AN1X vs Alesis Ion: Advice needed

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AN1X vs Alesis Ion: Advice needed

Post by RichShan » Tue Jan 22, 2008 11:59 am

Hello All,

I'm currently looking around for a new VA to work with.

I'm looking at Yamaha AN1X or Alesis Ion...

I was just wondering if anyone had used both and had any preferences.

I make all kinds of music but it tends toward soft/ambient slow-mid-tempo electronica.

I'm currently using (for my live set-up) SY85, MC303, JX3P, Juno 6 and Esi32...

I'd like the new VA for evolving sounds and arpeggio'd stuff... Be good to have it for a wide range of sounds.

Any thoughts?

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Post by crystalmsc » Tue Jan 22, 2008 3:06 pm

hi, welcome to VSE. I own and like both synths a lot. To me the ION sounds more raw than the AN1x, also the filters are better by quality and quantity. While the AN1x, with the much better fx section and arpeggiator always sounds more modern. For the type of music and sounds mentioned, I would choose the AN1x instantly.
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Post by meatballfulton » Tue Jan 22, 2008 3:14 pm

I use the PLG150-AN (same engine as the AN1x) and find it has a few serious limitations for ambient tracks.

1. no MIDI synch of LFOs

2. no modulation matrix (CC matrix instead)

On the other hand it has a very flexible step sequencer which allows multiple patterns per patch (switchable in real time) and CC control. The "free EG" (modulation sequencer) helps make up for the lack of synchable LFOs. You also can morph between patches which can be very cool for ambient stuff.
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Post by RichShan » Tue Jan 22, 2008 4:55 pm

crystalmsc wrote:hi, welcome to VSE. I own and like both synths a lot. To me the ION sounds more raw than the AN1x, also the filters are better by quality and quantity. While the AN1x, with the much better fx section and arpeggiator always sounds more modern. For the type of music and sounds mentioned, I would choose the AN1x instantly.
Hi Crystalmsc,

Thanks for the welcome and the advice... For some reason I was tending toward the AN1X because of its step sequencer- the sequences being stored as part of a patch. This means I can program the AN1X to "replace" my JX3P, which I often use the step sequencer on.

I'm also attracted to the split facility. Is it possible to program a split patch with an arpeggio on the left and a step sequence on the right? Or am I asking far too much.

I have heard many call the An1X a virtual Prophet 5. DO you have any idea if this is justified?

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Post by crystalmsc » Tue Jan 22, 2008 5:44 pm

the arp/seq is one task at the time. while sound decent, I won't compare it with the P5, to me the NI Pro5 still did a better job. The AN1x won't sound as raw, the osc sounds thinner and the filter far less smoother compared to the real thing. But it has it's own unique sound which is very musical and playable with an early VA character.
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Re: AN1X vs Alesis Ion: Advice needed

Post by Pro5 » Sun Sep 11, 2016 7:40 am

I like the AN1x, had a couple of them and they are fine synths, decent VAs and one of the best of the cheaper end.

However, as an overall synth, very little in that price range can touch the Alesis ion. It will sound less shiny out of the box with no built in verb/delay etc (esp presets) because it's more of a powerhouse/raw/sound designer synth (THe Ion) compared to the AN1x which is a good, but very typical VA of its time (like JP8k ms2k etc).

ION goes beyond it's VA premise and is a beautiful digital synth regardless of trying to rip-off analog or not. I particularly like the filters and modulations, some of those filters are unique, some sound like silk (beautiful), for digital it's not a synth you think 'why can't this be real analog' you just love it as it is, with other VAs you are always aware they are not quite the real thing, with ION you don't care at all, you dig in and appreciate the fact it's digital but has this weird aura of authenticity akin to what analog synths possess. It's just a great synth, beautifully built (other than the keybed but it's fine enough - same one as MS2k), but the knobs and wheels are amazing! The 12 bit encoders are super high quality (only early models suffered ghost edits after early '04 all was well + OS updates). I can't describe how nice it is to edit a deep synth like this with well implemented, high res, tight (mounted with case bolts!), smooth and nice sized encoders instead of pots. As you flick around the functions it's great to have zero jumping in values (due to being encoders), if you have an LFO riding a wave/filter you can effortlessly hop onto the movement exactly where it is and speed up/slow down etc, this is something even most analog doesn't do (as they have the typical finite pots).

I'm not normally a fan of encoders but the ION ones are a beauty!

