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The ARP 2600: The Story of a Legendary Synthesizer

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The rumors are true: Korg is reissuing the legendary ARP 2600. First released in 1971, this synth has been used by massive musicians like Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Edgar Winter, Pete Townshend, and many, many others. We at Reverb partnered with Korg in the wake of this exciting news to produce a short documentary about this history of this stalwart semi-modular synth, featuring interviews with figures across the synth world. Check it out above, and click the link below to read more on Reverb.

Back in December, Jean-Michel Jarre leaked the news, but today, we're here to confirm: Korg is reissuing the ARP 2600.

To mark the occasion, we partnered with Korg to produce a documentary about the legendary semi-modular synth, which was first released in 1971. Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Edgar Winter, Pete Townshend, and many, many other artists (including Jarre) would put the synth to great use on stages and studios throughout the '70s and beyond.

We interviewed figures from across the synth world to get the whole story behind the creation and legacy of Alan R. Pearlman's second synthesizer: how it thrilled artists, got mocked by music store owners, and ended up educating the rock 'n' roll public about synthesis.

Back in the early '70s, ARP was going head-to-head with Moog for the then-brand-new market for portable synthesizers—not, that is, portable in the sense of the toss-in-your-backpack portability of contemporary synths, but portable when compared to large modular synthesizers of the day. Moog's Minimoogs were gaining favor with an audience of musicians in the post-Switched-On Bach world of popular synth music, but build issues gave ARP an opening.

ARP—in its own promotional materials for the 2500 and the 2600—harped on the Minimoog's fairly notorious reputation for drifting out of tune, and took aim at Moog's larger system for requiring complicated patches. The Moog and ARP relationship was, perhaps understandably, contentious. Since ARP had borrowed the Moog filter design in the 2600, Moog threatened to sue, and later 2600s did not include it.

By 1991, Bob Moog and Pearlman could at least see past their differences enough to sit on a panel together for the Music Synthesis Symposium, and Moog touched on those early years:

"ARP was able to capitalize very quickly and very effectively on our weakness. The two big arrows that were shot constantly at us from the direction of Massachusetts were: 'No more messy patch cords,' and 'No more drifting oscillators.' And it took us until halfway through the Minimoog generation until we really got our technology under control."

To hear how ARP went from such a beginning to being used by Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Pete Townshend, and other giants of '70s music, watch our full documentary above.


Type: Documentary
Year: 2020
Total Time: 28:11
Styles: Classical, Experimental, Progressive, Soundtrack, Synth-Pop
Formats: Stream
Liscense: Copyright
Richard Devine
Marc Doty
David Friend
Brian Kehew
David Mash
Lamar “Kronick” Mitchell
Dina Pearlman
Ariel Rechtshaid
Robert Stambler
Edgar Winter
Director: John Gagen, Michael Lux
Producer: Nick Kwas & Tom Cusimano
Soundtrack: Nick Kwas
Cinematography: Patrick Churvis, Tanner Matthews, Michael Lux & John Gagen,
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