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
Curtis Black
October 8, 2009 @ 8:34 am
The presets are terrible. But who cares, the DSP function generators are remarkably analog sounding. A sawtooth from my Prodigy put up to the Ion left me wanting little to nothing. The Ion's variable pulse wave is equally wonderful...producing very classic waveform sounds. The filter selection is delightful...and the sound of the filters is impressive. While not sounding exactly like a voltage controlled filter, the resolution and lack of aliasing would not reveal the Ion's DSP disposition-especially in a mix!! The point here is that synthesizing classic sounds on this board is a whip once you get used to the LCD screen. Original sound design possibilities are endless given the modulation matrix, and the DSP sounds make my JP8000 sound foolish. For the price of $400, you can own a reliable, musical synth that will sit convincingly in any mix. Thanks for reading
Kristian
October 6, 2009 @ 7:28 am
Had mine for almost 2 years now, and it's never left it's place since I first put it in my studio. Still, the main outs have given in regardless. It *seems* well built with it's metal chassis, and relatively solid knobs and dials, yet this machine appears to be poorly manufactured. Not surprisingly considering the pricetag.

When it works however, it's a beast - On it's own, you can create some amazing basses on this baby, and when layering two or more of the four avaliable parts, you can build some absolutely astounding sounds.

I own an AN1X, a Roland SH-201, a Juno 106, and a Virus TI, yet when I want that really big droning bass sound, I end up using the ION.

This is not a preset synth though, so workstation fanboys need not apply.

The key action isn't brilliant, but still better than a JP-8000 or SH-201.
Mike
September 8, 2009 @ 5:01 am
I have to agree with Benny. I've owned mine a couple of years, treated it with kid gloves and it's still developed a strange fault. Mine will stop making any kind of sound for no reason when you're playing it, requiring you to switch it on and off. The keyboard action is terrible. It's alright for some sounds but overall it's very tinny and plasticy - through a 10kW PA, never mind a 15w guitar amp!

I do quite like it and it can be interesting at times but overall if you had the choice between buying this and something like an old Roland JX-8P or Juno 6, you'd be a lunatic to go for the Ion. I even prefer my Xiosynth to it. That being said, it blows the MicroKorg out of the water.
Sam
September 7, 2009 @ 5:27 pm
On paper the Ion has a lot going for it. Plus, it looks absolutely superb if you ask me. Still, I ended up getting rid of it. In reality the Ion comes across as a mixed bag. Yes, the sound does have a certain “roundness” to it, which in some ways make it seem less digital than it is. However, I also found it a bit hollow and “brittle” (except for bass sounds, which I think it does very well). Things aren't exactly helped by the awful keybed, which is flimsy almost beyond belief. The weighted pots - on the other hand - are very tactile, yet you get the feeling the internals are built down to a price. For instance, plugging in and removing cords from the output sockets you get a horrible feeling it will break inside. And sure enough, my Ion eventually developed a permanent distortion in one of the output channels, despite careful usage. My Ion has now given way to a Yamaha AN1x, which has none of the Ion's sex appeal but on the other hand sounds and plays absolutely fantastic!
Benny
September 6, 2009 @ 8:44 am
You do know most stores which sells instruments also sell second hand/used stuff as well? You stumble upon these quite frequently, and you do get to borrow a pair of monitor headphones while testing the synths, I've read about this synth, I know its specifications, the question is however, does the specs mean anything? Perhaps I was a bit harsh judging this board since I haven't spent all that much time with it in general. I think it has a very characteristic sound, I've been having a hard time getting sounds out of it that tickles my fancy, it's a great VA specification-wise but like I've said many times now, it's sound does not appeal to my taste or my style of music, why is it such a taboo thing for me to have that opinion? You dig your Ions and that is very good for you, but for me, I can think of a quite a few synths I'd rather spend time and money on.
 
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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
  • Resources & Credits
  • Images from Alesis and

    Info provided by Christian and Lars Lien.

    Reviewed December 2007.

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