Zoë Blade's notebook


Not to be confused with using a 2600 Hz tone to make illegal free phone calls in the twentiety century United States; nor 2600: The Hacker Quarterly, the hacker magazine named after this technique; nor the VCS gaming console by Atari.

2600 tech specs

The 2600 was a semi-modular synthesiser made — and constantly revised — by ARP throughout the 1970s.

It was released shortly after EMS's VCS3, making it one of the first semi-modular synthesisers ever made. It's also one of the first synthesisers to sport sliders instead of knobs.[1]

It's quite possibly the first semi-modular synth to have its sockets internally normalled to a sensible patch, so that musicians favouring immediacy can just turn it on and start jamming out, while sound designers favouring versatility can still override these internal connections to create weird and wonderful oddities — the best of both worlds.

After an early blue version lasting less than a hundred units in the early 1970s, the 2600 was re-released in grey. In the late 1970s, as part of ARP's overall rehauled design aesthetic, it was redesigned in black and red. This colour sceheme lasted as long as the company, until the early 1980s. The grey version's therefore the most common. Under the hood, however, the black version received an update, and the grey one underwent several changes, chiefly replacing the filter.

The 2600 originally featured a clone of Moog's stellar lowpass filter until Moog noticed,[4] spurring them to replace it shortly before the changeover to the black version with red trimmings.


I still use the 2600 on occasions because there's nothing to replace it, and because I've developed a dialogue with it over the years. I tie it and the sequencers into the rest of the system with a click out from the DMX.

— Steve Roach, 1987[5]

It's tops for bass. It's got a certain sound to it that I just used to hear on things like Stevie Wonder albums. It's all hardwired, but you can patch it up and bypass it. It's much like the Minimoog, but with sliders instead of knobs, stereo speakers, and a built-in spring reverb that clatters every time you walk past it. It's got three oscillators, so it's pretty chunky.

— Graham Massey, 808 State, 1992[6]

This really is a fantastic synth: brilliant sounding, heavy-duty, really sharp envelope. There are actually two kinds of envelope on it, ADSR and AR. Nice spring reverb, two speakers. Who could ask for more?

— Vince Clarke, Erasure, 1993[7]

It processes beautifully, so we shoved drums through it, voice, anything really. It's an instant '60s vibe machine because of the spring in it, and the filter, and the little bits of distortion that you get from it. Very often you can put stuff through it to give you a kind of sepia effect on everything.

— Will Gregory, Goldfrapp, 2003[8]

Notable users


  1. The A-Z of Analogue Synthesisers, Part One: A-M Peter Forrest, 1998, ISBN 0-9524377-2-4, pp. 23—26
  2. "2600 manual" ARP, pp. 15—16
  3. "2600-2606 service notes" ARP, p. 2
  4. Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer Trevor Pinch & Frank Trocco, 2002, ISBN 0-674-01617-3, pp. 263—264
  5. "The Sound Art Of Programming" Bob O'Donnell, Music Technology, Sep 1987, pp. 70—72
  6. "Art Of The State" Nigel Humberstone, Sound On Sound, Oct 1992, pp. 30—36
  7. "Vince Clarke's Wall Of Sound" Ian Masterson, Music Technology, Jun 1993, pp. 76—80
  8. "Will Gregory: Recording Black Cherry" Nigel Humberstone, Sound On Sound, Jul 2003
  9. "The New Statesmen" Phil Ward, Music Technology, Feb 1993, pp. 16—23
  10. "Aphex Twin SYROBONKERS! Interview Part 2" Dave Noyze, 2014
  11. "Emotional Impact" Richard Buskin, Sound On Sound, Dec 2001
  12. "How Sound Designer Ben Burtt Made Star Wars' Iconic Sound Effects" Roadtrip Nation, Nov 2019
  13. "Depeche Mode" Steve Howell, Electronics & Music Maker, May 1982, pp. 40—41
  14. "When The Wave Forms" Paul Colbert, One Two Testing, Nov 1982, pp. 72—75
  15. "The Basildon Bond" Will Mowat, Electronic Soundmaker & Computer Music, Apr 1984, pp. 16—19
  16. "Modes of Operation" Paul Tingen, Electronics & Music Maker, Aug 1986, pp. 18—22
  17. "Mode-Al" Jon Lewin, Making Music, Jun 1987, pp. 24—25
  18. "Modus Operandi" Robert L Doerschuk, Sound On Sound, Jul 1993, pp. 36—46
  19. "Vince Clarke" Paul Ireson, Sound On Sound, Dec 1991, pp. 52—56
  20. "In Clarke's Shoes" Phil Ward, Music Technology, Aug 1992, pp. 40—45
  21. "Erasure Head" Ian Masterson, Future Music, Nov 1995, pp. 58—65
  22. "Fad Gadget" Dan Goldstein, Electronics & Music Maker, Apr 1984, pp. 28—31
  23. "How I Programmed Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' Bass on My Tonus ARP 2600" Anthony Marinelli Music, Jan 2023
  24. "How I Programmed The Bass on Michael Jackson's 'PYT'" Anthony Marinelli Music, May 2023
  25. "The Concerts In China" Mike Beecher, Electronics & Music Maker, Jun 1982, pp. 6—12
  26. "The French Connection" Sam Hearnton, Electronic Soundmaker & Computer Music, Mar 1985, pp. 30—31
  27. "Docklands Rendezvous" David Bradwell, Music Technology, Aug 1988, pp. 26—31
  28. "The Synthetic Realism Of Jean-Michel Jarre" Richard Buskin, Sound On Sound, May 1990, pp. 24—28
  29. "Sound And Vision" Phil Ward, Music Technology, Aug 1993, pp. 50—54
  30. "Landscape Explored" Mike Beecher, Electronics & Music Maker, Nov 1981, pp. 6—10
  31. "Fact File" Electronics & Music Maker, Nov 1982, p. 33
  32. "Fact File" Electronics & Music Maker, Mar 1983, p. 92
  33. "Music of Spheres" Nigel Humberstone, Sound On Sound, Apr 1994
  34. Obsessive Surrealism Parallel Worlds, 2007
  35. Shade Parallel Worlds, 2009
  36. "Parallel Worlds Studio"
  37. "Klaus Schulze" Dennis Emsley, Electronics & Music Maker, Mar 1982, pp. 6—11
  38. "Live Tech Intelligence" Richard Wentk, Future Music, Apr 1993, pp. 17—20
  39. "Underworld: The Making of Everything, Everything" Paul Tingen, Sound On Sound, Dec 2000
  40. "Rick Talks 'Rez'" Underworld, Nov 2020




ARP: 2600

Duophonic synthesisers: 2600 | Polivoks

Semi-modular synthesisers: 2600 | K-2 | MS-20 | System-100 | VCS3