ALESIS MICRON SE
Analog Modeling Synthesizer
LIST PRICE: $699.00
This Alesis analog modeling synth showcases an amazingly wide array of sounds. It’s even somewhat ironic that such a small (yet robust) package has the ability to produce so much. The Micron SE—the “SE” stands for Special Edition blue paint job, instead of standard red—packs in enough inspiring sounds and textures to break through the worst imaginable songwriter’s block.
The Micron’s metal case houses 37 velocity-sensitive keys, and contains up to eight voices that each have three oscillators. Each voice has two multimode filters, which are assignable, and two LFOs (low-frequency oscillators) that offer rate, depth, shape and tempo sync, as well as three envelopes. The Micron offers stereo effects, 24-bit quarter-inch balanced stereo analog outputs, MIDI in/thru/out, and more than 600 preset sounds. In addition to sporting a powerful sequencer, arpeggiator and drum machine, the Micron is also programmable and can store over 1,000 programs. While all of these specifications are enough to bury some synth novices six feet deep, after spending just a few minutes with the Quick Start Guide, its very easy to edit the parameters.
I was surprised by how intuitive the product’s layout is after all. In little time you can become quite competent adjusting the presets with the three knobs and two faders. These controllers seem ample for adjusting any parameter one assigns them to. You can also map functions by turning and pushing in a knob. The buttons illuminate when they are used to signify which parameter is affected, such as Octave Up or Octave Down, Accompany, Phrase and Store. The tap button conveniently flashes to the tempo. It is stylish as well as great sounding.
The sonic palate this machine obtains seems limitless. The drums have a very impressive analog sound. All of the sounds exceed expectations far beyond demo material. It actually helped me to write a few melodies. I was inspired one day while I was fooling around with the latch option on one of the preset arpeggiator programs. The external audio inputs allow for even more experimentation with functions such as the vocoder as well as other processed sounds.
The only fear I have is with the hardware reliability. The unit is built like a tank, minus the knobs and keys. As with most things, one false move could wipe out half the knobs on the control panel. One of the keys seemed a little wobbly, but worked fine. Under most musician’s care the Micron would surely hold up; but everyone knows “that guy” who beats on equipment like everything’s still made of oak and forged steel.
With all analog modelers and even digitally controlled analog devices, we’ve come to expect a USB port. Alesis offers a MIDI-to-USB cable, which does not require drivers, software installation or external power. This useful adaptor could be great for integrating any MIDI device to sequencing and recording software. All in all, this is a hands down fantastic deal for a modest price.