Alesis Fusion - My Impressions:

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Nailed It!
Well, it looks like Alesis nailed the last nasty bug that was driving folks batty in which the MIDI tracks and audio tracks occasionally wouldn't sync properly.

OS Version 1.24

This update is just the shot in the arm the Fusion needed at this point. A lot of folks were still on the fence until this bug was they can find out what they've been missing! Now its not just a fantastic synthesizer but a decent workstation as well :D


Falcon's Fusion Pages!
This gentleman has been working on some wonderful resource pages for our favorite misfit synth! Great stuff - detailed technical info including in-depth engine architecture charts, a CLI utility for deconstructing bankfiles, and much more!


Great stuff, man! Thanks so much - because you did this, now I don't have to ;)
- Just kidding! Keep up the great work :D


I sold most of my synthesizers...
Haven't posted on this page in a while, folks. I'm down to just four keyboards now (and one on loan). Most of my synth modules are gone too - I kept the Waldorf XT and Q of course!
The Fusion is still definately a "keeper". Each time I play it I'm still amazed at the quality of sounds I can program on this thing! Its deep while still being easy to program. I love the FM engine and the VA! I'm kind of saddened by the naysaying parrots still slagging off this synth. Sure there's some folks with issues but most people I've talked to who have spent any time with the beast like it almost as much as I do ;)
We'll see how this all pans out...shame to see this flexible, great-sounding synth dragged down. I honestly don't have the patience or time to waste on a buggy, hard-to-use, bad-sounding synth. The Fusion is none of those things.


Fusion In-Depth Tutorials:
The good folks at Alesis have listened to the beck and call of the Fusion users and published detailed tutorial manuals for various aspects of the beast ranging from an intro to basic synthesis to a comprehensive course in multisampling.

These are really excellent resources! Bravo guys!


My Fusion 8HD:
Well, I've been using my new 8HD for a while now and should mention that all is going great! The feel of the keyboard is excellent for my purposes - not too heavy/sluggish, not too light/spongy.

...also, I'm starting to make a lot more Multis ("Mixes" in Fusionspeak). The flexibility is very liberating. Being able to layer the various synthesis engines gives me timbres not easily achieved by just one. Stacking a FM sound on a VA sound can really give it that extra bit of "sparkle", padding a Sampled sound with a VA sound takes away some of the static nature you sometimes get from some sampled sounds...the variety of options available on the Fusion are a welcome change from the closed nature of many synths these days.


Some Fusion Sounds:
Steve from Hollow Sun just posted a couple of quick audio demos that had me smiling.

This first one was in response to a challenge, "Is there anyone that could start with the holy grail piano, and reform it to a nice ambient sweep with lfo's and reverb?" Steve came up with this:


Steve said, "Holy Grail Piano - Preset A1 through the ARP2600 modelled filter modulated by an envelope and assymetric sawtooth LFO and a slow envelope. Lashings of reverb and a stereo delay on the bus effects and quadrature flanger as an insert effect. Took me about five minutes! The results surprised even me!!! Fusion did exactly what I asked of it! 30+ years in this business (and damned cynical I have to say!) and I have a synth in front of me that can surprise and delight me in equal proportions. I love it! Despite what you might read, this is a great piece of kit!"

Another cool demo was this quick tweak of an onboard Fusion "Mix" program. This is not multi-tracked, just one patch being played from the keyboard:


And then there's this demo of the PPG sounds:


Those of you who know me know how much I like a good synth pad ;)


The Fusion's Signal Path:
Steve at Hollow Sun provides a nice quick overview of the sample playback synth engine of the Alesis Fusion. Reprinted here with his permission, I thought some of you might like to see why this synth has captured my imagination so one word, power. The ammount of modulation you can have going on in one patch is staggering...and this is just the sample playback engine! And trust me, the sounds I've made confirm this power.

Steve: "Basically, each voice has (up to) four 'sample' oscillators each with their own simple filter. These are then mixed and pass into a more sophisticated multi-mode 'main' filter that offers low, band and hi-pass types, band reject, formant filters and a modelled 'RP' filter with variable slopes and resonance. This passes to an output amplifier and onto a stereo panning module.

All of these have modulation inputs (the red dots) and can be controlled in variable amounts by any of the modulation sources which include (up to) eight envelope generators (1 and 2 are generally routed by default to the main filter and output amp) and (up to) 6 multi-wave, MIDI-syncable LFOs and a wealth of real-time controllers (modwheel, velocity, aftertouch, assignable knobbage, etc.). All these are routed to the mod inputs via the comprehensive modulation matrix which allows up to 32 'connections' to be made per patch.

