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I've had my Alesis Fusion 6HD for a small while now so I can write some more detailed information on it.

OS 1.22

I'm very glad I patched it right after I bought it with the new (at present) OS 1.22. In addition to curing some ills with the 'board it adds features otherwise not available with the previous OS version. As I wrote about earlier, upgrading the OS is not a chore, however it would have been nice if the synth did not require a CompactFlash card to do it - which it does (and cost me thirty bucks).

Mixdown

A question on a lot of Fusion owners minds is can the Fusion deliver a mixdown (such as WAV or MP3) of all tracks including synth and audio to one file from a sequence? No, it cannot - yet. At present you still have to do that the old fashioned way by playing the song to a recording medium elsewhere. There isn't any mixdown feature.

Mixdown Part II

There's a lot of talk about the CD-RW feature which doesn't exist but is "planned" to exist, which would indicate a mixdown feature. Rather than search the internet, I called Alesis directly and spoke with Steve, one of the local reps in Rhode Island USA. Here are the answers I got:

Q: Is there a CD-RW feature planned?

A: No (or as he said "nothing on the table at this time").

Q: Is there a mixdown feature?

A: No.

So there you have it. CD-RW feature has no new developments. Mixdown feature doesn't exist for mastering synth and analog tracks to one master audio file.

I was bummed out when I heard this, but that's the truth right from the horse's mouth.

Menu use

When I first started using the Fusion I was a bit confused by the interface, which is not the most user-friendly thing in the world. After using it for a small while I think I'm able to find my way around the synth fairly easily now. Once I figured out that some menus were "stacked" on top of each other, I was then able to get around the 'board a lot easier.

Cheers and Jeers

There are a few things about the of the Fusion that really annoy me and other things I really like.

1. Jeer: Gain is way too low.

When using the audio inputs on the back, if you're plugging an instrument directly into the 'board such as an acoustic guitar or microphone, the gain is really low and I have not found any way to boost the gain at all.

Why is it you can easily adjust gain on sampler tracks but not audio inputs?

And why is it that you can't assign a compressor effect to an audio track either (which would solve the problem)?

The solution unfortunately is to plug in an instrument which has something to boost its volume, such as sending it from a mixer, stomp box or whathaveyou. You need the extra "help".

2. Jeer: One two, one two.

Situation: You plug in a 1/4" jack for an instrument to audio input 1 and record a track. Then you go to record track 2 and there is no input at all - it's silent. I found out that I literally have to unplug the 1/4" plug out of input 1 and physically put it into input 2 and then I hear it. Yes, you can assign inputs to audio tracks, but it assigns them as 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 and 7-8, not individually. Basically what this means is that for each audio track you have to physically move the jack to the next input. That's annoying.

3. Cheer/Jeer: Quantization not in the most obvious place.

I label this one as a cheer/jeer because of how it's done. At first glance, the Fusion appears quantize tracks in "all or nothing" mode, meaning it quantizes synth tracks "as you record" or not at all with no apparent way to do it otherwise.

This is not true. You do have the ability to apply quantization afterwards but it's buried in a menu. If you go to Song/Editor/Tracks/Process, you can pick "Quantize" as a "Process" and set a range and so on.

I cheer this because it exists when I thought it didn't.

I jeer it because it's so hard to get to.

More info is on page 163 of the Fusion 6HD reference manual.

4. Cheer: A rock organ that actually sounds like something Jon Lord played.

Check out the sound "Martial Organ" (ROM Preset 1, C-3 018) and turn the mod wheel down. Then start playing "Child in Time". Sounds almost exactly like what Jon played in Deep Purple. NICE!

5. Cheer: Analog sound that doesn't just "sorta" sound like synths of the past.

I can tell Alesis took great effort to make the analog sounds really sound like analog sounds - and they do. They're fat, full and punchy just like the old 'boards.

6. Cheer: Pitch and mod wheel light up!!

Yeah, they do! In a cool blue. Not only do they light up, but they get brighter/darker depending on how much you adjust the wheels. Nice touch. Looks futuristic. (grin)

Also, I was a bit concerned about the placement of the wheels, but actually they feel quite natural where they are above the keys rather than to the side. Oh, and big props to Alesis for putting rubber "grabbers" on the wheels instead of standard sticks. You can get really specific with these compared to "best guess" effort of other pitch/mod wheels.

7. Cheer: Everything else lights up, too!

With the exception of the six 360° knobs and the "soft" buttons on the sides of the screen, all buttons light up and are easily visible. Ergonomically speaking, the Fusion is ahead of its time in that respect.

8. Cheer: Display is easy to read.

The display in the middle of the board above the keys is easily read, thank God for that.

9. Cheer: Easy to find your way around the back of the synth.

One thing I've complained about synths ever since I've been using them is that it's very difficult to find where you are when plugging/unplugging things in the back of the 'board. Not so with the Alesis. Everything is plainly marked and you can get to all ports and jacks easily from the front or the back. The Fusion would make any studio tech very happy to set up and break down.

10. Cheer: Sounds are easy to find.

The obvious: Make sounds easy to find by labeling buttons on the synth where they are. The Fusion does this. You want brass? Hit "brass". Piano? Hit "piano". Easy. Pick the sound you want and go for it. No more memorizing numbers of where certain sounds are.

Additional cheer: Switching banks is also super-easy. Bank up or bank down. Simplicity at its finest.

11. Cheer: Sounds good.

At the end of the day its all about how it sounds. I can honestly say that yes, it sounds good. I'd say above-average.

If you're thinking about picking one up, make sure to go through all sounds possible. At first glance the Fusion appears to have not many sounds in it - not until you get to the other banks.

---

I have other cheers/jeers about the Fusion but those are the ones that stick out most.

I will say that for the price you can't beat what this thing offers. Just make sure you update the OS first. (grin)

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