Rhodes Chroma Polaris vs Rhodes Chroma vs Oberheim Xpander
Old 3rd January 2013
  #1
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
Rhodes Chroma Polaris vs Rhodes Chroma vs Oberheim Xpander

Hi guys!

I have the chance to pick up a Rhodes Chroma Polaris and a Oberheim Xpander. How are your opinions on these synths? I have played on a Rhodes Chroma a few years ago and absolutely adored it! I guess it doesn't compare with the Chroma Polaris and the Xpander in any sense? Or what do you say? :-)

//Magnus
Old 4th January 2013
  #2
The Gearslutz answer: get both.
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Old 4th January 2013
  #3
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seen-da-sizer's Avatar
 

Used to own a Chroma, and Polaris, and still have the XPander. I don't think there is another poly analog that offers the same kind of flexibility from its UI, than the XPander/Martix-12. Although the Polaris sounds amazing too.

I vote XPander, or as Yoozer said: Get Both!
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Old 4th January 2013
  #4
Gear maniac
 
adhmzaiusz's Avatar
 

Polaris is a very good sounding synth. Where I find it shines is in the drones you can make. Since each LFO per voice go at different rates, you have all these interesting things coming in and out at different times especially when employing the pulse width. Never heard anything quite like it, the only thing that can sort of do the same thing is the Memorymoog but thats 5k+
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Old 4th January 2013
  #5
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robot gigante's Avatar
I only played on a Chroma a couple times, same with a Polaris, but fwiw I really liked the Polaris . It was so long ago I can't remember enough about how the two compare to each other sonically.

Used to have a Matrix 12 and it is probably my all time fav synth along with the Memorymoog... I can't imagine being disappointed with an Xpander.
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Old 4th January 2013
  #6
it no doubt has its particular appeal, but is the Chroma Polaris ribbon/membrane issue a deal-breaker?
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Old 4th January 2013
  #7
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Xpander over Polaris, by all means. i played them side by side when i went to buy my Xpander.. if you do a search for Polaris on this subforum youll find my 2 cents about it, as well as ton of other ppls opinions about it. in short liked the XP sound much better, and especially its flexibility. whereas Polaris had some tricks but fell short on some basics i wanted out of a poly i.e. env shape, resonance behaviour etc. due to using same 2nd generation CEM chips, there is slight overlap of sound, but much less than one would expect.

Rhodes Chroma is something completely different from both. no connection to Polaris other than the Chroma name. big discrete oscillators,, with quite a flexible dual multimode CEM3350 filter. the sheer quality and girth of sound puts it shoulder to shoulder with huge sounding polyphonics of previous era like OBX, JP8 or CS80, yet with modern (for 1983) advantages of velocity and quite flexible/deep modulation arhitecture. in this regard its somewhat like Xpanders predecessor.

on pure, organic sound id pick Chroma over the three. however, its expensive, and very hard to maintain and keep going. i almost bought it some yrs back, and went with CS80 instead, which in the end i didnt keep for the same reason. lifes just too short to deal with fixing all the time..
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Old 4th January 2013
  #8
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
Thank you all for the information!
Old 4th January 2013
  #9
Gear addict
 
donato's Avatar
 

I had a Polaris and really liked it. But shouldn't it be a fraction of the cost of the other synths mentioned? Even a few years ago they could be had for around $600.
Old 4th January 2013
  #10
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Carey M's Avatar
Polaris is definitely the cheapest of the three. About 1000-1200€. XPander about 1000€ more. XPander is head and shoulders above the Polaris regarding features. Polaris is much simpler and has some weird quirks (resonance, no proper mono mode, etc.) Soundwise, I like the Polaris better. It growls. XPander is more refined and "nice".

- CM
Old 4th January 2013
  #11
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raffor's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by charles chocula View Post
it no doubt has its particular appeal, but is the Chroma Polaris ribbon/membrane issue a deal-breaker?
There is a replacement part out by one of the main developers of the Polaris.

Quote:
Originally Posted by clusterchord View Post
Rhodes Chroma is something completely different from both. no connection to Polaris other than the Chroma name. big discrete oscillators,, with quite a flexible dual multimode CEM3350 filter. the sheer quality and girth of sound puts it shoulder to shoulder with huge sounding polyphonics of previous era like OBX, JP8 or CS80, yet with modern (for 1983) advantages of velocity and quite flexible/deep modulation arhitecture. in this regard its somewhat like Xpanders predecessor.
I personally don't find the Chroma sounding huge. It is a very flexible insrument though and sure a classic.

If you take a look at the schematics, you will see that the Polaris oscillator is using quite some discrete components and only one waveform is used directly from the CEM chip. All other waveforms are created discrete so to speak. Thus you will get waveform modulation between triangle and sawtooth.

