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Emulation of the mighty 2600

(5 Votes)
1 (Updated 1 month ago)
July 30, 2021
Reaktor 6


So...what do you do when you already have a fairly decent spring reverb? - Build a 2600 of course!
This is an emulation of the awesome 2600. Before I built this, I knew of the 2600 but it wasn't on my 'Dream synth list' - it absolutely is now. The 2600 combines the right mix of sonic complexity with accessibility, there is lifetimes of patching and tweaking available without being overwhelmingly complicated.

This is not an exact clone, there are additions and omissions and the sound will not be identical to any of the hardware. For example, there is no interval latch but this functionality is available via Reaktors' unison spread while having the polyphony set to two or more. I have left out the Trig Out, let me know if you really want this added, I know it can be useful for sequencers etc.

I built this from the start as a polyphonic synth but of course you can run it with one voice if you like. I recommend you set your soundcard to 48Khz, the default setting is 8 voices. Do note that the Spring Reverb works best at 48 or 96Khz and the appropriate options should be selected there.

I have included two Scopes for monitoring the various signals within the synth. Syncing the scan of the scope is handy for certain signals and situations, selecting an envelope and syncing the scan to Gate is a common use case. Two scopes are useful when you want to monitor a specific input signal and how that affects the resulting output at the same time. I am using the term signal rather than audio/control because everything is an audio rate signal and pretty much anything can be routed anywhere. The scopes can be set to polyphonic or to only display the most recent voice.

Snapshot randomisation is super fun and because every input (receive) will likely have something selected, random snaps are wild and are equivalent to random "fully patched" setups. A less wild setup is to turn off randomisation for the Receives connected to the oscillator and filter inputs and set them to their default inputs and let the randomisation affect only the sliders.

There are two banks of snapshots, a lot of which are tweaked/tamed random snaps. Some of bank one was created with the default patch and randomised sliders. Creating your own patches is where a lot of time will be spent.

Please be mindful of the two main output levels - the main synth level and the Spring Reverb level. As above, snapshot randomisation can be fairly wild so setting these levels conservatively is advised in that situation. Generally, you can set the reverb level to -3db or so and just set the synth level as appropriate. Some configurations will require the synth level to be set to -40db or even lower so please be careful.

The Blue user interface is shown in the screenshot but I have included Grey, White and Orange versions. I was surprised at how much I like the Grey one actually, the red contrast works well. This is a big synth in terms of screen area being ~2000x1300 pixels so a high screen resolution will help prevent scrolling around to access the whole synth. The red LED style numerical displays will show the values associated with most of the panel controls.

The 3620 unit that is usually attached to the keyboard in a 2600 setup is included. The 3620 provides an LFO, Portamento, Octave switch, Pitch Bend range, Gate repeat etc. The single/multiple trigger mode does something but likely not what the hardware does; maybe this is not such a big deal when polyphony is available?

There is lots of documentation, user manuals and patches available online and they are highly recommended reading.

My build style may be 'oldschool' but it works for me and I really like how this synth turned out. I hope you enjoy this upload as much as I do. Please do let me know in the comments what you think of this and if you find any errors.

Shoutouts and Thanks to Alan R. Pearlman, Vadim Zavalishin, Julian Parker and the whole Reaktor team and also Jan Brahler.


Barry Galloway
3 weeks ago
Forrest, I am using an evaluation copy of WinRar 5.91(64-bit), try again with that.
Forrest Gore
4 weeks ago
I can't seem to open the .rar file with 7zip Any ideas?