By MocciJ on 2nd September 2013
I was seeking for affordable keytars, both new and used, and THIS keytar - the Alesis Vortex - came out with a price that, while new, was considerably less expensive than the others, especially considering the features on the paper.
So I bought it.
It's worth remembering that the Vortex do NOT make sounds!
Ease of use
I admit that I was a little frightened by the forums' rants concerning that topic. But I was proved wrong. OK, the patches can't really be inspected by other means than to playing them and then guessing what does what, but they can be programmed really fast. Just recall a patch, push edit, move the desired control, tweak it, press enter, exit edit, done. I can see that this is a somewhat steep learning curve for a beginner, but I got the grasp of it in a couple of minutes, really.
Regarding the playing ease of use, I'm satisfied. The keyboard feels right, aftertouch kicks in after a while and it's useable, the pads have to be configured for velocity curves other than linear because it's hard to trigger them (luckily there's a fixed velocity setting - I use them for patch change anyway, works great). The accelerometer is a joke, if you are buying it for that you'll be disappointed. The handle is subject to personal preference, mainly because of the pitch wheel. I came from the AX-7 and expected bending on the ribbon, but the one of the Vortex proved to be too short to be suitable, I think it's just not meant to bend notes; I learnt to use the wheel and I don't think I would use ribbons for bending anymore, it's great that way. It's well thought too: while you have the thumb on the wheel, you can have the index on the huge sustain button and other fingers on the ribbon for modulation. A real improvement over the AX-7. There's also 3 buttons for different ribbon destinations and the essential keyboard zones-octaves buttons, all nicely placed on the handle. The 3 knobs are reachable from behind the Vortex, so that you can play while tweaking them.
Lots. For that price you get a decent 3 oct keyboard with aftertouch, pads, knobs, and a blue ledfest all-around. Everything you do has a led counterpart. Nearly every button flashes, all the values are visible on the bright display, every note-on and off triggers a pattern step of the 3 led placed on the handle. It has USB facilities that I used without any problem. The connections at the bottom are well-placed, and feature a sustain pedal input (handy): I like the power switch, a little nice detail.
Construction wise it feels solid. OK, it squeaks a little, but there are plenty of screws holding it together, and it's solid even after reassembling it. The knobs are decent ones, buttons depresses nicely, the volume slider it's just ok, ribbon it's decent enough and the wheel feels great. I find it no toyish at all. Oh, and it's very light too!
Bang for the buck
I like how the Vortex is thought of. The way the buttons are designed, the decision to have an ordinary pitch wheel, the blue leds that dominates the scene, the shape itself: it's a keyboard that looks like a keyboard and NOT like a guitar wannabe, because it's not focused on guitarists styles of playing. The 3 oct keyboard restrict players mainly to bass lines and leads, everything more requires "standard" keyboards (as it's supposed to be).
If it won't present noticeable problems over years, I can see how the Vortex could be a new classic.
I have a rainbow strip for it.