64 Voice Master Controller/Synthesizer

The QS8 was the top of the line Alesis synthesizer in 1996/1997.  There were also the smaller QS6 which came first and featured a smaller ROM, and the QS7, which had the same ROM of the QS8.

This keyboard is a great master controller - as well as a capable synth - in virtue of its expressive weighted-hammer action.  It is also of very compact size for a full 88-keys.  The pitch and modulation wheels sit at the top left of the main panel to save space.

There are four controllers in the form of sliders:  these are freely assignable and depending on the patch, they control various parameters such as filter cutoff, amount of FX, LFOs, envelopes and so forth.

The QS-series doesn't have a resonant filter, but does have many "resonant filter" samples in memory.  Besides, there is a large series of expansion cards (the so-called "Q Cards"), that contain more.  The Vintage Synth card in particular is full of resonant, filter-swept patches.

The display is small but serves its purpose.  It's a bit slow to program only using the display, but the QS-series came with an excellent computer editor that consents to tweak every parameter from a large computer screen to your heart's content.

The familiar "Program" and "Mix" buttons are the usual "Patch" and "Combination" of other synths.  A huge strip of buttons that goes from 00 to 127 end the front panel.  These are very, very useful, to recall quickly and easily the factory patches (every button groups a family of sounds together), and to program the synth itself (all parameters are silk-screened under each button).

The sounds of the QS8 are clean, precise, digital, powerful, beautiful and sparkling.  I remember from the magazine articles of the time that Keith Emerson's personal instruments had been extensively sampled to build the ROM of the QS synths, and this shows in many factory patches.  Many modular Moog sounds, several organs, and even the fabled, mythical Yamaha GX-1 is featured in the sound ROM!  But it's the PAD sounds that I tend to like a lot on this synth:  they are huge, clean, mysterious, lovely, and straight away beautiful.  Check out the sound examples below.

The sound engine is also greatly helped by the presence on-board of nothing less than the equivalent of Alesis' own multi-effect Quadraverb 2.  The reverbs, delays and "Lezlie" in particular are of exceptional quality.


Alesis QS8 audio demos

The five internal demo songs:


0 - Jinx - by James Reynolds 

1 - Bang! - by Taiho Yamada

2 - Dreamcurrents - by Eric Norlander

3 - Iron Man - by Keith Emerson

4 - Camera Obscura - by David Bryce


Program bank 1

Stream all bank 1 audio demos

Program name with audio demo My comments
000 TrueStereo A beautiful and realistic concert grand piano patch.  The excellent weighted keyboard allows great expressivity, from the deep lows to crispy highs.
003 PianoMorph Sweet piano with a backwash of classy synth strings.
005 Rayz Roadz Maybe inspired by Ray Manzarek's electric piano sound?
007 ClascWurly Typical nasal Wurlitzer electric piano.  The modulation wheel adds the trademark tremolo
008 FM E Piano Well-sampled Yamaha DX7 style electric piano.
010 Clavitube Nice Clavinet going through a filter of some kind.
012 TrueHarpsi Very good emulation, with the typical key-release noise that a real harpsichord produces.
013 Cool Vibes Nice, intimate vibraphone for jazz.
014 BriteMarim Super realistic
017 St. Thomas Nice, happy steel drums from the islands.
019 ClockTower Beautiful rendition of a church clock tower bell
020 Real Prc B Typical 70s rock, Emersonian Hammond organ, with slight tube overdrive
023 ABCDrawbar Great Leslie emulation on this patch.
024 WhitrShade Sweet patch, obviously inspired from Procul Harum's "A whiter shade of pale".
029 WhammerJmr Very realistic blues harmonica through a Shure "green bullet" mic!!!
030 Steel Ride Intimate steel guitar patch.
033 ThickNylon Beautifully sampled nylon string guitar.
034 Fat Strat Very nice and 80s sounding Stratocaster.
035 TreMellow Killer 60s style electric, complete with tremolo
036 Total Chug Heavy Metal guitar.
037 FacePlantr Hard Rock solo guitar
038 WorldSitar

Liquid, realistic sitar sound.  The aftertouch greatly controls the pitch bending.

