KORG will remake the iconic semi-modular subtractive instrument in 2020, or so says Jean-Michel Jarre.

The ARP 2600 is the legendary semi-modular synth from the 70s. It’s the instrument that made the sound of R2-D2 and a ton of music in the rigs of everyone from Orbital to Herbie Hancock. Software emulation has some advantage here, in that there were so many variations. But before Behringer was fighting with … uh, well everyone else … Moog raised alarms about the ladder filter copy in ARP’s 2600.


And that brings us to Jean-Michel Jarre’s 2600 reflections:

I’m here in Japan, where I haven’t seen much of KORG this trip, so I can’t tell you whether Jean-Michel Jarre just broke an NDA. (I am guessing that answer is ‘mais oui.‘ But, uh, what are you going to do to the guy? At least this time a legend leaked the news, and not some random German dealer.)

Maybe the most interesting parts of what Maestro Jarre says – the year 2020, the original filter design, and “cheaper”… well, cheaper than eBay.

I’m sure someone somewhere prefers the later variants to the original, but there you go.

If you’re wondering why this particular synth, that’s presumably the ongoing partnership with ARP co-founder David Friend. This also seems to have been part of the plan from the beginning, but with KORG and Behringer possibly each remaking the 2600, we may see multiples of this once-rare semi-modular synth.

I’m not as worried about the endless remakes of vintage synths, even if it does threaten to make us perpetually relive the 70s, 80s, and 90s. I would ask instead this:

Historical parts, new whole: Will synth makers find a way to leverage the historical work on new instruments? It’s unclear exactly what form that would take, and so far it seems on the surface like the recreations compete with new engineering. But it remains a question.

Back to the future: Will the push toward historical analog finally motivate more radical designs? We’re seeing plenty of that in individual modules or software, but (understandably) integrated desktop synths may not seem the best venue to take chances.

There is a feeling that the high-tech push is framed as automating out musicians entirely (let’s use AI to make the music! let’s choose what you hear!). And that gets contrasted with the idea that electronic instruments only become retro (let’s make this look like NAMM 1981 and put wooden side panels on the wooden side panels so it’s even more ‘warm and so you can play an instrument everyone’s heard of even the people who have never heard of it!’).

I don’t think it’s that bad. But part of why these things could come in waves is, the feeling that that’s where we’re at might easily make some people rebel and go somewhere else altogether.

The gorgeous cover image has a whole text from it and comes from a great Flickr account (CC-BY-ND-SA rockheim)

I know you’ve always wanted to read about the ARP in Norwegian.

While looking for that, it’s worth noting that the DIY efforts to clone the 2600 have produced some lovely results. Hey, at least the DIYers will now turn to new designs, perhaps.