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Thoughts on the Alesis Micron synth...
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avj
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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 9:35 am    Post subject: Thoughts on the Alesis Micron synth... Reply with quote

I'm a bastard with two heads. One loves the classic sound of a Tele into a power-tube-saturated amp (maybe even with a fucked-about speaker cone, a la Dave Davies), and the other loves making a guitar sound absolutely nothing like a guitar should sound. I spent a lot of time on the latter, and have amassed quite a collection of pedals to satisfactorily meet that goal, but the aural geek in me was not satisfied.

After spending many hours looking at the different sub-$500 synths on the market, I finally settled on an Alesis Micron. The other contenders were the Novation XioSynth 25, the Korg microKORG, and Dave Smith's Mopho.

Ultimately, I would have loved the Mopho for its compactness and simple monophonic analog beauty, but I started trolling local Craigslist postings and found a Micron in pristine condition for $250. The previous owner is a major synth-head and has been playing keys for around 35 years. After a lengthy phone conversation, I knew this guy knew his stuff -- one of the photos of the Micron also had a wide shot of the rest of his synths, and that also let me know he was not simply a fuck-arounder.

The bulk of my research was done by watching YouTube demos (although most were shit) and reading reviews from quasi-respectable online sources that I had at least been reasonably conned into thinking weren't the type to hold back in fear of advertising dollars. There seems to be a heated battle being waged in YouTube comments pitting the Micron against the microKORG, but it mostly comes off as Timmy v. Jimmy on South Park. I had a chance to demo the XioSynth, Micron, and microKORG in person before deciding on and seeking out the Micron. I came away with the following:

XioSynth 25 - Felt nice; not enough keys. I really wanted this to work, as I own a Novation USB MIDI controller and a Focusrite interface (Focusrite has owned Novation for a few years now) and customer support has been tops. I just couldn't get into it for some reason.

Korg microKORG - Looks neat, plenty of knobs; small keys. I really couldn't get past the small keys and the cheeseball presets, despite the many examples to the contrary of what it was capable beyond the presets. For getting the most out of maximum sonic manipulation during live play, this is probably the tops.

Alesis Micron - Simple layout; nice key action. Even before my serious research began, I really liked the look and feel of the Micron. The fact that it is essentially an Ion with a sequencer in a smaller package was very attractive. My only apprehension was the lack of twisty-knobs and the spartan interface, but the several computer-based editors alleviate the need to program everything on the synth. After spending a bit of time, I can navigate around with no problem.

I've only had about a week to mess about with the Micron, but I am absolutely fascinated by its capabilities. I seem to spend the most time on building sounds, and for that it seems to be a great learning tool. I didn't buy a synth because I have dreams of being Rick Wakeman (okay, full disclosure: I'm listening to Fragile right now) -- I just want to make some cool sounds and can't afford a Moog.

My journey has led me to the following resources:
Alesis Ion Yahoo! group - Ion and Micron talk, and of course the patches are cross-compatible which makes easy work of finding some classic sounds to start with
Gtechture's YouTube demos - a guy who has made some great sounds with his Micron, sadly leaving the methods to finding these sounds an exercise for the viewer; nonetheless, one can see what is possible with much determination

The search here earlier didn't turn up much on the Micron, so I figured I'd dump a bit about it here.
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Zack
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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Korg also makes the microkorgXL which has larger keys an a different layout. I'm suspect to think that it has similar preset options as the microkorg. They also have the R3 which is supposed to be the next generation of microkorgs.

It sounds as though you've bought the Micron? Over all it seems like a good buy, have you heard of the "Micronizer?" I'm not familiar with it, but if you're thinking about using it with a computer interface it seems like something worth checking out. Personally, on a synth level I like seeing all the knobs in front of me and it seems like that might have a similar aspect.
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DanHeron
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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 5:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

WOOO! I have an Alesis Micron! For its size it is an awesome synth, with loads of features. I was stuck between the Micron or the Microkorg and chose it because of the sequencer and the way you could layer patterns and beats to create multiple parts playing at once. The menu system is a bit of a drag at first, but as you said - in a short time you get used to it. I'm glad you like it, I seem to find its quite underrated compared to the Microkorg for example.

I'm sure you have seen this, but this is the video that sold it to me:

Link
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avj
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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 6:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

DanHeron wrote:
WOOO! I have an Alesis Micron! For its size it is an awesome synth, with loads of features. I was stuck between the Micron or the Microkorg and chose it because of the sequencer and the way you could layer patterns and beats to create multiple parts playing at once. The menu system is a bit of a drag at first, but as you said - in a short time you get used to it. I'm glad you like it, I seem to find its quite underrated compared to the Microkorg for example.

I'm sure you have seen this, but this is the video that sold it to me:
Hidden: 


Oh yeah, Dan! I knew I remembered seeing someone else that had one. I can't wait to really get into it. The sequencer and the whole "Setups" aspect were a big draw for me too.

