ARP Instruments

    The name ARP is the abbreviation of Alan R. Pearlman (1925-2019), the founder and genius of the company, that existed only from 1969 to 1981. Alan Pearlman had founded the company together with Lewis G. Pollock, a lawyer, and David Friend, a young " whiz kid" and engineer (whom Pollock had discovered in Princeton), to dedicate himself to research and development - he had previously built amplifiers and technical equipment for NASA's Gemini and Apollo programs.

    Disastrous management and the overall difficult situation caused the demise of the relatively small company in 1981 - even though ARP had dominated the international synthesizer market since the mid 70's and Alan R. Pearlman had done everything right.

    The Alan R. Pearlman Foundation

    The Rise and Fall of ARP INSTRUMENTS

THE ARPS IN MY LIFE

... only a small part of the entire ARP instrument set

    | ARP 2500 | ARP 2600 | Odyssey 2811 | Odyssey 2821/23 | Axxe | Little Brother | Rhodes Chroma |


    ARP 2500

    Modular Synthesizer

    The first ARP (1970) was the ARP 2500. Sadly, I never owned this instrument, but it nevertheless had an enormous impact on my life: the first record with a synthesizer that really "scratched" me (jazz pianist at that time) was "Scorpio" by Paul Bley - who was playing the ARP 2500 on it.

    The synthesizers that began to appear in the mid-1960s were huge, heavy, expensive, and they needed patch cords - which were especially unpopular with live musicians. In addition, the oscillators were previously not pitch stabile - "live" this was a killer problem.

    The ARP 2500 was therefore, technically speaking, a real statement: a voice-stable modular synthesizer - with matrix sliders instead of patch cables. The various parameters were color-coded to make it easier to identify the affiliation. A known shortcoming was that the matrix sliders suffered from crosstalk issues. I guess it was the first synthesizer that featured a multimode filter. While the 2500 alone was already quite large - it could even be extended by "Wings" (cabinets)!


    However the ARP 2500 could also be smaller (left). This model, which is at home in the Experimental Studio of SWR, is the only 2500 I have ever come across. But it is not 100% ARP, because it was modified / extended by Peter Lawo.

    The 2500 is not so much known from the stage as from records by The Who, Jimmy Page, David Bowie, Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Kraftwerk, Elton John and others. It is also frequently heard in experimental tape music of the 70s and of course in many films of that time. The best-known is without question Steven Spielberg's science fiction epos 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind', in which the ARP 2500 has a big appearance (even if the 5-tone sequence could have been played with a simpler synth). The man who played the 2500 to communicate with the UFOs was Phil Dodds - ARP's Vice President of Engineering at the time. The ARP 2500 has a very distinctive sound and is one of the great "classics". I think only a little over 100 instruments have been built.

    The ARP 2500 was available from $10.000 to $20.000. One dollar was about DM 3.50 and an average monthly income was about DM 1200. So the smallest model of an ARP 2500 (including transport and taxes) was the equivalent of three and the big system of six years' salary! For non-industrial people simply not affordable. This is the well worth seeing ARP 2500 Brochure, approx. from 1973.

  • ARP 2600

    Semi Modular

    The ARP 2600 (built 1971-81) is a semi-modular synthesizer with 3 VCOs and it has an operating voltage of 15V. The modules (assemblies) are internally pre-wired. Therefore the 2600 can be played without patchcables - and is called a "semi-modular“. An inserted patch cable disconnects the pre-cabling at that point and the use of patch cables can result in quite complex circuits and sounds. The ARP 2600 was also used as a teaching tool in many schools in the USA, thus its level of popularity almost corresponds to that of the Mini Moog. It should be noted that the first series of the ARP 2600 looked slightly different (and blue), and the later series of the grey ARP 2600 were successively equipped with cheaper parts (VCOs, OpAmps, Power Supply, Spring Reverb). This was also manifested by a higher background noise. The subsequent VCOs sounded not as good, however the original Teledyne VCOs were simply too high priced.

