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Some thoughts on the Alesis Vortex Keytar.
Old 30th January 2013
  #1
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xanderbeanz's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Some thoughts on the Alesis Vortex Keytar.

So i pre-ordered one of these "slap you in the face with it's 80'sness" keytars in December and got it early Jan. I'll share a few thoughts on it, lets start with the Cons:

- This thing is a bit of a nightmare to program, and the manual doesn't particularly make it easier, i had to look up an online guide that some poor guy had to blindly work his way through to make, and it helped me set some stuff up.
- The Bank Select LSB MSB settings aren't very clear, i have a load of banks on my main board and wanted to simply step up and down to the next or previous patch, but pressing the buttons tended to jump to a random patch in a different bank, it took a while to figure out. If your synth only has one bank of 127 patches then it won't be an issue.
- Don't expect to change the settings or assign things simply whilst you're in the middle of a gig, print out the CC list for your synth and assign everything you need (3 knobs, a ribbon, a wheel and an accelerometer should give you enough for what you need) I wouldn't bother using different patches or setups on stage neccessarily as it's another damned thing to remember and you may grab your pitch wheel only to find that it's turned your cool synth lead into a flock of angry geese or a bassy hum.
- Give us a damned VST editor Alesis.
- Build quality is plasticky but that's been the case for most keytars since the dawn of time in order to make them lightweight. Doesn't look like it'll break too easily but then again i'm not in the kind of juvenile rich-kid band that throws their instruments around.
- It's not very big, i kinda ran out of keys in rehearsals and had to adapt my playing suitably, re-arranging vortex versions of some of my combi's where specific splits and loops needed specific keys, as octave switching would be another hassle and thing to remember, and I'm already triggering loops with my left hand, playing with my right hand and singing at the same time so I don't need to complicate things further.

Now the Pros:

- That accelerometer is damned fun, assign it to your mod wheel with quite a pronounced LFO effect and then tilt that f*****. You probably look like an idiot doing it but it feels very gratifying.
- Everything you touch, the knobs (which are of a good quality) the ribbon, etc, (lots of controls there by the way, good plus point) makes the display flash up numbers and some blinking lights, looks quite effective.
- This thing creates visual interest on stage, it has 3 LED's on the end of the headstock which light up when you play different notes, you can hold it under your chin and it lights your face up in a spooky blue way. With the LED's flashing and the lights going off, on a frenetic solo, you kinda look like a mothership taking off. Between this and my Monotribe, I've managed to increase my "look the f*** at me, I'm the lead singer! profile." XD
- The keys are pretty decent, i managed to pull off a nice wurli solo in the middle of our cover of David Bowie's "Fashion", it's fun to throw a cover into a set I haven't used the drum pads yet but they feel quite firm and nice when you bash them.
- The power switch is a vintage-style sliding switch which is suitably out of the way and won't get knocked off easily.
- It didn't eat my batteries and I've used it for a few hours on one pack of 4 AA's, which are much cheaper than the 6 C size batteries my non-velocity sensitive Poly-800 required.

A word on the whole look of the instrument, it's not particularly big, and kinda girly looking. It looked kindaodd on a couple of the Alesis guys who were demoing it, I imagine they'd be more suited with a larger keytar in black.

I imagine 18 year old Japanese girls would rock the hell out of it, and Herbie Hancock has probably bought one, Me? As a 6ft1, 30 year old androgynous male with blue hair, I think i just about get away with it.


Last edited by xanderbeanz; 30th January 2013 at 10:42 PM.. Reason: Numerous Spelling Errors
Old 30th January 2013
  #2
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xanderbeanz's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Update:

Aha! I found the link to the in depth user-guide, it's in plain language and much more thorough than the official one, it will be of use to those simply researching the instrument aswell as owners.

