Hideaway Studio Proudly Presents: Chromatix

Chromatix (logo) smallChromatix is a celebration of yet another successful resurrection of an old classic saved from the grave…

This time it was a gorgeous 1983 Rhodes Chroma!

After a very deep clean inside and out followed by a visual inspection it was quickly realised the original rather large and somewhat grizzly linear PSU had burnt out and was showing signs of several past repairs. News got round that a new cooler running switched mode PSU retrofit had been made available and was duly installed. Having returned power to the beast it quickly transpired that at least two voice cards had serious issues and were failing the dreaded auto-tune. This rapidly became a can of worms when it became apparent that almost all of the considerable number of analog multiplexors within the beast were practically dying in front of my eyes due to age and after the shock of being pressed back into action for the first time in several years. Following removal and replacement of some 40 or so unsocketed ICs much of the instrument returned to life leaving a final stubborn voice card really determined not to play ball. On discovery of a number of leaky transistor arrays and tired charge pump oscillators the final voice card eventually succumb to my continued harassment only to have a third voice card fail during soak testing!

After two weeks of intense toil this 16 VCO beast returneth to life… and what a beast!

Chroma_Closeup

Having sifted through and loaded up over 1000 patches during soak testing over 5.5 Hours of raw audio was captured directly from the instrument.

ARP’s Last Gasp…

ARP Instruments, the hugely influential name behind a string of famous instruments such as the ARP2500, ARP2600, Odyssey, Avatar, Omni, Quadra and Axxe, was in its prime during the 70s but by the early 80s the tables had turned for the worse and the company was losing money hand over fist thanks to a series of unfortunate business decisions, excessive cost of sales figures and overheads.

Work had started on the Chroma in the autumn of 1979. After two years of intense development interspersed by the project being temporarily shelved on a number of occasions things were looking decidedly shaky at ARP on the financial front. This was no fault of the R&D team behind this technically challenging design but due to increasing resistance from management who had their own battles to fight.

Philip Dodds was left to head a company dying before his eyes and several months of development were lost to company politics. The situation became dire and he was eventually left with little option but to close down the R&D department. Despite the ongoing stress of the situation he succeeded in selling on the IP rights to the Chroma design to CBS Musical Instruments and in the process was hired to oversee its production. If it wasn’t for this last gasp for survival the Chroma would surely never have existed.

The Chroma was an advanced digitally managed 16 VCO analog synthesizer released after the initial success of the Sequential Prophet-5. Both instruments offered patch memory with the Chroma sporting a bank of 50 user programmable patches. It was one of the first analog synths to offer multi-timbral operation, voice layering and keyboard splitting with velocity sensitivity. The voice architecture was unusually flexible whereby the firmware could route signals through two low pass filters, in parallel or series, or switch the VCA before or after the filters. Through a bespoke digital interface (Chroma pre-dated MIDI) it was even possible to edit voices in a program on the Apple II computer.

CBS released the Chroma in 1981 with a list price of $5295 and proved to be pretty successful with estimates of around 1400 units eventually sold.

56 Unique Instruments Presented in The Layering Engine…

Chromatix features a deceptively powerful layering engine which allows the user to create new sounds and textures with ease by selecting up to four out of a bank of 56 partial voices to be layered. Each layer has its own fine and course tuning, ADSR envelope, panning, velocity sensitivity, LFO and tone controls. This permits anything from huge pads to complex evolving sounds. Many of the demo instrument patches included are good pointers as to how some of these effects are achieved.

Chromatix GUI_release_vs

Above of each of the four voice panels there is an orange LCD display showing the selected voice. By clicking on each of the displays a pull down menu appears allowing one of 56 voice partials to be selected. With a potentially vast number of layered permutations at hand two different banks of 28 partials are available the first set assigned to channels 1 & 3 and the second bank of 28 partials assigned to channels 2 & 4.

Chromatix GUI_Partial_PulldownNaturally the example instruments packed with the library can be used as is but where the fun starts is having a go dialing in your own sounds using the intuitive layering engine. All of your creations can be saved as .nki instruments simply by using the save as function by clicking on the files icon in the main Kontakt control pane.