039 Koto Pluck Realistic koto sound
040 BigUpright Produced, perfect-sounding acoustic bass.
042 007 Bass Excellent picked bass - with a vintage, 1960s feel.
043 Slap It! Nice slapped bass
045 Fat Mini Standard synth bass
046 Filter Wow Overcoming the QS' lack of a resonant filter... start with a reso sample.
047 IndstryRez Great, modern synth bass.
048 DeutschBas Mega-powerful synth bass, this sound was very in vogue in the mid-late 90s.
050 Violinist Highly realistic and expressive violin.
051 MedSection Nice medium-sized string section
052 String Vox Beautiful cross between syn strings and vox.  An excellent pad.
055 Bali Hai Interesting, exotic string patch
056 Obersphere Outstanding synth string pad - inspired by the Oberheim polysynths.
057 J Strings Probably stands for (Roland) Jupiter Strings.  Nicely phased synth strings.
059 Harp Pluck Calm and relaxing
060 FlugelSolo Very realistic, and 1970s sounding.
061 ClsclTrmpt Okay.
064 Real Brass Yes.
065 Pop Brass Yep.
068 ClassBrass Very brassy...
069 Ohbe Brass Another Oberheim classic patch
070 LyricFlute Gentle and realistic
071 TronFlutes Classic Mellotron flutes.  The aftertouch engages downward pitch bend, to emulate the wow and flutter of the original tape-based machine - excellent!
074 Wind Ensmb Realistic
075 SoloBasoon Nice and lively
076 Tenor Solo Warm and realistic
077 ThoseSaxes Great swing band sax section
079 FantaFlute The famous orange soda flute.
080 Ooh Choir Beautiful, hypnotic, mega-fluffy choir pad
081 Ahh Choir Okay
082 Sunsrizer Outstanding, marvelous swirling pad composed of synth, choir, and Wavestation-like strings
083 Afterglow Another excellent moving pad.  The mod wheel and sliders change the sound quite a bit.
084 TyrellCorp A nod to the film "Blade Runner", like many other patches on this machine.
085 MindSweep Very nice synth - play with that modulation wheel and sliders...
088 Sahara Sun Lovely 80s bell pad.
089 Water!!! Incredible sound fx
090 Quadratix Powerful! Typical ELP analog synth
092 Xpando Pad Fantastic pad
096 Kalimpanad Cool woody synth.  Act on the wheel and sliders and you get great delay effects.
098 Digidee Classic Roland D-series style synth
100 Porta Lead Typical Moog-like analog monosynth, with plenty of portamento.  Very Emersonian.
103 Maze Lead Clearly inspired by Lyle "Maze"' (Mays) Oberheim 4-voice sound.
105 Screamer! Powerful and incredibly analog-sounding!
108 Fuzz Box Nice distorted synth.
109 AquaTarkus One of many references to an ELP (Emerson, Lake and Palmer) record.
111 Discotron Yeah!
112 Bhangra Excellent Indian rhythm and setup.
113 Randomania Excellent electro-beat with random synth on the right hand.
114 Pop Thing Greatly enhanced by the on-board multi-effect.
119 MonstrMash Incredibly eerie sound effect... perfect for alien/horror movies.
120 DM5 Drums Taken from the then Alesis top of the line drum module, these are high quality drums.
121 Straight 8 Good emulation of Roland's classic TR-808 drum machine.
122 Industro Banging kit, suitable for the industrial genre.
123 StreetBeat Excellent and groovy drum set, optimal for hip-hop.
124 Outer Kit Very interesting kit, with out worldly sounds.
125 AfricaPerc Perfectly sampled percussion from the African continent.


