Chroma Panel Colour ThemesBy Chris Ryan  <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Chroma's standard blue, green, and orange colour theme was not universal; there were several instruments produced with an alternate colour scheme, and an even more obscure theme that seems to exist only in spare panel overlay parts. This picture from Ron Joseph [21030042+] shows all three: from top to bottom, red yellow and orange or "Halloween;" standard blue and green production; and a near-monotone gold-white.
Here's another—blurry—picture of all three, showing most of the buttons.
Differences between the themes:
- The original fifty Chromas (hand built) had the blue and green theme with "POLY/MONO" for parameter 2;
- The later production, "Halloween," and gold panels have "FSW MODE" for parameter 2;
- The (sole) gold set is only an overlay with no membrane panel.
So, in all, there were four panel sets: two blue and green (with different labels for parameter 2); Halloween; and gold.
The term "Halloween" came from the late Philip Dodds, VP of Engineering at ARP and product manager for the Chroma at CBS/Fender, when I asked him about the tri-colour theme. He wrote, "I don't remember too much about these units except a vague memory of them being called 'Halloween' units." The following picture, of Andi Beit's , is perhaps the best photo of the Halloween scheme, showing detail of the three distinct colours on the main program/parameter panel.
This scheme is different from the blue and green production theme in that the colours, rather than alternating arbitrarily in groups of five, are aligned with the parameter groups such as Control, Glide, and Sweep. Following is a photo (by Oli Gardner) of my Chroma, for comparison: note how a group of five blue buttons spans the Wave Shape and Cutoff sections, and the Cutoff section has both blue and green buttons.
Here is a picture of left and right sides of a "Halloween" panel set, from Brian McCully's [no serial number]; click for a larger view.
The Halloween theme was related to the production of the Polaris. Ron Joseph, who bought the gold monotone panels (see below) from Mark Smith [2103-PT-002], engineering tech at ARP and CBS/Fender, relates that Mark said "The Halloween panels were made at the end of the Chroma's run. Fender was looking to launch the Polaris and people felt the Earth tone color scheme would better suit the new product. At the same time several panels were made for the Chroma as prototypes. The idea was that Chroma owners might wish to 'match' their Chroma to the Polaris." Mark confirms this and writes, "Rob [Witt; see for instance Polaris membrane, November 2009] made the gold panels after we discussed it. All production Chromas would have had earth tones but Fender closed the Woburn, MA facility before that could happen."
Robb Witt, the "screen-printing guy" at ARP and Fender, writes "John Shykun [VP of Marketing, Fender] had long had the idea that the Chroma color scheme should be 'updated' for the Polaris project. In pursuit of this he had us mix up a rainbow of what he referred to as 'earth tone' colors. We experimented with retrofitting this schema onto the Chroma as well as using it for the original Polaris demo units." See Fwd: "Red Chroma's", ChromaTalk November 2003.
The Polaris, when it eventually went into production, had a blue theme. There are a few pictures of the prototype "earth tone" Polaris from early advertisements.
Rob Witt, the screen printer at ARP and Fender, writes: "The 'earthtone' overlays were never a production part. Any panels out there were made as prototypes... and never implemented in production."
Mark Smith sold the sole existing set of gold and white panels in July 2008; see Graphics panels for sale. Ron Joseph bought them and supplied a more detailed picture (see Chroma front panels, December 2008). This panel has a "FSW MODE" for parameter 2, rather than POLY/MONO, as most of the production units do; but there is a mistake in that parameters 48 and 49 (MOD 2 SELECT and DEPTH) are reversed—see the lower right hand corner of the image (click for a larger view).
There are four known Chromas with non-standard colour themes:
- Andi Beit's 21030620, which includes one of the only known factory-installed pressure sensors
- Mark Smith's 2103-PT-002
- Mark Smith's Expander with no serial number, sold for parts
- Leonardo Ascarrunz's Chroma with no serial number (for sale in June 2011)
In addition, a Chroma and an Expander were used by Herbie Hancock in his Saturday Night Live appearance in 1984. The current whereabouts of these instruments is unknown.
There are also several membrane panels that were, or are not currently, installed on instruments:
Mailing list threads of note:
- Chroma Buttons, July-August 2001
- More Halloween Chromas, October 2001
- Fwd: "Red Chroma's", November 2003 – message from Robb Witt, screen printer at ARP/Fender, on the "earth tone" theme
- Herbie Hancock/Jeff Bova ? Chroma Spotting, July 2006 – Herbie Hancock playing a Halloween Chroma and Expander
- Halloween/Red Membrane Panels, March 2007
- Chroma item for sale on eBay, June 2008
- Graphics panels for sale, July 2008
- Membrane switch panels, July 2008
- Chroma/Expander picture (of Mark Smith's Chroma and Expander), August 2008
- Chroma front panels, December 2008