Synthcart - Atari 2600



TV Type:  NTSC        PAL      

The Synthcart is a rather unique title for the 2600 that allows you to play music using a pair of keyboard controllers. Each keyboard controller controls one of the two oscillators in the Atari 2600. You can learn more about the Synthcart and download an MP3 demo of it in action on Paul Slocum's Synthcart web site.

AtariAge sponsored a Synthcart Beat Programming Contest in early 2002 to allow people to create and contribute beats to be included with the Synthcart. Check out the contest page for all the details and listen to all the beats that were submitted!

Includes cartridge and full-color manual. Requires a pair of Keypad Controllers. You can download and print a keypad overlay here. Available in NTSC and PAL formats (please specify above when ordering). The Synthcart cannot be used with SECAM Atari 2600 models due to the way the Black & White switch functions on those systems.

You can learn more about the Synthcart and discuss it with other Synthcart users at the Synthcart Yahoo! Group.

Author Paul Slocum
Controller Keyboard Controllers
Cartridge Size 8K
Label Design Paul Slocum
Thomas Horton on 05/19/2021 03:16pm
Bought this after seeing a video of it running. It's even better in person! I love the sounds from the Atari and this is a great way to play with them. Was dispatched almost immediately, only took two weeks to get to the UK, tracked all the way, and was well packaged. Love the light show mode too. Thanks to the creator of this and AtariAge!
Lee Keebz Kebler on 06/22/2020 08:16pm
This is a unique cart. It isn't for everyone, but it is a lot of fun to play around with if you are into music. I was hoping I could work it into some chiptunes production but it really is a bit too limited. It's a shame that there is a number of beats pre-programmed but you don't have the option to play singular drum hits. It would also be nice if the screen would have read out what note you were playing since not all the instruments have access to the same note scales. Its a cool musical oddity and Im glad I have it, but it's not exactly usable as a performance synth.
Christian Lopez (Nitro Pulse) on 01/29/2018 06:56am
Had this cartridge since I was 13 years old (18 now) , still love it . Light show mode is super trippy . The tones and sounds are ultra nastolgic . Keeps me busy for hours sometimes ! Just a very interesting little software. Hope to make an album implicating this soon
johannes koops on 07/02/2013 03:23am
i really like the harsh and quirky sounds from the Atari 2600, so the first time I heard the sounds of this cart, I just had to have it! i've done some live shows with it and it's so much fun to see the surprised faces of the crowd; is he really making music with an Atari? yes, thanks to Paul Slocum!!
Elliot Fletcher on 05/01/2008 02:37pm
From the first time I heard the sounds of this cart, I immediately fell in love with it,PAUL SLOCUM YOU ARE AMAZING THANK YOU SO MUCH

I have shelved all past musical tastes for the atari _3

Jeroen van Garling on 07/27/2007 07:15pm
As amazing a I was hoping it would be. If you're into the Atari sound and you want some to make music with, this is the ticket. The light show mode is amazing.
Nathan Strum on 07/15/2007 01:36am
Remember those old Casiotone keyboards that were sold in the early 80's? The ones with pre-programmed drum beats and built-in sounds that helped even the average schmuck to create music? Well, the Synthcart takes some of those features, mixes them with the 2600's instantly recognizable (and sometimes questionable) musical abilities, and the end result is a whole lot of fun! Using a couple of keypad controllers, you have access to some pretty impressive music-creating tools, including an arpeggiator, tremolo, variable tempo, several different voices, and a beatbox with 33 pre-programmed patterns.

After I had spent a little time getting a basic feel for what each option did, I spent hours just playing with the Synthcart, for the sheer joy of making the quirky music that only the 2600 can make. The beatbox is a really amazing piece of programming, since by mixing and matching patterns, you can make unique rhythms that can serve as a foundation to build your music on. The arpeggiator is especially useful for creating music, as it will repeat sequences of notes, depending on the keys you hold down, and can help you build complex melodies quickly.

As I played with the Synthcart, it dawned on me that had this come out in the early 80's, it would have been a huge seller. I'd always wanted one of those Casio keyboards, but could never afford one, and I suspect many Atari owners were in the same boat. The Synthcart would have given us the next best thing, and would have helped the 2600 transcend being a mere game machine.

The only downside to the Synthcart, is that you can't save your work and replay it (unless you record the output of your 2600), making it difficult to repeat something you really liked. On the other hand, this does keep the experience of using the Synthcart always a spontaneous one.

One minor complaint, is that you can't buy the Synthcart bundled with keypad controllers. Fortunately, and other websites carry them, so they're easy to come by.
Rich Ruvola on 05/06/2007 02:21pm
Synthcart with the highly_liquid MIDI2600 kit is where the fun really begins. But it gets even more exciting using the MPC1000 driving the MIDI and the use of it's input-thru with internal effects. This combo is killer for experimental beats!
Rob Michalchuk on 03/06/2007 10:27am
This cart is amazing! This is a very good enhancement to the music that I create! I've zoned out for hours with the sounds created by this cart.
Thomas Welch on 02/23/2006 06:32pm
I Received this badboy two days after I ordered it! That's quick work! It came packaged very well along with the manual. I "demoed" the ROM for the synthcart a couple weeks ago and decided to purchase it. Works perfectly. The only bad thing is, if you're seriously going to want to make music with this thing, you're gonna have to modify it so it has composite audio (and video, if you like) It sounds terrible if you're using a RF switch and just plain bad if you are using a coax adaptor. Anyway, it works perfect on my Atari 2600 Jr. Rev. A, so pick it up!
David Boeser on 10/24/2005 05:47pm
Synthcart is awesome! It effectively uses all of the tones that the Atari 2600 can produce. I love to go crazy on the beatbox and lightshow modes! Works great with Video Touch Pads. Excellent buy.

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