Alesis Vortex: Functional Description and Midi Programming Guide | Practical Usage
Old 30th January 2013
  #3
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ChristianRock's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I see you still have the Fusion.
Old 30th January 2013
  #4
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robot gigante's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Cool review. Been thinking about getting one or something older, unsure.

I want something MORE girly looking though, maybe...?
(completely serious...)
Old 31st January 2013
  #5
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Polarelch's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I am interested in one, but that has to stand in line with more important stuff.
Should look cool in company with some Atomosynth piece!
Old 31st January 2013
  #6
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pinkerton's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I've got an old korg keytar and its big and black and wooden. But maaaan is that thing heavy

Just found this
Old 31st January 2013
  #7
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Sparkytfl's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
I didnt know this existed, dont like the looks of it. Those pads look pretty difficult to hit unless you wear the thing too high. Too few keys, yet still looks huge. White looks bad too. It's just overpowering. Doesnt look like you can put it down leaned up against an amp/stand/wall. No straplocks?

I like the look of the volume slider. The small knob on my ax1 is hard to use mid-song. If those three other knobs can be set to any cc, thats pretty cool. I'd love to be able to quickly adjust velocity sensitivity and attack speed.

If you ever decide to go wireless, do yourself a favor and just go for the midijet. The widix8 is junk. I had two and they were both defective.

I just looked at how much my ax1 is worth now compared to when I bought it just before ax-synth was announced,
Old 31st January 2013
  #8
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rids's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Thanks for the review xanderbeanz. I've been quite interested in this keytar, because of the controls, especially the accelerometer. That alone looks like it would be a blast to play.

Overall, I think this thing is a good deal at this price and much fun to be had. All I can think of is instead of playing games like rock band or guitar hero, I would be playing my own compositions using the accelerometer and other realtime controllers. I don't think any keytar has a software editor, but that would be nice to have.
Old 31st January 2013
  #9
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xanderbeanz's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
It stands against an amp ok if you get the angle right just as a guitar, I put it in between the x's of my keyboard stand, it also rests ok on a $5 folding guitar stand.

It won't fit in a guitar gig bag so maybe they're selling special ones?

Overall it's good fun for the money, and yes Christian, I still. have the fusion, it's such a good live board as it's so easy to plonk in my own loops and multisamples, melotrons, brass, pianos, VA sounds, whatever I want, that I don't think I'll retire her for a few years, only a Kronos would really manage to replace her, as I'm not into laptops live.
Old 31st January 2013 | Show parent
  #10
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by pinkerton ➑️
I've got an old korg keytar and its big and black and wooden. But maaaan is that thing heavy

Just found this
At 1:25 it looks like he's using the keytar as light-up extension of his manhood.

As if to say "Yeah bitch, you like that? How 'bout you get up in my crib?"

XD
Old 31st January 2013 | Show parent
  #11
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spaceman's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by xanderbeanz ➑️
At 1:25 it looks like he's using the keytar as light-up extension of his manhood.

As if to say "Yeah bitch, you like that? How 'bout you get up in my crib?"

XD
Lol... Isn't that the ( subliminal ) reason why men like electric guitars , and why girls find onstage guitarists sexy ( while the keyboardist in the back is sweating 500 notes a second and tweaking 1 billion parameters on his synth, and being completely ignored ) ?
Old 31st January 2013
  #12
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xanderbeanz's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
No it's because us keyboard players are ******s.
Old 1st February 2013 | Show parent
  #13
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Sparkytfl's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by xanderbeanz ➑️
It won't fit in a guitar gig bag so maybe they're selling special ones?
It may seem strange, but look at soft gun cases. I found one that was a perfect to-the-inch fit for my ax1. The vortex is about two inches wider and a little shorter, but you should still be able to find something. I bet this one would work MidwayUSA Tactical Rifle Case 6 Pockets

I always worry the door guy at a bar will stop me though. Just make sure to carry more obvious band stuff at the same time.