The red modulation dots are slightly misleading as any given 'module' (i.e. oscillator, filter, etc.) will typically have several different mod inputs (for example, the oscillators each have inputs for their pitch, amplitude, sample start position, pan, FM amount).

And such is the power of the mod matrix and Fusion, even the controllers can be controlled (so, for example, you can use - say - aftertouch to affect LFO1 speed or velocity to control ENV1 attack... whatever).

I should also mention that after the OUTPUT PANNING section, the signal passes to the multi-effects... two 'bus' effects (i.e. the two effects can be applied in individually variable amounts) and (up to) 4 pre-bus 'insert' effects.

Also (and probably obviously) the voice(s) can be driven by playing the keyboard and/or from the arpeggiator and/or sequenced (all internally or, over MIDI, externally).

Hope this maybe helps your understanding of what is going 'under the hood'.

BTW... the VA synth is pretty much identical."

Thanks for the input, Steve! Lets hope people give this synth the chance it deserves. There's no better "all-in-one" out there right now in my opinion.


Off She Goes!
I shipped the Fusion 6HD off a couple of days ago and I'm mailing a check for a Fusion 8HD out to the excellent folks at Analogue Haven the waiting begins!

I think a lot of people completely miss the point of this synth, mainly slagging off the original sample set. They forget about the other four synthesis engines in there - the FM is sublimely organic and the VA very nice and liquidy. The PM engines are interesting though not quite as nice as the others...still useful though. The problems with the original lackluster samples has largely been adressed now. This is one of the nicest boards I've had the opportunity to play in a long time...and I've played quite a few.

I think its funny how in this day and age of software-upgradable instruments, people judge a synth on its first buggy incarnation rather than revisiting it after a number of operating system upgrades and soundset iterations. Once something is denounced by popular opinion, its a very hard road back. The same phenomenon almost ruined the Waldorf Q and, most recently, threatened to torpedo the Roland V-Synth (thank goodness they pushed out an "OS ver 2" ASAP ;)...if the OS of the Fusion had been a little more refined with a only a moderately better sampleset at its first release, I bet Alesis would still be selling these at their original prices. Ah well, I got mine!


Okay, the Fusion 6HD is sold (that was fast!) and the SP76 is on eBay:
Within a week or so, the 8HD will be on its way to me!!! Now I just have to back up the 6HD's hard drive to my PC and get it ready to ship. I am so jazzed about this!


True Love
At this point, I'm loving this thing so much that I've put my Kurzweil SP76 keyboard up on ebay...It was my main controller. I'm selling it so I can "upgrade" from the Fusion 6HD to the Fusion 8HD...88 keys!!! The Fusion 8HD will be my new controller keyboard. So, if you're in the market for a SP76 or a Fusion 6HD, let me know :)


Not Perfect
Just so I don't give a false impression, I do love the Fusion but its not all roses so far - I've got a couple of niggles with it already but nothing too bad:

1) I haven't yet figured out how to open a pre-existing sample (imported or pre-recorded) for fine tuning and tweaking...or wholesale warping/changing. The functionality is there, its just that the sample editor's documentation is scanty.

2) The 4 panel knobs should do something in edit mode, like ADSR levels for example...not just lay there

3) There's no obvious way to delete patches. (You can, however, "brute-force" it and just take them off the hard drive) Once again, I think this is a limitation of the manual - the "getting started" manual is great but not very comprehensive at all (about 30 pages) and the "user manual" is merely a sequential listing of parameters (around 300 pages!) with no examples of use - they need something intermediate.

That said, I still think its an amazing synthesizer with a lot of promise. Its still more bang-for-the-buck right out of the box than anything else out there. I'm still dreaming up things to stash in those fourty gigs...


Some observations about the Fusion's sound:
Some people have been asking how I like the Fusion's Piano and, more specifically, how it stacks up against the Korg and Yamaha offerings...

Well, It kind of depends on what you like personally.
Let me explain; the Piano on my Motif Rack was a brittle piece of crap to my ears. The piano on the Fusion is a lot more realistic. Personal taste varies on piano sounds quite a bit though - I've got an old Baldwin Acrosonic Spinet in the studio that I love!

I needed at least one "workstation" type rompler in my studio. I started with a Korg Karma but its sounds were overhyped plus it had the absolute worst keybed I have ever felt. Later I added a Motif rack to the setup - besides its too-bright sound it had awful MIDI timing slop...I sold it to help fund the Fusion.

Through my ADAMs, the Fusion has a nicely flat, unhyped sound. In my opinion, the Fusion's patches sit in a mix a little nicer than Korg and Yamaha - I didn't have to compress and EQ them to get them to "play nice".

