Private company
Industry Electronics
Founded 1984
Headquarters Cumberland, Rhode Island, United States
Key people
Jack O'Donnell president and CEO
Products Musical instruments, audio/video, electronics, computer-related products, pro audio, music recording equipment
Website Alesis China

Alesis, based in Cumberland, Rhode Island, is a part of inMusic Brands that designs and markets electronic musical instruments, digital audio processors, audio mixers, digital audio interfaces, recording equipment, drum machines, professional audio and electronic percussion products. Alesis products are designed in the United States and manufactured in China.

Early years

Keith Barr (born 1947 or 1948) (aged 36) – founder of Alesis

Alesis Studio Electronics was founded in 1984 by Keith Barr (who co-founded MXR)[1] in Hollywood. Leveraging his ability to design custom integrated circuits, Barr's company was able to introduce products with feature sets that, up to that time, had been extremely expensive. Alesis' products were within the realm of most project studios, making them very successful. Alesis' first product was the XT Reverb. Introduced in 1985, the XT Reverb was an all-digital reverb that carried an unprecedented low price of $799. Barr recruited Russell Palmer as Operations Manager and Robert Wilson to handle international sales so that Barr could continue to focus on engineering.

In 1986 Alesis produced the first under-$1000 16-bit professional effects processor, the MIDIverb. Next, after teaming up with Marcus Ryle (who later founded Line 6), Alesis introduced the MMT8 hardware sequencer and the very successful HR-16 drum machine in 1987.[2] The Alesis SR-18 was made and released in probably 1990.

The Alesis ADAT

Over the next few years, Alesis introduced many new products and enjoyed great success, but the industry was unaware of what was being developed back in their R&D department, something that would revolutionize digital recording. At the 1991 Winter NAMM show, Alesis introduced the ADAT digital tape recorder. Each ADAT could record 8 tracks of 16-bit audio on an S-VHS videocassette tape, and up to 16 ADATs could be connected together to record 128 tracks of audio simultaneously. With the same digital resolution as an Audio CD and a price that was a fraction of the other digital recording solutions for home recording at the time, the ADAT was a tremendous success, and was later honored by induction to the Technical Excellence & Creativity (TEC)nology Hall of Fame.[3]

As a side note, design firm Fast Forward Designs was responsible for some of the software development for the ADAT and also the aided development of several future Alesis products including the QuadraSynth. Fast Forward Designs was co-founded by Marcus Ryle and Michel Doidic, both who had notable careers before their Alesis involvement (as designers at Oberheim), as well as a notable career following their Alesis involvement (they later co-founded Line 6).

Boom and Bankruptcy

For the next 10 years, Alesis created a wide variety of innovative and affordable products such as the QuadraSynth synthesizer, DM5 drum module and Monitor One studio monitors. In 1997, Alesis Semiconductor was formed, again taking advantage of Barr's custom integrated circuits to produce and market chips for the audio industry. A series of chips were introduced that ranged from digital signal processors for audio effects to low cost analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters. By 2001, however, the company's business suffered as market trends changed, and on April 27 of that year, Alesis filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In the subsequent restructuring, Jack O'Donnell acquired the company. In 2012, Alesis, together with the rest of O'Donnell's companies, was acquired by inMusic Brands.

After 2001

Under O'Donnell's direction, Alesis expanded into new product categories such as electronic drums, mixers, portable PA speakers, and other recording equipment. Some time-tested Alesis products remain, including the SR-16 drum machine, still a current product more than 20 years after its introduction. Today, Alesis is the fastest-growing brand in drums, and it continues expansion into new product categories in mobile music-making, recording, video, and live sound.

Alesis founder Keith Barr died of an apparent heart attack on August 24, 2010, at age 61.[4]

Targeted market

The products manufactured by Alesis are mainly for studio and live performance (as opposed to practice) use and are now targeted at professional and semi-professional musicians. Alesis is known for budget equipment but has produced high-end and innovative gear such as the Alesis Fusion, Andromeda A6 analog synthesizer, Ion virtual analog modeling synthesizer, as well as the Ion-based Micron. Alesis developed equipment for recording studios in the 1990s, including the ADAT modular digital multitrack recording machine that allowed eight channels of CD-quality digital recording on SVHS tape, which was one of the first digital recorders affordable for home studios.

Alesis models


  1. Home & Studio Recording (UK) September 1986 issue p11 – interview with Keith Barr
  2. George Petersen, "In Memoriam: Keith Barr 1949–2010", Mix Magazine Online, Aug 2010,
  3. 1991 Alesis ADAT, TECnology Hall of Fame, Mix Magazine Online|
  4. George Petersen, "In Memoriam: Keith Barr 1949–2010", Mix Magazine Online, Aug 2010,

External links

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