    Today, this can be technically corrected or optimized, but the original ARP 2600 has become a very, very expensive instrument (overpriced), regardless of the series. Also with spare parts the end of stocks (e.g. sliders) has come and perhaps one needs to change to more modern spare part replacements, thus it is not possible to extend the "technical original condition". Therefore before buying an original you should consider if it is "only" an obsession and I strongly recommend to consult an experienced ARP technician (like Eric van Baaren / Saint Eric). Neither the knowledge, nor the overview or networks of this, even rarer species, can be developed on the spur of the moment.

    This instrument was a "heavyweight" in the most compact packaging to date. The choice of the assemblies (modules) shows proof of wisdom and makes the instrument quite "complete". The layout is so well arranged ( also by using sliders) that even beginners in electronics have a chance to understand it pretty soon. It can be heard on countless records and in just as many movies. Nearly everyone should know R2D2, the robot from Star Wars, for example. Joe Zawinul played two ARP 2600 in his band "Weather Report" over many years, so that the 2600 was a distinctive part of the characteristic sound of that band. With its three VCOs, it was a (far more powerful) MiniMoog parallel, but was never considered to be that because of the patch cables. As an "offensive" competitor to the Mini, ARP brought the Odyssey one year later, which, however, only had two VCOs - but could be expanded by an "external input" with a third VCO

    Over time, there were three different keyboard models for the ARP 2600, all of them "Pratt Read" keyboards, with only the last model 3620 (small photo) being duophonic. This made the "big case" two-voiced. Furthermore an additional LFO and a momentary portamento switch was now "at hand".

    Sadly I have never owned one, and rarely used it, but the difference from mono to duophonic was enormous. Completely different approaches to the music came into play. The keyboard's LFO was not only an "additional" LFO - it could also "obtain" a VCO of the 2600 as a third VCO (because it doesn't require to be in LF circuitry to work). Also available were vibrato, two LFO waveforms (simultaneously) and portamento with momentary switch.


    This instrument was a heavyweight in the most compact packaging to date. It can be heard on countless records and in as many films. Joe Zawinul played it for years in his band "Weather Report", making the 2600 part of the characteristic sound of this band. With its three VCOs, it was a (much more powerful) MiniMoog challenger, but because of the patch cords it was never considered to be that. As an "offensive" parallel, ARP brought the Odyssey, which has only two VCOs - but could also be expanded through an " external input" with a third VCO.

    The ARP 2600 was, after the Rhodes Chroma, my second synth. I was keen on a 2600 because I thought (and still think) that Patrick Gleeson's playing, especially on the LP "Realization" by Eddie Henderson, was the best approach for playing synths in a jazz context (and of course Paul Bley on "Scorpio"). Having all parameters accessible via sliders was sensational! I owned the ARP 2600 for about 12 years and used it a lot "live" - often without keyboard - until the early 90s. At that time I didn't really know how synthesizers function technically: everything was trial and error. Cool. ;-)

    When the ARP 2600 was released in 1971, the format was of course incredibly portable. Before that, there were bands who had synths on their records - and piano and organ on stage, because neither the instrument itself nor the logistically complicated transport could be funded. This situation led to the "stage synthesizers", which were good for different "melody sounds", but had almost nothing in common with the complexity of a modular synth. The 2600 was therefore groundbreaking - also in the range of its application areas: from school to studios to world stars on stage - and, like a stage synth, it could be played without any patch cord - and still offered more! The ARP 2600 is without doubt one of the most fascinating synthesizers ever built!

    From today's point of view it is hardly comprehensible, but the ARP 2600 was so unpopular during the early 80s that I purchased my instrument for DM 180 (€ 90.-) - and it actually was one of the "good" early grey ARPs - which I wasn't aware of at that time! People were particularly disgusted by patchcords - they felt it was totally outdated (and they were looking for polyphony primarily). The fact that the misperception of the extremely potent ARP 2600 lasted almost until the new millennium was due to the rapid progress of DSP (Digital Signal Processing) - but also to the fact that there were practically no technicians who could or would service or fix these synths - and it happened to be before the internet. Meanwhile it has turned into the contrary. The new 2600s will probably change the situation and only the well-preserved or collectible ARP 2600s will remain expensive.

