The A6 Andromeda from Alesis, commonly known as just A6 by its fans and admirers, is a beast of a machine.
This hybrid, polyphonic synth is built with a true analog signal path and a lot of the internal architecture is further enhanced by digital control. Meaning that you’ve got the raw power of analog, backed up with the stability and modern features of digital.
It’s a winning combination that only adds to the overall power of this synth.
The A6 is a bulky unit but it does pack an enormous amount of potential.
The obvious place to start with the A6 is that raw analog sound, this 16-voice synth is capable of a wide range of sounds and it all starts with the oscillator setup. The A6 gives you two oscillators and resonant filters per voice, plus one sub-osc that sits one octave below the selected pitch.
Alesis took inspiration from none other than Moog and Oberheim and had their oscillators and filters redesigned especially. The oscillators are based upon Moogs 921 VCO, whereas the filters take their design from the low-pass Moog 904 and the Oberheim SEM multimode filters.
In terms of modulation, the A6 has plenty of options to experiment with. The four standard waveforms are available with saw, sine, square (pulse), and sawtooth. These can be turned on and off independently, plus the square wave has adjustable pulse width and level controls.
Either of the two oscillators can be hard or soft synced, and both can be fine-tuned for absolute precision. In terms of noise generators, each voice offers white, red, and pink options. You’ve also got ring modulation, three powerful envelopes, three LFOs, plus sample and tracking.
The three envelopes all come with seven stages (Delay, Attack, Decay 1, Decay 2, Sustain, Release 1, Release 2). You have plenty of options to shape and contour your sounds, plus each envelope has various routing destinations that include its own parameters or another envelope.
The A6 comes with a 61-key, semi-weighted keyboard in the C-C format, it’s responsive and plays better than most synths. The Program and Mix modes allow you to either play a single sound or split the voices and arrange different sounds across the keybed – a useful feature.
Another feature on the A6 is the ribbon controller, simply slide your finger across the ribbon strip to modify the sound. It’s a really useful modulation tool and acts very much like a mod wheel but only this is a fixed, flat piece of fabric material – another cool example of the A6’s versatility.
The back-lit LCD screen is another useful feature and it’s plenty big enough at 240×640 pixels. This will especially come in handy for those working in darker studio environments and it will also make programming your analog synth a lot easier in the long run.
The layout of the A6 Andromeda proves to be intuitive and offers an easy approach with getting to grips with subtractive synthesis programming. You can physically follow the signal path from left to right across the interface, leading to the master mix area located on the far right.
You’ve got plenty of hands-on action with the A6 and the menu is going to be your new best friend as you start to unravel the power and potential of this synth. There are 144 buttons, 72 knobs, and numerous green LEDs that will shine nicely in a darkened studio.
The A6 is full of features and hides many tricks but it would take a lot more time to go through them all. However, features worth noting include the simple, yet effective 4-mode Arpeggiator (Up, Down, Up/Down, and Random) and the 16-step, analog Sequencer – both have MIDI sync.
An on-board effects section is always a welcome addition and the A6 includes two systems of effects to choose from. The first system contains the analog-generated distortions including overdrive and fuzz. The second system has digital effects with delay, pitch, reverb, and chorus.
There are 512 patches in total with 256 presets, 128 blanks and a further 128 additional mixes. The presets themselves are mainly good quality with only a few leaving a little to be desired, but that is usually the case with presets, you can’t expect them all to be to your own personal taste!
A tuning feature has been included and takes about three minutes in total with just a click of the auto-tune button. However, as we’re talking about analog here, you might well be someone who prefers that slightly detuned analog character, if so, you can disable the auto-tune feature.
The A6 is a powerful piece of equipment and even experienced synth users might find it slightly overwhelming, to begin with. However, once you get a hold of the basics you will soon start to reap the rewards. If you have the time and patience (and space!) then it will be worth the money.
An in-depth manual was offered with the A6 when bought new, this helped beginners to understand the basics of analog synthesis and for a synth like this, with so much to offer, it will also come in very handy when you want to start experimenting with the advanced settings.
Alesis has put together a selection of program banks from renowned synth musicians, with the likes of Rob Papen and Joerg Huettner adding their sounds, to name a few. You’ll also find online reference manuals and updates to keep your A6 performing at the peak of its powers.
Unlike other synths where you often realize their limits all too quickly. The A6 will keep surprising you for years to come. With so many features on offer, you’ll forever be finding cool little tricks and ways to further shape your sounds. The Andromeda A6 is definitely a keeper!
The A6 Andromeda from Alesis is a huge synth, both in terms of size and potential. It’s so big that it does take some effort to move around and find a suitable space for it to sit. However, the bigger the synth, the more features, right?
The A6 doesn’t let us down in that department. In fact, it will take time to fully appreciate the power of this synth with everything that it has to offer.
No wonder it has been dubbed the “workhorse” as it’s more than capable of running the show in any full studio. Plus, if we ignore the price tag, the intuitive layout and wide range of sounds is enough to attract the beginners and lower level synth lovers.