Alesis Ion: my thoughts

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Alex E
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Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by Alex E » Sun Nov 14, 2010 3:56 am

Ok, I was being kinda anal with the keys being yellow, but that's literally just my OCD. I did manage to clean them up a bit, but not completely.

So, pointless cosmetic stupid c**p aside, let me reflect on this keyboard as an instrument.

It's kind of a weirdo, like me. It does things a little differently than the rest of the crowd. It doesn't sound like a JP-8000 or a Nord Lead, or an MS2000, which I'm all familiar with, especially the 2k and 8k. Those to some degree have kind of a clean, bright, plasticky sound that is very suitable for trance and stuff; a genre I love but not quite as much of my forte as hard house, electro house, blah blah. In other words, it was designed to be a good synthesizer, not a f**k trance oriented groovebox with 2 knobs.

The Ion isn't plasticky, or shiny sounding. But it's not super-analog sounding or dull. It's kind of a "chunky" sound. Pretty hard to describe. I can't compare it to anything else, so I won't. It sounds like an ion. A micron. A Miniak. Whatever else they've s**t out the engine into like Korg did with MOSS and Yamaha did with PLG-AN. But it's a unique sound. I have a huge mod matrix that's almost as big as my imagination, 2 filters with pretty good recreations of their respective names, and an overall great sound. It's a good synthesizer I can design sounds with.

The build quality is AWESOME. The keybed is a Fatar model, and some people complain about it, but I don't see people complaining about the Nord Lead 2x's crappy keybed, which is literally the same Fatar model. The ion is tough, and built out of metal, and the encoders are THE BEST feeling encoders I've ever felt. They have just the right of resistance. They feel comfortable, and so do the two mod wheels.

Anyway, I have no idea why the effects in the Ion are so lame. I think it turns a lot of the virus and nord people off. There's a lot of other odd yet forgivable weird things about it that may be turning some of the aforementioned virus/q demographic. Like when I start with the Initial patch, you only hear osc 1 no matter what the settings are for pre filter mix. So you have to go into page 3, selection 2, of the post filter mix and set it to flt. 1 or 2 input mix to hear the other oscillators. Why can't it be filter 1 input mix by default? Why is the front panel perfectly flat? Why does unison cause so much distortion? Why do I seem to accidentally overwrite the patch I'm working on so much when I mean to save it in a different slot? -But these are all forgivable in my eyes.

A major deciding factor in my purchase was WC Olo Garb's reveiw, and he said "give it time". And you should. There are these small thingies about the Ion that might turn you off initially. But if you sit down with it and learn the interface, read the manual, and dig in yourself, you're golden. Add some external effects and it's everything it needs to be.

If you're an individual, and a creative person, I say buy an Ion right now. If you're a german trance producer who thinks the JP-8000 is the best VA synth of all time, hang onto your roland loaded with Vengance patches because the Ion is not for you.
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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by cartesia » Sun Nov 14, 2010 7:48 am

Good review, although saying creative/individual people should buy it, well. . that's oversimplifying.. not all creative people are the same

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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by Alex E » Sun Nov 14, 2010 8:09 am

lol, true. It's a suggestion really.
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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by griffin avid » Sun Nov 14, 2010 8:38 am

"if you sit down with it and learn the interface, read the manual, and dig in yourself, you're golden. Add some external effects and it's everything it needs to be."

Pretty much true for every synth. Nice read though. I put the Ion in the same box as the Fusion.

Word of mouth killed both these boards.
I guess that's what happens when Harmony Central is the big buzz builder.

What else do you have besides this in your set up?
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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by Alex E » Sun Nov 14, 2010 8:52 am

griffin avid wrote: What else do you have besides this in your set up?
Right now, nothing much, actually. Not using My Kontrol 49 right now, so all I have in my setup right now is My Ion, my mixer, and my Wedge which I pulled out of the closet this evening after someone said they used theirs with their own Ion. Forgot how nice this little plastic fx box was.

I do most of my music inside my computer with no midi controller, which is something I prefer for some reason.

Including my Monitors which are also off to the side right now, I have enough misc. gear like mixers and controllers to sell and afford something else cool, so maybe I'll have a motif classic by january or something. I've been cutting back all year.
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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by griffin avid » Sun Nov 14, 2010 12:22 pm

More rack units or boards? If you do everything inside the box and mostly use modules as tone generators, you can save some space and $$. I assume the Motif Classic means you are short on the bread and butter sounds...
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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by Alex E » Sun Nov 14, 2010 10:02 pm

I went the rack route recently but I decided I liked having keys to play a little more. Usually keyboards have nicer interfaces anyway.

