Alesis Ion: my thoughts

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Soundwave
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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by Soundwave » Sat Dec 11, 2010 1:06 pm

Had an Ion,

Pro's
2nd best UI ever after a NL3
best analogue sounding VA filters on a hardware synth I've come across although not as grungy as the Quasimidi stuff
the tube saturation is great for added filth and the way it treats each voice separately means no polyphonic mess
NRPN's ensure so shitty stepping and the endless encoders allow a more precise range than a 127 point pot

Con's
tacky keys
only two or three of the filter models sound decent
the LCD needs to be at a slight angle
the MIDI CC is limited due to the NRPN's
boring flat waveforms, Nord's and AN1X are much better
an overall attenuated sound that lacked edge but not a problem for bass and smooth pad sounds


I wanted to like this synth but the range of sounds fell short in some areas for me, sure it's great for squelchy bass your bread and butter prog rock sounds and some vintage emulations but the flat dull sound of the waveforms I just couldn't live with

not a synth for everything but it has its own sound that would compliment a bigger set up

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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by Dano » Fri Dec 17, 2010 4:58 am

I got my Ion back in the summer of 2003 (one of the fairly early serial numbers) and also got a Micron 2 or 3 years later and I agree with a lot of the comments here both positive and negative.

The PWM sounds terrible. (...not a deal-breaker I guess since the Moog filter is IMO one of the best filters on the Ion and the Mini didn't even have PWM - I think that was something originally made to make single osc per voice synths sound like multi-osc per voice synths anyway). Another thing that has always irked me about the Ion is the arpeggiator not having any of the traditional basic modes such as up, down, last note played, etc. This seemed like such an obvious OS upgrade feature that never materialized and then the Micron added most of those patterns but left out random mode! My hope was that the Ion could easily sound like lots of different synths by simply changing filter types - That was probably an unrealistic expectation in all fairness though. I remember the original sound demos at the Alesis site were pretty good but as someone else pointed out, programming the Ion just isn't that easy and it usually takes a long time to get good sounds from scratch. While I'm on a little bit of a rant, what happened to the extra sound bank that the original programmers made and that the Alesis site said was going to be released for the ion? (If it was released I'll be embarrassed of course but my guess is the sounds wound up in the Micron.)

What I like the Ion/Micron best for is making pads/textures by blending different filter types. I know that is a pretty esoteric niche but over the years I've also tweaked enough bass, lead, and pad patches that I like that I wouldn't get rid of the Ion/Micron.

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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by bassdude » Thu Feb 24, 2011 4:10 am

Some random Ion questions, the first being my biggest concern:

How does the keyboard feel? Can you set the global feel to your playing style (meaning, soft, medium or hard)?

Does it have a "key follow" option (filter or other sources can be changed based on how low or high up you play on the keyboard)?

What are the arpeggiator types? Is it true that they cannot be edited, or can it be done via software?

The vintage synth bio dosent list it, but ive heard it has a noise generator. Is this true?

Can pulse width be modulated?

Thanks.

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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by Alex E » Thu Feb 24, 2011 5:21 am

PWM: Yes - All 3 oscillators

Noise Generator: Yes

Key Follow: Yes: Assignable to many, many different parameters in the mod matrix

Keyboard: It's the kind of light and fickle Fatar model used in synths like the Nord Lead 2x. I'm sure there's a global setting for your playing style, but I don't explicitly remember one.

Arp: Yeah, they are set in memory. I don't think there's a way to edit them.
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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by Jinsai » Sat Feb 26, 2011 10:19 pm

Yes, there are multiple curves one can apply to the keyboard for playing styles. I think the default one is too sensitive for velocity, and I also think this is why most synth-heads think the keyboard feels cheap. Try changing the velocity curve.

Personally I think the keys feel fine. No better or worse than any other synth, once you either adjust to a velocity curve you like or tune velocity impact on your patches.

Has noise generator, you can choose between pink and white.

Arpgeggiator on the Ion cannot be edited. Has a bunch of patterns which I find useless. Lacks simple up/down and most importantly (and bizarrely) lacks RANDOM.

It's a great-sounding synth. I always forget how good and sweet it sounds, and how it can both rumble and be airy in a way that many other boards can't.

Its main drawback is something it shares with the Andromeda: It has almost too many features, and as a result, the UI is complex and you may never feel like you've "mastered" the thing.
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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by bassdude » Sun Feb 27, 2011 2:02 am

jinsai: My current board is a Roland Sh 201. If i set the velocity so that i can get a nice wide range of dynamics, i have to play VERY hard to get to full volume. Its to the point where i almost feel like im going to damage the keyboard. I dont require a super high-end, fully weighted keybed, just one that i dont have to play so damn hard on to get both loud and soft notes. Do you think the Ion achieves this? Thank you very much to those who have replied.

