Voice Crystal Cards
for the Kawai K4
For anyone looking for a synthesiser bargain, there have been few offers more tempting than the recent sale of Kawai K4s and K4Rs, which certain retailers were putting out at £499 and £299 respectively. I don't mind admitting I succumbed and bought a K4R - and if you can still find one I'd recommend you do the same. There are three things I like about it - it has some cracking sounds, you can layer them and it's easy to program.
Like most people though, I'm always on the look out for off-the-shelf sounds and so was particularly interested in three new K4 cards from Voice Crystal, each containing 64 Singles and 64 Multis. The Singles collection features a broad range of sounds which lean slightly towards the vocal, pad, atmospheric and 'tinkly' voices at which the K4 excels. However, though highly useable in their own right, it's when programmed as layered or split Multis that they really come into their own.
Card 1 contains several splits - many featuring a variety of bass in the left hand and a selection of solo sounds in the right. Then come the layers - pads mixed with bells, fat multi-synth combinations, thick lead sounds and delicate ethnic evolving tones. There are a range of solo and ensemble instruments constructed from several Singles, too. Strings do particularly well and there's also a selection of sound effects, mostly of a musical nature. By and large, the Multis have been carefully put together - many sounds coming in after a short delay while others use velocity to bring in extra tones.
Though it's fair to say that anyone who likes Card 1 will almost certainly like Card 2, there are important differences. Here, the Multis are not layered, but contain different Singles on different MIDI channels. Effectively, the programmer is suggesting that you use this combination of sounds in sequence. Rather presumptuous, I reckon, but you can have some fun by putting them all onto the same channel - as you can with Card 3 which is programmed in a similar way.
You should be able to find something to suit most projects on any of the three cards. Based on the Single sounds I really couldn't pick a favourite, but I guess I'd plump for Card 1 simply because there's no work to do when producing layers for the Multis. Lazy or what? If you're working on house or related dance styles, try Card 3.
The cards come in little wallets with Single and Multi voice lists but (sadly) no description of the sounds. Like all RAM cards, they are a little expensive, but apparently ROM versions are on the way and will cost around £39 each. Remember, though, it's always useful to have a RAM card in the machine so you can access twice the number of sounds - just make sure you save the originals before overwriting them!
If you are on the look out for more sounds for your K4, I'd certainly recommend these cards - particularly first in the series. And, if you like it, there are two more waiting to be discovered.
Price: Voice Crystal K4 Cards £55 each
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