And yeah, bread and butter. I don't even have any plug ins that can give me just a good grand piano sound for songwriting and inclusion in songs. So again, I'm going the tactile route with a keyboard that gan also give me much much more if I want it.
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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by hfinn » Mon Nov 15, 2010 12:27 pm

A few years back I did an A/B quiz on here between a minimoog and the same exact patch on an Ion and more people thought the Ion was the analog which I thought was interesting. You can definitely get it analog sounding... Great synth for the price it goes for.

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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by Alex E » Sat Dec 04, 2010 8:03 am

It's been a while since I bought it and I am very disappointed in myself.

The Ion's been sitting off to the side for weeks. I ended up wishing I had that plasticky, shiny sound coming out of it. Lately, I've been lusting over viruses and novas while my poor Ion sits unused propped on it's side next to my desk.

I feel sorry for it. I feel like I should be spending more time with it and exploring sounds. But I need my retarded supersaw pads and bright, delay-drenched detuned sequences and whatnot. The Ion isn't a modern dance machine. It has more of the attitude of a real analog synth.

Every time I turn it on, I have a certain kind of sound in mind that I would typically expect from a virtual analog. It's something I hear in all those prog trance and electro house tracks I like. It's rude, modern, and sits great in a mix.
But the Ion is none of these things. It's organic and even, it doesn't take too many risks. It doesn't want to dominate your track. I want to dig in and just go for it and make all these sounds I want, but the Ion sounds completely different.

It looked great on paper, but I'm afraid the Ion ended up being something I'm going to have to pass on. :/
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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by griffin avid » Sat Dec 04, 2010 2:24 pm

Well, start with a trade and move on to straight sale.
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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by Shreddie » Sat Dec 04, 2010 2:48 pm

Alex E wrote:The Ion isn't a modern dance machine. It has more of the attitude of a real analog synth.
Then it did meet the design brief that Alesis set out, just a pity that it didn't meet your expectations.

That said, be thankful that there is a wide variety of synths out there... Not all VAs are the same so you're bound to find something that suits you.

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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by Roby31 » Sat Dec 04, 2010 3:34 pm

Alex E wrote:I need my retarded supersaw pads and bright, delay-drenched detuned sequences and whatnot
Better off with a JP8080/8K?
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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by Jabberwalky » Sat Dec 04, 2010 7:10 pm

Well, your sentiments are about the same as mine. I have owned the Ion, and still have a Micron (it actually has effects). I basically imagine it as a modular synth. It can do pretty much everything, but its default setup is pretty bad and it takes a long time to get what you're thinking.

What I did was create an entire bank of diff initializations.

Also, keep in the mind that the mixer and filter types can drastically affect what you're going for. I know what you mean by it sounding "chunky". A lot of that is the way the mixer is setup.

You can't go at this synth like you would another VA or analog. The parameters simply don't change the sound the way they should. It takes a really long time to wrap your head around what filter and mixer volume settings work.

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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by JayEm » Sun Dec 05, 2010 5:45 pm

trade you my nova laptop for it :D
i've always wanted an ion
Alex E wrote:It's been a while since I bought it and I am very disappointed in myself.

The Ion's been sitting off to the side for weeks. I ended up wishing I had that plasticky, shiny sound coming out of it. Lately, I've been lusting over viruses and novas while my poor Ion sits unused propped on it's side next to my desk.

I feel sorry for it. I feel like I should be spending more time with it and exploring sounds. But I need my retarded supersaw pads and bright, delay-drenched detuned sequences and whatnot. The Ion isn't a modern dance machine. It has more of the attitude of a real analog synth.

Every time I turn it on, I have a certain kind of sound in mind that I would typically expect from a virtual analog. It's something I hear in all those prog trance and electro house tracks I like. It's rude, modern, and sits great in a mix.
But the Ion is none of these things. It's organic and even, it doesn't take too many risks. It doesn't want to dominate your track. I want to dig in and just go for it and make all these sounds I want, but the Ion sounds completely different.

It looked great on paper, but I'm afraid the Ion ended up being something I'm going to have to pass on. :/
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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by celebutante » Thu Dec 09, 2010 9:15 am

I totally agree... I've had one since it came out, used it on tour for years and really wanted to love it, but I just can't. Though it seems more analog than a lot of modern synths, it isn't. The square waves are really cold, and higher register PWM sounds just seem thin. The small gray lettering on silver always has driven me nuts, and for a synth with that many knobs, it's not nearly as quick to program as you'd expect. More importantly (I know I sound like a broken record here), my Prophet-5 simply sounds so much nicer for most things- some sounds are close, but usually it's no contest.

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