1.1 The birth of ARP Instruments and the ARP2600
Alan R. Pearlman, whose initials would form the name of ARP Instruments, became interested
in instruments for electronic music as early as 1948, when he was a student at the Worcester
Polytechnic Institute. This was a means for him to associate his two passions: electronic
music and the piano.
It was by commercializing the amplifier models for the NASA Gemini and Apollo programs
that he would start his career. Around 1968 he started seriously imagining the possibility of
building electronic instruments after hearing a recording of “Switched-on Bach,” according
to legend.
In 1969, Alan R. Pearlman, David Friend and Lewis G. Pollock created ARP Instruments
(originally called Tonus Inc.). The company, based in Newton Highlands (Massachusetts,
USA), conceived electronic products, but also and above all else a large modular synthesizer,
the ARP 2500. The machine used a matrix which connected the different sections of the
synthesizer, instead of the traditional cables found in its competitor’s modular system. The
ARP 2500 found success in American universities.
The growth of ARP instruments was fast and in 1972 the ARP 2600, probably the most
legendary of the entire range, was unveiled. This semi-modular synthesizer, conceived with
an educational goal, was to become hugely successful after a shaky start. The ARP 2600 was
notably used by Stevie Wonder, Joe Zawinul (Weather Report), Tony Banks (Genesis), Jean-
Michel Jarre, Herbie Hancock... ARP was the market leader in synthesizers during the 70’s
with around 40% of the market share.
In ten years, three versions of the ARP 2600 were commercialized: The first version was
called “Blue meanie” because of its steely blue finish. The “blue meanie” was quickly replaced
by a second version, with a grey background finish and white silk screening (1972). This was
to be more popular. In 1978 ARP decided to change the graphic chart for all of its machines:
a black background color with orange silk screening was introduced. The ARP2600 benefited
from its third and last version.
The great rival of ARP was the Bob Moog’s company. The competition between the two
manufacturers can easily be seen when we observe the machines: The ARP, for example, has
linear potentiometers, while its competitor has rotating pitch bend and modulation wheels.
A well known episode of this competition was the 24 dB/octave filter, the 4012, used by the
ARP. This was a replica of the famous filter made by its competitor. In 1973, this one
threatened ARP with legal action and the firm decided to change the circuits on its filter. The
4072 was born and took the place of the 4012. This possessed a calibration error in the high
frequencies the maximum cut-off frequency was less than 11 kHz instead of the 16 kHz
promised in the press. Luckily the repair for users was fast and not much of a burden. On the
first ARP 2600’s, the 4012 filter was still used (this was the case for the “Blue meanie” and on
the first examples of the “grey and white”) while the models that followed offered the 4072.
The ARP synthesizers possess very stable oscillators, more reliable than the ones equipping
Bob Moog's synthesizers, what he admitted himself. On the other hand, ARP for a long time
dipped the electronic circuits for filtering in resin to avoid industrial piracy... this made for
major problems when trying to perform a repair.
In 1972, ARP launched the Odyssey, which would be in direct competition with the Bob
Moog’s monosynth released one year earlier. The same year, the Pro-Soloist, a preset
instrument, was also unveiled.
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