A VAST improvement?
The Kurzweil name has always been synonymous with prestige, exclusivity and sheer desirability. But can the company's K2000 synth, now available in rackmount form, possibly be the most desirable synth in the world?
From the moment they brought out the K250 in '84, Kurzweil existed in a world of their own, aloof from mortal concerns, dedicating themselves to the pursuit of excellence above all else. Small wonder, then, that the company went to the wall in 1990, having failed to respond to the gathering clouds of economic recession by diversifying downmarket.
Thankfully, the Kurzweil name has survived - albeit as 'a product line of Young Chang Akki Co Ltd' and so has the Kurzweil R&D team, now ensconced in the Young Chang Research & Development Institute in Kurzweil's old home town of Waltham MA, USA. The newest Kurzweil instrument, the K2000 synth, stands as a symbol of continuity - for one thing, it has a price tag which puts it beyond the reach of many musicians. So what's new?
MT reviewed the K2000 back in the July '92 issue, where you can find all the necessary detail about it. I'm just going to point out how the module differs from the keyboard version, and make a few observations about the instrument. For a start, the K2000R looks every inch the serious professional instrument that it is - which is more than can be said of the the K2000. Personally, I would opt for the rackmount, neither the 2000's keyboard nor its casing having much to recommend them. Besides, the module has a few significant practical advantages over the 2000 - namely four additional audio outputs, a second SCSI connector, and the ability to handle an optional 760Mb internal hard drive (compared to a ceiling of 240Mb for the keyboard version). In addition, the 2000R comes with a cooling fan fitted as standard, whereas it's an optional extra on the 2000.
Anyone expecting the K2000R to be less expensive than its keyboard cousin is in for a disappointment, however - both keyboard and module retail for the same price, namely £2769. The price has actually gone up since the K2000's launch last year, thanks to the devaluation of the pound on Black Lamont Day.
Version 1.3 software for both keyboard and module provides 200 new ROM Programs, 100 new Setups and 15 new Quick Access Banks - plus improvements to the sampling side of the synth, such as the ability to load Akai S1000 and Ensoniq EPS16 Plus samples and keymaps, improved SCSI support of hard and optical drives, and the introduction of Peavey's SMDI protocol for transferring samples via SCSI in MIDI Sample Dump Standard format.
The K2000(R) isn't the only synth to include provision for onboard sample RAM, but it is the only one to allow up to 64Mb of RAM to be fitted internally (as four 16Mb SIMM chips). It's also the only synth to fit SCSI, the only synth to support SMDI, and the only synth to allow an internal hard disk to be fitted. As the 2000R's sample memory isn't battery-backed, you need a fast way of saving and loading large amounts of sample data, and a large-capacity storage medium to store the data on. SCSI makes this a reality.
What's more, when the SMP-R sampling option finally arrives, you'll be able to record directly into the 2000's sample RAM yourself - though what sample-editing and keymapping features the instrument will provide remains to be seen. However, the K2000R could well become the first truly integrated synth and sampler. It's a shame, though, that there isn't a monitor output on the K2000R's rear panel, à la Roland samplers.
The K2000R represents a significant advance for Kurzweil. Not only is it the the first instrument from the company to implement (resonant) filtering and effects processing, but its synthesis system is cutting-edge stuff by anyone's standards. The 2000's Variable Architecture Synthesis Technology (VAST) is based on the concept of algorithms, which are configurations of up to five DSP functions. There are 31 different algorithms for you to choose from, and selected DSP Functions within each algorithm can be set to one of a variety of sound-processing functions. In other words, you can choose from a wide range of synthesis architectures, whereas other synths give you a fixed architecture. In practice this makes the 2000 an incredibly flexible instrument sonically.
And of course it's the sounds which make the K2000R so special. Kurzweil's instruments have always been the warmest-sounding digital instruments, and again the 2000 is no exception. Similarly, Kurzweil have always been known for the excellence of their samples, and again the 2000 doesn't disappoint. It's also the most analogue-sounding digital synth I've ever come across, and excels at analogue-style brass and strings pads and bass sounds. Atmospheric pads are another forte of the new synth; some pads mimic the Wavestation's wave sequencing and vectoring quite effectively, eg. through the use of percussion loop samples, but it doesn't have the real capability of the Wavestation in these areas.
The 2000 is one of a rare breed, in that it handles a wide range of sounds with equal effectiveness, from straight instrumental sounds (sampled), through analogue-style brass, bass, strings and so on, to digital instrumental sounds and atmospheric pads. In fact, it never puts a foot wrong.
There are currently four sets of program/sample disks available, each containing 10 disks. These can be loaded into the program and sample RAM from the 2000's floppy drive. You don't have to worry about looping or keymapping, nor about having to create programs which make use of the samples. Just load up a disk, select one of the new programs, and you're up and running with completely new sounds. Having gone through all the disks, I can safely say that all four sets are worth buying.
The K2000R is going to become an essential piece of kit for professional players and studios. In fact, it's a modern-day classic in the making. So, in conclusion, all that needs to be said is: if you can afford to buy the K2000R, buy it immediately - if you can't, weep.
Kurzweil K2000 keyboard (MT July '92)
Price: K2000R £2769
Sample disk library £35.99 per set
SMP-R sampling option £893.99; due in March or April; will include V2.0 software
ROM-1 8Mb sample ROM £tba, due first quarter of this year
ROM-2 8Mb sample ROM £tba, due later this year
RMB-K £tba (board needed to install additional sample ROM)
P-RAM £39.35 (additional Program RAM)
HDC-2 £53.50 (cable needed for installing internal hard disk)
All prices include VAT.
More from: Washburn, (Contact Details).
Review by Simon Trask
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