    The particularly pleasant and instructive ARP 2600 Manual.




    ARP Odyssey 2811

    & ARP Little Brother

    Finally, the Odyssey (1972-81) was accepted by musicians who felt overwhelmed by the ARP 2600's abundance of possibilities. Its lower price also helped. After all, the Odyssey and 2600 were both considered as competitors to the Mini Moog.

    With the Odyssey, we again encounter two technical ideas from the ARP 2500: color coding and switches (instead of the matrix sliders) that replace the patch cables. Their alignment in a row between the keyboard and the sliders makes the switching operations clearly arranged and very quick.

    The material of the bottom tray (U-shaped with side parts) is vinyl. A wonderful material: it feels much better / "warmer" than metal. It remained my favorite Odyssey setup, although three more Odysseys have followed. This Ody had three mods: 1. LFO Speed (/10, normal, *10), 2. Duophony-Switch and 3. Envelope-Speed Switch (/10, normal, *10).

    The 2811 was my first ARP Odyssey, with which my second synthesizer spring began in 2006. The combination of ARP and Max/MSP offered exactly the sound I had been looking for - exactly the "lost" sounds (after 25 years of digitalization)! This little, 35 year old stage synthesizer was suddenly exceptionally appealing.

    Totally unsatisfactory for me were the min-max values of the envelopes and the LFO (" average pop values ") and the generally "worn out" technical condition of the instruments which were over 30 years old. This circumstance brought me to Eric van Baaren (SaintEric.eu), who overhauled and modified my instruments. I quickly realized that these instruments had become better for me than ever - through Eric's surgery - because he perfectly customized them to my needs! Through Eric I also got the pictured (and rare) ARP Little Brother (see below) - with a VCO of the ARP 2600. Above all, SaintEric also gave me an extensive ARP education. Now I learned the instruments - until now I had played them completely unaware.

    The sound of the Odyssey is not as powerful as that of the ARP 2600. Unfortunately, the VCA's are the shortcoming of the Odyssey - and I assume that the difference is also due to the fact that the 2600 runs on 15V and the Odyssey on 12V. The keyboard of the 2811 was better than the keyboard of the later Odyssey series. Better weighted, smooth and almost noiseless.

    The setup also included two foot pedals (volume and expression) and a portamento switch ( using) a sustain pedal. The Kenton-KillaMix and the Korg Nano Pad (both MIDI controllers) were used to control my Max patches.


    Here is an excerpt that I played with this instrument:



    ARP Odyssey 2821

    & ARP Axxe MkII Expander

    In 2009 I bought an unused Odyssey 2821 (black / orange). It was purchased in 1976 and packed in foil. A fantastic thing - nevertheless all contacts and sliders (many unmovable) had to be cleaned, and capacitors had to be replaced. The Odyssey was just changing its role in my setup and became a synth-in-synth with the purchase of the MOTM Modular Synth (2010). While more complex things were done on the Modular Synth, the Odyssey - through its interface - was intended for "fast actions".


    For this Odyssey I had an Axxe MkII which I had converted to an expander as the third (and fourth) VCO - it was interesting too, but not as convincing as the Little Brother. It was a pleasure for the eyes, but overall I didn't become cosy with the (full) metal Odyssey. Although everything was more fresh on all three black / orange models that I owned, I was having trouble with the look (I felt yelled at by the orange) and the feel (cold).

    It all began when I wanted a second instrument in response to the vulnerability of the 2811 (black / gold). Several Odysseys followed - and all of them were different. Even those from the same series. I learned that the components can have 10% and sometimes up to 20% deviation.

    As a result, the big changeover started, filters, VCA, all sorts of things were exchanged among each other or against other components and now it became even more interesting: the different components sounded different in the different instruments! So it was practically impossible to build two instruments that sounded the same. I liked the instruments in reverse order to their condition. The dustiest Ody was the best, even after replacing the (best) filter with the worst one.

