Rhodes Chroma

Rhodes Chroma Image

Quite a rare analog synthesizer from the early 1980's (only 3,000 made). The Chroma was originally an ARP project. However Rhodes picked it up after ARP dissolved in 1981. Rhodes, best known for its Electric Pianos released the Chroma (and Chroma Polaris) as their premiere analog synthesizers. The Chroma had 16 voices with 1 oscillator per voice (or 8 voices with 2 osc/voice), a 64-note velocity sensitive weighted keyboard, and a very complicated but powerful synthesis design. Programming was further complexed by a limited implementation of just 2 rows of membrane push-buttons. With few sliders to grab, hands-on control is cut short. However the Chroma is a very stable and elegant synth with complete auto-tuning, split-keyboard mode and the ability to link to a computer!

Rhodes Chroma Image

Although the Chroma came before there was MIDI, all was not lost. Rhodes used ARP's proprietary Digital Access Control which was used in some ARP instruments for inter-connecting them. Midi retro-fits can be purchased these days which convert MIDI to ARP's DAC system. Perhaps its most advanced feature for its time was the ability to interface with an Apple IIe computer for sequence and patch storage using dedicated Chroma software! That may not be very practical today, but historically it was a significant example of how synthesizers and personal-computers could work together. Also on-board you'll find two arpeggiators, a graphic equalizer, pitch/mod and 6 other sliders. A keyboardless expander module of the Chroma was also made available. It has been used by Jethro Tull, Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul and Oscar Peterson.

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23 Visitor comments
John Gaffe
October 6, 2009 @ 8:03 pm
Kerry Livgren of "Kansas" also owned a Chroma and used it I believe as early as the Vinyl Confessions tour in the early 1980s.
July 2, 2009 @ 2:12 pm
And we can also add Chuck Wild of Missing Persons to the list of Chroma users.
June 17, 2009 @ 10:48 am
...and Fabrice Quagliotti of the space-rock band Les Rockets.
June 17, 2009 @ 10:36 am
Also used by Jeff Bova (on albums with Cyndi Lauper, Robert Palmer and Michael Jackson), Jerry Goldsmith (soundtracks), Lyle Mays, Jim Blazer/Modern Man ("Day Of The Dead" soundtrack), Garth Hudson of The Band, Ken Freeman ("The Tripods" soundtrack), Mike Kapitan/Thomas Dolby, Ralph Grierson and others....
Carl Goodhines
June 5, 2009 @ 4:04 pm
I owned 2 (!) of them, but one of them had more problems than there's room to put here. Not very road-worthy. Loved the sound, that's why I kept getting it fixed! There was a feature on it (Joe Zawinul used to use it) that made the keyboard sound in REVERSE, that is-high C was low E, and low E was high C, etc. The Chroma often auto-switched to this mode, sometimes in the middle of songs, or even while I was on break! It was, however, a true beast to play, even more of a beast to move (Wood keys!), but ran a very hot signal,er, noisy signal, but cut through anything. My other complaint about it was the resonance parameter had only 16 positions. Not too much to work with when creating your own sounds...
Sound? 9.5 out of 10
Roadworthiness? 1 out of 10
Even though a repair shop sometimes would be almost 1,000 miles away, I still made the trip over and over again......
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  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - 16 voices max.
  • Oscillators - 16 VCOs: 0-63 value mix of sawtooth and variable pulse waveforms; 16 modulation sources
  • LFO - 16 LFO waveforms
  • Filter - Switchable hi-pass or low-pass filters
  • VCA - ADSR
  • Keyboard - 64 weighted-keys with velocity (polyphonic aftertouch optional)
  • Memory - 50 patches + external cassette tape interface
  • Control - None (MIDI via retrofit)
  • Date Produced - 1982 - 1984

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