These are the videos that really sold me on the Micron:

Hidden: 

The guy has done some amazing things with his Micron.

Goots: I did indeed end up buying the Micron. I found micronAU (for OS X), which will also allow for computer-based editing. I was skeptical about the lack of knobs, but there are five assignable-to-anything controls for live tweaks, and the programming interface actually makes great use of the keyboard keys for shortcuts. I wouldn't have imagined it would work as nice simple as it does, but it's actually quite nice.
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less_cunning
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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 2:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i either want a microkorg or a dave smith evolver (not much more used than a new Mopho).

most people i know prefer the micron to the microkorg becuz it sounds more like an analog synth. i think the current analog synth trend is cool but i am more attracted to the sounds that digital synths make & i just prefer some of the sounds of the Microkorg. there are also artists whose music i respect who use the microkorg--

at the end of the day though i think it boils down to functionality & personal preference, IMO. the micron is a excellent value & obviously is a great "analog modeling" synth becuz a lot of people think very highly of it. i am sure that you are quiet pleased w/ yr. purchase.


Last edited by less_cunning on Fri May 29, 2009 5:16 am; edited 4 times in total
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plesiosaurus
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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 6:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've used a Micron quite a bit and own a Microkorg, and I prefer the Microkorg. It's easier to build patches and you have much more immediate control. All the adjustable parameters are listed right in front of you and are easily selectable. To make adjustments to sounds on the Micron you have to scroll through the different parameters with a single knob until you find it. It's much more cumbersome.

That said, the Micron has more interesting preset sounds and better keys. The Microkorg is fine for light synth work and gigging and stuff. If you're doing a lot of synth stuff, you shouldn't even really be looking in this range of instruments.
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avj
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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 1:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

less_cunning wrote:
Hidden: 


i either want a microkorg or a dave smith evolver (not much more used than a new Mopho).

most people i know prefer the micron to the microkorg becuz it sounds more like an analog synth.

i have my eye on a few other digital synths too. i think the current analog synth trend is cool but i am more attracted to the sounds that digital synths make. there are also artists whose music i respect who use the microkorg; i can't say the same thing about the micron though...

also. if the Microkorg is so inferior to the Micron why is Akai basically repacking it (Alesis & Akai share a parent company) to look like a Microkorg; let's face it, from a design & functionality stand-point those Microns are fuugly: the Akai Minpak definitely is more attractive than the Micron but why put a Micron in a Microkorg's body & push it off as something "new." i actually like Akai products a great deal but i'm still desperately seeking a used microkorg.

at the end of the day though i think it boils down to functionality & personal preference, IMO: saying one is better than the other seems elitist & futile.

You seem to be trying to pick a fight. I said nothing about the inferiority of the microKORG, just that I didn't care for the presets and the keys.

This Akai looks nothing like the microKORG, and in fact is much closer in both available controls and aesthetics to the Micron.

plesiosaurus wrote:
To make adjustments to sounds on the Micron you have to scroll through the different parameters with a single knob until you find it. It's much more cumbersome.

This isn't really true. Not only do you have many available shortcuts right on the actual keys themselves by holding down one button, but you also have five assignable controls -- two sliders and three knobs -- to assign to whatever parameters you want to adjust. This appears to be no different than the microKORG. It's just a matter of acquainting yourself to the interface, as is the case with everything else.

plesiosaurus wrote:
If you're doing a lot of synth stuff, you shouldn't even really be looking in this range of instruments.

Why, because they're cheap? This is a bit funny coming from a guy that drove 600 miles to purchase a low-end, economy, student-model guitar. Smile
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plesiosaurus
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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 5:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Har har.

If you're counting the modulation sliders, then the Microkorg has six immediately adjustable controls. I'm not sure what you mean by the shortcuts on the keys.
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DanHeron
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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 5:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

less_cunning wrote:
there are also artists whose music i respect who use the microkorg; i can't say the same thing about the micron though...


I agree the MicroKorg is used by a lot more artists than the Micron. But there are bands using the Micron. Since getting one myself I have spotted quite a few artists with them.


Hidden: 
And if it's good enough for bloody Hannah Montanna then...


Wink
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avj
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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

plesiosaurus wrote:
Har har.

If you're counting the modulation sliders, then the Microkorg has six immediately adjustable controls. I'm not sure what you mean by the shortcuts on the keys.

Which modulation sliders? They are just assigned to modulation and filter controls by default with most presets. You can assign the two sliders and three knobs to anything you'd like. Does the microKORG allow for that, or are the controls always bound to a controlling a particular parameter? (I'm not being a dick -- I genuinely don't know.)

By holding down one of the buttons around the main control knob -- depending on what you'd like to do -- you can then press a key on the keyboard that corresponds to a particular set of parameters, as seen here:


(Not my photo.)