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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by Sir Nose » Sun Feb 27, 2011 7:04 am

Using different velocity curves means, you get to define how the key action is interpreted. A curve that has a steeper slope for lower velocities and a gentle slope at the top end will allow you to play softer, than you are having to, in order to produce a larger velocity message. You'll still be able to play low velocities, though control needs to be tighter because there is less range.
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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by bassdude » Sun Feb 27, 2011 4:04 pm

So the Ion has velocity curves for overall playing style, as well as velocity settings for each patch? If so, that sounds like just what i need. Thats seems to be the problem with my SH 201: the velocity dosent change in a curved fashion, but seems to be linear, so that when you get low volume for soft playing, you also have to play very hard for very loud volumes. That would be great to set it to a curved response, so i wouldnt have to play so hard at the top end.

Can velocity also be routed to effect the filter for the Ion? I can do that on my 201, but it responds about as poorly as the velocity for volume.

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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by Jinsai » Sun Feb 27, 2011 8:23 pm

Yes, the Ion offers a whopping 9 different velocity curves for playing styles, which are set globally (for the keyboard, not individual patches):
linear high, medium, low
logarithmic high, medium, low
exponential high, medium, low

Personally I like linear medium, but this is really 100% dependent on your own personal preferences.

And yes, the Ion also lets you adjust what velocity does for every patch as well.
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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by minime123 » Mon Feb 28, 2011 4:06 am

we got one in that i thought we would resell, but after playing around with it for a while, i kinda like it. its no substitute for analog, but i really like the dual filters with many filter types, flexible modulation routings and the distortions. its got that virtual analog quality you get from other VAs and probably wont sit well in a mix along with real analogs (havent recorded with it yet so haven't tried), but on its own, its pretty cool and does a lot for the money.
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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by redchapterjubilee » Mon Feb 28, 2011 4:04 pm

Drop by my MySpace page and listen to "Consider Means To Look At Stars". That would be Ion and Matrix-1000 layered. I thought the two worked very well together. I'd love to have an Ion again. My previous one had bad outputs on it.
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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by balma » Tue Mar 01, 2011 8:43 pm

so weird.

Each head is a world apart. I have being paid with satisfaction on every piece of gear I have owned, from yamaha arranger keyboards PSR, to tiny Electribes ER1 & ES1, to the exotic Fizmo. But obviously some of them have been more pleasant than others.

I think almost ANY synth can serve in one way or another to "modern dance music" . Anyway, what is modern dance music? Want to make dance music that is already done and explored, or want to make modern dance music that hasn't been discovered yet?

I do not know the ION, I just have heard it has very low alliasing, it has modulation matrix, and it's plenty of filters.
That sounds really interesting.

90% of my compositions are dance music. The Fizmo is a 12 years old synth, and I'm using it plenty on dance music. As far as I know, there are not too much tracks on modern electronic music that includes a Fizmo, that's one of my main reasons I got it, and I can't be happier with it. It's an amazing instrument.

trying to do something totally different is very challenging, and not easy at all, but it's a great adventure and experience, to put your creativity to work on something abnormal.

Now, about "not every piece fits the puzzle, I don't see the music as a puzzle, there are as much gaps on it as you want to have. The puzzle is in your head only. A puzzle has a determined number of pieces. You never know how pieces a song can have, until you finish it.

But each one of us have a different concept of what music should be, those are only my thoughts about it....nothing else
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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by bassdude » Mon Mar 07, 2011 6:25 am

Ive been playing one of these lately, and im pretty impressed overall. Much more flexible than previous boards ive played, but still intuitive and pretty easy and quick to tweak. Im still learning the interface however.

One strange thing ive been running into: when playing two oscillators simultaneously, each an octave apart, they sound out of tune when they are not (at least according to the individual pitch amounts). For instance, when playing a square wave at one octave with a saw layered on top and set to "0" pitch adjustment, the two sound of tune. Quite a bit out of tune. In that case, i had to pitch the saw osc. up at least 14 or so cents in order to get them to sound in tune. Is there something im missing, or is this a natural result of a certain square layered with a saw? Or is there some hidden setting screwed up? The board seems to be globally tuned to the standard 440 hz.

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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by Ry-Fi » Mon Mar 07, 2011 7:06 am

Check to see what your global Analog Drift setting is set to. This is the only place where I could see tuning being affected.

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Re: Alesis Ion: my thoughts

Post by bassdude » Mon Mar 07, 2011 3:11 pm

Yeah, id thought of that. Even with the analog drift set to zero the tuning issue remains.Its odd. Im going to mess with it some more today. I hope it dosent mean that somethings wrong.

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