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ARP 2600 M Review: Our Initial Impressions Of Korg’s Semi-Modular Synth

Few hardware synths defined entire generations of sound design like the original ARP 2600. Initially launched in 1970 at the Audio Engineering Society convention, this synth took over the music world over the next decade.

But that was many and many a year ago, and that specific timeless classic will cost you the downpayment of a small house to obtain. But luckily for you, Korg’s ARP 2600 M offers all the original synth could (with a few more quality-of-life features). 

We had a chance to mess around with one for a few days, and here are our first impressions of this powerhouse remake. 

Learn More About This Synth While Supporting The Magnetic Team Through Our Partnership With Sweetwater Here

What Is The ARP 2600 M A Semi-modular Analog Synth?

The ARP 2600 M is a faithful recreation of the original ARP 2600; full stop. No, I’m not saying that it’s a consumer version of the original synth – I’m saying almost nearly identical, albeit in a smaller and more affordable package. 

Overall, the ARP 2600 M is more than just a hardware synthesizer; it’s a complete arsenal of sound-designing weapons. 

Its hybrid nature of digital/analog allows you to get the best of both worlds; gritty analog warmth and pristine digital clarity. If Ben Burtt, the sound designer on the original Star Wars trilogy, could use the ARP 2600 to create the voice of R2-D2, imagine what you could do with its modern rendition?! 

It comes with faithful replications of the original’s best bells and whistles. The iconic timbres of the spring reverb, the same flexibility of modulation, and the unending customization through its complex patch bay are all there for you to use as you see fit in your productions. 

Three oscillators, made more stable than the original’s wavering tuning, can produce multiple waves simultaneously – pulse, sing, triangle, square, or sawtooth. There is even an option for pulse width modulation on the second OSC. Now that is cool! 

And the customization doesn’t stop there, as the legendary 4-pole filter allows you to sculpt and carve out the sounds to your liking. On top of this, it also lets you select the exact filter type depending on the response characteristics of the filter (4012 type or 4072 type). 

While remaining faithful to the original model, it also blazes its trail by offering a few extra footprints to adapt the synth to the modern world. The most notable would be the addition of the standard 5-pin MIDI chords so you can route external gear and software into the device and even accept MIDI CC messages that let you control the pitch, modulation, and portamento via MIDI. 

Who Used The Original ARP 2600?

Please don’t take our word for it; this synth allows you to tap into the sound palettes of some of the most prominent artists in history. 

Edgar Winter famously used this synth often in his performances, as did Stevie Wonder (rumored to have had the control panel on his synth relabeled in brail). 

Then, there was Ben Burtt, the legendary sound designer who worked on the aforementioned Star Wars movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and many other timeless films. 

My Favorite Features Of The ARP 2600 M

Here are some of the best features that we loved about this synth. As with any synth as complex as this, it would be near impossible to name everything we loved, or you would be reading this piece for a year or more. 

Let’s dive into our favorite qualities. 

Its Size

The original synth is larger than life, or maybe that’s just how I remember it being when I saw it in a synth museum as a kid. 

As such, it was almost impossible to tour or play live with. Not only was it cumbersome, but it was also too damn expensive to risk damaging on the road.

But the ARP 2600 M size and weight make it perfect for traveling. Sure, you won’t throw it in a backpack like a mini-MIDI keyboard. But it is portable enough to bring this on the road for live shows. 

It’s under two feet wide, just over one foot high, and only weighs about 14 pounds (13.23lb). This is an excellent improvement to the concept overall and makes it way more approachable to the average synth enthusiast and touring musician. 

Its Modulation Potential 

You can tell by looking at this thing that it’s a creative goldmine. The amount of patching, processing, and modulation you can do with only a few patch cables is insane! 

And you can get super excited and usable patches reasonably quickly. My problem with many semi-modular synths is that while they come with a ton of patching options, it takes a fair amount of fitness to sculpt and create sounds that you actually want to use.

But that’s not the case with this synth, and designing beautiful sounds that stand out from the crowd is a breeze. 

It’s Musical

I touched upon this in the bucket above, but this synth sounds beautiful whenever you need it. Even without any modulation, the oscillator gel well together and sound amazing.

Once you enjoy a riff, start introducing modulation for genuinely stunning effects.

This synth begs to be recorded because even the slightest bump of the faders, dials, and parameters can make for the happiest of incidents. 

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What I Wasn’t Crazy About 

Much of the gripes I have about this synth are easy enough to tell by the cover. The amount of patch cable inputs and the intimidating (at least to noobies) look of the thing is exactly where I’m going with this. 

So approaching this thing with those expectations, here is my biggest gripe about the ARP 2600 M

It’s got a learning curve

This thing is not for the faint of heart, even by semi-modular standards.

Years ago, I picked p the Korg MS-20 as a way to start to begin to learn modular synthesis, and I was daunted by that complexity (at least at the time). It was an uphill battle learning how the patch bays work and everything on that synth, and I am all the better of a producer for that hill I struggled to summit.

But this synth takes that to the nth degree.

So if you don’t know anything about modular synthesis or designing and shaping sounds like this, be prepared to fight an uphill battle. 

That being said, if you already have a firm understanding of modular synth and sound design, you will likely find this synth flow fairly intuitive and should conquer its learning curve in just a few sessions, as I did. 

Learn More About This Synth While Supporting The Magnetic Team Through Our Partnership With Sweetwater Here

Specs On The ARP 2600 M

Type: Semi-modular Desktop Synthesizer

Analog/Digital: Analog

Polyphony: Monophonic, Duophonic Mode

Oscillators: 3 x Analog VCO (original ARP 2600 circuitry)

Waveforms: Sawtooth, Square, Pulse, Triangle, Sine

Noise Generator: Pink, White

Envelope Generator: 1 x ADSR, 1 x AR

VCA: Yes

Filter: Early Model 4012: 24dB/oct Lowpass, Late Model 4072: 24dB/oct Lowpass

Sample and Hold: Yes

Effects Types: Reverb, Ring Modulation

Analog Outputs: 2 x 1/4″ (L, R)

Headphones: 1 x 1/4″


USB: 1 x Type A (controller), 1 x Type B (computer)

Features: Black Road Case Included, Built-in Stereo Speakers with Individual Volume Controls

Software: KORG Software Bundle

Power Supply: 12V DC power supply (included)

Height: 12.24″

Width: 20.47″

Depth: 5.08″

Weight: 13.23 lbs.

Manufacturer Part Number: ARP2600M

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