EDIT: Oh wait, you're not in the US are you? May be a bit harder then sorry.
Old 1st February 2013
  #14
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comradec's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I've had the Vortex for about four weeks and played my first gig with it a couple of days ago. It was just an open mic night, so I only performed three songs, but I really enjoyed using this 'board and it felt great to play.

I have previous form with keytars, also owning a Roland AX-Synth and a Roland Lucina AX-09, and previously using a Behringer UMA25s and, going back to the 1980s, a Yamaha CS01 monosynth.

My impressions so far are that the build is solid despite being so lightweight. Yes, it's plasticky but I would have more confidence that the Vortex would survive a fall intact than my AX-Synth, whose sheer weight and the extra length of the control arm make it feel much more vulnerable to potential mishaps.

Indeed the lightness of the Vortex is something I really appreciate for gigging as the AX-Synth's bulk and weight makes it hard work to carry to and from gigs, and awkward to put on quickly.

The keybed is okay but the key edges feel sharper than the Roland ones, which can be slightly uncomfortable if your fingers ever fall between notes. I would have preferred the edges to have a smoother finish. It's also noisier playing these keys - something I notice because it doesn't take much to disturb my partner in the room next door if she's gone to bed early and I'm still practising stuff on the keytar - even though I'm wearing headphones.

I haven't explored every aspect of MIDI control functionality as I only intend to use the Vortex to control patches on my Roland SonicCell synth module/file player and have no plans to use it directly to control software DAW systems. However, it's a couple of steps ahead of the AX-Synth and AX-09 because you can control the volume of your external module and it offers aftertouch - neither of which are possible using Roland's keytars.

I am not convinced that the accelerometer will be of any use to me. I don't really see the point of that. Just a gimmick.

However, the pitchbend wheel and modulation ribbon strip have been easy to use since I adjusted my playing style from the different system used by Roland.

I would have preferred the program change buttons to be located somewhere more convenient. You couldn't really change patch easily during the middle of a song given their current position, but I also appreciate that you don't want to be knocking them accidentally either, which might be more likely to happen were they situated elsewhere.

The strap that ships with the Vortex is pretty hopeless. Way too short. Okay, I'm not the slimmest guy around but the shortness of the strap means you have to play the Vortex almost at chest height. It looks too high up for my liking on the original poster's gig photo, even though he is much thinner than I am. So I bought a longer replacement strap for mine, plus some Dunlop strap locks.

In conclusion, I expect that I'll be using the Vortex at lots of gigs, starting with the full set show I'm due to play a week from now. The AX-Synth is more impressive as a spectacle but the Vortex is more fun to play.
Old 1st February 2013 | Show parent
  #15
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comradec's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sparkytfl ➑️
I didnt know this existed, dont like the looks of it. Those pads look pretty difficult to hit unless you wear the thing too high. Too few keys, yet still looks huge. White looks bad too. It's just overpowering. Doesnt look like you can put it down leaned up against an amp/stand/wall. No straplocks?

I went for the black sparkle version of Roland's AX-Synth and AX-09 keytars, but I quite like the pearl white look of the Vortex. Pearl white makes the AX-09 look like a toy but not so the Vortex, as the whiteness mixes well with the many black buttons and knobs, and the blue legend and lights.

I found a guitar stand that the Vortex rests on pretty neatly. As for strap locks, no, it doesn't come with any, but then neither do the two Roland keytars and it's no bother to fit a pair of Jim Dunlop strap locks, which can be bought for just a few pounds.
Old 1st February 2013
  #16
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xanderbeanz's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
I'll be buying a new strap soon, I hope it doesn't look ridiculous on me in the photo. I'm pretty tall see.
Old 1st February 2013
  #17
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comradec's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by xanderbeanz ➑️
I'll be buying a new strap soon, I hope it doesn't look ridiculous on me in the photo. I'm pretty tall see.
No, you don't look ridiculous in the photo. The keytar looks a little too high for comfortable playing, especially for your left hand, but there's only a small number of keytarists around who would be likely to realise that. Most regular keyboardists wouldn't know any different either.

