Hands-On Review:Alesis Fusion 6HD and 8HD
Fusion 6HD and 8HD
Reinventing the Keyboard Workstation
By Jeff McCaslin
A good workstation should combine powerful synthesis, effects, recording and sampling into an instrument that's easy-to-use and inspiring. The Fusion 6HD and Fusion 8HD workstations from Alesis build upon their previous successes with keyboards and digital recorders to offer integrated hard disk recording, four sound engines, and a simplified, intuitive interface.
Fusion's sound designers started with a blank slate and created an all-new palette of tones. In addition to the individual instruments, a Mix mode allows you to layer and split the sounds across the keyboard. A number of Groove Mix patches include phrases and beats to use in your jams.
Fusion also includes the Holy Grail Grand Piano sound by Q-Up Arts, which delivers sparkling clarity in the high end and deep, rumbling low end. Especially with the 88-key weighted keyboard, it's easy to imagine that you're playing a real concert grand.
Four synths in one
The Fusion gives you four different synthesis types: Sample Playback, Virtual Analog, FM, and Physical Modeling. The variety of sound sources keeps your tunes sounding fresh and varied, and inspires you to try new things.
The sampler lets you load, record, edit, and manipulate your own sounds, storing them on Fusion's 40GB hard drive or flash ROM.
Analog synthesis recalls the sound of vintage synths like the Moog, in which real oscillators (sound generators) were connected with patch cables. Fusion gives you a great assortment of phat basses, crunchy leads, and deep ambient tones to thicken up your mixes.
The smooth, sparkling digital sounds of FM (Frequency Modulation) have been heard on countless pop and jazz recordings. Fusion's FM synth engine uses six oscillators, each with its own distinct sonic signature. By combining and modifying the digital oscillators, you can create almost any sound that you can imagine. An FM signal router gives you a menu and templates to simplify the process.
Physical Modeling uses mathematical calculations for realistic wind and brass sounds that are impossible to re-create any other way. Computer models reproduce the way the sound moves inside of these instruments, and the results are remarkably authentic. You can also manipulate the parameters to create instruments that are limited only by your imagination.
More music, less hassle
The 32-track MIDI sequencer and eight-track hard disk recorder are integrated, and you can record with both working from just one screen. CDRW compatibility is planned for winter 2005/2006, allowingyou to burn your songs directly onto CD.
The Fusion's sleek silver control panel puts the essential controls at your fingertips. A performance panel on the left side of the keyboard gives you several wheels, knobs, buttons, and switches that can be assigned to tasks including pitchbend, modulation, filters, EQ, and effects. The powerful three-mode arpeggiator resides here, with pattern-based sequences and phrase-based models that simulate playing styles such as guitar strumming. A drum mode provides an endless variety of beats.
On the right side of the control panel you'll find category and bank buttons, transport controls for recording, and a control wheel and edit buttons. The blue LCD is flanked on each side by six rubber soft buttons that control various parameters on the screen.
Keys to the kingdom
The Fusion is a real "everything machine" for composers who want it all in one keyboard—multitrack audio, MIDI, four synth engines, all at a price that's surprisingly affordable. The inclusion of Virtual Analog synthesis should prove irresistible to techno artists. Alesis supports Fusion online with free new sound sets, additional features, and a software program to convert other sample libraries to Fusion's format. Also coming will be CDRW and external hard drive support. The price of entry to composer's paradise is now just a Fusion and your own inspiration.