Program bank 2

Stream all bank 2 audio demos

Program name with audio demo My comments
000 DarkClascl Nice piano, perfect for Romantic classical styles.
002 Player Pno Cool! Player piano aka "pianola"
006 Suitcase Very good if a bit "hard" rendition of a Rhodes Suitcase electric piano, complete with mod wheel-engaged tremolo.
013 Mad Vibes Nice padded vibes
015 Potsticker Nice!  Unique, different
017 AttakOfIce Mega cold and digital
021 BluesOrgan Realistic, great Leslie
022 Purple B Classic 1970s hard rock overdriven organ, a la Deep Purple
023 Jazz Prc B Nice ambience
026 SftPipeOrg Small chapel
028 WrmAcrdion Hearty accordion
030 LegatoAGtr Beautiful, expressive acoustic guitar
035 Silvertone Reminds of Angelo Badalamenti's tone in Twin Peaks
039 Spamisen Nice shamisen
045 FM Pluxx Classic DX7 bass
048 TranceBass Nice!!!
049 Dist Bass Outstandingly realistic distorted bass!
052 LushStrngs Very lush
057 SE Flange Great pad
060 Bone-afied Bona fide trombone
061 Jazz Mute Nice trumpet with mute
070 SingleFlut Realistic
075 Oboe Blow Perfect for scoring 1960s movies such as "Lawrence of Arabia"...
076 Brite Alto Nice and full of growl
077 Big Band Cool
080 Oohzee Incredibly beautiful dream pad!!!
084 Sparks Another vectoring masterpiece patch
085 Hold&Sampl The sliders alter the sound quite a bit
086 Dew Drops Sweet patch with jumping crystal marbles.  Reminds me of the hit song by Underworld "Born Slippy" at the beginning.
087 Outland The perfect pad!  Love those swirling resonant fairies dancing all around.
089 Ascent Another typical Keith Emerson patch
090 Fanfare GX THE QUINTESSENTIAL EMERSON SYNTH - the fabled Yamaha GX-1!!!  As I remember reading, his very own unit was sampled to build the ROM of the QS.
092 BladeRunnr Another classic Vangelis Yamaha CS-80 synth patch from the movie.
093 Distance This is eeeeeeerie......
095 HighGlissz Happy synth!!!
100 FmDBgining Classic Emerson patch used in the song "From the beginning"
104 MellowGold Wavy synth
105 PortaWheel Awesome Moog patch!  The mod wheel acts on the amount of portamento.
107 Brassy 5th Another classic Emerson synth patch!
108 SuperNova Beautiful, hypnotic mega monosynth!
109 AbdnsTriad Another classic ELP patch, inspired by the song "Abaddon's Bolero"
112 Yonderland Very early 80s combo!
113 Robotechno Very robotic...
117 Circles Fantastic special fx!
120 Pop Up Kit Solid drum kit
121 9 Time Nice rendition of the classic Roland TR-909 drum machine
122 HardcorKit Great distorted 909 set, perfect for Hardcore / Gabba genres.
123 UrbanBliss Another very nice hip hop set.
124 GuessTrips Nice fx
125 India Perc Very, very nice Indian percussion set up - check out how realistic those tablas sound!!
127 Danz Hitz Classic dance orchestra hit


Program bank 3

Stream all bank 3 audio demos

Program name with audio demo My comments
002 HousePiano Typical early 90s house piano, Korg M1 style.
003 Piano Pad Beautiful setup, perfect for playing the famous Italian song "Caruso".
007 TrampWurly Excellent Wurlitzer EP200 sound, as used by band Supertramp.
019 Waterphone Very good sampled waterphone.  The waterphone is a great atonal instrument that is often used in horror/sci-fi movies, but also in modern styles such as New Age.
020 3Draw Rock Very nice overdriven Hammond with the first three drawbars out. Sounds like it was sampled from Keith Emerson's C-3!
025 Full Ranks Excellent church organ
027 KiknPedals Mega sub-bass pedals!
028 Surf Organ Regular Vox/Farfisa 60s combo organ
034 PassGuitar Probably inspired by great jazz guitarist Joe Pass' guitar tone.
035 PedalSteel Very nice emulation of a pedal steel guitar.
039 Mando Trem Uncanny emulation of a mandolin!
041 Deep Bass One of the best bass patches on the synth.
042 Roundwound Do you remember The Cure's "A forest"?  The bass line wasn't exactly like this, but I like the sound.
046 Funky Acid Incredibly perfect for 1970s funk!  Like an ARP Odyssey.
053 Film Score Very realistic orchestral strings, with long attack and release... perfect for film scoring.
057 StrgMachin Classic early string keyboard such as the Solina.
066 Dixi Brass Cool Dixieland brass
073 Minotaur Inspired by the synth tone in the 1960s song "Minotaur"?
075 G. Soprano Probably inspired by saxophonist Kenny G., whose trademark instrument is a soprano saxophone.
079 1001Nights Nice setup!!  Picture yourself on a camel ride through the desert now.
082 Final Dawn I adore these types of patches - I love moving pads.
083 1stContact BEAUTY.          PERFECTION.              BEAUTY.           LOVE.           PEACE.     DEEP SEA
095 Hihowareya Hi!  How are you doing?
099 PebbleBell Cute and mysterious.
107 Trilogy Ld Another classic ELP album, Trilogy employed many great Moog sounds such as this one.
113 NineIncher Dirty, rough loop typical of bands such as Nine Inch Nails
119 Hyperspace Cool sound fx
120 CountryKit Nice! Classic Country drums.
121 See Our 78 Obviously (Roland) CR-78.  Good emulation of the early drum box.
122 Gruvy Lube Greasy hip hop kit
123 Disco Kit Very, very good late 70s style drums, the recording technique of the toms has been faithfully reproduced.
124 UFO Drums That's what they are!  (A heavily filtered set)
125 Asia Perc Nice set