I bought a Jim Dunlop DD extra long guitar strap from Amazon UK for my Vortex and it's much better, with plenty of scope for adjustment. Fitting strap locks is definitely a good idea too. The plastic disk ones made by Jim Dunlop will do the job and only cost a few quid for two.

Sent from my GT-S7500

Last edited by comradec; 2nd February 2013 at 11:52 AM.. Reason: To make it clearer which comment I was replying to
Old 2nd February 2013
  #18
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🎧 15 years
Comradec, thanks for the comparison to Roland keytars. I think I would prefer the Vortex, but am wondering how I would like the pitch wheel instead of the pitch ribbon. I'm guessing you can still assign the ribbon to control pitch ( you would just be controlling it on the wheel at the same time also) ?
Old 2nd February 2013
  #19
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xanderbeanz's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
I think everything is assignable so you don't have to use the wheel for pitch? I'll check later.
Old 2nd February 2013 | Show parent
  #20
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comradec's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by rids ➑️
Comradec, thanks for the comparison to Roland keytars. I think I would prefer the Vortex, but am wondering how I would like the pitch wheel instead of the pitch ribbon. I'm guessing you can still assign the ribbon to control pitch ( you would just be controlling it on the wheel at the same time also) ?

I think you can re-assign most controls and functions, but I don't mind the pitch wheel as it is. It's not difficult to adjust from the different system (pitch bending via a ribbon strip) used on Roland keytars, especially as wheels are the most common way of doing this on regular 'boards.

I haven't tried it, but I suspect that the Vortex's ribbon strip would provide less subtlety over pitch control than the Roland one because it's shorter, so presumably smaller movements will have a greater effect on the pitch.

It's a shame the pitch wheel doesn't illuminate when you use it, as happens on several other Alesis 'boards, such as the Fusion and the Micron. That would make it more dramatic from the audience's perspective. I don't know about other keytarists here, but I've found that audience members often watch keytar playing with fascination, trying to work out the relationship between what they are seeing and what they are hearing - especially if you are playing a patch, such as distorted guitar, they associate with a more traditional instrument. The Roland system of a long ribbon strip for pitch bending and a squeeze bar for modulation is possibly more interesting visually than the Vortex's system.
Old 2nd February 2013 | Show parent
  #21
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comradec's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by xanderbeanz ➑️
It stands against an amp ok if you get the angle right just as a guitar, I put it in between the x's of my keyboard stand, it also rests ok on a $5 folding guitar stand.
I bought a guitar stand for mine. Best to try out the different ones in a music shop, though, rather than buying online, because most guitar stands aren't suitable. You need a more exact fit for the Vortex to rest safely on the stand.

Quote:
Originally Posted by xanderbeanz ➑️
It won't fit in a guitar gig bag so maybe they're selling special ones?
Alesis have a gig bag in the pipeline, but it's not available yet. The Vortex itself didn't ship until six months after the promised date, so who can tell when the bag will be ready? http://www.alesis.com/vortex

In the meantime, I've found it fits okay in the Gator GKB-49 gig bag, which I owned already. It costs under 40 GBP. http://www.gatorcases.com/p/111209-367/gkb-49

Last edited by comradec; 2nd February 2013 at 11:45 AM.. Reason: URL didn't work properly
Old 2nd February 2013
  #22
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🎧 10 years
I am possibly not quite as strong on fashion and image, but here's me with my Alesis Vortex at an open mic night earlier this week.

I'm using it control a Roland SonicCell synth module/file player via a CME WIDI-X8 wireless MIDI interface. The SonicCell also plays backing tracks originally programmed in Ableton Live 8 Suite.

