How is the Alesis Ion in your opinon?

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How is the Alesis Ion in your opinon?

Post by Tiger Jackson » Fri Dec 07, 2012 11:24 pm

This is something i was looking for i didn't even know exisited, a synth with 2 modulation wheels.. i've always thought it'd be nice to change the cutoff frequency and apply vibrato at the same time while i'm playing a synth. But i've been thinking for my next synth i'd get a full analog, either a prophet 08 or mopho x4

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Re: How is the Alesis Ion in your opinon?

Post by Casoniq » Sat Dec 08, 2012 5:19 am

It's a very good analog modeling synth. Same exact specs as an Alesis Micron, but many more knobs and buttons, an extra octave of keys, and a nice big LCD screen for editing. Also 2 mod wheels vs. the 2 mod sliders on the Micron (plus pitch bend wheels which both have). I believe there's a a difference in onboard effects and possibly filter models. I could be wrong, but I think the Micron has more filter options and effects options. Patch organization is a bit different on the Ion vs the Micron. They are both very similar despite the size difference. Microns are much easier to find and cheaper.
They both have a similar weakness - that is susceptibility to the FETs in output jacks to fry from static discharge and current spikes. I understand they can be replaced without much trouble if you're OK at soldering.
I have never actually played an Ion, but their specs are nearly identical with obvious size and layout differences.
No complaints about my Micron, it was my first synth and I still think it sounds pretty darn good.

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Re: How is the Alesis Ion in your opinon?

Post by Joshy » Sat Dec 08, 2012 7:26 am

The Ion is a great synth to say the least, and has been the only synth that's stuck with me so far. It's a keeper for sure and I don't ever plan on getting rid of mine! :D

Luckily I haven't had any issues with mine, but I'm sure you'll love whatever synth you end up getting.


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Re: How is the Alesis Ion in your opinon?

Post by Big Gnome » Sat Dec 08, 2012 8:33 am

It's a terrific synthesizer with a massively deep architecture (which kind of spoiled me for other synths for a long time after). As far as the "virtual analog" thing goes, it's pretty solid--I could take it or leave it in that respect--but it's my #1 for feedback and harsh, rhythmic soundscapes (and I include Reaktor in that estimation). It's very, very fast to program, and I think it strikes an excellent balance between hands-on control and menu-driven depth. The one big thing I would mention is that it really has its own character which can be difficult to get away from, so make damn sure you like the way it sounds before spending money on one.
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Re: How is the Alesis Ion in your opinon?

Post by Bitexion » Sat Dec 08, 2012 9:22 am

In my opinion it's the best VA synth ever released. Hardly any VA's come with 3 oscillators in the first place. And those oscillators can sweep through the shape from pure sawtooth to triangle/sine, so you can have a slightly altered sawtooth wave that sounds more like a minimoog saw than a perfectly shaped sawtooth.

All those filter models are a godsend, and they actually sound different when you try them all out on a single sound.
Effects are not all that hot, but most of us have an external multifx unit anyways. I don't really miss reverb and long delays on the synth itself. The keys feel strange at first, I think the pivot point is slightly different than usual keybeds.
You can layer 4 sounds in a single patch (with only 2 polyphony on each). The unison mode lets you select how many voices to put in unison (so you still get some polyphony). There is a "analog drift" parameter that slightly randomly alters the oscillators pitch when you repress keys, to closer emulate a real analog synth (it needs to be set pretty high to actually hear the pitch changing drastically).
The mod matrix is massive, and lets you configure the synth much like a modular synth. Any parameter can be connected to any parameter. Also mostly unheard of before.

3 LFO's is also great to have, they go way into audible frequencies so you can create ringmod-like effects without using the actual ringmodulator. And the two modwheels let you simulate aftertouch while still retaining the normal modwheel functions like vibrato. I totally love this synth. It is easy to work with, has a big menu screen with graphics representing envelopes in realtime as you change the parameters. Also nice to have all the envelopes separately on the panel, no switching between filter eg, amp eg, pitch eg, just adjust directly.

Since you have so many features, you can make it sound indistinguishable from vintage analog synths, more or less.

It sounds a little flat dry since there is no EQ onboard, but you should have an EQ on your mixer anyway to boost bass and treble a little bit? Also a nice reverb does wonders.

The arpeggiator can do surprisingly complex rythms too if you know how to set that up. There is a patch category with arp sounds to play with though. I learned subtractive synthesis on my Ion, together with a book I bought from Amazon. I was delighted to find all the things the book mentioned directly on the panel of my synth, so it was easy to follow for a total noob like me.

I got so good at creating sounds on it, that I entered an Alesis sound design competition and won 2nd prize, two huge Alesis DSP speakers that I'm still using. They cost like $1000 each when they were new. 1st prize was an Andromeda A6, which some german guy won. But I got myself one a couple years later anyway.

And you have to remember, subtractive synthesis was like arcane wizardry to me before I bought the Ion. I was going to get a Nordlead 2X (around the same price back then), but got mesmerized by the lights and those nice modwheels on the Ion in the same store :)

If you're not that heavily into sound design yet, there are tons of presets to tweak as you want also.

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Re: How is the Alesis Ion in your opinon?

Post by minime123 » Sat Dec 08, 2012 2:16 pm

very cool synth. was considering keeping one in my personal studio but it just doesnt sound good enough to me when side by side with classic vintage synths. that said, if its your only synth or is being used with other virtual analogs, it can make some really great sounds.
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Re: How is the Alesis Ion in your opinon?

Post by _seph » Sat Dec 08, 2012 2:40 pm

The Ion is a great sounding synth that was advanced with the compact Micron (smaller package but more effects, polyphony, sequencer,etc) and its current incarnation is the Miniak from Alesis's sister company Akai, which still features the two modwheels and would probably be my choice where I after one of this lineage.

