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A great classic
First the bad news: the keyboard is a disaster and the built-in effects are pretty useless. Moreover, the display is flat with the panel surface, so the player cannot see it if seated. The remaining is just fabulous: it's a VA, but the quality is very good, very low aliasing, and the voice is fat enough. The modulation matrix is great, and so the 3 OSC controls (with a very useful "in tune" led). All pots except the volume are endless potentiometers. I've replaced the factory Fatar TP/7 keyboard with a very better Fatar TP/9 (same connectors), and added channel aftertouch with a small MIDI encoder module installed inside the instrument and connected (in thru mode) between MIDI IN jack and motherboard input. Now my ION weighs some 2kgs more, the keys protrude of 5mm at front, but it's a joy to play.
The secret sauce
One of the greatest synths ever made and I will never get rid of it. It's almost knob-per-function, except that it's got even deeper parameters than that. The mod matrix is amazing. TWO MOD WHEELS?! The multi-mode filters can run in parallel or series, and they both recreate classics and have their own unique modes.
On my rig, the main output responds to the volume knob and goes to the mixer. The aux output level is set in the menus and goes to the Line 6 Pod XT. That way I can blend distortion with the dry signal.
The only problem -- it's old. PLEASE, ALESIS, MAKE A NEW ONE! I want USB patch editing and empty presets to make my own voices. And reverb!
Beatiful design, complete with flaws beneath the surface
This is an excellent synthesizer. The sound sculpting possibilities are nearly limitless, with three oscillators, many filter models, FM, blah blah blah. The list goes on. It sounds very high-fi, with perhaps a bit less bass response than I would like. It reminds me a bit of the MS-2000, but a bit warmer, or closer to sounding like a real analog synth. I couldn't truly fall in love with the Ion because the stereo outs are off-balance. The left channel is always louder than the right, even after a factory reset. Some of the encoders on my unit also jumped values, which makes it hard to have fun tweaking.
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