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
December 14, 2010 @ 6:50 pm
Wow, just wow.. After almost a year with this synth I have seen other synths come and go, even so before this thing came into my life, but its the first time I've felt such a deep bond between me and the synth and it really is the only synth I've owned so far that I love too goddamn much to part with. For me, the interface on this synth is the best I've ever used and the depth and possibilities astonish me to this day.. Retro, chilly, warm, harsh, eerie, boomy or just plain utter sickness.. All the timbres can be found under its sleek silver shell. I'm seriously considering a second one in case something bad should happen to this one, best VA (or even the best synth) I've owned and used. Absolute, ABSOLUTE KILLER.
November 9, 2010 @ 12:38 pm
I owned Ion twice since 2003. It's incredibly expressive - the TWO modwheels and release velocity are the BOMB! Although I'm not into vocoders, the 40-band vocoder is TOP quality. Ion comes damn close to real analog - no VA comes as close. Many VA's sound great but not especially analog. Ion sounds more analog than digital, but not as analog as the analogs. It even has FM! Overall timbre really sounds like voltage as opposed to DSP! How the hell did they do it? The mod-matrix is as deep as Blofeld's & more analog sounding. You can get those vintage modular sounds, ala Moog and ARP. Ion is a modern digital synth but the basic flavor is like CV analog. The 19 "vintage" filters are EXCELLENT. I think only Waldorf Q+ is as versatile. I wish it had better keys an extra octave. As it is Ion is ideal for designing and sampling to a good sampling keyboard (ala Kurzweil) for live performance.
October 25, 2010 @ 4:21 pm
Lets talk about analog synthesis on a budget for a moment here. This one is excellent for learning synthesis on, and a prime reason why I got one. It's amazing how many people say this synth [beep] s, because it has no reverb, yet they ignore the fact the sound engine is DSP powered just like the Access Virus. Fact is if you want to get into analog synthesis you can go grab an Alesis Ion and a decent multi-fx unit off of eBay for very well under a grand, very well under the price of a Virus or Nord Lead.
September 13, 2010 @ 1:24 pm
orpheus: It's not that complicated really, on page 2 (of 6) in the part edit menu you can choose low and high-key for each part you're playing, this is in fact very smart because you can layer each part exactly how you want them, getting the hang of this is easy and you can save your part-setups as presets just as you were saving a patch you made. I think this is the most intuitive synth in my setup and also the most inspirational, I have lots of stuff but I always keep coming back to this one. Hail the mighty Ion :)
September 5, 2010 @ 11:57 am
I have a total love-hate relationship with this synth. I can't decide whether to give it a 5 or a 1.

What I love is that it sounds so amazingly analog for a VA. The basses are rich and convincing and smooth. It can do a Moog, an Arp, and other classic synths, and you can tell the difference, but Iit comes close, and it's very impressive when you consider it's digital.

It's the most complicated patch system I've ever seen! It has 4 parts (a, b, c and d) for four styles of patches (blue, yellow, green and red). When you select a patch, usually it's all of these split across the keyboard, so you get 1.5 octaves per split.

If you love getting to know a synth and really understanding how it works, you could love this synth.

If you like synths with knobs for everything and really accessible and inspirational, it might drive you mad.

And that's what bugs me about this synth; it has all the knobs and the sound, so it should be accessible, but it still drives me mad. 2.5/5.
VSE Rating


User Rating

Rated 3.86 (814 Votes)

  • Check Price
  • 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
  • Resources & Credits
  • Images from Alesis and

    Info provided by Christian and Lars Lien.

    Reviewed December 2007.

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