A manufacturer of synths and studio equipment. The company was founded in 1984 by integrated-circuit designer Keith Barr, who previously had been one of the principals at guitar-effects maker MXR. Early on, the company specialized in effects units; one of its products was the Midiverb, one of the first MIDI-controllable effects processors. Barr used his IC design skills to lower the cost of digital effects processing and recording equipment, and the company revolutionized the low end of the recording industry by introducing in 1991 the ADAT, the first multitrack digital recorder priced low enough to be affordable for project and home studios.
Early synth products consisted of the highly regarded HR-16 and SR-16 drum machines; the latter survived the drop in drum machine popularity in the early '90s, and remained in production for nearly 15 years. Alesis didn't get into the keyboard business until 1993, when it introduced the Quadrasynth, a sample playback based polyphonic and multitimbral synth with a whopping total of 64 voices. The mid-1990s QS6/7/8 synths, and the S-series of rackmount] synths, were all based around this theme. Alesis also introduced a line of very small rackmount synths known as the Nano series. These were designed as very low cost units by omitting almost all panel controls; patch editing was done by connecting a computer.
In 2000 Alesis used its proficiency in custom IC design to develop the Andromeda, possibly the last large polyphonic analog synthesizer that will ever be manufactured. Unfortunately, the following year, the company ran into financial difficulties, went through bankruptcy, and wound up being acquired by Jack O'Donnell (who also owns and separately operates Numark, Akai Professional, Alto Professional, and ION). Under O'Donnell, Alesis made a move into virtual analog synthesis and introduced the Ion, a highly-regarded VA synth. However, shortly after, Alesis discontinued custom IC design development in its Wavefront Semiconductor division, which had provided the competitive edge that made Alesis' synth business possible. Alesis is still in business but has not introduced a new synth design since the Fusion multi-algorithm synth in 2005. Founder Keith Barr, who had lost control of the company in the bankruptcy, died in 2010.
As of August 2015, the only synths being manufactured by Alesis are drum synthesizers and drum machines. The company is offering master keyboards and drum pad controllers, as well as its long-standing line of recording and sound reinforcement equipment.