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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24 Visitor comments
September 7, 2010 @ 3:40 pm
Bought a non-working unit for $300 from an SF pawnshop that didn't know what it was selling. Carefully nursed it back to pristine health and spent one year diving into the synth's sound design capabilities. It is an incredibly deep synth with the worst interface I've ever experienced. Need the manual or quick reference at hand when programming to understand what each value relates to. Unique sounding instrument for those seeking that big poly analogue vibe.
September 2, 2010 @ 6:19 pm
ive been using this 7 months now.It does indeed sound fantastic , unlike any other analogue i have used , very retrodelic and cheesy , berlinesque and very pastoral at times.Amazing for boards of canda style nostalgia and vibey dark ambient.Editing is simple.......use soundiver ! with that bit of software this synth becomes like a polyphonic arp 2600 of sorts , staircase exotic lfos' , wicked filters and some really unique tones.I never found a synth that could do such good wind instrument and vocal emulations.I may have to sell this and i dont know if i can bring myself to.I sold a yamaha cs60 to buy this and frankly the chroma blows away that synth .Seriously underated.
June 14, 2010 @ 5:10 pm
The sound you can get out of this is awesome, but forget about programming it unless you have a degree in engineering. All 100 parameters are controlled via 1 data entry slider and each parameter number must be looked up in the manual to figure out what it means. If someone was to design an intuitive control surface, the chroma would rule the land of analog synths.
May 19, 2010 @ 5:19 pm
One can't help but wonder if ARP had released this instead of the Avatar, maybe they'd have survived a bit longer-or maybe even still be around today.

Sad, really...
March 26, 2010 @ 9:49 am
Best Polyphonic synthesizer in the world!Nothing beats the
feeling to play it.How many are left?3000 where built including the Modules.First 50 where totally hand built.
Are there less then 1000 Left today with the Wooden keyboard?
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Rated 3.97 (271 Votes)

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  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • 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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