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Kurzweil SMP-R

Sampling upgrade for the K2000

Now you can upgrade Kurzweil’s market-leading synthesiser, the K2000, with a sampling interface. According to Simon Trask - and who are we to argue? - you can mingle your own samples with the synth’s onboard sounds, and edit the whole lot to your heart’s content in up to 64Mb of RAM. Whistle Kurzweil while you work, indeed.

In developing a sampling interface for one of the best synths on the market, have Kurzweil brokered the perfect marriage of sampling and synthesis - or provided the best argument yet for their divorce?

For better or for worse, sample-based synthesis has been the norm ever since the runaway success of Korg's M1 synth in the late '8s. To begin with, the samples were ROM factory preset only, but subsequently some manufacturers have taken to augmenting the sample ROM with onboard sample RAM on some of their instruments. Korg, to their credit, pioneered this development with the T Series synths, while their lead has been followed by Peavey, Yamaha, Generalmusic - and Kurzweil, who are taking the integration of sampling and synthesis further than anyone else with the K2000 and its new SMP-R sampling upgrade and version 2 software.

Other sample-RAM synths require user samples to be both originated and 'topped and tailed' externally, then loaded - painfully, and in the case of longer samples impracticably slowly - via MIDI in Sample Dump Standard format. With its SMP-R upgrade, the K2000 lets you do your own sampling on the synth itself, from both analogue and digital audio sources (see 'Sampling options' boxout), while the version 2 software provides sample-editing features on a par with those offered by a dedicated sampler.

In a similarly competitive vein, the synth's maximum sample-RAM capacity of 64Mb betters many a dedicated sampler - and leaves other sample-RAM synths dead in the water. Mind you, you would need 4 x 16Mb SIMMs to get this much memory, which at present prices would set you back over £1500 (unless you can find a better deal!). The minium sample RAM fittable is 2Mb (2 x 1Mb - chips must be fitted in pairs).

The K2000 stands apart from other sample-RAM synths in another important respect: it's fitted with SCSI (as standard). This means that large amounts of sample data can be transferred rapidly between the 2000 and various forms of mass storage ie. hard disk, (magneto) optical disk, CD ROM. This makes working with megabytes of sample data practical - fortunately so, as SIMMs aren't battery-backed, and so lose their contents every time the 2000 is switched off. As well as hooking up external SCSI units to the synth, you can have it fitted with an internal hard drive if you want.

The 2000 also implements Peavey's SMDI format for transferring MIDI SDS files via SCSI rather than MIDI (don't you just love all these acronyms?). And with the v2 software it can directly read samples and/or program data from Ensoniq EPS and EPS16 Plus floppy and SCSI disks, Akai S900, S950 and S1000 floppy and SCSI disks, and Roland S750 and S770 SCSI disks. Samplers 'sampling' other samplers - interesting! Once you've loaded data in this way, it's a good idea to save it as Kurzweil data, because - inevitably - it'll load more quickly in 'native' format.

You can get to the K2000's sampling page simply by pressing the Master button and then the Sample soft button on the synth's front panel. Sample and Keymap editing pages are also easily accessible - starting from the Program level, you use the Edit button to 'drop down' to the appropriate edit level.

As well as giving you a display of the amount of free Sample memory and Program memory, the sampling page lets you select analogue or digital inputs, the required sampling time, monitor on/off (allowing the input signal to be passed to the mix and headphone outputs), gain amount, sample rate (29.4, 32, 44.1 or 48kHz), mono or stereo sampling (with the option to record only the Left or Right side of the stereo signal), and threshold level (off, -90dB to 0dB in 6dB increments). You also get a horizontal bar meter which shows the level of the input signal and tells you when the signal is clipping. Digital sampling parameters differ slightly from those for analogue sampling, with cable and format replacing gain and sample rate - but otherwise there's no operational difference.

To sample, you simply press the Record soft button. If you want to give yourself a bit of breathing space before sampling begins, you can press the Timer soft button instead - this gives you a 1-second respite! Providing a non-zero threshold level is set, you automatically get a 3000-sample pre-trigger recording period - an aid to capturing fast transients. Once sampling is finished, you're prompted to play a root key. You can also press the Preview soft button to automatically create a Keymap and a Program using the new Sample; you will then be prompted to select a Bank, after which the K2000 will assign the Program to the next empty location in that Bank.

