Eddy Roberts takes us through the K1-II synthesizer from Kawai
If there's one thing a good product can be guaranteed to spawn, it's a sequel. So welcome son of the award-winning Kawai K-1 - the K-1 mark II.
One of the music industries current fads, is the inclusion of a separate drum section and on-board digital effects in synths and expanders. Guess what the K-1 II has that the K-1 doesn't? Yep, 32 PCM drum sounds and 16 effects. Other than that the K-1 and K-1 II are identical.
The drums include Conga, Bongo, Agogo, Castanet, Shaker, Jazz Brushes and a selection of Bass, Tom and Snare drums. Some are quite heavily processed and include Power and Electric Toms, Gated Reverb and Electric Snares. There are also sounds which simulate the dreadful rhythm boxes circa 1983 - for the acid house brigade, perhaps.
Drums are allocated MIDI Note Numbers but only in the range between C1 and C3. This is rather baffling as it means you can't access all the sounds at once. Even if you aren't trying to construct a percussion orchestra it's useful to be able to hear all the sounds when creating a rhythm track. The drums are referred to as numbers, too, in the LCD display rather than by name which would have been more helpful.
You can tune each drum over a two-octave range which increases the number of available sounds, although you still have the 25-instrument limitation.
The drums are independent of the K-1's Single and Multi patches and can be played from the keyboard. They can be assigned to the left, right or both audio outs and the volume of the drum section in relation to the rest of the keyboard can be adjusted. A Velocity Depth function determines the response to velocity information. You can use negative settings here which makes the drums quieter the harder you hit the keys!
There are eight reverb and eight delay effects. There's nothing like a little reverb to make a sound sound twice as inviting and these certainly do the job. The reverb settings include Hall, Plate, Loft and Room. Some have early reflection characteristics and one has pre-delay. The delay effects vary from 40ms to 500ms. One is even programmed with a random delay.
You can alter the depth of the effects (this is basically the amount of effect applied) and each can have its own depth setting.
The K-1 II has one more surprise because it has been given a completely new set of presets. The internal sound architecture of the K-1 mark I and II is identical and existing K-1 owners will be able to load the new sounds into their synth - if they can find someone willing to give them a copy (mark II owners will probably also want the mark I sounds). The only difference in compatibility lies in the drum and effect settings which will be ignored by the mark I when you transfer one to the other.
To complement the rack mount K-1R, a rack-mount version of the K-1 II will be available in early 1990 but instead of the on-board effects it will have four separate outputs.
The Workstation ethic is currently very popular among manufacturers and while workstations are a tidy way of wrapping up sounds, sequencer, drums and effects in one box, many users will prefer to use - and indeed own - dedicated equipment. Why pay for the extras if you don't need them?
The K-1 mark I and K-1 mark II give you the chance to choose whether or not you want built-in drums and effects without making you pay for facilities you don't need. If you don't want either, go for the mark I although effects are useful both live and during recording. Built-in drums are a matter of personal choice. The decision is yours!
Product: Kawai K-1 II
Supplier: Kawai UK Ltd., (Contact Details)
Review by Eddy Roberts