The Behringer 2600 is a semi-modular analogue synth that is directly inspired by the classic synth, the ARP 2600.
I’ve tested out the synth and written down my thoughts… spoiler alert: I like it a lot. In this Behringer 2600 review, we’ll discuss the history of the ARP 2600, what’s new in the Behringer 2600, a general overview of the Behringer, and my verdict.
History of the 2600
The ARP 2600 was first introduced in 1971 by ARP Instruments as the successor to the 2500. This synth was unusual in its fixed selection of components that were wired internally but could also be rewired using the patch bays. It was a semi-modular synth.
Many modular synths at the time had to be custom ordered and were expensive to build. The ARP 2600 was an affordable option with its semi-modular design.
This is what led to the popularity of the instrument; musicians who were new to synthesis could easily use the 2600 without worrying about patching or assembling a whole modular system.
Eventually, some big names got their hands on the 2600. Stevie Wonder had a 2600 with a control panel labelled in braille and other musicians like Pete Townshend and Herbie Hancock also used the 2600.
The ARP 2600 even made its way into movie sound design. It was used by sound designer Ben Burtt to create the sounds for R2-D2 in Star Wars and the Ark of The Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Behringer have crafted a faithful recreation of the ARP 2600. However, they’ve made some changes and additions to the original synth. These alterations help make the device more useful in the modern day and improve some limitations that the ARP had.
The Behringer 2600 has been built into an 8U 19-inch rack chassis. Not only can it feature on your desktop but it can also be fitted into any 19-inch rack space you have – a great feature which provides flexibility on a quite large synth.
If you fancy buying a rack unit for your Behringer 2600, we sell a large range of studio rack mounts. Check them out here.
All versions of the Behringer 2600 also have two options for the filter. This is because ARP originally used a filter based on a design from Moog and then later went on to utilise a different design.
Behringer recreated both and gave us a switch to choose between the two filter types. They sound slightly different, so you can choose whichever you prefer.
A couple of alterations have also been made to the Behringer 2600 to make it a more practical tool for sound design in the current day.
The original ADSR and AR envelopes were sometimes criticised for being too long for more percussive patches. Behringer has improved this by adding a switch that allows you to halve or double the envelope time, meaning that not only can you access the shorter ADSR/AR lengths but also even longer ones for evolving pads.
Another criticism of the original 2600 was the limitations of LFOs. There wasn’t a separate LFO on the ARP 2600 so you’d have to sacrifice one of the oscillators and run it in LFO mode.
Furthermore, the only oscillator that was capable of sine waves was also the only one capable of pulse-width modulation. To solve this, Behringer have added a dedicated LFO and ensured all three VCOs are able to achieve pulse-width modulation. VCOs two and three also have sine wave outputs, giving further flexibility should you need an extra LFO.
LED faders are a new edition. Not only do they make the synth look cool, but they also help you find your way around the synth and get an idea of the rates of the LFOs.
What’s also nice is that you can turn the LEDs up or down via a knob on the back. Dimming them could be useful in certain concert settings or if you want them to be less blinding in a dark environment.
Making music on the 2600
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to play on a Behringer 2600 and learn about it. Since I was fairly new to the instrument, I did a little research about it beforehand, but mainly I figured out how it worked by playing with it.
The synth is intuitive to use, although I’m saying that from the perspective of someone who has some experience with semi-modular synths beforehand. As stated earlier, the LEDs can help you find your way around and see the modulation rates.
Like with any other semi-modular synth, I recommend learning the default routing on this instrument. You’ll find it far easier to use and make sounds once you know the layout.
Again, like many other semi-modular synths, the 2600 has a huge range of sounds and textures available with no patch cables at all. This makes using it a whole lot of fun as you can start adjusting controls straight away to begin making cool sounds.
In a similar vein, there are some tricks and interesting things you can do on the synth which you can learn about through online resources like YouTube videos.
I saw one which involved patching the 2600 to play duophonically (playing two notes simultaneously), and I managed to achieve this. Learning stuff like this can be very rewarding and helps with learning to use the synth.
This is a comprehensive setup for making music. As mentioned previously, there are three VCOs which are all able to produce saw waves and pulses (square). VCOs two and three are also capable of triangles and sine waves.
The three sliders on top of each VCO control the initial frequency, fine-tuning, and pulse widths. Each waveform has its own output and at the bottom of the VCO are inputs for frequency modulation, with a label indicating the default routing without patch cables.