You can go on to build up your entire Keymap with further samples before getting into any detailed sample editing, or you can edit each sample in full before going on to record the next - the choice is yours. As you can see from the accompanying boxout, the K2000's sample editing functions are plentiful and, in some cases, unusual. There's not enough space to detail them all here, but suffice to say that you can put a sample through a lot of changes.

In the US you can buy the SMP-R upgrade and the version 2 software separately, which means you can get all the in-depth sample editing features without forking out for the hardware. After all, if you've already got an Akai, Ensoniq or Roland sampler, and/or a sampler which can transmit samples in SMDI format, you may feel that you can do without a sampling capability on the K2000 itself.

However, in the UK you're going to have to buy the SMP-R and v2 software as one package - and it ain't cheap. There again, if you don't own a sampler you might consider it a relatively inexpensive way of getting sampling capabilities the equal of many a dedicated sampler.

What's more, with digital audio recording(s) becoming ever more common thanks to CD, DAT and, er, ADAT, the inclusion of S/PDIF and AES/EBU digital sample inputs on the SMP-R is both timely and welcome - and one (or should that be two?) up on some dedicated samplers.

However, perhaps the greatest attraction of sampling within the K2000 context is that you get to put your samples through a synthesis system which knocks spots off the average, and the not so average, dedicated sampler - plus, of course, you get to play them with that wonderful warm Kurzweil sound. But is it feasible to use the upgraded K2000 as a synth and a 'standalone' sampler ("Hey! It can play all my drum parts, too!")?

Well, 24 voices can only go so far, and of course you don't get as much independent effects processing or as many individual outs from one instrument as you do from two. Of course, you could always 'offload' some sequenced parts to tape so that they don't all have to run live from the sequencer; in these days of 'digital transparency', this is perhaps becoming a more attractive option. There again, for the cost of an ADAT or a DA-88 you could get yourself one of the best dedicated samplers on the market. What it comes down to ultimately is personal preferences and priorities.

One thing's for sure, though. The K2000's forte is using samples as raw material for creative synthesis, and if you want to get your own samples into its sample RAM and manipulate them to your heart's content, the SMP-R/v2 package is a must.

Related reviews
Kurzweil K2000 (keyboard): MT July '92
Kurzweil K2000R (rackmount): MT February '93

Price: K2000 and K2000R: £2769; SMP-R sampling upgrade and v2 software: £893.99; all prices include VAT

More from: Washburn UK (Contact Details)

Great acronyms of our time

ROM: Read Only Memory
RAM: Random Access Memory
SCSI: (pronounced 'scuzzy'): Small Computer Systems Interface
SMDI: SCSI Musical Data Interchange
S/PDIF: Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format
AES/EBU: Audio Engineering Society/European Broadcast Union

Sampling options

The SMP-R sampling upgrade lets you sample mono and stereo analogue signals via a single quarter-inch jack socket. The input is optimised for a low-impedance line-level signal (-10dBm); ideally you'd use an external preamp when sampling through a microphone, but the K2000's Gain parameter can be used to boost the signal instead (though this will also increase the noise level).

The inclusion of coaxial (XLR) and optical inputs on the SMP-R board allows digitally-encoded audio signals to be sampled into the K2000 in the digital domain. Software-based selection of S/PDIF or AES/EBU format gives you direct digital access to a wide range of consumer and professional machines, from CD to DAT to multitrack digital tape.

Sample edit functions

Trim, Loop, Cut/Copy/Paste, Normalise, Truncate, Volume Adjust, Clear, Delete, Reverse, Invert, Insert Zero, Mix, Insert, Volume Ramp, Crescendo, Resample, Time Warp, Pitch Shift, Mix Beat, Mix Echo, Replicate, Beat Volume Adjust, Crossfade Loop

Also featuring gear in this article

Previous Article in this issue

Sub Culture

Next article in this issue

Sampling Confidential - CD Heaven

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


Music Technology - Jul 1993

Gear in this article:

Synthesizer > Kurzweil > K2000

Gear Tags:

Digital Synth

Review by Simon Trask

Previous article in this issue:

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Next article in this issue:

> Sampling Confidential - CD H...

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