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Akai Miniak

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Day 1:

Holy smell ! What a brand-new scent. I love it. I open the box and I am engulfed by the smells from the Akai factory wherever it is. That's one of the joys of buying new over vintage. Those very first box moments with the original factory smell.

Day 1 went by:

Ha ha ! U got me AKAI ! Ha ha ! Or Numark, because Akai and Alesis are pwnd by Numark. They just repackaged the Micron into a new black box. Somewhat naive and short-lived marketing maneuver that could take its revenge on the Akai brand in the future.

So now I have 3 IONs in da house. Well, at least it's a repackaged Ion / Micron and not a Jay-Pee-8 or something, that would throw me off my balance. Really smart interface you did there Akai, I have to admit that. I know nothing about Micron's interface but this one with three mod wheels and keyboard keys serving as menu gateways seems to be really effective. I like the pushable data knob. But tell me, how the fuck do I set the arpeggiator on. The manual doesn't hint at anything concerning switching the arp on and off and I don't really want to read it inside out.

Oooh, deja-vu, recollecting those formant filters, this great weird-ass FM engine... holy shit even the mod wheels came from the same mold as Ion's wheels. I'm holding in my hands the baby of my beloved IONs !
How bizarre.

(Just read the Ion review if you want more details on the sound).

OK, here's this email I got from Remy. It might shed some new light on the "greatness" of the Miniak:

Well, after having watched your very good "sonic delirums" with synths, I decided to take a look at your website. Just to see your thoughts on some synths, that sort of things.
In you gear list is featured an "Akai Miniak". A synth which I own too, unfortunately ! (I'll come a bit later on the reasons of this "unfortunately").

In its description, you write "Just read the Ion review if you want more details on the sound". Well, it's true that Ion / Micron (and, subsequently, Miniak) share many things. Basically, Micron is a Ion in a smaller case (and a crappy interface). So should be the Miniak, because it's just a repackaged Micron.

At least, it seems to be just that. In fact, to my ears, the Miniak is somehow a "stripped down" version of the Ion (and probably the Micron). I mean, the Ion sounds nicely (although its effects are sometime kinda questionable, as are those of Micron and Miniak), no doubt about it. And it probably does not ouput aliasing as quickly as the Miniak does when using sync and/or ring modulation.

Here we come to the reasons of the "unfortunately" : for some unknown reason, the Miniak, as good as it seems to be "down on the paper", is not as good as it seems to/is marketed for. Being also a player and sound designer, after more than 1 year of intensive daily use, well… Miniak pisses me off. This synth is not finished/optimized at all : engaging oscillator sync on this synth makes aliasing appear quite quicky. This kind of thing does not appear on Korg MS2000, Yamaha AN1x, or Roland JP-8000 or Clavia Nordlead 1 (all these synths being released years before Miniak).

You'll find an audio example showing that "f*cking aliasing" in the MP3 joined to this email. It's a patch I made, emulating what people describe as "Laser Harp sound"… Elka Synthex preset, you know ;-)  As you'll hear, it's not playable rather quickly, and there's no extreme programming at all in it. The same "aliasing thing" appears on ALL sounds involving those highly classic sync-sweeps, especially in upper registers (C5 and above).

In the end, Miniak does not really sound like a Ion… It's a "good" synth on the paper, but a "barely okay" in practice (to me, that is). Miniak is like a "low-cost stripped-down" Ion/Micron. I believe the DSP chips are not the same in the Ion/Micron and the Miniak.


Not that I care much about this aliasing, because as you can well imagine I quite rarely play "Laser Harp" patches or sounds as high as C9 on the keyboard, but you know...it'll be good to keep up the appearances of this site being a comprehensive and serious resource, haha :P



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