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Replica of the modular legend at an incredible price

Review: Behringer 2600

Published 7:39 am on Tuesday 31st August 2021 by Beat Magazine

After Behringer was clearly behind Korg when it came to reproducing the ARP Odyssey in terms of time, both companies are almost on par with their new editions of the legendary semi-modular ARP 2600 system. While the full-size replica from Korg with its strict limitation and a recommended retail price of 4,000 Euros is more appealing to collectors, the much cheaper Behringer 2600 is aimed at the mass market. Although Korg has also announced a cheaper series model with the ARP 2600 M, it will still be three times as expensive as Behringer‘s model and its concrete delivery date was not yet known at the time of testing.

ARP 2600

The original from the 70s is a monophonic analog synthesizer with a semi-modular structure. With three oscillators, a low pass filter, VCA, two envelopes and a VCA, you can create classic synthesizer sounds without having to plug in cables. But things only get really exciting when you use the numerous patch jacks and break open the internal pre-wiring to explore new sounds.

Compact replica

The replica by Behringer takes over the sound generation, design and controls almost unchanged from the original, but in a slightly smaller form. With dimensions of 482 x 356 x 108 mm, the synthesizer still offers enough space to be able to work properly even with large hands and with extensive cabling. The robust metal housing ensures a weight of over 5 kilograms. It is inclined for better operation when installed on a desktop, but can also be installed in a 19-inch rack, where it needs eight height units. The built-in speakers have been omitted, and the new LFO and preamp have taken their place, among other things.

Illuminated faders

As with the Odyssey replica, Behringer has provided the faders with illuminated caps whose colors differ depending on the functional area (VCO 1/2/3, filters, envelopes, etc.). At first glance this looks a bit like Christmas lights and gimmicks, but in practice it increases the clarity enormously. Because an ARP 2600 can drive even experienced synthesizer users to despair at first contact due to the partly unusual structure.

Thanks to the different colors, you can now see directly which faders in the mixer control which oscillators and which faders are responsible for the modulation. The lighting also makes it easier to find the right fader in the dark studio or on the stage. The brightness of the LEDs can be adjusted via a control on the back and can also be turned down completely.

MIDI, USB

While the original could only be controlled via CV/ Gate, Behringer also integrated the integration via MIDI and USB. The 2600 is otherwise purely analogue, controlling parameters via MIDI or saving sounds is not possible. We would have liked to see at least processing of velocity, as the Behringer Odyssey allows via the accent function.

Duophonic!

A new addition is the Odyssey-inspired option of playing the synthesizer duophonically via MIDI. This can be activated via a switch and ensures that two separate control voltages are generated when two notes are played. If you connect the upper voice output to the keyboard CV input of VCO 3, you can play VCO 1 and 2 with the low note and also play a different melody in the upper keyboard area with VCO 3. The result then continues to pass through a filter and a VCA, so it can only be compared to a polyphonic synthesizer to a limited extent. Nevertheless, this option significantly expands the sound possibilities, especially when the oscillators are linked to one another via ring or frequency modulation!

Portamento & interval latch

There are also two connections for foot switches on the back. This can be used to activate portamento or interval latch when playing a synthesizer solo. The latter freezes the last interval played on the connected keyboard, which can then be played with just one key - in a way comparable to the chord memory function found in polyphonic synthesizers. Power is supplied via an external power supply unit, the on/ off switch is located on the surface.

Three flexible VCO

The sound generation is based on three oscillators. They can be regulated separately for coarse and fine tuning, as with the Odyssey there are no octave switches or center detents. For a correct tuning you are therefore solely dependent on your hearing or a tuner added after the synth, but with FM & Co. you have all the freedom for stepless adjustment. All three VCOs have the waveforms sawtooth and square (with manually adjustable pulse width). VCO 2 and 3 also offer triangle and sine as well as a PWM input. Oscillator 2 and/or 3 can be hard-synced to oscillator 1, which in connection with a pitch modulation leads to the cutting and metallic sync sounds with a very special character, for which the Odyssey is also legendary. Each VCO has three continuously adjustable inputs for frequency modulation. These inputs are pre-assigned with an envelope, S/H module, LFO or another oscillator, but can be fed with any other signal via the patch sockets. And the FM and cross modulation between the three VCOs sounds great and enables exciting analog percussion!

