Alesis Micron Editor Help

Note: for full operation of Patch Base's Micron Librarian, an unsupported firmware update is necessary to your Micron. The patch editor will work without this update, but not the TOC/Bank editors. Performing this firmware update is at your own risk. This is a very special case for Patch Base. Please read the following to fully understand the requirements for using Patch Base with your Micron:

I initially made editors for the Alesis Micron and the Akai Miniak at the same time. My understanding was that these two synths are essentially exactly the same. The Miniak (released in 2009) is just a re-packaged version of the same internals as the Micron (released 5 years earlier in 2004). I developed the editors testing only on the Miniak. This was a mistake on my part.

As it turns out, the two synths are the same internally (as far as I can tell). But, the last official firmware released for the Micron (version 1.10) does not support fetching the Table of Contents (which gives information on names and locations of saved patches on the synth). This feature was only added in the Miniak's (newer) firmware, (version 1.0). So, the Micron simply doesn't have the ability to do external bank organization the way that the Miniak can. With the official Micron firmware, I don't think it's really possible to make a good bank organizer, because of the older firmware's limitations.

However (and here's where we get unofficial!), it is possible to take the Miniak version 1.0 firmware file and load it onto the Micron. I've done this a couple of times, and it works mostly without issue except that several buttons get swapped in their functions:

  • "config" becomes the Rhythms button, and vice versa
  • "setups" becomes the Patterns button, and vice versa (and Setups are now called "Multis" to match Miniak terminology)
  • "phrase" becomes the Tempo/Tap button, and vice versa
  • "accomp" becomes the Store button, and vice versa

And, importantly, the Mod and Pitch Wheels will not give full range of usage after the Miniak firmware update. So if this is unacceptable for your usage of the synth, do not update.

Functionally, your Micron becomes a Miniak. These two synths have always had identical synthesis engines anyway. For safety's sake, I've also verified that it is possible to load the older Micron firmware back onto the Micron even after you've loaded the Miniak firmware. So I'm 99% sure that doing this is totally safe and reversible.

If you do this firmware update, then the editor and bank organizer in Patch Base fully works. Of course, this is not ever talked about or recommended by Alesis/Akai, and I doubt they would recommend doing this. It would be great if Alesis had released a version 1.2 firmware for the Micron that brought it up to par with the Miniak, but by 2009 I doubt Alesis was thinking about the Micron anymore. The last firmware update for the Micron was released in September 2005, 4 years before the release of the Miniak!

If you want to load the Miniak firmware onto your Micron

  1. You can download the Miniak 1.0 firmware sysex file here. You want the file named Miniak_os_v100.syx.
  2. Turn on the Micron while holding down the Programs and Setups buttons, and the screen should show a message saying it's ready to receive an OS update over MIDI.
  3. Send the OS sysex file to the Micron from a computer. I used Sysex Librarian on my Mac to send it. The one catch is I had to set the speed limiting on Sysex Librarian to about 50%. Otherwise the data gets sent too fast; that doesn't break anything, it just means the Micron will act like it never got a full copy of things (and nothing will update, so you'll have to try again).
  4. Restart the synth. When turning it on, the screen should briefly read "Akai Pro Miniak" each time it starts up.

If you want to revert to the older Micron firmware, simply download the official Micron firmware and do the same OS loading process again. Version 1.10 of the firmware (the last official Micron update) is available on the same page linked above. The file is named q02_os_v110.syx.

In general, Patch Base is always made to work with your synths as they are. With the Micron I'm doing things differently simply because this is a really powerful synth that is really limited by its official firmware, and I haven't found any real downsides to this "hack" that I've found. I welcome anyone's feedback and stories of personal experience with this, and will update this page if anything changes.

MIDI Setup

  • Turn off Memory Protect: Press the "Config" button the synth, the use the Data knob to get to "Store: Protect". Click the knob, the change the setting to "off". This allows Patch Base to write to the synth's memory, which is necessary for normal usage of the editor
  • Set MIDI Channel: Open the "Global" tab/window in Patch Base, and make sure the MIDI Channel setting matches the MIDI Channel setting of the synth. You can find the MIDI Channel by clicking "Config" then navigating to "MIDI: Channels" and see what channel the synth is set to "start at"
  • Turn on Send/Recv Pgm Change on the synth: Patch Base both listens to and sends Program Change messages to the synth in order to operate properly. Click "Config" and navigate to "MIDI: Pgm change" and make sure this setting is "on (send+recv)"
  • Use "Programs" mode: Patch Base currently only edits and organizes the Programs on your Micron. Multis, Sequences, and Rhythms are not (yet?) supported.

Editing Patches

Because the Micron does not offer a way for external editors to fetch the current edit buffer on the synth (without knowing which patch is being edited), Patch Base uses a workaround: Patch Base designates 1 slot on your synth's memory as a sort of "scratch pad" where it stores the patch you're working on. By default this is slot 127 in bank 7 on the synth, but you can change this to whatever you'd like in the "Global" tab/window of Patch Base. Just be careful not to set this "Write" location to a location that stores a program you want to keep safe.

While this approach is a bit "weird", it also gets around a couple of limitations that almost all Micron editors in the past faced: with Patch Base, you can add additional "Mods" to your patch via the editor, without adding them on the synth first. Also, you can change the name of a patch from the editor as well.

Similarly, Patch Base has a "Fetch" location setting (also in "Global") that determines which Program will be fetched from the synth when you tap the Fetch button in Patch Base; generally, you don't need to set this manually; Patch Base will listen to messages from the synth to know which Program is currently being played, and should keep things in sync for you so that you can just tap the "Fetch" button whenever you want to start editing the current selected sound.

Fetching Program Banks (from synth to Patch Base)

The Micron has a non-traditional structure to its Program Banks; some parts of a Bank can be "empty" rather than having a patch in them. In order for this structure to work with Patch Base, a small workaround has to be used. To Fetch Program Banks from your synth into Patch Base:

  • Open the "Program TOC" tab/window in Patch Base. If you have not fetched this info before (the Table of Contents of all programs on the synth), you will see a message asking you to do so.
  • Tap the Fetch button. You must fetch the Program TOC before you can successfully fetch banks from the synth. The transfer may take a few seconds, but once it completes you will see "XXX Programs on synth" in the window, where "XXX" is the number of Programs currently stored on your synth.
  • Open one of the "Pgm Bank" tabs/windows. You can now fetch banks individually from the synth. Please note that any empty slots in the bank on the synth will be filled by Patch Base with a copy of an existing patch.

Patch Base manages Programs on your synth according to their Bank/Patch location on the synth. When you scroll through sounds on the Micron itself, they are presented in alphabetical order; not the order they are stored in the banks. If you ever want to know the Bank/Patch location of a sound you're playing on the synth, just press and hold the "Programs" button on the synth, and it will be displayed on the screen.

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