In August '93's SOS, Paul D. Lehrman described owning a K2000 as a little like having a child -- it demands all your attention, costs a bloody fortune, and there's always something else it needs. So, you forked out for the sampling option (or at least the v.2.07 software), a hard disk, a vast battery of sample RAM, and then realised that you needed the fan option to stop the whole lot overheating.
And now, just when you thought you'd finished spending, along comes a new expansion board that you just gotta have. Well actually, it's two boards -- the orchestral ROM itself, and a daughter board (RMBK) which allows you to fit up to two ROM boards. Also supplied are two disks, a rather large sticker (the only external indication that the board is fitted), and yet another Manual Addendum. Available soon is a 'contemporary' board (ROM2), which promises a further 8Mb of pop sounds to fill the second slot. Installation of all boards should be done through your dealer, so you'll have to prise yourself away from your pride and joy for a few days (or longer, if you use the same dealer as me!).
The orchestral board contains an additional 8Mb of samples, organised into 99 new keymaps. Switching on the machine, you discover 100 new programs (banks 900-999), 50 setups, and a new set of quick access banks.
The solo sounds are, I feel, more striking than the pads, although this may be because there are already some outstanding 'one-note orchestras' in the original sounds. I particularly liked 'Copland Soft Trumpet', 'Wet Pizz' (use your imagination), and 'Acoustic Bass'. 'Orchestral Percussion 1' is useful (and fun -- especially the gong), whilst the 'Orchestral Oboe' sound is particularly welcome, since I was unable to find one in the original sounds. Many of the new sounds use a combination of new and existing samples, and, of course, you can use the new samples for your own sounds as well. As you would expect, nearly all the sounds are imitations of real instruments and are, generally, very convincing. Once you've tired of the presets, there are many more programs on disk -- mainly variations on a theme but, thankfully, arranged into logical categories. Should you wish, you can also load in a General MIDI sound set, which utilises the internal sounds, the ROM1, and 2Mb of sample RAM. Kurzweil modestly describe this as the finest GM sound set in the industry. Who am I to disagree? (see the 'Reviewer's Playtime' panel).
So, the ROM1 is good, but should you buy it? One very good reason for not doing so is the fact that Kurzweil have made it so easy to obtain sounds from elsewhere. With a few Meg of sample RAM (SIMMS) you can load Akai, Roland and Ensoniq sounds -- and let's not forget Kurzweil's own library of sample-based sounds from the K250. I got mine free (40 floppies' worth) when I bought the machine!
Many people, myself included, use the K2000 for sampling (you need the sampling hardware for this, obviously), but the beauty of the machine is that you don't need to use up valuable sample RAM for 'bread and butter' sounds such as drums, pianos and basses (unless you want to). The ROM1 adds orchestral sounds to this armoury of in-built sounds. The key here is availability -- there are over 300 sounds at your fingertips as soon as you switch the machine on. In a live situation, this is ideal, but if you use the K2000 in a studio, then the chances are you will have already have accumulated a library of sample-based sounds -- and if not, you could buy a handful of orchestral sample CD's for a lot less than the recommended price of the ROM1.
Not everyone will buy the orchestral board because not everyone will need it -- but then that, surely, is what optional extras are all about. Most users will want one, however, because the sounds are, without doubt, some of the best available. Be warned, though; your dealer will probably talk you into buying the programme RAM expansion, to make room for all the new programs you'll create!
Unlike, say, Roland's new JV-series, expansion ROM boards are not the only way to increase your K2000's capabilities. Come to think of it, the ROM1 is a lot more expensive than the equivalent boards for the JVs. But then you didn't buy a K2000 because it was cheap, did you?
Special thanks to John-Paul at Music Inn, Nottingham for the loan of the review model.
The K2000 was reviewed in SOS by Craig Anderton, in March '92. That issue is sold out, but photocopies of the article are available at £2 each. Paul D. Lehrman examined the sampling option and Version 2 software in August '93.
It was time to have some fun. I listened to a CD of the Berlin Philharmonic playing Beethoven's Fifth. With the aid of a borrowed copy of the score, I was able to recreate the opening few bars very convincingly. If this is what the ROM1 has been designed to do, it does it very well indeed. The demonstration sequences supplied on disk are even more spectacular.
Superb quality sounds.
Orchestra at your fingertips -- and no need to eat up sample RAM to get it.
An expensive way of obtaining sounds generally already available at much lower cost.
An excellent quality addition to your system, but its necessity is somewhat questionable. Great -- if you can afford it.
£ ROM1 Orchestral Expansion Board £416; fitting of daughter board for the ROM1, which also holds the ROM2, £120. Prices inc VAT.
A Washburn UK, Amor Way, Letchworth, Herts SG6 1UG.
T 0462 482466.
F 0462 482997.