    It all depends on the art of the technician, the available components and the luck that the components also harmonize with the rest of the instrument. Appearance is another matter. To make this clear: although the instruments sounded or responded differently, they all sounded good! The Odyssey runs internally on 12V.

Odyssey Patches and Tutorial (1973)

Roger Powell's booklet and tape as video

    Perform!



    The ARP Odyssey Series

    2800 - 2813 and 2820 - 2823

    The Odyssey Series are a little confusing - so much so that even today is often a confusion when it comes to the model designation. The names "Mk I" and "Mk II" are particularly "wrong" - the safest is "Whiteface", "black/golden" and "black/orange". Nevertheless, these three groups still differ.


    Model 2800 - 2813 (1972-78)

    The first Odyssey (model 2800, built 1972-74) is called "Whiteface". It has a 12dB SEM Filter and on the left a potentiometer for Pitchbending. In fact, the last models "Whiteface" have already been built with "black/golden" covers. Otherwise everything was the same.


    With the series 2811 (built 1975-77) a 24dB Filter was introduced - the Series still came with Pitch-pot. When exactly the three Touchpods (PPC) replaced the Pitch-pot, I've forgotten - it has subsequently mixed anyway, because the PPC were also to be upgraded.

    The black series also involves two Filter changes, triggered by a court ruling: the first Filter had been classified as a Moog copy and banned. As far as I know, there are three different Filters, two of which are coveted. The first (Moog) and the last (4075). A matter of taste.


    Model 2820 - 2823 (1978-81)

    With the "black / orange enclosure some significant visual changes came: the vinyl body was replaced by an all-metal body that is much easier to maintain because you can open it up like a hood. The keys now protruded slightly, which in practice led to injuries of the keyboard relatively often. However, the 2820 no longer seemed as fragile as its predecessors - also the fader caps were a bit thicker. There were hardly any differences in sound, but the technical layout was more efficient and significantly improved.

    However, the keyboard was a clear deterioration. It was much lighter and more rickety than on the old models and that got worse and worse with every series. So, for technicians it was an improvement: more stable, more efficient, more service-friendly. For pianists: almost a shock - the technically unchanged Pratt Read keyboard had become a noisy heap of plastic. Touring musicians often had damage to their keys. Especially packing and unpacking from the case could be very hazardous.


    Fresh keyboard bushings on the 2811, 2821 and 2823

    In the video you can hear three keyboards in freshly made condition - at first the Odyssey 2811, then 2821 and 2823. I think the differences in quality are clearly audible. As much as I liked the 2823 - the keyboard was crude and somehow ruined the access.


The Odyssey Mods

What exactly is that?
  • The Mods

    Since the possible modifications are difficult to conceive, I have once created a sketch for the Odyssey, which shows all the switches and controls from all the modifications I discussed with Eric (SaintEric.eu). The Multi-Mode Filter SE4109 is still in the beta phase, but promises to be a real highlight because it represents different ARP filters (according to ARP original plans). I am also very curious about the new, further developed VCA, because the Odyssey's VCA is certainly its weak spot. This can be compared with the Axxe, whose VCA grasps much better.

    The SE2607 module (with the waveforms of the ARP 2600) is also available with switches. Extremists can have two SE2607 (for both VCOs) installed! The mods "highest / lowest note priority" and "mirror" were my requests.



    This is really great when you can say "I would have / would like to ..." - and then you get a new switch, potentiometer or input / output to the synthesizer with just this function. Eric van Baaren can also solve the problem of the often scorned particularity of Odyssey, the 2-octave transposition lever, with a 1-octave switch.

    So that the Odyssey is also suitable for sounds "outside the pop music", it is useful to modify it. The Mod on my 2811 (with PPC instead of the Pitch-pot) executed are: a) Filter and Audiopath upgrade (makes the Ody HiFi), b) Mono-/Duo-Switch, c) Acceleration / Deceleration of the LFO by a factor of 2 (3-position Switch), d) AR/ADSR Speed by a factor of 10 (3-position Switch). With these mods the Odyssey is more powerful and gets its wonderful sound.