Also above each input (except for keyboard CV) is a slider which acts as an attenuator to adjust how much each modulation source affects the sound. Each of the three VCOs also has an LFO switch, as previously mentioned.
These oscillators faithfully recreate the original VCOs in both sound and functionality, and, of course, they improve on the limitations of the original 2600.
Complementing the VCOS are a filter, ADSR generator, and amplifier sections. Again, these feature much of the same functionalities as the ARP 2600, which are standard for a semi-modular synthesiser. However, there are some changes, such as the two filter modes and extra control over ADR lengths.
Several utilities on the Behringer 2600 are particularly useful, especially when you start patching CV.
Firstly, there’s an envelope follower. This takes an audio signal and outputs an envelope which follows the amplitude (volume) of the input. Envelope followers can be really fun if you want to process the sound of an external instrument and control parts of the synth with it.
The ring modulator multiplies two signals together. This is often heard as an audio effect when the process is applied to audio signals. A famous example of ring modulation is the voice of Daleks in Doctor Who. The ring modulator can also be used on CV signals by flicking the audio/DC switch.
The next component is a noise generator. You can use the slider to morph from white noise to pink noise to low-frequency noise. And you can control the output via the level slider. By default, the noise generator is routed to the Sample & Hold section.
A Sample & Hold circuit can be a little complex to explain without using it. Essentially it involves two signals. The first is the output of the noise generator and the second is the clock.
Each time the clock signal is high (like it would be with a square wave) the circuit will “hold” whatever voltage the noise signal is at for the duration of the clock pulse.
This produces a “stepped output”, giving you a series of random voltages that are quantised to the clock signal.
The final utility section is a voltage processor. This can perform a bunch of basic functions that you might need if you’re working with CV.
The functionalities include mult, which can duplicate or combine CV; two inverters, which do what they say on the tin and invert signals; and a lag processor, which will slow down sudden changes in voltage.
The Marvin and the Meanie
Behringer have released two variants of the standard 2600 synthesiser. These are basically the same as the standard 2600, aside from the colours, with one notable difference: the spring reverb.
ARP’s 2600 had a physical spring reverb unit, which was kept inside an enclosure known as a “tank”. The audio signal would be passed through the spring and the acoustic effects of the vibrations in the space of the tank would then be passed to the audio signal coming out the other side of the tank.
The standard 2600 has a digital emulation of the spring reverb. This sounds great and many producers use digital reverbs as they’re more controllable and predictable than a physical spring. But if you want that genuine spring sound, the Behringer 2600 Blue Marvin and Gray Meanie feature the physical spring reverb, just like the original 2600.
If you’ve already looked into the Behringer 2600 then you’ll probably know it doesn’t come with a keyboard at all.
It does, however, have MIDI and CV capabilities for control and sequencing, so you’ll need some gear to achieve this.
Fortunately, MIDI is available through MIDI DIN and a class-compliant USB connection, meaning you can connect your MIDI keyboard or plug into a computer and control the synth from your DAW.
If you haven’t got a MIDI keyboard, we have plenty at Gear4music here.
Of course, as this synth is semi-modular, you can use a CV sequencer to sequence your synth for some Eurorack jams. We stock many Eurorack CV sequencers at Gear4music.
If you don’t have a modular setup then we also stock many other hardware sequencers which can sequence your synth with MIDI. Some of them also have CV capabilities.
If you have a Eurorack setup, you can purchase one of the oscillators from the Behringer 2600 as a module for your modular synth.
This is almost identical to the second or third VCO on the 2600.
There are some alterations made to the panel so it fits the Eurorack dimensions.
It’s a very affordable way of accessing the sounds of the 2600 if you already have a modular synth!
Shop now | Behringer 2600-VCO Analog VCO Module
This synth is fantastic value for money thanks to its vast array of features and functionalities packed in.
I love how Behringer have taken a classic synth and, rather than releasing a carbon copy of the original synth, they’ve recreated and improved on limitations that the original synth had.
My favourite improvements are the small form that allows it to fit into a 19” rack, the addition of an LFO, and the improved functionalities of the VCOs. These features show Behringer’s desire to keep the spirit of the original 2600 while making it more useful in modern studio spaces.
Compared to other semi-modular synths I’ve used, this has a high number of CV inputs and outputs. If I were in the market for my first semi-modular synth now, I’d probably choose this one.