Two filters to choose from

The outputs of the three VCOs go together with the ring modulator and the noise generator via a mixer into the 24dB low pass filter. In the original, different types of filters were built in over time, with the Behringer 2600 you can switch between the models 4012 and 4072. The sound effects are rather subtle and cannot be compared with the different filter types in the Odyssey, which clearly differ in their sound behavior. In fact, we had to choose extreme settings for resonance and saturation in order to even hear a halfway relevant difference. All in all, the filter in both variants is somewhat characterless and more analytical than coloring, even if you can still get a somewhat richer sound when patching a feedback loop. But that‘s not really bad, since the 2600 can already provide aggressive and weird sounds at the VCO level and the other modules also offer enough options for sound processing. Fast envelope We really liked the ADSR envelope, the speed of which can be adjusted in three stages. On the one hand, this allows extremely crisp percussion and bass with pitch and filter modulation, but on the other hand also pads and drones with a very slow sound progression. In the pre-wired state, the filter signal ends up in the VCA and then in the spring reverb (stereo). The semi-modular structure, however, allows the specified signal path to be split up and reassembled at almost any point.

LFO, envelope follower

In the lower area there are some more experimental modules in addition to the portamento, noise generator and LFO. The LFO was still missing An additional LFO as well as duophony expand the already abundant possibilities of the original. The switchable envelope enables extremely crisp percussion and bass, but also pads and drones with a very slow sound progression. HARDBEAT Review Beat 07 | 2021 • 83 from the original. There you had to misuse one of the three VCOs, which can also be individually decoupled from the pitch for this purpose. The LFO in the Behringer 2600 can be used directly or with a delaying and thus create realistic vibrato effects, but of course also modulate filters or amplifiers. The preamp is used to amplify internal or external audio signals, either to avoid saturation and distortion or to create them consciously. Afterwards there’s an envelope follower, for example to modulate the filter via a drum loop from the DAW or drum computer and thus achieve unusual rhythmic effects, which worked very well in the practical test and conjured up a funky bassline from a static sound in no time at all.

Ring modulator, sample/hold

The ring modulator also convinces with a very characteristic sound, which is already known from the Odyssey. With the 2600 you also have the option to loop in any sources and to switch between audio and DC, which affects the sound in different fundamentals of the mixed signal generated. A separate multi-page test report could be written about the possibilities of the voltage processor and the S/H module. There is a lot to research here. A simple but practical application of the S/H module is the output of random values with each keystroke in order to modulate the filter frequency or the VCA. The voltage processor can ensure smooth transitions between the values or it can output an inverted version, which provides interesting panning effects when using both sources. Of course, the „voice“ of R2-D2 from Star Wars can also be reproduced with it true to the original.

Special models

With a little delay, Behringer announced two additional models based on the different variations of the original, the Gray Meanie and the Blue Marvin. The wording of the press release has caused some confusion. Both replicas will be equipped with carefully selected high-quality components for improved performance as well as dual filters and an additional LFO. However, this statement should apply to all three models and not just to the gray and blue versions. In a direct comparison of the classic model with the Gray Meanie, we could at least not hear any tonal differences or find another LFO or filter. The reference to only 25 Blue Marvins and 35 Gray Meanies in the original is sometimes interpreted as a strict limitation of the replicas, but so far there is no concrete evidence of this.

Stereo spring reverb

In addition to the obvious differences in design, there is a tonally relevant difference: While the standard model is equipped with digital spring reverb emulation, the special models and the original have a mechanical spring reverb. In a direct comparison, the digital version sounds a bit duller and more static, but basically does a good job and even implements a feedback loop quite convincingly. The mechanical variant is less predictable, a bit more transparent and with more treble components and we liked it better in the sound comparison. On the other hand, the design of the user interface of the special models did not convince us that much in practice. The blue and gray variants are only equipped with single-color fader LEDs, and the labels and graphically displayed links between the individual areas are also less legible. The standard model seems clearer to us.

Verdict

With the 2600, Behringer has made another synthesizer legend available to the general public. The basic sound of the Behringer 2600 is very close to the Odyssey, which sounds a bit stronger due to the more variable filters and the drive circuit. In contrast, the 2600 with the third VCO, the additional modules in the lower range and the semi-modular structure offers more sonic flexibility and is already comparable to a medium-sized modular system in terms of possibilities - at a fraction of the cost and space required! Whether crisp synth bass, analog percussion, overtone-rich sync and FM sounds, creamy leads, long drones or weird sci-fi effects, the 2600 impresses with all types of electronic sounds. Preamp, envelope follower and spring reverb also make the synthesizer an interesting filter box and effects unit for external audio signals. As with the original, however, you need a little training time to see through the structure and signal path and to exploit all the options offered by the many patch sockets and modules.

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