    The photo shows "The Norwegian" - an extremely modified Odyssey by Eric van Baaren (SaintEric.eu).

  • Mod-Examples

    The following example shows what it means when the envelope is 10 times longer. The envelope is applied to the pitch of the oscillator and the attack time is set to maximum. First the normal course (approx. 5 sec.), then the extended course (modified Ody = 50 sec.). It would also be possible to modify to 100 seconds. The graphics actually says it all.


    Speed Comparison normal vs modded (I)

    This modification also provides more speed: In the third position of the switch the normal time is divided by 10.



    LFO & ADSR / AR SPEED MOD (II)

    Percussive sounds get much more expression and can be shaped more precisely, because the entire EG slider range is available for the short times.

ARP Axxe

A small ARP (1975-81)
  • A plainly constructed instrument with convincing ARP sound. The Axxe has two oscillators but only one envelope. Therefore its purpose lies in a simple structured sound, like bass or solo sounds. The Axxe also has an input for external audio signals and can be expanded via the external input, e.g. by Little Brother.

    It is often read that it is weaker than the Odyssey - this is not true at all - but in comparison it lacks an envelope and the ring modulation. Of course, it has a more simple structure - however, it has a more powerful VCA than the Odyssey. This is one reason why it is still popular today, especially as a bass and solo synthesizer.

    For the Axxe series it is ok to speak of MkI (black/golden) and MkII (black/orange). There were only these two models. On the picture is my MkI. I prefer the "MkI" also with the Axxe. More beautiful, better keyboard (which also protrudes less), altogether warmer (haptics) and also sounding more appealing.

    I had converted my MkII into an expander because I wanted it to be an expansion for the Odyssey 2821 (see above: Odyssey 2821 & Axxe MkII Expander). Therefor I bought a very cheap, but horrible looking Axxe with a broken keyboard and without any function. The expander also got the essential modifications (LFO and ADSR Speed/Dur). When finished, it almost looked like it came out of the factory, but the effort was very high: the original housing was cut and bent by a blacksmith, the technology was overhauled by SaintEric in the Netherlands, new fader knobs from Japan ... the low price was history. It was a great project, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. I would rather buy an Axxe MkI.






    ARP Little Brother

    VCO Expander (1975-77)

    The ARP Little Brother is a monophonic expander module that serves as a complement to other ARP synthesizers. It is controlled by connecting the control voltage outputs (CV, Trigger, Gate) of the keyboard of an ARP synthesizer to the CV inputs of the Little Brother.


    The Little Brother is equipped with a single square wave oscillator (VCO) with selectable waveforms and a sub-octave divider that can generate up to three additional tones simultaneously at intervals of -1, -2 and -3 octaves. The waveforms "Brass", "Hollow", "Reed" and "Fuzz" are also simultaneously available for output.

    Next to the volume slider is the "Effects" block, consisting of an LFO with speed and depth slider and a delay switch, which delays the onset of the LFO a bit. Unfortunately, the delay time cannot be changed. The LFO signal is also available as a CV out signal (mini jack) on the rear panel. Finally there is the Pitchbend control, which ranges up and down one octave. The Little Brother has neither filter (VCF) nor amplifier (VCA) or envelope generator (EG / ADSR).

    The 8 large white toggle switches are in the position up = off and down = on. These switches were first seen on the ARP Pro Soloist (1973). Although the Little Brother looks like a fossil, it was probably still ahead of its time: First of all - it's my guess and I'm not a technician, but I think the technology behind these toggle switches was already working digitally (control only). This was the only way to achieve such fast and pitch-stable switching - and this technology was used for the first time in the Pro Soloist (picture on the left).

    If the Little Brother is used with other ARP synthesizers to fatten their sounds, the audio output of the Little Brother is required to be patched into the external audio input of the synthesizer, essentially adding an additional VCO and LFO to the system. Kindly, the Little Brother also has an audio input. The fact that it sounds "fatter" than Axxe or Odyssey is not only due to the sub-octave divider, but also because it appears to be the oscillator from the ARP 2600 (15V).



    The Little Brother is the last ARP instrument I have left - and that caused a problem in this modern (12V) world (for me), because I couldn't generate 15V triggers anymore, which is needed for ARP. In earlier days I had a Kenton Pro-2000 MkII to send 15V triggers and CV from the computer, but I had sold it with the ARPs - it would have been oversized for my purposes today, as well. But Kenton also builds smaller models and seems to be the only manufacturer of MIDI to CV converters that can also output 15V triggers (and are affordable).

    I now added a small (Eurorack) "ARP-to-Modular-2020-Expansion" to my Little Brother, which, besides the Kenton Modular Solo, also contains a Dual Amp from ADDAC. With the Dual Amp I can adjust / increase the signal strength to feed the Little Brother into my modular synths (Buchla, MOTM and Eurorack - so up to 12dB audio level). The second amp I use to lower the signals from the Modular for the audio input of the Little Brother. The values on the picture at Aux2,3 and 4 (Velocity, ModWheel and Exp. Pedal) are suggestions for connecting a keyboard - of course other MIDI addresses can be selected.

Rhodes Chroma

16 x ARP (1982-83)
  • My first ARP and also my largest. The Chroma, which was developed in 1979-80, was supposed to end the financial problems of the company, but the bankruptcy for ARP Instruments came in 1981, even before the production of the Chroma could start. The plans (the design) of the Chroma was sold to CBS Musical Instruments and the instrument was finally built by Rhodes. In 1984, when production was discontinued, a number of Rhodes Chroma instruments were introduced to the market for about a quarter of the original price. So this was THE chance to get an "official" top synth and thus a real basis to find out if synthesizers "are made for me". I was able to raise the money and got this battleship.


    The recommended retail price was $8400 - and the dollar was between 2.85 and 3.15 DM in 1984. So with transport costs, taxes and customs fees, this was over DM 25,000! That was simply unaffordable - even if the retail price was a little lower. Then, in the spring of 1984, it suddenly only cost 6200 DM (inclusive). So really: it was a sensation, and it was THE unique opportunity!


    Soundwise in the range of the non plus ultra of its time, with a 25 pin D-sub computer interface for Apple II (!), for which there was sequencer program, a cassette interface (for program data) and stuffed with circuit boards. The Chroma was one of the first microprocessor controlled synthesizers. The hardware corresponded to 16 (fully analog) ARPs, each with a VCO, multimode filter and VCA - the basis for the exuberant sound diversity. These 16 voices, now called channels, were treated in 8 A/B groupings. As far as I understand it, this had probably to do with the CV control voltage that was transmitted in a multiplex process (i.e. two data channels in one data conductor). The envelopes (CV) were generated by software! The VCOs had a frequency sampler (with a zero crossing detector) as an "add-on", which made it possible to measure the wavelengths of all VCOs and VCFs (to store them correctly in the preset). This also made it possible to do the futuristic "Auto-Tune". With 16 VCOs and 16 filter frequencies, this was an enormous help and a significant relief for "live" situations.


    In order to set the various parameters of the modules in motion, the microprocessor could generate 32 ADSR envelopes and 16 LFOs. That is 1x LFO 2x ADSR per voice. The second envelope came (for delayed triggering) additionally with delay - as already on the ARP 2500. But the voices could also work in pairs. The diagram shows 4 of 16 possible channel circuits, if channel A and B in the pairs are linked. Of course the Chroma then is "only" 8 voices polyphonic, but the sounds are much fatter or more complex. There are even more ideas to be found from the ARP 2500: the color coding (of the membrane knobs) and now a microprocessor (which makes the CV connections) instead of the matrix sliders - instead of the patch cables.


