Getting Started

The Cherry Audio Chroma is an incredible replication of one of the most advanced analog poly synthesizers ever conceived. Conceptually, its intention was to combine the massive flexibility of a patch-cable analog modular synthesizer with full digital control and memory, as well as up to 16-voice polyphony. If this wasn't enough, a rare keyboardless Expander module was produced in small numbers that doubled the Chroma's capabilities.

The conception, creation, and demise of the original Chroma is a famous story in the annals of synthesizer history. Though released and branded as a Rhodes instrument (makers of the world's most popular electric piano), in actuality, the Chroma was developed by ARP Instruments. Sadly, its development was completed in 1981 just as ARP was going into receivership; fortunately, the Rhodes company wisely acquired productions rights (as well as key members of the development team), otherwise the Chroma might never have seen the light of day.

So what makes the Chroma so special? At a glance, it appears to be a typical 80s-era, single-slider-controlling-many-parameters, analog polysynth. Furthermore, its sound generation utilizes then de rigeur Curtis filter, VCA, and envelope chips. The answer lies in its advanced signal routing, modulation, and layering capabilities, which were far ahead of almost any other analog polysynth (to be fair, Oberheim's Xpander and Matrix-12 featured some pretty awesome mod capabilities, but the the Xpander wasn't released for another three years in 1984).

The Chroma's primary innovation was its ability to reconfigure filter and VCA signal paths, enabling numerous series and parallel filter routings and audio-rate filter and amplitude modulation, as well as multiple oscillator sync and ring modulation options. This enabled an incredibly wide sonic palette. The Chroma also featured an advanced keyboard action with genuine wooden keys and precise weighting for highly expressive velocity and aftertouch control. And though it's easy to overlook these days, the Chroma was also an innovator in the pre-MIDI realm of connectivity and computer control - it included a 25-pin D-sub connector that allowed interfacing with either another Chroma, the aforementioned Chroma Expander, or it could be connected directly to an Apple II computer for sound programming via proprietary software.

Unfortunately, the Chroma had a number of factors going against it. Most significantly, given the hardware limitations of the time, its user interface didn't adequately support the vast quantity of menus and parameters, making sound programming a frustrating slog entailing constantly reference to a printed chart of parameter information and signal routing diagrams. Not long after its release, the Chroma was in the unenviable position of being a large, heavy, and expensive instrument when Yamaha released its world-beating and affordable DX-series FM synthesizers. Rhodes did release one more polyphonic synthesizer, the Chroma Polaris, but this was a far more conventional (and more affordable) six-voice polysynth, designed to compete in the mid-level market segment occupied by instruments such as the Roland Juno series, Korg Poly-61, Kawai SX-210, and others.

Due to its relative rarity and expense, the Chroma became what we refer to as a "unicorn" instrument - a seldom-seen-in-the-flesh powerhouse that few musicians get to experience. Cherry Audio Chroma resurrects the spirit and sounds of this incredible instrument with a mind-blowing accurate replication. Due to its highly complex and quirky nature (and sheer amount of parameters), this has been one of the most challenging instruments we've created thus far, and we couldn't be more proud of the results. From a synthesis perspective, every single aspect has been recreated with exacting precision - in fact, sysex patch data from the original instrument can be loaded directly into Cherry Audio Chroma. At the same time, we've radically altered the user interface, hugely improving the sound programming experience, with super easy-to-use multiple button menus and dozens of informative real-time displays built right into the parameter buttons - no more laminated cheat sheet! Finally, in addition to the standard single instrument mode, Cherry Audio's Chroma includes an "Expander" mode, effectively adding an entire second Chroma Expander synthesizer to the mix with full onscreen controls that can run in layer or split modes.

We hope you'll enjoy this amazing beast of a synth as much as we have, and as always, we humbly thank all of our customers for the unwavering support you've shown!

Technical Assistance
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