Sound wise, I really love the waveshaping, the display of them (looks very cool), the massive choice of quality and cool/different filters, the FX while sparse (thank god!) are very useful for actual sound shaping rather than sugar coating, it feels like the limited FX are that way because they didn't want you to go mad with icing on the exquisite base tone, some of the overdrives and flangers are perfect for this task. They help get you the sound, you can dress it up with the typical fancy FX later (verb, delay)

It's a real man's synth, if you need delay/verb add it from your computer or outboard just like you have to with real good analog synths from the past. It has great oscs (for VA) and combines the best, depth of digital other wordly, sci fi sounds with very very close analog like sound and response/depth.

Lastly the casing is great, full metal top and bottom, weighs a nice amount and feels quality overall, certainly in a much higher league than its peers in that price bracket. After a few days it's very intuitive even if it does start out a bit idiosyncratic vs the typical synth, you'll come to appreciate the kind of modular aproach to the matrix, how each LFO can run different waves at ONCE in the matrix, controlling different stuff. It has beautiful lighting, expensive feeling buttons/knobs and the wheels are some of my favourite for feel and response (very smooth and tight like the knobs).

Downsides for me are very few, transistor output problem is super simple to fix. One of my favourite synths I've ever used, analog or digital and I hope to track one down in good condition to own in the near future. For me it's one of the best digital synths ever made when you look at the entire package, build, feel, sound and price.

AN1x pales by comparision, and I really liked the AN1x, but it's just stuff you can do in software easily and doesn't have the build or feel of the ION, Ion makes the complex SIMPLE which isn't always so easy or as nice to do in software (and to me it still sounds better than most soft synths that can even come close to what it does).

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Re: AN1X vs Alesis Ion: Advice needed

Post by zmd » Sun Sep 11, 2016 8:31 pm

Pro5, the transistor output issue you mentioned...is that what causes low output and high frequency noise on the main outs and headphone outs?
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Re: AN1X vs Alesis Ion: Advice needed

Post by alfadawg01 » Mon Sep 12, 2016 2:27 pm

zmd wrote:Pro5, the transistor output issue you mentioned...is that what causes low output and high frequency noise on the main outs and headphone outs?
The problem you are stating could be the result of a bad volume pot.

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Re: AN1X vs Alesis Ion: Advice needed

Post by Stab Frenzy » Tue Sep 13, 2016 12:39 am

Everyone always assumes it's a bad volume pot and it's always the output transistors. ;)

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Re: AN1X vs Alesis Ion: Advice needed

Post by alfadawg01 » Wed Sep 14, 2016 8:48 pm

Stab Frenzy wrote:Everyone always assumes it's a bad volume pot and it's always the output transistors. ;)
In my case, replacing the volume pot cured the high-frequency noise and low volume. However, my output transistors have finally failed and I have almost no volume. Yeesh...

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Re: AN1X vs Alesis Ion: Advice needed

Post by Zamise » Thu Sep 15, 2016 6:26 pm

I have an AN1X and an AN200 and a Micron if that counts because it is nearly the same as an Ion, right? AN1X is a very beautiful, bright, and crisp sounding synth. It is also fairly pretty looking and feeling synth at least to me and I will not let anyone touch it, in fact I don't even touch it all that often, I like to let it sit there and look over at it sometimes and remind myself I have one and type and talk more about it than actually use it. The AN200 gets a fair bit of use and I will let other folks touch it as long as I'm near by to make sure they are not putting their open beer next to it or are being aggressive with it. The Micron's arp I believe can do chords which is one of the few reasons I've kept one, however it has been borrowed a lot and abused and passed around a lot, you'd probably be better off asking my friends about it than I.
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Re: AN1X vs Alesis Ion: Advice needed

Post by Jabberwalky » Thu Sep 15, 2016 7:23 pm

I just really couldn't jive with the Ion. Felt very static to me.

The overall build also bothered me. Just a very technical slab, with overly tight encoders, shitty feeling mod wheels and an abysmal keybed.

The sound was always somewhere in that upper mid-range that wore on my ears.

The UI was sprawled around in a fashion that made no sense imo.

The An1x may be lacking in knobs, but sounds infinitely more interesting. The build isn't half bad either (for a mid 90s VA)

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Re: AN1X vs Alesis Ion: Advice needed

Post by Pro5 » Sat Sep 17, 2016 5:45 am

Jabberwalky wrote:I just really couldn't jive with the Ion. Felt very static to me.

