Synth Site |  Rhodes-ARP | Rhodes-ARP | Chroma

  Chroma At a Glance
Picture needed arrowReleased: 1982  Specifications
arrowUser rating: 4.5/5 |  Read reviews (6)
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AdamT writes:
The first thing you notice about the ARP/Rhodes Chroma is that in its flight case its almost as heavy as a CS80!!!, the case BTW has a nice compartment for the large pedal board (with SOLID BRASS piano pedals!), the "varible" pedal and a footswitch. When you pull the lump out, this is a LOT heavier than a Memorymoog or OB-Xa (Feels like the weight of both!) and is roughly oversized Xa in shape.

Chroma Impressions.. The presets are largely crap but a sort of Elka Synthex laser harp is in there, some Xa-esque brass sounds, a wonderful Human voice and a whistle sound that gets very Theremin`y on the levers. When you start to delve into the oddball program interface a blistering synth starts to emerge, one of the string pads I coaxed out of it knocked me senseless, Ok, it ain`t got the sheer force of a Memorymoog but I have to say that there ain`t a 2-osc poly I`ve heard with the bandwidth and grunt of this (apart from the CS80 of course which naturally sounds more organic and "liquid" but seems to lack the Chroma`s clarity). The interface really sucks, although it has one fuction per touch pad (like the ATC1 or source) you have to constantly refer to the manual to find out what certain perameters mean eg: in waveform 0 = sawtooth, 1=pulse wave and so on, in the mod source there are 16 different options and they ain`t printed on the synth!, just 0-15. basically you choose 1 or 2 VCOs per voice (16 or 8 note poly respectively. if you choose 2, each VCO gets its own eg`s, LP or HP filter, VCA, mod routings etc (like the CS80) and the two filters can be coupled in various ways (like a Moog 3c`s filter coupler) to create band pass, notch, serial, parallel, various Db`s (the filters are basically 12db each and can be combined in series to give 24db that affects both VCO paths t once), also Flange and Phaser filter effects can be produced (Just like the Emu E4X turbo (:-), . also the VCOs can be sync`d (within several of the Filter / setup Patchcord algorithms) and algorithms are provided for Filter F! M and VCO FM,, Phew...

This is undoubtedly a very powerful system that obviously gave Oberheim ideas for the Xpander/M12. some parameters don`t get the full 128 programmable steps (resonance is only 8 steps, 0 being off and 7 being self oscillate) but this doesn`t seem to impede sound creation. I haven`t fully sussed it out yet, things like certain portions of the EG`s are modulatable are totally alien. The Chroma does things that the M12 only manages by layering patches and others that it could never do, is far more powerful and organic sounding, there`s that ace keyboard and you could get Two with Chroma-Expanders sitting on top for the price M12`s are being asked for in the UK.. the other hand is of course that the M12 has a far more extensive Mod matrix, three large readouts, real buttons, 6 twiddlers instead of one slider, an excellent reliability record and doesn`t weigh more than Dawn French!..

The whole machine shrieks YAMAHA at you, the wooden Piano keyboard, the DX7 lookalike interface, the CS80-esque voice structure, the CS30 style bend levers (these are fully programmable again like the Matrix-12) and squeezing the maximum potential out of 2-VCOs per voice. my best description is.. like the missing link between the CS80 and the DX1 whilst also being the forerunner to the Matrix-12.. if it had CS100 screen printed on it I`d have believed it (if I didn`t know better that was (;-).. It also shares one oddity with Yamaha,, it has Ring modulation, rare in an Analog poly. two patches can be linked either split or layer mode giving 4-note poly and 4-vcos! and the thing is basically in AN1x "SCENE" mode but with 1-note less per side but far more complex sounds due to the discrete voice signal path, there are various unison modes too, one of which shares voices like the Jupiter-6.

Conclusion so far.. The Chroma ain`t a synth you`ll ever forget once used.. it`s too Weird.. it also should slot into any rig without upsetting the applecart and is different enough to live alongside that OB-Xa, Jupiter-8, CS80, MM+, JX10 or what have you quite happily, the Arpeggiator does random and order of keys held as well as the usual up down combinations, but like the MM+, Chroma doesn`t have panel switchable octave span like the Japs have (shame).. The LFO however (called Sweep) has numerous waves including 8 patterns which are actually Arpeggios in themselves and play up to 3 octaves of any notes held including RANDOM!, when this is combined with the actual Arpeggiator oddball patterns emerge similar to the "techno" patterns in the AN1x and of course because they are classed as an LFO they can be faded in and out with the levers and two different ones can be used (due to the twin signal paths per voice), can be voltage controlled and assigned to the filter etc the eff! ect is that of the step sequencers / mixer and clock multiplier in a Doepfer modular but modified in real time, the mind boggles.

Problems.... like many of theh best polys the Chroma has its fair share of probs, the worst being the PSU that is lame to say the least!, these are known to overheat and fail, someone even suggested (and actually did) fit a modern PSU in one and it cured all ailments! . check that all the membrane switches work and all the voices are fine..

It has been said that it sounds like a Polyphonic Odyssey, there is an element of truth in this (it can have that famous ARP bite if you wish) but it reeks of Yamaha to me and all the better for it..

Comments About the Sounds:

(Thanks to AdamT for this info.)

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