Chromaphone 3 Review – A Great Leap Forward

Applied Acoustics Systems (AAS) have recently released Chromaphone 3, the new version of their acoustic object synthesizer plug-in. In our Chromaphone 2 review, back in 2016, our collaborator praised the software for being a “formidable offering in the field of acoustically modelled synthesis”. Chromaphone 3 is an evolution of the previous two iterations so that I won’t dive too deep in here in its core features, and I’ll focus mostly on what’s new. For a more in-depth look, you can view my review linked above.

For those who are not familiar with the plug-in, Chromaphone 3 is a physically-modelled-acoustic-resonator synthesizer (phew!) with advanced editing capabilities that produce a mixture of real-life presence and distinctive timbres.

Chromaphone 3 Main New Features

– Better Interface: a much clearer and distraction-free GUI

– Two-Voice Multitimbral: you can now combine two independent Chromaphone synthesis engines, to open up a whole new world in terms of content.

– Macros: four performance macros per layer that respond to user-defined MIDI controls. Each and every sound features modulation, timbre, envelope, and effect morphing assignments that can be played in real-time for enhanced expressivity and sonic dimension.

– Browser: the brand-new browser offers an efficient way to home in on the right sounds thanks to the Packs, Sounds, Categories, and Creators views.

– Enlarged factory library: Chromaphone 3’s factory library contains 421 never heard before sounds as well as refined versions of the 670+ Chromaphone 2 presets.

Here’s an introductory video from AAS:

Creating a Demo Track With Chromaphone 3

Since Chromaphone is an exceptionally versatile synth, for this review, I decided to put the new version through its paces, creating an actual piece of music without using any other synth. Writing and talking about new products is fine, but making actual music with them is the ultimate way of assessing their quality.

Here’s the demo track, Malls of Yesteryear. The images are a “remix” from a longer video I found on YouTube, dedicated to the US malls in the ’80s.

I started with an arpeggio and developed the piece from there. It turned out to be a melodic, somewhat cinematic-’80s tune that hopefully shows some of the versatility and strengths of this excellent synth. As said, Chromaphone is the only VST I used to create this track. There are only a couple of additional percussive loops.

If you’re wondering, I mixed this demo track using plugins such as Eventide Instant Phaser and Flanger, Soundtoys v5, oeksound Soothe, Baby Audio Bundle, Wavesfactory Cassette and more.

Chromaphone 3 Overall Impressions

It’s been a long time since I used AAS stuff (I remember their early releases, yes, I’m that old!) and I genuinely respect the commitment to their specialty: acoustic objects modelling.

Chromaphone 3 feels like a mature product and a great leap forward. I enjoyed using the new interface – it may not be sexy, but it’s super clean, intuitive AND resizable, a big plus in my book. The only minor thing I would add to the interface is a “quick tip” feature as seen in other synths, and possibly an inline manual.

The sound browser is convenient and fast to use, and everything in the synth editor is where you expect it to be. The new four macros per layer are a nice touch to make your performances more expressive, although MPE support would be the icing on the cake on a synth like this!

Sound-wise, I found Chromaphone 3 is more versatile than ever, thanks to the double engine option. This also means tons of new, great-sounding presets (the old ones have been optimised as well). Wait, I know some of you might be preset-haters, but in a synth like this,  a comprehensive (and well-organized) preset library adds a lot of value.

You can hear more audio demos from the official Soundcloud playlist here below:

FYI: if the factory library doesn’t satiate your “soundlust”, make sure to check out the optional 14 (fourteen!) sound packs, created by artists and sound designers such as Amon Tobin, Francis Preve and many more. There are some extraordinary sounds in there – a perfect match for the upcoming long lockdown winter months – and I recommend getting the bundle Chromaphone 3 + Packs version!

More experimental musicians will appreciate the fact that Chromaphone 3 now supports the Scala scale file format as well as reference note frequency tuning for microtonal music-making.

Last but not least, Chromaphone 3 comes with a rich multi-effect section, featuring reverb, delay, distortion, phaser, chorus, flanger, filters, equaliser, compressor, guitar amplifier, tremolo.

Chromaphone 3 Review – Conclusion

The science behind acoustic object modelling and resonators is fascinating yet quite complex. But we don’t need to be an engineer to appreciate a musical instrument like Chromaphone 3. The AAS team did all the work for us so that we can simply play and enjoy the tones and the nuances of their synth – and I sure did!

Chromaphone 3 is a big leap forward and more inspiring than ever. I recommend it to all those musicians and producers who might want to add some different layers and textures to their music and explore new sound worlds.

Price and Availability

Chromaphone 3 runs as standalone software and VST AU AAX plugin. The plugin also supports the NKS format.

Chromaphone 3 is available now at a suggested retail price of US$199. The upgrade for Chromaphone 1 and 2 registered users is priced at $79.

Special Introductory Pricing
Until November 20, 2020, everything Chromaphone 3 is offered at special introductory pricing—as follows:

– Chromaphone 3 plug-in US$99 (50% off)

– Chromaphone 3 +PACKS synth and sound packs bundle US$189 (50% off) – ANR Choice!

– Chromaphone 3 Upgrade for Chromaphone 1 and 2 users US$39 (50% off)

– All Chromaphone 3 sound packs US$19 (50% off).

You can learn more about Chromaphone 3 on the AAS website.

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