Analog alternative to Alesis Ion?

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Analog alternative to Alesis Ion?

Post by bassdude » Mon Jul 30, 2012 11:57 pm

I love my Ion, but have some problems with it. The outputs (common problem) have gone bad, and its hard to get usable sound out of the vocoder. Ive been wanting to try out some real analog for a while, and have been thinking about replacing the Ion. I'd like some help with the following:

1. Which analog synth most closely resembles the Ion in terms of features? I'd like something with as much flexibility as I can afford, at least 4 voice polyphony, an arpeggiator and as many knobs as possible. I'd like to keep the purchase under $1000.

2. Are analog synths generally easier or less costly to repair than modern VAs? If so, this could be a factor in ditching the Ion for an analog.

3. Is there something I can do to make the Ion more reliable? It sounds like the outputs are a weak point for this synth, and I'd rather not have to keep fixing them over time.

Thanks.

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Re: Analog alternative to Alesis Ion?

Post by Silverfish » Tue Jul 31, 2012 12:11 am

1. Take a look at the newer stuff from DSI. A Prophet '08 certainly has the polyphony and more modulation routings than many other analog synths. A polyevolver would get you the more digital aspects found with the Ion. Maybe a Tetra? But that doesn't' have the knobs.

2. The only benefit of repairing analog synths (sometimes) is the use of discreet components vs everything on a chip. In a digital synth, if the cpu goes, then it's toast. On an analog board, some of the parts are easily replaceable.

3. The outputs are a weakpoint on both the Ion and the Micron. I believe there is a fix that involves replacing the jfets on the output with ones rated at a higher spec (idk if this is your issue, though).

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Re: Analog alternative to Alesis Ion?

Post by Jinsai » Tue Jul 31, 2012 4:55 am

Vintage analog synths are a pain to maintain and service, and are usually very expensive.
Modern analog synths comparable to the Ion don't really exist, unless you just want more than 2 oscs and an LPF, in which case, yeah, Prophet-8 is pretty much it. Evolver is limited to 4 voices unless you spend too much, and it has a very different character than Ion.
Regardless, none of the above will give you the massive feature set and filter choice of the Ion. Andromeda gets close, but is only 2 oscs.

The Ion's JFETs can be replaced. If you fix 'em once, you are pretty much set.

You might consider other "virtual" analogs, like the Blofeld. These will have more sophisticated mod routings and some filter choices.
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Re: Analog alternative to Alesis Ion?

Post by V301H » Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:03 am

I believe much of the Ion's architecture was inspired by the Oberheim Xpander. Of course, the Xpander will cost much more than $1000. An Oberheim Matrix 6 could be a viable alternative except it lacks knobs and an arpeggiator. At least the price is typically well under $1000.

Many vintage Analogs can be expensive to repair if they need out-of-production IC's replaced. I think it's usually worth the risk as long as everything is working properly when you buy it. I have never had any chips fail in any of my Analogs some of which I have had for 25-30 years.
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Re: Analog alternative to Alesis Ion?

Post by Bitexion » Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:23 am

There aren't many analogues with 3 oscillators and that huge mod matrix. Other than an actual modular synth.
Most of them have 2 VCO's, because that's judged as enough, once you add 3 or more, the sound becomes mushy and hard to control. Most Minimoog sounds used VCO 3 as LFO instead of sound source, because 3 would sound too massive and there is no dedicated LFO. The Memorymoog has 3VCO's too, I think? It's extremely expensive nowadays, though, if you manage to find a working one at all. They stopped producing them in 1983 I think.

All those different filter models make the Ion a particularly good "chameleon" synth. You won't find that on a real analog, it usually only has one or two filters in series or parallell per voice, since the filters are physical components instead of computer models. The Ion was quite unique in the VA synth world too, all other VA's mostly come with 2 oscillators.
Soundwise you could get in the ballpark with a 2VCO analogue that has suboscillators. Like its big brother, the Alesis Andromeda A6 (which is, of course, fully analogue and in a completely different ballpark pricewise). The A6 has two filters that can be routed serial (like the CS-80 and JP-8) or parallell. Its oscillators can output all waveforms at once for interesting timbres.

It also has an even bigger mod matrix, since every main module has 3 control voltage inputs, that can be connected to any parameter on the synth. It's also extremely large because they've put nearly a knob for every function on the panel. And a LOVELY keyboard-wide ribbon controller that can modulate anything.