The overall build also bothered me. Just a very technical slab, with overly tight encoders, shitty feeling mod wheels and an abysmal keybed.

The sound was always somewhere in that upper mid-range that wore on my ears.

The UI was sprawled around in a fashion that made no sense imo.

The An1x may be lacking in knobs, but sounds infinitely more interesting. The build isn't half bad either (for a mid 90s VA)
Wow we must have played different synths! :lol:

The wheels on the ion on some of the best I've ever touched, beautiful resistance and return. The An1x ones are your basic loose/plastic/slap happy yamaha ones. I've had two An1x and let them go no problem. I love the ion. It's a whole other league over the an1x, seriously.

The overall build is gorgeous and feels about 10x more expensive than the rattly an1x, also the AN1x is a pain to use the modtrix/rocker switch/multi select knob thingy, did my head in and stopped me from diving as deep as I'd like. I have none of that problem on the ion, it's super easy once you get your head around how it works.

An1x sounds more interesting? lol, are you sure you weren't swayed by the build in verb/delay? Because the An1x, even with the Free EG (probably its coolest feature) still sounds exactly like a soft synth trying to imitate analog, and yeah it does a good job in some cases but when I compared it to my real analog it always sounded fake, so why bother? Meanwhile the ion actually 'feels' analog in how the sound reacts and breathes, never does it sound like cheap digital, and you put it through outboard FX like a polysix or jupiter and wow, it sounds great, the core sound of it is much more organic/vibey than any other VA i've tried and that includes the An1x which sounds nice but not exactly earth shattering.

AN1x is one of the best VAs ever built (for sound - nothing else certainly not quality of build/feel/components or user inteface), esp considering how cheap it goes for.

ion is one of the best *synthesizers* ever built, VA, analog or digital (and that includes build, feel, components and esp user interface/sound ) - and goes sometimes as cheap as An1x and is solid metal, amazing encoders (overly tight? seriously they work better here than any synth I've had encoders on, I love how they are high res, super smooth and actually help instead of hinder like most encoders do vs pots).

An1x has one filter, and one type of filter with the selectable pole.
ion has 20? filter types, some very unique, others VERY close clones of moog, jupiter, oberheim, ARP etc and can have TWO at once in par/serial which is way above most synths in its class and makes for very cool/unique/usable sounds far beyond the usual stuff the other VAs churn out (also the post filter mixer where you can let a little of the unfiltered sound through and pan ALL THREE sources flt1/flt2/unfiltered, makes for some very wide and complex/full sounds than an1x can't touch (maybe an1x sounds 'nicer' here due to the load of FX it's bathed in? turn fx off and ion will destroy it). Then ion has some great overdrive FX that actually sound usable and add real grit/weight to the sound, AN1x's only useful feature there is the feedback parm, which thickens it up but still doesn't help much to sound "alive". ion's FX I find are perfect for focusing on the sound creation rather than the dressing. You can dress it up after with outboard or DAW verb/delay anyway. And then it sounds way nicer than the other VAs.

As for 'very static' sorry I can not for the life of me understand that jab, this is the least static of all VAs I've ever used, did you actually program it or just take an instant dislike/couldn't get your head around it and dumped it while retaining your bad opinion forever? With ion not only does it have the ability to very subtley mod all THREE osc waveshapes (3 oscs + waveshaping on one VA is a luxury), it also has the analog drift parameter, did you ever use it? set it on 15% and there's nothing static about it.

I think you never put it through outboard FX and felt it sounded a bit 'dry' if anything, but then so does a polysix, but these types of synths often take great to outboard while synths with lots of (old/low budget) fx included are often needed to make the sound seem interesting at all (and then they are usually a pain to mix because you've come out of the synth all dressed up - while ion works more like a vintage analog, and sounds more like one too).

Anyway, its not for everyone, and as I posted in another thread just now, the way it works is different to typical synths (mod matrix for LFO depth/destinations instead of the usual select dest/depth at LFO knob area) which could put some off, but seriously after like, a day, two tops, you are over that and realise how it centralises everything onto the matrix, which is very easy to use here unlike AN1x, and thats exactly what gives it is power and flexibility. I also respect and acknowledge the luxury of design they put into it in the small details, like the little orange lights on each section (filter, lfo, env etc) that lights up with the "mod" legend next to it IF that part is a target in any of the modulation slots you've used. That's great thinking, this is definitely a synth for the deeper sound designer and not the instant noodler though, sure, just how I like them.

