Chromaphone 2 Review – Updated Physical Modeling For Percussions From Applied Acoustics Systems

chromaphone-2-playUPDATE: the review below is outdated – Chromaphone reached version 3, check out our Chromaphone 3 review!

The Chromaphone 2 is Applied Acoustics Systems’ new acoustic object synthesizer. Utilizing updated physical modeling techniques, Chromaphone 2 emulates the way actual acoustic instruments sound recorded in a room. And while there is a vast expanse of factory presets to get you started, AAS is deemed one of the best in the physical modeling market (I have fond memories of my first experiences with the early versions of Lounge Lizard and Tassman, Ed.), and the Chromaphone 2 is no exception to excellence.

There are significant advantages of physical modeling versus that of using a sample library – manipulating the sound at its source, low memory and disk footprints, significantly smoother dynamics, and faster load times.

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Chromaphone is operational in standalone and as a virtual instrument in a DAW. Real-time midi control over all faders is possible (a no-brainer for live performance situations), and unlimited undo/redo capabilities. There’s a lush and relatively placid quality to most of the sounds produced – fairly non-aggressive overall.

The new version includes quite a bit of both revamped and completely new processing methods, effects and features. AAS has included a massive factory library with 650 eclectic presets (categories include: mallets, percussions, kicks, snares, toms, hi-hats, cymbals, chromakits [drum kits], chimes and bells, plucked strings, basses, keys, strings and pads, synths, organs and pipes, soundscapes, arpeggiators, and arpeggiated percussions. The interface has been improved and made more efficient – macro-controls for easy parameter access, and a more refined and ordered distribution of advanced controls for an overall, significantly cleaner user-experience.

They’ve included an envelope mode, which is ideal for shaping the response of one-shots. Microtonal tunings are now possible, and the noise filter bank now can be controlled with a 10-band filter bank. Additionally, AAS has added a completely new source mixer (controls mallet and noise levels), arpeggiator, compressor, equalizer and limit, all built-in.


There is a new model drumhead resonator, better imitating the response and vibration of real drumheads. Volume, mallet noise and stiffness, noise filter frequency and density, hit position and coupling (modeled interplay between multiple components of an instrument), can all be affected by keyboard range for maximal expressiveness.

Percussions preview:

Above are the eight AAS acoustic resonators for Chromaphone 2. AAS has included several built-in models: string, beam, drumhead, membrane, plate, marimba, and closed and open tubes – but that’s just the beginning. Manual mode allows the user to define four partials yourself, creating completely new instruments and tones. For example, a wooden bar yields a xylophone, metallic bar yields glockenspiel, and with tubes it becomes a marimba. Mixing and combining acoustic resonators allows users to manipulate and completely re-design instruments to imitate existing timbres or create completely new ones.

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One possible drawback is CPU usage – while Chromaphone 2 isn’t what I would call CPU intensive, it’s certainly not ultra-light either. Additionally, while the overall sonic quality is incredible and realistic, certain presets I can see doing better when layered with other sample-based instruments to really flesh out the texture with a ‘best-of-both-worlds’ approach.

Overall, Chromaphone 2 is a substantial upgrade from its predecessor – AAS has created an even more formidable offering in the field of acoustically modeled synthesis. I highly recommend this to producers who are looking to emulate real organic instruments in the box, and those who seek to layer acoustic (or user-made hybrid) instruments with others to create more lush and sonically distinct productions.

Price and Software Specifications
$199 (a trial version is available).
For Chromaphone 1 users: $39 (for a limited time)
27.5 MB (Windows) / 27.7 MB (OSX)
VST / AU / RTAS / AAX Native / Standalone (32-/64-Bit)

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