Review – Chromatix from Hideaway Studio
Chromatix is Hideaway Studio’s latest collection of marvelous sounds of antique electronica. If such is your cup of tea, you will be most interested in checking this one out.
by David Baer, July 2015
Things were pretty quiet at Hideaway Studio during the first half of this year. Did the normally prolific Dan Wilson decide it was time for a well-deserved break, or was he working on something special? Well, you probably already know the answer to that or we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Something special coming right up!
Hideaway has just released Chromatix for Kontakt (full version of Kontakt only, as usual), which offers a delectable selection of sounds from the Rhodes Chroma. Typically, the library was the result of a loving restoration of an instrument much in need of refurbishing. The story of the challenges presented by this nearly-deceased equipment is chronicled at the Hideaway website:
The Rhodes Chroma
The Rhodes Chroma (Chroma hereafter for brevity) was conceived in the design labs of ARP during the last turmoil-ridden years of that company’s existence. The design can be credited to ARP, but the intellectual property rights were sold to CBS Instruments who manufactured the hardware roughly between 1981 and 1984.
The Chroma was very impressive technology for its time. This was the era just prior to MIDI taking over the electronic keyboard world. Although MIDI was not part of the story, the instrument was designed from the start to be tightly integrated with the Apple II computer.
The Chroma was an analog/digital hybrid. The sound production was all analog, but the control of the sound production was fully digital. There were sixteen polyphonic voices available. The voice allocations could be doubled for richer sounding patches, however, leaving the polyphony at eight voices.
The keyboard was velocity sensitive. But an even more advanced (albeit extra-cost) capability was an optional polyphonic key-pressure sensitivity. Even today, polyphonic aftertouch is not a commonly found feature, so at the start of the 1980s, this must have been really something at which to marvel.
The Chroma cost a bit more than $5000 USD, or about the same price as a new middle-class family sedan at the time. A keyboard-less expansion unit for the instrument (see image below) was also available costing roughly $3000 USD. This could be used to stack voices for truly rich sounds. Up to five of these could be chained into a single instrument. A total of about 1400 Chromas were produced and a slightly larger number of expansion units were produced.
Lest we ever forget how good we have it these days, consider that for the price of a fully decked out Chroma with five expansion units, pressure sensitive keyboard and dedicated control computer, one could buy a decent middle-class house. Today, that basic Chroma capability can be had for 25 bucks (thank you, Hideaway Studio), and unlimited expansions is free courtesy of the Kontakt multi capability.
The Chromatix Kontakt instrument conforms to what has become common Hideaway practice. We have four parallel layers, all identical except for samples (more on which shortly). In each layer, we have controls for level, pan and velocity sensitivity; course and fine tuning; a standard ADSR volume envelope; an LFO dedicated to vibrato. There are no filtering controls present, but the samples are pre-filtered so additional filtering would largely be of no use. A tone control, something else commonly found in Hideaway instruments, provides a continuously changing, seemingly (but not actually) random three-band EQ profile for each layer.
The only thing I regret not finding is an easy way to use the modwheel for controlling LFO depth. But everything else is there for effortless creation of rich, complex sounds.
A global set of four effects rounds out the package. Reverb, delay, flanger and chorus are on hand. The reverb, as usual for Hideaway, uses the built-in Kontakt effect with a lovely set of Hideaway-supplied impulses for small to large spaces and everything in between.
If the UI has a familiar look to it, credit that to Anders Hedström, who has managed to channel the late and dearly-missed Stephen Howell in designing the interface panel. Let’s hope this is the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship with Hideaway Studio.
There are two banks of 28 sample sets (see image right, which also shows the available reverb impulses). One of them is associated with layers one and three, and the other with layers two and four. The names of at least half of the sounds will give you a pretty good idea at what to expect.
75 sample instrument presets are included, but really, roll-your-own is the way to go here, as is the case with a number of other Hideaway instruments. Creating your own sounds hardly could be simpler. Plus sound creation would be a most enjoyable way to spend a lazy afternoon. Most of the presets have a healthy dose of reverb and delay, as we’ve come to expect from Hideaway libraries. That means that they demo well but are not what I’d call mix-friendly. No big deal, though –the “Amount” knobs are right in front of you to cut back any effect levels that are too rich.
Is Chromatix for You?
If you like Kontakt sample libraries of antique electronica and are familiar with Hideaway Studios, you probably reacted to the announcement of Chromatix’s availability just as I did: you clicked the Add to Cart button without even bothering to listen to the demo track. If you haven’t yet encountered Hideaway instruments, you are in for a treat, and Chromatix would be a great way to test the waters without committing any sizeable amount of capital.
To restate, Chromatix does require the full version of Kontakt (4.2.4 or higher) and 1.35 GB of disk space. The price is $25 USD. Listen to the demo track and purchase here: