Wednesday, February 8th, 2023 02:57 pm
"ARP's founder, Alan R. Pearlman, recognized the importance of teaching
musicians how to use the technology, so he designed a new instrument with a
fixed selection of basic synthesizer functions. This instrument, dubbed the Model
2600, was an integrated system with the signal generating and processing
functions in one box and the keyboard in another. The functionality was borrowed
from the original ARP modules [from the 2500], but instead of using matrix
switches (which were expensive and bulky) for patching, Pearlman devised a
system of factory-installed 'normal' connections between the modules. These
connections could be added to or replaced by patch cords. Thus, a beginning
user could work the system relatively simply. When the user desired to develop
more complex sounds, patch cords could be added as needed.
"Pearlman believed that schools with small or medium-sized music departments
were the main market for this new instrument. To further enhance the 2600's
educational value, Pearlman put the graphics on the console's front panel so that
the signal paths were easy to follow, and used sliders and slide switches so that
the control and switch settings were easy to see. The first production run had
blue panels, painted sheet-metal cases, and polished wood handles. 'That's not
what I wanted,' Pealman recalls. 'I wanted the instrument to be housed in a
rugged case that would travel safely. But those were the days when nobody
listened to you if you were over 30, so the young designer had his way.'
Musicians and retailers however quickly shot down the 'Blue Marvin' or 'Blue
Meanie' design in favor of the vinyl-covered luggage-style case with the dark gray
panel that remained in production from 1971 to 1981."
"Packaged in an oblong case with a lid that detatches to reveal a telephone
exhange of sliders, switches, and patchbays, this is a three-oscillator analog
synthesizer design complete with effects processing and amplification."
"There are three voltage-controlled oscillators, a four-pole lowpass resonant
VCF, a VCA, two envelope generators, a ring modulator, a sample-and-hold
circuit, a white/pink noise generator, a mic preamp input, a spring reverb and
unique (and uniquely confusing) voltage processor controls. Most of these
modules can be manally cross-patched for an unending display of analog
synthesis sounds; each has an input and an output, making the 2600 an excelent
in instrument on which to learn what each component part of a subtractive-
synthesis instrument actually does.
"Like all good teachers, the 2600 is also a lot of fun. This is a hands-on machine.
It is quite possible to simply stand in front of it and maneuver sliders until you
hear something wonderful, but the chance to process external signals throws the
sonic possibilities wide open."
"The 2600 changed quite a lot externally during its long production run, from the
original "Blue Meanies" (so called due to their distinctive blue panel and metal
casing) [see below] to more subdued, gray and black ["Gray Meany"] models (of
which only some 10 were ever made, apparently, during 1972) to the final units,
blessed with rather cheap-looking orange markings. According to ex-ARP
personel, the later models were considerably better-made; their modified internal
designs at least allowed them to be repaired, something that the epoxy-
entombed circuits of the early models singularly failed to offer. But then there's
that trade-off with originality, rarity and sound.
"Perhaps the most important ARP-implemented change came in 1975, when a
modification from fellow synth designer, Tom Oberheim (then only a peripherals
designer actually), was adopted on production models. The mod not only
provided a form of duophony (one oscillator serving the low note another the
high) but also a delayed vibrato feature and a choice of single/multiple triggering.
"Another facinating development in the 2600's history concerns a fault in its filter
that engineer Tim Smith discovered that can cause the instrument to
sound...well, dull. Smith, one-half of the ARP experts team at Weyer/Smith Labs
in Billings Monana, is quite happy to share the secret of his discovery with
anyone who asks, and the result will be a frequency response of better than
22kHz. Weyer/Smith offers a vast range of 2600 improvements and upgrades,
including a fixit for the dreaded thump that occurs if you try to set fast attack and
release times on the envelope generator."
Between 50-100 "Blue Meanies" were built in a garage before the ARP plant was
open. They were very hard to service due to their all aluminum construction.
They had a wooden bar across the top for carrying. They were sold with a
keyboard. A few "Grey Meanies" (at least two) exist. They were a cross between
the "Blue Meanie" and the normal 2600. The keyboard sold with the "Grey
Meanie" came with a handle on its keyboard matching the one on the synth.
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