin 2600s made back in 1971. Behringer say these models contain upgraded components to make them sound better, although they provide no further details. The more important difference is that the special editions have real spring‑reverb tanks, whereas the black and orange version uses a digital reverb effect. I suspect most buyers will want the authenticity of a real spring reverb but perhaps if you’re gigging or looking for a lower noise floor, the digital version might be a good thing.
An original 2600 is around 33 inches wide. The B2600 is rackmountable (8U), meaning its width is 19 inches. To achieve this, everything has been squeezed in and some of the synthesis modules like the preamp, envelope follower and ring modulator have been relocated to make better use of space. Another real‑estate saver is the lack of speakers, which made sense in the original ’70s design but I doubt many people will miss them here. Considering the B2600 is two thirds the size of the original, it doesn’t feel cramped. Behringer have even squeezed in more faders — there are 63 versus 57 on the original — to accommodate new features....