I like the An1x, certainly, moreso than MS2k (thin but fun) JP8k (ok but a bit boring) but next to the ion the An1x feels like a tarted up soft synth, ion meanwhile (next to analogs) feels like a 100% valid digital synth doing its own, unique, thing. Up there with other classic digital synths (usually non VA synths). I think the ion, in fact, is the only interesting VA I've ever used. For all the other VAs I'd rather just go to real analog, with ion I WANT to use it because its digital and because of how it sounds (those filters seriously c**p all over most other VAs), and I love how the screen reacts to the super smooth encoders, when waveshaping etc. LUXURY my friend, luxury!


Yes, you are right the keybed itself isn't great, but then nor is the MS2k (same keybed?), the jp8k has a crappy keybed too and the an1x, while better, is still not exactly stunning.

I can't imagine anyone thinking the An1x looks beautiful though, it's a clean looking unit, kinda cool with its wedge but its pure blue plastic with barely any knobs and very narrow front to back. The ion (slab or not) looks like a serious weapon of sound (and is). Put them next to each other (as I have) and the an1x looks embarrasing, like the awful cs1x its body is taken from. JP8k at least LOOKs good.
The An1x may be lacking in knobs, but sounds infinitely more interesting. The build isn't half bad either (for a mid 90s VA)
But the ion is 10x better build than An1x so what gives? Did you buy a phucked up used unit from trent reznor or something? The ion feels like a V-synth next to the an1x in build quality. If you drop the ion your floor is more likely to be damaged than the synth (it weighs a lot and is one of few synths to have FULL metal body even extended to the wheels area which is normally plastic even on super synths!). Knobs on ion feel 100000000x better than an1x knobs (each ion knob is bolted to the casing for ZERO flex and the knobs themselves feel very high quality/rubber/soft touch not hard plastic). And as said , the wheels are a thing of beauty.

As for sounds more interesting? sorry but you clearly never programmed an ion in your life if you truly believe that, the ion runs rings around the An1x for 'interesting' sounds, unless you are talking about animated/showy things using the evolving free EGs? But core sound is much more interesting on ion, filters are much more interesting (to say the least) and osc selection/count/shaping is much more interesting. Mod matrix on ion is MORE interesting due to it being more likely to be used as its a pleasure to use unlike on An1x (and yeah I used the software editor for an1x a few times but I don't like doing that with hardware synths).

From all you've said I can only conclude, and don't take this as an insult but your comments are so confusing, that you've never actually, really, used one. It can be the only explanation for your weird take on the feel/build of it (other than the keybed). Its actually better built than their own andromeda,

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Re: AN1X vs Alesis Ion: Advice needed

Post by Pro5 » Sat Sep 17, 2016 6:10 am

Zamise wrote:I have an AN1X and an AN200 and a Micron if that counts because it is nearly the same as an Ion, right?
Sorry, no. A synth isn't just about the sound. While they have same engines etc, the stuff you pull out of the ion will often be way better than anything you can be bothered with pulling out of the "Mini/nerfed interface" versions.

This is ION vs AN1x not "crappy interfaced mini synth with same/similar engine as ion vs an1x". ion = ion, nothing else.

Try one and realise why so many love it (cult synth) even though it doesn't have the extra fx/sequencer of the smaller follow ups. A synth is the entire object, it's hard to fall in love with a synth or its sound if you are abstracted from its heart, and ion opens it's heart up easily to exploration which is why its a better synth than the mini-me versions.

I never kicked a polysix, jx3p juno 106 etc out of bed for NOT have a ton of extraneous non vital to sound creation features, and I sure won't kick ion out of bed for it either. It's like a pure analog synth in that respect, you dress it up after not during. So your comparison isn't valid. Only those that have touched/used an ion will "get it", and even some of them only used a few presets and got confused because it wasn't a typical boring VA and let it go. Their loss. :)

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Re: AN1X vs Alesis Ion: Advice needed

Post by vladimotor » Sat Sep 17, 2016 10:08 am

I have Miniak which is the same engine as Ion and... it is my favorite VA synth engine, better then Nord, better then JP8000, better then Novation, better then MS2000 or Radias. Never used An1x, but love Miniak engine better then any other VA. AN1x however does sound very good in the demos, but it appears to have a terrible interface.

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