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AAS Chromaphone 1.04
By Jason D. Buchwald

  WIHO Award - Wish I Had One!  

Features  Usability  Sound  Documentation & Product Support  Price
Contact Info  Overall Rating—Product Summary
Other Comments


    AAS Chromaphone Creative Percussion Synthesizer


Earlier this year at the Winter NAMM show, we were visiting AAS’s booth when we saw a live performance by a percussionist using a neat little plug-in: Chromaphone.  Labeled as a “Creative Percussion Synthesizer,” it uses physical modeling to create its sounds.  The live performer at NAMM was demonstrating some of Chromaphone’s mallet sounds, and indeed, if you closed your eyes, you would have thought you were on a Caribbean beach listening to a real kettle drum.

We were initially skeptical about the overall usefulness of Chromaphone. After all, how much need do you have for a kettledrum plug-in? To our pleasant surprise, after spending time with this plug-in in our studio, we discovered that Chromaphone provides a wide sonic canvas capable of delivering many ethnic instruments, soundtrack ambiences, synths, strings, and sound effects—and the results were typically excellent.  And, because it features a great deal of control over the sounds, it was easy to adjust a few knobs and get something very different and original out of this virtual instrument. 

When all is said and done, we found Chromaphone to be a great plug-in, easily overlooked as it flies under the radar of better-known virtual instruments, and certainly a worthy addition to our arsenal of sounds.


3_5 Stars

A partial, quick list of features:

  • Entirely based on physical modeling, so it has a much smaller footprint on disk than a sample library (and is more naturally tweakable)
  • Preset library of over 300 sounds
  • Audio specs: 32-bit floating point internal processing, sample rates up to 192 kHz
  • Unlimited undo/redo capability
  • Integrated master effects: chorus, delay, and reverb
  • Host tempo synchronization

Working as both a plug-in (VST/AU/RTAS formats) and as a stand-alone program, Chromaphone creates sound by utilizing a mallet module and noise modules (on the left side of screen), which excite two resonators. The mallet module has controls for volume, stiffness, noise and noise color; the noise module uses a white noise generator and a multi-mode filter. Both sources can be mixed.

Various resonator types are available: string, open and closed tube, plate, membrane, bar, and a marimba bar. The Manual Resonator lets you choose up to four partials/harmonics. The output of both resonators is mixed proportionally via a balance slider.

Chromaphone includes a dedicated vibrato effect (pitch-modulating LFO), an LFO unit for modulating the Noise module, and a multi-effects section in which you can pick two effects from a selection of delays, chorus, flanger, phaser, (auto) wah, notch filter, three-band equalizer, distortion, tremolo, and reverbs.

The presets library, as mentioned, includes over 300 sounds arranged in several categories, including mallets, percussion, kits, chimes and bells, plucked strings, basses, keys, strings and pads, synths, organs and pipes, soundscapes and textures, and effects.


4 Stars

We installed Chromaphone on an Apple quad-core i7 2.2 Ghz Macbook Pro and tested in both standalone mode and as an RTAS plug-in within Pro Tools LE 8.0.4.

Installing the program was incredibly easy.  Download the program, run it, and enter your serial code, which removes the 15-day trial and makes it registered and unlocked. Painless… and no dongles to worry about!  Of note, as there are no sample libraries involved, Chromaphone is a very small program that downloads and installs in just a few minutes.  Much different than, say, Komplete 8!

Using Chromaphone was incredibly easy.  Presets were well organized and easy to find, and it was very easy for us to tweak sounds by turning a knob or two.  More than once, we found ourselves asking, “How will it sound when I do this?” Chromaphone is a plugin that’s fun to use.


3_5 Stars

We were a little skeptical about how useful Chromaphone would be before we received it.  However, once using it, we were pleasantly surprised by the range of sounds it delivered.  The presets are quite good, and some are not what you would expect from a “percussion synthesizer.” Indeed, there were guitar sounds reminiscent of Andy Summers’ chorused guitar lines, distorted lead guitar sounds, drum kits, electric pianos (the latter less surprising given AAS’s EP-3 plug-in), synths, and some very organic, ambient movie score sounds. 

There’s a lot hiding under the title of “percussion synthesizer”—almost to the point where it’s a bit of a misnomer.  Of course, all the sounds can be edited as well.  Further, there are several expansion packs available as well (though we didn't get an opportunity to try them… yet!).

This truly is a hidden gem for delivering versatile, original sounds.

Documentation and Product Support

3.5 Stars

The manual (PDF format) does a very good job of explaining how Chromaphone generates sounds, how to use the controls, and how processing is routed. There are also many sound examples on the AAS website.


3.5 Stars

Chromaphone has an MRSP and direct price of $199, with the expansion packs sold separately. Given all that it actually delivers sound-wise, we think this is a very good buy for finding and creating cool sounds that all your friends don’t have in their library. 

Contact Information

Applied Acoustics Systems

Overall Rating - Product Summary
Category Value Rating
Features 20% 3_5 Stars
Usability 25% 4 Stars
Sound 25% 3_5 Stars
Documentation & Support 10% 3.5 Stars
Price 20% 3_5 Stars

OVERALL RATING = 3.6, which earns it a WIHO award!

3.6 stars or better: Outstanding, WIHO Award
3 stars or better: Worth considering
2 stars or better: Suited to specific needs
1 star or less: Not recommended
  Evaluation Short-List
  • We can't really think of any virtual instruments that are specifically focused on percussion sounds, though there are plenty of sampled drums products which may include a subset of percussion sounds.


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