987 - Alesis Micron

This is one of the cutest, smallest, yet most powerful synths I've ever put my hands on! The Micron is the sequel to the popular Ion, and while it can be considered as the Ion's younger brother, it actually has a few enhancements that are absent on the big bro. This is a very clean, precise, sparkly and definitely virtual analog (or analog modeled) sounding synth. Eight voices of polyphony are plenty for these types of units, but we would always want more. The synth engine is the same as the Ion though, but extra and welcome features include sequencing, arpeggio, and great on board percussion, and the ability to build patterns. The Micron really sounds bigger than it looks: while personally I feel that the character of its synth engine leans on the more digitally precise DSP side of virtual analog technology, it's certainly capable of huge, warm and fat sounds. The main panel is logically laid out and easy to understand. At the very left, a big red knob offers volume control; the two "m1" and "m2" sliders provide useful modulation control, typically (but not always) vibrato and filter cutoff. The three knobs labeled "x", "y" and "z" also offer way of modulating sounds, and can (ought to) be assigned to your favorite parameters. Two octave buttons, and other useful commands such as tap (tempo) and latch (sustains the notes) occupy the space at the left of the two-line backlit green display. Finally, a multi-function matrix with push-down knob serve as the central nerve system of the machine, letting you easily access programs, setups, configurations, patterns and rhythms. You do the programming by turning the knob to view the various editing pages. In all, it's simple to program, and the manual does a fantastic job of being easy to follow and easy to understand.

2011-05-27 08:58:03