The QS8 was the flagship keyboard model from Alesis. Built off the back of the smaller QS7 it came with a few obvious differences, the main one being that it comes with a full 88-note hammer-action keyboard with weighted keys.
The QS8 looks solid and feels sturdy in your hands with the black oak side panels and a metal chassis.
The combination of the sound potential, the hands-on interface, and the authentic piano feel makes the QS8 a popular choice for musicians across the world.
The QS8 is a powerful machine capable of creating a multitude of rich and complex sounds. Alesis continued with the use of their QS Composite Synthesis and the 64 voice polyphony from their award-winning QuadraSynth and QS6 models, but also expanded the onboard memory.
The memory allows the QS8 to hold massive amounts of samples and the potential to expand is huge. Using digital additive/subtractive sample playback synthesis, the QS8 can create some impressive stereo sounds including grand pianos, strings, brass, woodwind, and organs.
Keith Emerson was invited to write the demo for the QS8 and also some of the patches as well. The various synth sounds and rhythmical loops are all high-quality sounding and they bring many levels of texture and possibilities to your music.
In terms of the sound engine, the QS8 includes four digital oscillators and one low-pass filter (2-pole/12dB slope) with envelope, mod wheel, LFO and keyboard modulation options. You also have three envelopes with decay, sustain, release and delay parameters for each one.
In addition to this, there are three LFOs with various parameters available including sample and hold, noise, sine, square, triangle, saw up, saw down, key sync and delay.
The main controls located across the top of the QS8 include four real-time sliders that are all fully-assignable to various modulation parameters, such as the keyboard, envelopes, LFOs, effects, pitch wheel, portamento/glide, and filter cutoff.
The QS8s effects processor is a powerful resource that is based upon the previous success of the Q2 FX processor. The QS8 offers up distortion, reverb, chorus, delay, rotary simulation and a whole lot more with the possibility of using multi-effects to further build up your sounds.
The pitch and modulation wheels are conveniently placed in the top left corner of the keyboard, making them easily accessible and out of the way of the sliders. There is a jack for a sustain pedal and two other assignable inputs for pedals are also included on the rear panel of the QS8.
The QS8 was ahead of its time back in the 1990s, the quality and quantity of the patches gave Alesis a standout feature that offered musicians serious flexibility when creating their music. Many synthesizer keyboards are geared towards a specific genre, but the QS8 is different.
You are given a mountain of presets to play through, there are 640 programs and 500 multitimbral mixes so you are sure to find some sounds that will suit your needs. You can further expand the memory to 1660 programs and 1300 mixes using the two PCMCIA sound card slots.
Navigating through the numerous patches is made easy by switching between family sounds via specific buttons on the QS8 interface. This clever design gives you quick access and saves a lot of time by not having to scroll through hundreds of sounds just to find one in particular.
The QS-series does not include any resonant filer of any kind, but Alesis managed to overcome this by including resonant filter samples within the bank of preset sounds. If you are struggling to find something specific then you can find a range of expansion options, in the form of Q-Cards.
These Q-cards are available to buy on sites such as eBay, you can find expansion cards with vintage keys and jazz piano sounds for example. It all depends on what kind of sound you want, but most people will more than likely find what they are after in the large bank of QS8 presets!
As mentioned, the QS8 builds on and uses various components from the existing Q-Series. The QS Modulation Matrix is a welcome inclusion as this allows you to assign various external controller sources to any of the parameters that are open to modulation.
You can directly connect your Mac or PC which makes installing new patches and making any edits via external software nice and easy. All QS synthesizers come with the Alesis software (Sound Bridge), this allows you to write samples via file types such as WAV and AIFF.
The Sound Bridge software also lets you write to standard MIDI files and PCMCIA flash or SRAM cards. As you can see, the QS8 connection capabilities are very useful as it gives you plenty of playback options and file editing possibilities.
The QS8 is a perfect choice for any serious musician that is looking for more than a trance or dance synthesizer instrument
The simple yet effective layout of the controls and the responsive 88-note keyboard will delight those from a piano-based background.
You can tell that Keith Emerson’s personal instruments have been used for inspiration in the huge bank of patches, you can hear the various Moog and Yamaha GX-1 inspired sounds and we think that the pad sounds, in general, are huge and clear.
The QS8 is a powerful synth with superb flexibility when it comes to sonic range.