Program bank 4

Stream all bank 4 audio demos

Program name with audio demo My comments
001 Rave Knave Classic rave piano sound
002 AntiquePno Intimate piano sound.  This is perfect for playing the classic Gymnopedie by Eric Satie!!!
003 Pianooohs Good and useful setup
005 No Quarter Inspired by the Led Zeppelin song.
015 Sebastian Happy sound
034 InstntEdge Incredible emulation of U2's guitarist technique!
040 Dance X Beautiful techno bass!
049 DanceGlide Nice
055 StarDustMW The Modulation Wheel (MW) engages the fairy dust!
059 Waterfalls Nice New Age / Ambient sound
060 SmokeyRoom Perfect late 1950s jazz combo setup!
079 Cartoonin' Yep
080 PavlovsDog Nice
081 MorphChoir Excellent - the mod wheel opens and closes the filter.
086 HeavenCent Another excellent moving pad.
087 Ocean Mood Ah!  I love sounds like these.
100 Zoo Lead Aggressive and hard synth tone.
102 3oh3 SawMW Not the best TB-303 saw emulation (that's on the EuroDance card)
103 3oh3 SqrMW Not the best TB-303 square emulation (that's on the EuroDance card)
106 RaveSaw QS Typical early/mid-90s lead
110 Wormholes Beautiful, peaceful, sparkling pad
112 No Age Very nice setup, for out-there New Age
115 Press Roll Cool patch - aftertouch engages the drum roll.
116 TseTse Fly Fantastic!
120 Real Rock Typical rock drums
121 Asylum Kit Again great drums thanks to the fx processor.
122 Harlem Tek Delayed lo-fi kit.
123 15ips Kit Obviously inspired by the sound obtained by recording a drum set on a tape-based machine at 30ips, and playing it back at 15.
124 GuessDrums Modern sounding.
125 VocoderKit Standard vocoded drums.


Alesis QS8 pictures



Features at a glance
Year of release: 1996
Polyphony: 64 voices
Sound generation method: 16MB of PCM sample ROM
MIDI: In, Out, Thru
Controls 4 Realtime Controller Sliders
Sound expansion capabilities: Expandable to 32MB via 8MB PCMCIA Z series Q Cards.
UP to 16 MB of user sample storage available through Flash RAM PCMCIA cards
OS found in my unit: QS8 V1.02  Sept. 12th, 1996 
Effects 4 high quality multieffects busses
inputs/outputs ADAT Optical Digital Outputs;
4 Independent Analog Outputs;
Built-In Serial port for direct Mac or PC connection
Programming: Extensive Tracking Generator and Matrix Modulation sections
Keyboard 88 Note Weighted (QS8) or 76 Note Semi-Weighted (QS7) Keyboard with Aftertouch and Release Velocity
Misc Included CD-ROM with Sequencing and Sound Editing Applications and Files