The layering engine consists of four identical programming panels and an effects section. This release is the first to use a recently updated version of the layering engine which has recently been revised to include separate velocity sensitivity controls for each layer.

The TONE control is a deceptively powerful feature. In the fully downward position the signal is unaffected. As the control is moved upwards a continuously evolving complex EQ curve is applied. With some experimentation this feature can be used for embellishing formants within each voice partial and helping to sit each of the layers together in the mix.

System Requirements:

This library requires the full version of Kontakt 4.2.4 or higher.
Approximately 1.35GB of free hard disk space is required.

Download Contents:

1030 24-bit Samples
56 Partials/Voices presented in 4 Channel Layering Engine
75 Example Instruments
User Manual
Audio Demo

  $25.00 inc VAT (1.15GB download)

Credits:

Dan Wilson (Hideaway Studio) Rhodes Chroma Restoration & Sound Design, Sample Capture, Example Patches & Demo. Stephen Howell (Hollow Sun, RIP) Original Layering Engine ConceptMario Krušelj Synth Engine Script,GUI Design & Graphics &  Anders Hedström (Flavours of Lime) GUI Graphic Design.

HS-4KL-A016 30/06/15HideawayStudioLogo

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Much Going On In The New Synth Workshop…

Dear all – firstly may I heartily apologize for the lack of recent postings on the blog.   I want to make it very clear that I am still very much committed to my sound design and that a considerable amount of raw sample material for new products is very much in the can awaiting attention.   As many of you know, there are two sides to my passion in electronic music both in my sound design and returning cherished vintage studio gear to its former glory.   What with there only being so many hours in the day, it is sometimes very difficult to strike a balance between these two obsessions in my life and I often end up feeling like I have let the other side down during times of particularly hard graft.

The last couple of months have been exceptional but more importantly represent a once in a lifetime opportunity…

KS GDS Refinished

Some of you may already be aware that I have practically lived with two extremely rare early groundbreaking digital synthesizers in my new synth workshop for several weeks now working very hard to return them to their former glory.   The two instruments in question represent literally two out of the three known complete existing examples in the world.  They are 1979 General Development Systems (aka GDS) originally costing $30,000 and designed in part by members of Bell Labs and MTI/Crumar.   The GDS is the instrument that became the direct basis for the wonderful DK Synergy which you have all recently heard in sampled form in Synergenesis.

One of the two examples shown here in the recent photo was owned by a very famous pioneering German EM composer and founder of a very influential EM group.  It was used extensively in number of well known recordings from the early 80s.    This is just the keyboard console – the system comprises of a very large 8-bit computer with twin 8″ floppy drives running CP/M and a large serial terminal.  Both systems are now back up and running for the first time in very many years and have been retrofitted with HxC disk emulators which is most definitely a first for this particular model of synthesizer.   This has resulted in all of the original software and the factory sound library on 8″ floppy disks being safely immortalized in a modern digital format.

For those who are interested I have blogged the progress of both restorations at the Vintage Synth Explorer forum:
http://www.vintagesynth.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=77037″

It is worth pointing out that such distractions on the hardware front are actually a great thing because all of my time spent working on such technical wonders of yesteryear serve much potential for capturing new sample material and subsequently lead to the basis of new releases. With this in mind the hope was to release such a major release for Christmas based on a significant amount of material captured from a wonderful old beast I restored earlier in the year. This library is still due for release but will now be expected in the New Year.

That said, I hope to have at least a little something to allow you all to have the opportunity to play some material captured directly from the KS GDS during testing along with a small offering with a festive edge in the next few days captured from a very rare vintage tube amplified electromechanical instrument. Also lookout for some festive offers on libraries from Hideaway Studio in the near future.

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May I also take this opportunity to give you all my sincere thank yous for being so supportive over the past year.   It has definitely been a year of highs and lows and the tragic loss of Stephen Howell has been extremely painful for myself and Mario and his family.    During the summer I channeled a lot of my energy into building a wonderful new synth workshop which really helped to take my mind off of things.   I even managed to finally construct an area dedicated to all of my vintage test gear which has since grown substantially.   A large chunk of these vintage wonders were used in the making of The Blue Zone series and are now very much cherished so its great to finally have a dry and warm place to store them for future use.