Image

From left to right is Arpeggiator/16-step sequencer/portamento/unison mode, 4 LFO's, 2 oscillators (each with a -1 octave sub oscillator), mixer section, 2 multimode filters (one based on the Moog 24db ladder, the other a 12dB "SEM" multimode filter that sounds very different w/ resonance), a post filter mixer, and 3 envelopes and various output levels.

This synth has 16 voices with 2 vco's per voice, meaning unison gives you a massive 32 oscillators at once if you want to. You can select how many voices to use for unison, so you still can have lots of polyphony in unison. And you can decide if the VCO's will autotune in the background or float naturally, making a more unstable and unpredictable sound than a autotuned sound that always stays on pitch and in phase.

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Re: Analog alternative to Alesis Ion?

Post by haj » Tue Jul 31, 2012 8:24 am

it's almost a modular synth with massive filter collection, you won't find anything in real analog for featurewise. Andromeda is a really nicer alternative, and comes with respectable price tag..

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Re: Analog alternative to Alesis Ion?

Post by vladimotor » Tue Jul 31, 2012 8:28 am

How close is Miniak to Ion's architecture?

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Re: Analog alternative to Alesis Ion?

Post by Ashe37 » Tue Jul 31, 2012 8:35 am

vladimotor wrote:How close is Miniak to Ion's architecture?

for all intents and purposes the same. has more filter modes, a long delay, and the pattern sequencer instead of a normal arp....

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Re: Analog alternative to Alesis Ion?

Post by zoomtheline » Tue Jul 31, 2012 11:12 am

Chain 4 Waldorf Pulses. Would sound nothing like the Ion though I would have thought.

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Re: Analog alternative to Alesis Ion?

Post by bassdude » Tue Jul 31, 2012 2:05 pm

Thanks for all the suggestions!

I think I could do with a 2 osc synth, 3 is cool but I dont think only 2 would be a deal breaker. I was considering a Juno 106 or something similar, but I dont like the fact that it dosent have keyboard velocity. There's a Korg Monopoly in my area that I was thinking about buying. If fixing the outputs is truly a one time fix, then maybe ill just keep the Ion. Here are some parameters id like to stay within:

-Preferably under $1000
-At least 4 voices
-As many knobs as possible
-Arpeggiator
-At least 44 keys
-At least 2 osc.
-Keyboard velocity
-Midi
-Analog (I'm ok with DCOs)

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Re: Analog alternative to Alesis Ion?

Post by pflosi » Tue Jul 31, 2012 4:53 pm

Does not really exist. Closest you might get is something like a DSI Tetra with a midi keyboard + midi controller or together with the Mopho Keyboard...

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Re: Analog alternative to Alesis Ion?

Post by condit79 » Tue Jul 31, 2012 8:01 pm

The tetra is the only thing that has a mod matrix that's even close to what you can do with an ion in your pricerange. You should also try an ensoniq esq1. They have digital oscillators but have a very nice sound for the price and can do some really great tones. Plus they're built like tanks.
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Re: Analog alternative to Alesis Ion?

Post by georgemarauder » Tue Jul 31, 2012 9:47 pm

If I were you, I'd fix the Ion's outputs and keep it. The Ion is a beast. I don't know why you'd want to go to analog when you have a virtual analog Ion that can imitate everything an analog synth can do and then some. Keep the Ion.

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Re: Analog alternative to Alesis Ion?

Post by Sir Ruff » Wed Aug 01, 2012 3:30 am

georgemarauder wrote:If I were you, I'd fix the Ion's outputs and keep it. The Ion is a beast. I don't know why you'd want to go to analog when you have a virtual analog Ion that can imitate everything an analog synth can do and then some. Keep the Ion.
+1

The Ion sounds amazing. The variable voice detune function gives it that true "analog" quality that many actual analog synths can't even mimic.
Do you even post on vse bro?

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Re: Analog alternative to Alesis Ion?

Post by bassdude » Wed Aug 01, 2012 3:48 am

I understand im not gonna find an analog with the complexities of the Ion, and i think thats okay as long as its got most of the things on my list.

georgemarauder and Sir Ruff: I agree guys. The Ion sounds pretty great to me and It's got tons of options. The problem seems to be reliability. First, I have the dying outputs. Then, I've got an arpeggiator that only functions about half the time. I've also heard tell of ghost editing and other weird problems. Its these headaches that make me think that an analog synth with simpler components would be more reliable and an easier, cheaper fix than my Ion with its encoders and circuit boards. And, I have yet to own a real analog, so im eager to experience firsthand what all the fuss is about. Id sacrifice the endless flexibility of my Ion for a great sounding, reliable analog synth. So which one is it? Or am I crazy?

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