The Polaris has some tricks up its sleeve, like the analog ring modulator, the waveform modulation, and some other performance things. It is not in the same league as the Xpander though. But soundwise it holds its own even it shares a lot of components with the Xpander.
Old 4th January 2013
  #12
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I think the Polaris eats the Expander for breakfast in terms of personality. ha,, try to quantify "personality" but it's there just the same. raffor made some solid comments regarding the Polaris.. the membrane issue is something that you will have to deal with eventually if it hasn't already been dealt with on any given unit. \However....that solution is readily available, and there are even alternate solutions for the ambitious minded. I have done both, and I can tell you this.. the new panel that was manufactured is stellar...rock solid,, and very easy to install. I own two of those beasts....and I will never sell either of them... Ohh ..and other than the membrane thing which was unforseeable...they are built like a russian helicopter.

Google Image Result for http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/23/Kamov_Ka-27PS.JPEG
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Old 4th January 2013
  #13
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thong's Avatar
 

Chroma is in the top 5 of all time greats
Xpander is in the top 10
imo

Had them both at the same time for 5 years
Old 4th January 2013
  #14
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schmuck's Avatar

Last edited by schmuck; 4th January 2013 at 08:14 AM.. Reason: double post
Old 4th January 2013
  #15
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schmuck's Avatar
Threads like this one make me a happy gs-member again. Tons of knowledge, EXPERIENCE, opinions (but friendly)...very nice, thank you guys.

I "only" have the xpader out of the three so cannot compare. I will say only that I cannot think of many more flexible analog polys and that due to this, it might need a bit of time to reveal its true inner beauty.
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Old 4th January 2013
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by schmuck View Post
Threads like this one make me a happy gs-member again. Tons of knowledge, EXPERIENCE, opinions (but friendly)...very nice, thank you guys.

I "only" have the xpader out of the three so cannot compare. I will say only that I cannot think of many more flexible analog polys and that due to this, it might need a bit of time to reveal its true inner beauty.
You are so right about that...and that applies to many synths...It's the biggest mistake people can make with any synth....they experience it and atttempt to extract magic.....they don't succeed immideatly and then they cst it out and reject it as sub standard......it's the deire to tap the magic that exists out of any synth that eventually yields the results... I have expereinced this phenomenon with more than one synth....the polaris is one of those....but that thing just has serious sonic DNA right out of the box.... but it's like taming a rogue lion......eventually you get ther....but the lion still exists.

schmuck...i checked out your link..... loved the website and the environment...lisgtened to the tracks...my fave was "inexhorable race"...the textrues were there. that's what often gets lost ...the idea that we can have these beautiful sounds yet we bury them under a soup of noise.. Definitely not on a mainstream program and i love that. It's great art.; original and inventive..
Old 4th January 2013
  #17
Lives for gear
 

Here are some examples of my Polaris (with improved output stage, but it sounds a lot better still now than when I made those recordings):

Guess my new synth!

It's not the most flexible synth, in fact it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of functionality (especially the 3-stage volume envelope, stepped resonance, lack of individual osc volume control), but the overall sonics of this synth are awesome. Big, rich, alive, you name it. Very often it is way too big sounding to easily fit into a mix.
Old 4th January 2013
  #18
Vintage Synth Dealer
personally, id pick the xpander over the chroma or polaris, but its a subjective thing as they all sound different and are all great instruments when working properly.
if you want a polaris, be very careful. the membrane connectors become brittle and can crack when you move the synth around. we have bought polarises in the past that were working fine before they were shipped but which showed up with typical membrane problems (some front panel switches stopped working). just the vibration of normal shipping can break them. i would worry about buying those new membrane panel replacements if theyre not improved in some way as the original design was faulty. we have modified several polarises by cutting, reconnecting and securing the membrane connectors so theyre way less susceptible to breakage, with excellent results. unfortunately, its a complicated procedure. there are often other problems with polarises as well - the amount of time and money we have had to invest in order to service these has made it cost prohibitive for us to continue to sell them, so once the modified polaris we've got in stock now sells we may stop dealing in them.
be careful with the chroma too. we have seen several of them with really bad battery acid damage and other serious problems. :/
mini
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Old 4th January 2013
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by raffor View Post
There is a replacement part out by one of the main developers of the Polaris.
where exactly can one get this? thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Teknobeam View Post
the membrane issue is something that you will have to deal with eventually if it hasn't already been dealt with on any given unit. \However....that solution is readily available, and there are even alternate solutions for the ambitious minded. I have done both, and I can tell you this.. the new panel that was manufactured is stellar...rock solid
let's say i get a Chroma Polaris and the membrane hasn't been dealt with- okay, so i can replace this... but what about the ribbon connector? i believe i've heard/read that these become brittle and once they're broken, well that's too bad/so sad/your dad. ...

so if i get one, should i just take it to my local technician with the ersatz membrane replacement? it looks like a simple thing. what about the ribbon connector? what is recommended i do about that?