Old 2nd February 2013
  #23
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Sparkytfl's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
You got the Widi to work properly? The range was great, but it would randomly shut off on me. I'd have to turn the switch to actual off, then back on to get it working again. My second one did the same thing, so I just returned it and didnt bother with a third. That was shortly after they were released.
Old 3rd February 2013 | Show parent
  #24
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comradec's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sparkytfl ➑️
You got the Widi to work properly? The range was great, but it would randomly shut off on me. I'd have to turn the switch to actual off, then back on to get it working again. My second one did the same thing, so I just returned it and didnt bother with a third. That was shortly after they were released.

I bought the WIDI-X8 wireless MIDI system just a week ago and that open mic a couple of days later was its first outing for a live performance. As it was an open mic night, I only played three songs, so that may not have been time for things to go wrong. It's been great at home, but actual gigs are the real test. I'm playing a half-hour set later this week and we'll see how the WIDI-X8 fares at that show.
Old 6th February 2013
  #25
Here for the gear
 
🎧 10 years
hey did u ever get a chance to use it with the ableton lite software it came with, or get a chance to use it with any other ? DAW? I want to use it with logic 9
Old 16th February 2013
  #26
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rids's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Can anyone confirm the pitch can or can't be assigned to the ribbon?


Quote:
Originally Posted by comradec ➑️
it's a couple of steps ahead of the AX-Synth and AX-09 because you can control the volume of your external module and it offers aftertouch - neither of which are possible using Roland's keytars.
So you can't control volume of external modules? I thought you could with the Rolands since they have the volume knob. That is very lame that Roland didn't include aftertouch on their keytars and Alesis not only included it, but did it at a lower price point even.
Old 17th February 2013
  #27
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🎧 15 years
Dang I just played an AX-Synth and noticed the mod bar (black bar beneath the ribbon) sticks out a lot and is kind of tough to use the ribbon because of it. Was thinking the Lucina could be the other alternative to the Vortex, but being that it's neck is blocked in, I don't know if playing the ribbon would be easy and fluid.

I wish the Vortex had a longer ribbon on it, but being that it has aftertouch, I'm thinking I will eventually get the Vortex. Though, my wish would be for Alesis to make a 45 key version (starting on the E key), with a longer ribbon on the neck, a lite wheel (or a smaller mod bar than roland) and a more slender design. The pads seem to make it bulky.

Not sure if I like the wheel for pitch. I think it would be better if the wheel was for Mod, or just make everything assignable.
Old 17th February 2013
  #28
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rids's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Just to answer my own question, I see in the quick start guide that the Vortex can assign the pitch to the ribbon. Nice!

I think the Alesis Vortex beats the Roland Lucina for controllability. It's just more thought out whereas the Lucina has the D-Beam and that's it pretty much. Not sure how easy it is to switch through ribbon and mod bar assignments on the Lucina, but I don't see any dedicated buttons like the Vortex has. The Vortex allows you to switch between any 3 parameters (which are of course assignable easily). Not only that, it has a sustain button and the octave buttons right next to your (left) hand/ribbon. It also has the keyboard zone buttons right there so you can set different patch assignments for the keys like split keyboard. The volume (but still assignable) slider on the neck is nice too. Through in aftertouch and I can see it's the best keytar option available. I like the look of the Lucina, but it just doesn't have as many options at the Vortex. If Roland makes another keytar (and i hope they do, because they always make aesthetically pleasing keyboards) I hope they add more controls (like knobs and easy switchable ribbon button assignments) and convenient controls at that. I use to think the D-Beam was cool and still do, but I like the Accelerator better. Looks more fun to play. I think I will buying the Vortex soon.
Old 17th February 2013
  #29
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xanderbeanz's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
The accelerometer is unbelievable fun though I'm pretty sure I look like a prick whilst using it for modulation XD
Old 18th February 2013
  #30
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xanderbeanz's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Here are a couple more nice shots






All the gig photographers have said it's brilliant to snap what with all the lights and numbers flashing and stuff. And yes, my bassist clearly looks like he should be in Parliament Funkadelic XD
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