Alesis Fusion Format Information

Alesis has a long innovative history of music instrument manufacture, starting with the MIDIverb digital reverb, the 16-bit HR-16 drum machine, and who can forget the ADAT! Although Alesis's history in the 21st century has been rocky, necessitating a buyout from Numark, Alesis continued to be innovators.

This included the Fusion workstation, created in 2005. The Fusion included a synthesizer, sampler, sequencing, and digital recording all in one unit, for a uual Alesis budget-busting price. Not only was it innovative, it sported a unique look that set it apart from other keyboards.

Unfortunately, sales did not please the powers-that-be at Numark, and the Fusion ceased production some time in 2007-2008. The Fusion was pitted against the Japanese monoliths Yamaha (Motif), Roalnd (Fantom), and Korg (Triton), and saddled with problems ouot of the gate, the Fusion just didn't succeed in the marketplace. The legacy lives on, as the Fusion clearly set itself apart.

Did we say innovative? The Fusion's sampler section is the only digital modular synthesis facility ever widely commercially produced. You can program as many Envelopes, LFO's, and other modulators that you like. And, compared to the Fusions workstation competition, the user Sample facility was much better integrated with the synthesis engine. The Fusion had a brilliant way of loading sampled Programs - you didn't! The Fusion simply loaded samples on the fly - when you selected a Program that referenced samples that resided on it's internal hard drive (another innovation), the Fusion would simply load them on the spot. If the samples were already loaded, it would simply reference those and not load anything. If there wasn't enough available memory, it would delete samples from other Programs on a FIFO (first in-first out) system.

Fun fact: The Fusion's roots started with the hiring of Steve O'Connell, the founder of Bitheadz and the creator of the first Mac software sampler - Unity. Unity's story will be told on another day, but suffice it to say that Steve was from Rhode Island, decided to move Bitheadz to California in the 1990's. After Bitheadz folded (the timeline of events is not clear) Steve decided to move back to Rhode Island, where ironically part of Alesis was based, and was hired by Alesis to develop the Unity technology into a hardware piece of gear that eventually became the Fusion. Steve left the project midstream, and Alesis's capable engineers finished the job. If you are familiar with Unity, the Fusion synthesis engine will look awfully familiar!

It has been a sad fond farewell to the Fusion, and one hopes those ideas will be used by another product or company. In fact, it already has - the MPC-5000 by Alesis's sister company Akai has integrated Fusion technology into the latest version, with the new Keygroup-type of Program. That gives the MPC-5000 the ability to play chromatic instruments in a much better fashion the using the "drum kit" system, thus making the MPC-5000 a better full-featured workstation.

Synthesis and File Structure
The worldwide Fusion file structure starts out with a folder called Volume. Inside that are 4 or more folders: Programs, Multisamples, Samples, and Mixes. Inside each folder are more folders, each representing a Bank. All four master folders contain the same Bank folders; they just contain different items.

A user-sample Program (,afp) references one or more Multisamples (.afi). A Multisample references one or more Samples (.afs). As mention above, they are stored in separate folders.

The Fusion follows the sample Multisample model that the Motif, Triton/M3, and Fantom follow. A Program does not simply reference samples directly, but a set of samples (a Multisample) that is defined as a 128x128 set of samples - across the keyboard and in full velocity range, non-overlapping. That is because that is how the ROM "samples" are programmed. The RAM things simply are referenced in the same way. A Program applies real-time programming to (Envelopes, Filters, LFO's, Modulators, etc.) to Multisamples, not individual samples.

As mentioned above, the Fusion has

Translating Into Fusion Format
Since the Fusion is a Bank format, you can convert any format into a new Fusion Bank, or you can insert a conversion into an already existing Bank.

Samples are converted into Alesis's proprietary .afs sample format. The incoming structure is arranged into the Program-Multisample-Sample Fusion structure.

Since there are restrictions on Oscillator-level programming and only 4 Oscillators, somtimes multiple Programs must be created to imitate an incoming Program. Programs like this are prefaced with an asterisk (*) and a Mix is created, which can play mutiple Programs at one time.

Parameter Tolerence can be used to reduce the need for multiple Programs; higher tolerance allows the Translator conversion engine to average programming needs and while the final result will not exactly match in the incoming source, it will be less complicated to deal with. 0% Parameter Tolerance means no averaging will take place, 100% tolerence means the first claim to a parameter will apply to all further ones.

Samples can be stereo in the Fusion.

Translating Out of Fusion Format
The Instrument Unit on the Fusion is a Program. A Mix is a Performance type that can define multiple Programs on different or the same MIDI Channels.

Samples will be converted out of the proprietary .afs format and converted into the destination format.

You can also convert an entire Fusion Bank into a Bank-type destination such as SoundFont, Giga, Motif, etc.