Quote:
Originally Posted by living sounds View Post
i remember when you first posted these and it's always been in the back of my mind that i should get a chroma polaris!

p.s. what is it about the amp envelope? what is the limitation? thanks!
Old 4th January 2013
  #20
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by charles chocula View Post
let's say i get a Chroma Polaris and the membrane hasn't been dealt with- okay, so i can replace this... but what about the ribbon connector?

p.s. what is it about the amp envelope? what is the limitation? thanks!
Membrane/ribbon should be the same thing, the replacement deals with the entire issue if I'm not very much mistaken.

The envelope has only 3 stages and the sustain somehow isn't very organic sounding. But the attack is reasonably snappy.
Old 4th January 2013
  #21
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Carey M's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by living sounds View Post
Membrane/ribbon should be the same thing, the replacement deals with the entire issue if I'm not very much mistaken.
You are very much correct. It's basically one piece design. More information regarding the new panels can be found at:

chromapolaris : Rhodes Chroma Polaris or:

Rhodes Chroma .

I wouldn't worry about the new panels breaking.

Mine has been fixed before the new panels were available, survived the trip from Italy to Finland just fine. Needs some recapping though. And fixing a couple of keyboard connectors...

- CM
Old 4th January 2013
  #22
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raffor's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by charles chocula View Post
where exactly can one get this? thanks!
The new membrane panel comes with the ribbon connectors. It should be a straight forward replacement, nothing too fancy.

Paul DeRocco is the guy who is selling these and he can be found at the yahoo group list for Chroma Polaris.

I personally don't know of any other problems with the Polaris, but with all older synths, there is a risk that things go south.
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Old 4th January 2013
  #23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carey M View Post
You are very much correct. It's basically one piece design. More information regarding the new panels can be found at:

chromapolaris : Rhodes Chroma Polaris or:

Rhodes Chroma .

I wouldn't worry about the new panels breaking.

Mine has been fixed before the new panels were available, survived the trip from Italy to Finland just Fine. Needs some recapping though. And fixing a couple of keyboard connectors...

- CM
i'm pretty dense , so i'm not seeing exactly how/where the membrane panels are for sale?! thanks for your help!
Old 4th January 2013
  #24
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raffor's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by charles chocula View Post
i'm pretty dense , so i'm not seeing exactly how/where the membrane panels are for sale?! thanks for you help!
just google: Paul DeRocco Polaris Panel and the first hit tells you the story. I do not feel comfortable to post his email here in public but it is there, right in the link!
Old 4th January 2013
  #25
Quote:
Originally Posted by raffor View Post
the first hit tells you the story.
i appreciate that!
Old 4th January 2013
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charles chocula View Post
i appreciate that!
You're welcome.
Old 5th January 2013
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charles chocula View Post

let's say i get a Chroma Polaris and the membrane hasn't been dealt with- okay, so i can replace this... but what about the ribbon connector? i believe i've heard/read that these become brittle and once they're broken, well that's too bad/so sad/your dad. ...
charles, the membran and the ribbon cable are one in the same. the whole panel is a monolithic piece which includes the ribbon connector. there are actually two monolithic panels. so that's the confusion.. membran panel / ribbon connector. all made out of thesame material. but the actual membrane panel isn't what fails, it's the connector part. This fails because it was manufactured in a fairly acute bend and over time as the material aged, it became brittle and that constant stress from the bend eventually fractured.

The rest of the panel is flat and also sandwiched between other materials so not exposed to the air so much and I have never seen any issues with that part of the panel. Replacing the panels is really easy, but you really need to take your time and follow the steps in the video religiously.

Check out this site. chromapolaris : Rhodes Chroma Polaris
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Old 5th January 2013
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Teknobeam View Post
charles, the membran and the ribbon cable are one in the same. Check out this site. chromapolaris : Rhodes Chroma Polaris
i will do that! thank you.
Old 5th January 2013
  #29
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Septik's Avatar
I've never played the Polaris, but the chroma and xp are both outstanding synths. Price wise, I would definitely take the xp over the chroma since it covers tons of ground and can be made to do things that no other synths can do, while of course costing about a third of what the chroma costs. If cost were no issue though, you know I'm a sucker for that discrete poly sound
Old 5th January 2013
  #30
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Dirty Halo's Avatar
 

I'll kick myself for saying this but...

The Chromas Polaris is one of THE best analog buys out there today.

Total sleeper synth

It's got a fantastic tone, basically it was built by Arp and I find it unique to most other synths.

(Not to be compared to the Xpander or anything, just standing on it's own)

-a
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