    But there were some disadvantages as well: the enormous weight, the technical vulnerability - many Chroma I saw over time had at least one failed module (that was 2 voices). The other problem was more likely to be related to the time frame, since computers were just starting to appear and knowledge, availability, as well as the money needed were among the rare phenomena. Therefore, the missing knobs and switches were an issue in the beginning: The Chroma has only 6 sliders: Tune, 3x EQ (Bass, Mids, Treble), Volume and "Parameter Control". The Chroma is analog, but with digital control - and there was only this one slider for all parameter values. The parameter to be modulated needed to be assigned to this special slider beforehand, which was done by selecting one of the 50 (of 71) membrane knobs that are used to recall the presets while playing. I was soon able to solve the "control problem" to some extent by using an EES-Chroma MIDI interface and in 1989 Max (software) took care of shifting all limits. The economical panel design of the Chroma (with the membrane buttons) was later adopted by many companies - among them the Yamaha DX7 (1983). The Rhodes Chroma was really a monster in every respect!



    Also the back of the Chroma was quite impressive and there were some new jacks. On the far left is a (silver) small 15-pin D-Sub input, which was not included as standard. The synth came prepared, but with an empty mini panel as cover. I got this connector to connect my EES MIDI interface. Next to it is the large 25-pin D-Sub connector for connection to the Apple II computer. Then twice XLR "Studio Output" (balanced) and next to it the "classic" ARP audio outputs "Low and High Level" (for stage combos as jacks). The "Dual Footswitch" pedal was very good, as it didn't slip away because you stood with your foot on the floor panel. Therefore it was huge - as deep as the Chroma (see case photo). I have no experience with the Sequence Switch, but the inputs for the Volume and Expression pedals were highly welcome! For the "Audio Inputs/Outputs" the default output was 3 (the same number as the 2nd XLR Out), but you could change that to 1,2 or 3. 1-3 were inputs. If you intended to play the Chroma in stereo, it was required to define it beforehand (link channel). The Cassette interface for saving or loading soundbanks was state of the art. It sounded like one of the first modems and when loading on stage it was quite stressful, because sometimes it took several attempts until the content was transferred without errors.


    Already three months after I had received it, I made my first synthesizer production for a theater play by Ivan Klima. The Rhodes Chroma was the synthesizer I had the longest. Editing was a pain (because I didn't yet had an Apple II computer), but playing the Chroma was extremely enjoyable. Despite its enormous weight, I often carried it everywhere with me, even outdoors (e.g. in the Alps with a power generator) or at illegal concerts, where there might have been an escape with all the equipment. But at that time there was always help from the audience.

    theater music 1984


    The Rhodes Chroma was also available without keyboard named "Expander" - to expand the Rhodes Chroma or to use it as a standalone unit. In the following years (when MIDI was established), the Expander (alone) became almost more popular with many touring musicians than the full version - mainly due to its easier transport. Anyway, with $ 5200 the price of the Expander was already one pain threshold lower from the beginning.

    Thanks to my piano teacher Fritz Pauer, I took piano lessons with Joe Zawinul in 1984. However, we hardly ever played piano, but talked enthusiastically about our ARP synthesizers. I told him that I occasionally "invert" the keyboard of my Rhodes Chroma (i.e. the highest note on the left and the lowest on the right) and that the resulting melodies sounded like Joe Zawinul. This opened the door wide and he said that he actually does that too! Even more interesting was his explanation why he was playing ARP and not Moog: "If I'd play Moog and people enter the concert hall, the first thing they would hear is 'Moog'. But if I play ARP, they hear Joe Zawinul first!" Without wanting to offend Moog, I find this statement very accurate! ARP is much more complex or variable to patch than the Mini and has a much wider sonic spectrum due to its rather hi-fi neutral sound - in contrast to the MiniMoog's overdriven sound, which is characteristic and often described as "warm" (in the Mini, the filter is "overdriven" with about 15 dB).

    I was shaped by the Chroma and what I do today with my hybrid modular is actually nothing else than what the Chroma did - except that today I can write my own software. It's also interesting that the two grandmasters Alan R. Pearlman and Don Buchla both previously developed for the NASA.


    A fantastic and comprehensive website: rhodeschroma.com

    Moog, EDP, Yamaha, Casio, AKAI