Alesis Ion

Alesis Ion Image

The Ion Analog Modeling Synthesizer is one fat-sounding digital synth! Using Alesis' proprietary DSP Analog Modeling technology with a 500 MIPS processor (500 million instructions per second), every knob and button is tweakable in real-time giving you the feel and sound of a true analog oldie.

The Ion has 8-voice polyphony with 3 oscillators per voice, and is 4-part multi-timbral. It offers continuously variable wave shapes (sine waves can morph into square waves), plus osc-sync and FM synthesis. 16 filter types are included, along with two LFOs, Sample & Hold, and an Arpeggiator-all of which sync to MIDI clock. A powerful and intuitive modulation matrix is built in, as well as a 40-band vocoder that does not use up any polyphony. External stereo audio can be processed through the filters, effects, or the vocoder.

Though not a true analog like the Andromeda A6, the Ion is capable of creating a wide variety of sounds from warm thick analog pads all the way to gritty monophonic leads and basses, as well as some funky and realistic sound effects. The Ion also simulates the best of the classic analogs such as Oberheims, Roland Jupiters, Arps, Moogs, etc, largely due to its great filters - there is hardly any aliasing even on the highest tones. The Ion also comes equipped with not one but two modulation wheels, both assignable to mods in the mod matrix (LFOs only assignable to mod wheel 1). The Ion has an amazing range of tonal possibilities.

Alesis Ion Image

The chic design, layout, and large backlit screen make editing on the Ion a dream! The Modulation Matrix is easy to understand and can route any modulation parameter to almost every component of the Ion!! All parameter knobs (excluding master volume & menu knob) are 360 degree pots allowing you to twist all the day long! A 160x160 graphic display provides instant visual feedback as a parameter is edited. Along with having 512 patch settings (all user-rewritable), the Ion has 64 multi-timbral setups. All parameters including arpeggiator settings are stored with each preset.

The ION keyboard contains 49 velocity-sensitive keys, 4 analog outputs and 2 stereo analog inputs (all balanced and using 24-bit conversion), 4 individual insert effects, a stereo master multi-FX processor, and an internal universal power supply. Expression and sustain pedal ports as well as headphone jacks are also there. For those who want a versatile synth and can't afford the A6, this is the synth for you - arguably one of the best 'virtual-analog' synths for awesome, analogue-like sounds.

The Ion inspired a "Mini-Me" version of itself in the Micron. It's the exact same synth as the Ion, except housed in a small 3-octave keyboard with only a few real-time controls. It has a few new features such as pattern and phrase sequencers and more filter types & effects - designed for the "on the go" musician in an overall more affordable package.

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123 Visitor comments
August 2, 2010 @ 3:29 am
I have owned just about every type of synth over the last 20 years including all the "uber" synths like Arp 2600 and Jupiter 8 - all sold by the way. I have just got hold of a second hand Ion. Im very impressed by its sound, it just feels authentic, and considering the complexity of its sound engine it has to be one of the best value synths around. It doesnt have an obvious character like say the Waldorf synths which I love for different reasons and which can be very "hard" sounding. The Ion is kind of neutral and doesnt dominate. Sure, you can moan about the slightly light keyboard action and maybe the filter, like any VA doesnt quite have the magic of real analog but lets keep some perspective here, for $500 odd bucks unless you have money to burn this thing is plenty good enough to cover your "analog" sound spectrum. The user interface is fine, I found it quite solidly built and the knobs feel much more sturdy than a Prophet 08 which I also sold. Overall, a little gem.
Alex E
June 14, 2010 @ 10:10 pm
The Ion does indeed have full size keys. If you think it doesn't, you've probably been playing the humongous pianos at FAO Schwartz.
May 23, 2010 @ 1:56 pm
"there is hardly any aliasing even on the highest tones"
Wrong. Bull [beep] . There IS aliasing on high tones. Just try a osc2 -> osc1 (both saw) hard sync, with osc1 to -1 octave and osc2 to +1 octave/+7 semitones.
Set levels to osc1 = 100%, osc2 = 77% and RingMod = 77%.
Apply ENV3 (decay of 1-2s, sustain to 0%) to modulate osc2 pitch at a depth of 8-10%.
Now play every C from the lowest to the highest possible. You'll notice heavy aliasing from a certain point near C5 or C6, which is kinda low in the note range offered by this synth.
It's the same thing on the Micron an Miniak who borrow the same engine as the Ion.

NordLeads, Q's, A6 (it's an analog, so not the same thing), and probably the Virus line do NOT alias in the highest range. Not the Ion and its forks.
April 19, 2010 @ 12:54 pm
I don't know - I had an Ion for about six months - used it often but just didn't work very well with it. Sure, it sounds fabulous but we just never clicked. Sure, there is a LOT of potential if you're willing to get down into the mod matrix and such but I'm used to a more hands-on approach. I'm sticking with my Nord Lead instead.
April 12, 2010 @ 1:55 pm
Lesson learned once again, NEVER judge a synth by its presets, or even slightly edited ones. One of the most underrated, misunderstood and sadly pushed away synth out there, if you're looking for something that hardly costs more than a home keyboard and with enough juice to rape a Virus or Nords (as far as 8 voices goes) then this is it, a bargain of the century.. Or you could just follow the pack and purchase one of the above mentioned.. Your choice ;)
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  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - 8 voices (4-part multitimbral)
  • Oscillators - Alesis proprietary DSP Analog Modeling: 3 oscillators per voice (Sine, Square-Pulse, Saw-Triangle).
  • Filter - 2 multi-mode filters with 16 filter types.
  • Envelopes - 3 EGs: Pitch/Mod, Filter, and the Amp have their own ADSR envelopes.
  • LFO - 2 multi-wave LFOs and 1 S&H. Ring Modulator. FM. hard&soft OSC sync.
  • Effects - 4 Individual Mono/Stereo Insert Effects and Stereo Master Multi-FX Processor (80ms slapback delay, chorus, flanger, phaser, distortion, fuzz, compression, limiter) and built-in 40-band Vocoder.
  • Keyboard - 49 keys (velocity, release velocity sensitive).
  • Memory - 512 Patches, 64 Multi-timbral Setups.
  • Arpeg/Seq - Arpeggiator: MIDI-sync-able multiple-pattern plus *random* feature.
  • Real-Time Controllers - 30 360-degree Parameter Knobs, 2 Assignable Modulation Wheels, Assignable Pitch Wheel.
  • Control - MIDI (4-part multitimbral) IN/OUT/THRU
  • Date Produced - 2003

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