This aspect obviously isn't perfect for tweaking around during actual playing, but it's awesome when programming. You still have the two sliders and three knobs though, so it's not that bad.
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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 7:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sorry, i just lol'd at less cunning actually using the n00b star for his avatar. ha ha ha.
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less_cunning
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PostPosted: Fri May 29, 2009 3:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

avj wrote:
less_cunning wrote:
Hidden: 


i either want a microkorg or a dave smith evolver (not much more used than a new Mopho).

most people i know prefer the micron to the microkorg becuz it sounds more like an analog synth.

i have my eye on a few other digital synths too. i think the current analog synth trend is cool but i am more attracted to the sounds that digital synths make. there are also artists whose music i respect who use the microkorg; i can't say the same thing about the micron though...

also. if the Microkorg is so inferior to the Micron why is Akai basically repacking it (Alesis & Akai share a parent company) to look like a Microkorg; let's face it, from a design & functionality stand-point those Microns are fuugly: the Akai Minpak definitely is more attractive than the Micron but why put a Micron in a Microkorg's body & push it off as something "new." i actually like Akai products a great deal but i'm still desperately seeking a used microkorg.

at the end of the day though i think it boils down to functionality & personal preference, IMO: saying one is better than the other seems elitist & futile.

You seem to be trying to pick a fight. I said nothing about the inferiority of the microKORG, just that I didn't care for the presets and the keys.

This Akai looks nothing like the microKORG, and in fact is much closer in both available controls and aesthetics to the Micron.



i am very sorry if it sounded as if i were trying to pick a fight, becuz alas, i was not. i just censored my comments to make it more palatable & get to the gist of what i had to say. if more censoring needs to be done then pliz feel free to send me a PM.


Last edited by less_cunning on Fri May 29, 2009 5:07 am; edited 2 times in total
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Gavin
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PostPosted: Fri May 29, 2009 3:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

oh jezus
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jcyphe
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PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2009 4:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good post avj, informative. I agree with you on the Micron over the Microkorg but I don't own either.

That youtube guy is getting a lot of great sounds out of that Micron.
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finboy
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PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2009 5:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

so what is his micron hooked up to? direct to his computer?
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avj
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PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2009 7:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jcyphe wrote:
Good post avj, informative. I agree with you on the Micron over the Microkorg but I don't own either.

That youtube guy is getting a lot of great sounds out of that Micron.

Thanks. I hadn't seen much posted about it here, so I figured I'd share my experience. The rest of that guy's YouTube videos are equally cool, and are really what inspired me to look into it more. I was going to just get a microKORG because that's seems to be what everyone does, but I'm very happy I investigated some others.

finboy wrote:
so what is his micron hooked up to? direct to his computer?

No, that's the great thing. Those sounds are coming from programs on the Micron. Several people have accused him in video comments of using the Micron as a MIDI controller, but he really has no reason to deceive. In most videos you can see the back of the Micron and see the only things connected are the power cord and a 1/4" out. The only thing slightly frustrating is that he doesn't share his patches, but that's mostly because I'm relatively new to the world of synthesizers. He explains in a few comments how he builds his sounds, and I would guess people that know their way around a synth could make easy work of duplicating them.
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PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2009 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i will have to check this out when i get home.

i am less than impressed with the hassle i have to go thru starting up frooty loops and playing around with it with my E-mu Xboard 25.

i really would like something better if i could just skip the whole computer shit and fucking rock it. ive been looking for old ass casios at thrift stores around here but they never get any good ones in. they are all like fucking muppet babies keyboards with out headphone jacks to run to the PA
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PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2009 7:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

are there any cheap simple synth computer programs i could run with a my keyboard?
i don't want to take over this thread, but frooty loops is way too fucking involved to be dicking around with if i just want to pick it up and start playing along with some one else in my room on drums or guitar or something.


i need something simple and cheap
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avj
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PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2009 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

robroe wrote:
are there any cheap simple synth computer programs i could run with a my keyboard?
i don't want to take over this thread, but frooty loops is way too fucking involved to be dicking around with if i just want to pick it up and start playing along with some one else in my room on drums or guitar or something.


i need something simple and cheap

How about FREE?!

I can get some cool sounds from LinPlug FreeAlpha and Ichiro Toda Synth1. A few other good free synths are Superwave P8, Green Oak's Crystal, and Ugo Rez. These require a VST host of some sort like Cubase or whatever DAW you prefer. (I also assumed you were using Windows.)

I used a few good ones on my Mac as well, but I also got tired of dicking with a computer when I wanted to just crank out some soundz. Plus, I wanted something I could use without hassle at rehearsal and on stage. We have a few songs that feature a really old and temperamental chord organ, and I am trying to program a reasonable approximation.
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PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2009 9:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

avj wrote:

I was going to just get a microKORG because that's seems to be what everyone does, but I'm very happy I investigated some others.


Korg announced they just made the 100,000th Microkorg. They claim it's the best selling synth of all time.

robroe wrote:
are there any cheap simple synth computer programs i could run with a my keyboard?


http://www.tweakbench.com/

Free vst instruments. I haven't used any of these because my computer music skills are a mess.
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