As for synths with two modwheels, there are a number of themout there. my Korg Prophecy was my first and it also has a ribbon controller on its second wheel, a great design that lends itself to expressive control. That was further refined with the Z1 which replaced the second modwheel/ribbon with a great XY pad (the inspiration for their Kaoss Pads). Yamaha also has a number of synths with the double modwheels, their EX5 being my favorite. And then I'm looking forward to the arrival of my just purchased Technics SX-WSA1 which not only has a pitchbend and two modwheels but also two XY vector style control balls.

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Re: How is the Alesis Ion in your opinon?

Post by Mac Moog » Sun Dec 09, 2012 7:49 am

Good synth. Somewhat tedious going through the menus, but he sound is quite nice. I like the voice layering and controls available. It isn't as warm as the Andromeda, but a nice contrast. Light in weight, but sturdy. Just be careful with the output jacks and static

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Re: How is the Alesis Ion in your opinon?

Post by Cumulus » Mon Dec 10, 2012 8:24 pm

The only negative thing I can say about the Ion is that i have heard som e"zippering" when knob-tweaking some patches.

I never messed with the effects much. I'm wierd about onboard effects. I tend to think they are not going to be any good (which is totally irrational, I know...).

It is a really nice machine, though. Lots to work with.

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Re: How is the Alesis Ion in your opinon?

Post by haj » Mon Dec 10, 2012 11:58 pm

I miss mine so much which had to be left when I move. It's a great complex feature rich machine with really good sound. I had very little complaints: UI for arpaggiator is terrible, vocoder is somewhat weak, reverb is only on Micron.

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Re: How is the Alesis Ion in your opinon?

Post by gs » Wed Dec 12, 2012 3:10 pm

If you are in a prog rock tribute band (like the one I recently joined), or any situation that calls for vintage 70s style sounds, the Ion is really the perfect lead synth for the job. The Ion sound designers programmed a ton of vintage sounds in there, so finding the right sound for the job (like nailing Tony Banks' ARP Pro-Soloist lead sound on songs like In The Cage, Firth of Fifth, etc.) is dead easy to do. Just find a preset that is closest to that sound, tweak a little, and you're there. And tweaking on this synth feels a lot more like FUN than WORK. Very little menu diving required except for the complex stuff like mod-matrix and a few other things.

I mainly use mine as a monosynth (in solo or unison modes), which fits well into he musical paradigm I'm using it for. Basically as a Minimoog or Odyssey/Pro-Soloist substitute.

I chose the Ion over the Micron for the knobs, keybed size (room to solo), and (very important): appearance as well... "Micro"-sized synths just don't fit well into the keyboard rig I am trying to project on stage.
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Re: How is the Alesis Ion in your opinon?

Post by Jaytee » Fri Aug 02, 2013 11:44 pm

IMHO, this is what a digital synth should be.

Computing power is no longer at a premium. Unless you have a specific goal in mind (emulating a specific piece of hardware, for instance), there shouldn't be any limit on your digital synthesis. Why shouldn't a digital synth have an everything-to-everything mod matrix? Why shouldn't it have an extra mod wheel assignable to anything? Wy not model 16 different kinds of classic low-pass filters, and then throw every other conceivable filter mode on there for good measure? Why shouldn't I have three oscillators per voice and as many options as I want for stacking those voices?

They took what was good about analog synthesis (great sound and hands-on UI) and combined it with the best parts of digital synthesis (no discrete circuitry means unlimited possibilities). Instead of designing a synthesizer to meet a need, they made a sandbox in which you can do almost whatever you need to do.

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Re: How is the Alesis Ion in your opinon?

Post by Andy_X69 » Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:35 am

I've only played with a Micron (same sound engine as the Ion) but it is the most accurately "analog-sounding" VA I've ever heard. It does the best bass I've ever heard from a digital synth (better than the Virus at bass, which is saying quite a bit).

If you want something which can approximate vintage gear very convincingly, its a great a choice. It is more flexible, cheaper, and more reliable than the vintage equivalents.

I'm honestly shocked that Alesis haven't released some sort of knobby Ion Rack/Tabletop because its a fantastic VA engine.
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Re: How is the Alesis Ion in your opinon?

Post by redchapterjubilee » Mon Aug 05, 2013 4:06 pm

Out of all the virtual analog synths I've owned or spent time with (waldorf, nord, roland, novation, korg), the Micron/Ion programming comes the closest to really nailing the analog sound to my ears. There are plenty of Youtube videos demonstrating how close the Ion comes. I'm thinking in particular a series of Ion vs. Jupiter 8 that's awfully darn close. The Ion takes a learning curve, as there are lots of knobs and buttons and they aren't in the places I sometimes thing they ought to be. True, the outputs do go out (the first one I owned had the problem and at the time I had nowhere to get it fixed). I recently took on a 2nd one that has had the FET's replaced. As for Microns...I've owned maybe three of them over the years, missing the Ion's sound and hoping that this time I'll get on with the interface. Everytime, I pass them along because I miss the knobs.
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Re: How is the Alesis Ion in your opinon?

Post by Bitexion » Mon Aug 05, 2013 4:52 pm

Indeed, the demos on Alesis website swayed me further towards the Ion. Mostly because they showcase the famous analog lead and bass sounds. But they also sort of "cheat" by using external effects on the recordings, so the sounds are a bit flatter and deader on the actual raw keyboard. I remember there was an outrage about this in the alesis yahoo group back in the day, that they were "whoring up" the sound to be something it really isn't in those demos.

But come on, who doesn't have a multifx unit anyway?

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