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Kawai M8000

MIDI Controller Keyboard

This new full-sized MIDI keyboards controller from Kawai has the capability to control an entire MIDI system. Deborah Parisi reports.

GETTING THE BOXES up the stairs to the office was no easy feat. It really wasn't that the keyboard itself weighs 62lbs, and the separately packaged stand another 20 or so. It was the weight plus the length of the thing - it was rather like carrying a 6' couch up a circular staircase.

But when the stand was set up and the keyboard unwrapped, it was obviously worth the effort. With 88 full-sized keys, an impressive dashboard, and a rear panel packed with MIDI ports, I knew this was a worthy instrument. I couldn't (and didn't) wait to get my hands on it.

It's tempting to say that the action is like that of an acoustic piano, but the truth is that action can vary dramatically even between same-name pianos. Generally speaking, however, the M8000 feels more like a piano than a synth because of the weighted keys, though perhaps it's a bit spongier than a firm-action grand.

The M8000 allows control of four separate MIDI instruments (or groups of instruments) using programmable "busses". The four Buss Select keys, located below the four Buss sliders, correspond to the four MIDI Outs and make it easy to enable or disable any combination of instruments with single keystrokes. To chain your keyboards or modules, MIDI Out A can be used alone, and the M8000 powers-up ready for this configuration. By pressing and holding both the Cancel and Enter keys while turning on the power, each of the four busses is routed to a separate MIDI Out. Unfortunately, there is no indicator to tell you that the four outs have been activated; you have to put your faith in the keyboard. Kawai have thoughtfully provided a MIDI In as well, allowing you to hook up an external MIDI controller to pass information on to the four MIDI Outs. While this disables the keyboard and the external controllers, the wheel and rear panel controls (for pedals and the like) will still work. There is also an External Keyboard buss which will let you send MIDI data from the M8000 as well as from your DX7 (or whatever), as assigned to specific MIDI Outs.

Each of the four MIDI Outs can be limited to a specific note range by setting the Zone parameter in Edit Mode. This is easily accomplished (as are virtually all of the editing functions); all you have to do is get into the Zone parameter, hit the appropriate Buss Select key and strike the low and high notes for that particular zone. I was a little put off by the blinking LEDs - the manual said the lights would keep flashing if I tried to put the high note of the zone below the set low note. Be forewarned: the lights keep flashing no matter what you do.

Synth players have come to expect control over velocity and aftertouch sensitivity, and Kawai have provided two ways of altering these settings. Sensitivity levels can either be set and stored in Edit Mode or be modified with the sliders on the left side of the front panel (particularly useful for real-time adjustments). Changes made in the Edit Mode are assignable to individual MIDI Outs, while slider adjustments affect all busses simultaneously. Velocity and pressure sensitivity edits are scaled from 0-3, with 0 disabling and 3 intensifying the effect.

There is also a Master Volume control slider which alters the volume of all instruments connected to the keyboard as long as they can respond to MIDI volume data. One of the M8000's more unique features is its Detune facility, which transmits programmable tuning offsets to each buss in the form of small Pitch Bend messages - great for adding a bit of warmth to your synth ensemble.

A "link" feature is included, primarily for live performance, which allows you to link your programmed configurations together in order to access them quickly and easily. Once you have several presets fixed in memory, linking them is a matter of pressing Link and Write together and entering the numbers (up to 32) in the order you want to be able to access them. You can advance or go back to links with a footswitch or with the increment key.

The M8000 offers several ways to control your drum machine. The Song Select button lets you access any prerecorded tracks, the Tempo key allows you to set the tempo from 30 to 350 beats per minute, and the Start and Stop/Cont buttons let you do the obvious. By pressing down the Stop/Cont key and holding it while pressing the Start key, you can have a drum machine or sequencer begin at the same time you begin playing the keyboard. Of course, if you can trigger your drum machine's sounds over MIDI, you can also program patterns from the M8000.

Although a built-in arpeggiator may not be a major selling point on an instrument in this price range, Kawai have chosen to include one. They have also taken care not to overlook essentials like the ability to sync the arpeggiator and transmitted MIDI clocks to the same time base.

The back panel provides footswitch inputs for Start/Stop, Program Advance, Portamento, Damper and one assignable and two pedal inputs for volume and an assignable continuous controller. Basically, if you like to tell your keyboard what to do with your feet, you're going to have a field day with the M8000.

Kawai's Master Keyboard Controller is a luxury model designed for the really serious MIDI manipulator. But beware - it's really addictive. Play it once and it may well have to become the centre of your music system.

Price £1417 including VAT

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Music Technology - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.


Music Technology - Oct 1987

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman

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Keyboard - MIDI/Master > Kawai > M8000

Review by Deborah Parisi

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