I'm playing the Fusion along with a Serge Modular, Nord Modular, Yamaha VL-1, E-mu Planet Earth, Waldorf MicrowaveXT and a DSI Polyevolver Keyboard and I tell you, the Fusion can certainly hold its own, even with a disparate bunch of "weird guys". LOL! It really has a unique voice of its own thats different enough to be a very welcome addition :)

The unique sound engines in the Fusion are just a blast to program and I love their sound...thats where I think it really shines though Its obviously no slouch as a sampler either - now I can finally trash my old S2000.

If I want Piano, usually I'll just put a ribbon mic next to the Acrosonic but I can see myself actually using the Fusion's Piano once in a while.

If the Fusion's Piano sound is of paramount importance to you, by all means go listen to it but that's no reason to buy a can always load one more suited to your personal taste ;)


The Converter
I used the Fusion Converter program to dump a bank of Akai-format Waldorf Wave samples into the Fusion last night. I just got through "fine tuning" them this afternoon...tweaking velocity settings and envelopes. Four banks of pure Wave! Sounds better than out of my S2000 and I can load all the programs at once instead of one at a time from a ultra-slow CD Rom drive. Unreal!!! O_O

I'm totally stoked with this board now. I'll be loading the rest of my sample libraries in there soon.

I'm looking forward to recording my own multisamples from some things patched up on my Serge Modular. Polyphonic Serge! Yeah!

This has been the best bang-for-the-buck synth I've ever had...and it sounds great!


Synth Engines
I created some FM patches today. The engine is really powerfull in its being flexible without adding complexity! You can make up your routing scheme as you go, you're not locked into specific "algorhythms". I've managed to get a depth and subtlety of modulation I could never get from DX style FM. I created a patch that could easily be mistaken for a rather nice real analog string pad - and that was before even adding any filters!

The FM engine can still do the "ringy" DX thing but can take it a bit farther. There's a FM preset called "Oxide" that I'm dieing to inspect - an ethereal scrapey bellish resonant thing that is astounding - it sounds like its rusting as you play it!

Also, I loaded the new OS today - it adds Loop-style recording to the featurelist. Still havent had a chance to mess with the HD recorder yet...I'm still having too much of a blast programming patches on this thing. :D

Now I'm going to try to master the Chicken Sys. conversion program and dump all my Akai libraries into this thing...


Last night I programmed a VA sound and a "reed" PM sound from scratch (not just tweaking existing sounds) and while the editing seemed a little fiddly at first, I soon fell into the Fusion editing paradigm - there are lots of nice shortcuts implemented to speed up things as well...individual mod pages have shortcuts to related sources and destinations.

The end results:

The VA is very nice! The "RP" filter in particular is especially warm and squelchy. While my result wasn't quite as warm as some of the sounds I've heard from the Ion, it certainly is at least the equivalent of the Waldorf Q, if maybe a bit warmer. Certainly theres none of that brittle digital "fizz" I've noticed from my Nord gear, but its certainly not "dull" or "muted" sounding. All in all, I really like the VA engine.

The PM engine is bizarre! The trick here is to use the mod matrix extensively with multiple envelopes affecting things like "breath pressure" and "bore frequency", "reed threshold", ect... I was able to get a very dynamic Reedy Flute sound going in no time that I could actually "overblow" by using high key velocity. My verdict: the PM engines are great too!

I'll try to get some more time in and dig into the FM engine this weekend. I haven't even touched the sampler or recorder yet...



New Toy!
I just got my Fusion 6HD this morning. And I must say that while the style is kind of nasty looking in pictures, in person its not bad at all.

I just couldn't resist those four(!) synthesis engines for under a grand! The PM engine(s) is(are) much more capable than I had hoped and the FM engine's implementation is easier to program than I had hoped - back in the day I used to hate programming the DX synths...

The "scratchpad" 8-track audio recorder is just icing on the cake - its nice for songwriting & I don't have to fire up my ProTools TDM rig.

Its too bad this board had such a rocky start - a very buggy OS, mediocre samples/presets, etc.

It was only released, what, about 6 months ago? The newest OS fixes all the serious bugs and adds a new soundset which is certainly passable, at least on my monitor system - though nothing I would use un-tweaked. Hollow Sun just released their third batch of extremely tasty samples/patches for the Fusion a few days ago - they are astounding...really nice PPG and electromechanical timbres with a few suprises...I'm really loving this board more and more as i play it. The featureset is pretty darn deep but the navigation and editing system is fairly intuitive and easy to get around on. One niggle - why aren't the assignable knobs implemented in a useful way for the edit pages? (ADSR on envelope pages for example)

Shame that it looks like it will have a rough road because of its sour beginnings leaving a bad taste in some people's mouths - very reminiscent of the Waldorf Q debacle...though at these new prices, they might actually sell a few. :)

What you give is what you get.

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