MATRIXSYNTH: Rare Chromaton 14 Analog Video Synthesizer

Friday, April 04, 2008

Rare Chromaton 14 Analog Video Synthesizer

images via this auction

"extremely rare analog video synthesizer from the 1970's. Here is an opportunity to purchase a piece of history. The Chromaton 14 was designed and manufactured by Ralph Wenger in 1977, and released by BJA Systems. It originally sold for $ 9,500 USD, and there were approximately 120 units sold. As of today, less than 8 working units are known to exist. This may be your only opportunity to own such a rare video synthesizer. The Chromaton 14 is a fairly small video synthesizer, approx 18 by 18 inches square. It includes 2 camera inputs with color quantizers, but can also generate fairly complex color images without any external inputs. There are six pattern generators that can be sent to each of the chroma keyers (there are 10 preset patterns in each). The beauty of the Chromaton is that it can be played like an instrument. There are two motion generators in the upper right which can control the movement of the patterns. When the patterns are combined with the camera inputs, truly psychedelic imagery results. The pattern generators and motion generators can be set to respond to an audio input. All of the switches and knobs on the front panel are 0-5v, so this would be ideal to modify for voltage control (and for use with a modular synthesizer). Since there are two camera inputs, the system is ideal for video feedback applications.

My unit was recently serviced and cleaned. I have tested all the pattern generators as well as the camera inputs and controls. The camera inputs were designed to be used with broadcast cameras. They must be synced to the Chromaton with a genlock/sync signal. If you want to connect consumer cameras, you will need to use a timebase corrector or video mixer to syncronize the cameras/video sources with the Chromaton's sync signal. I am not including this equipment; you must provide this on your own.

I am including the schematics for the Chromaton 14, in case it needs future service. As with all vintage equipment, I am selling it as is. I guarantee that it is working and will arrive functional; however, there is no warranty on this item as it is vintage analog synthesizer equipment.

Here is a sample video showing a few basic patterns, the response to audio, and that the camera inputs are working. The video shows only a fragment of what this synthesizer is capable of. Be aware that the camera used is a consumer video camera which is not syncronized to the Chromaton, so the picture fluctuates. If a timebase corrector or video mixer was utilized, the image would be stable:

Chromaton-14 Demo

YouTube via sydilaxe. via Bryan

"Demonstration of Chromaton 14 video synthesizer. Camera inputs are not synced, so they are not stable."


  1. That's gotta be one of the coolest things i've ever seen!

  2. Ebay should support a 'collective buy' option, where we could all bid a bit, and then donate it to the dude. This would fit in his video style 10000%.

  3. I am thoroughly embarassed by the video. I should have put something a little more professional together to demonstrate the synth. This was really a quick and dirty demo. I should always assume that something like this is going to hit Matrixsynth within a matter of hours.

    I think that I am only using 3-4 of the six pattern generators in the beginning (with very little pattern variation at that). I am still kicking myself over the cheesy Alesis Micron preset beat that I used to demonstrate the audio response. The camera input portion was taken from my cable box (tested through both camera inputs, no sync). You can see the station ID if you look carefully. It is "Law & Order" I think...although I doubt that the show has ever been that psychedelic. If I had a timebase corrector (or video mixer) available and a second camera, I would have demonstrated video feedback on the C-14.

    I do hope this ends up in the hands of someone who can take full advantage of its capabilities.


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