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Why would Kurzweil have moved 'forward' by removing digital outputs on their keyboards?

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Why would Kurzweil have moved 'forward' by removing digital outputs on their keyboards?

Postby Sequencer » Wed Dec 02, 2020 7:07 pm

I can't figure this out - the Kurzweil PC3 series (from roughly 2010) came with spdif digital out, capable of running up to the highest res ..... both the new PC4 (2020) and the Forte - no more digital out. For a company that is way big on sound quality why would they have done that?
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Re: Why would Kurzweil have moved 'forward' by removing digital outputs on their keyboards?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Dec 02, 2020 7:11 pm

Probably because their customer surveys suggested I wasn't considered an important or popular feature.
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Re: Why would Kurzweil have moved 'forward' by removing digital outputs on their keyboards?

Postby Sequencer » Wed Dec 02, 2020 7:24 pm

That must be it, of course, but I still don't get it - for a premium, fully digital, instrument - to move away from spdif - just odd.
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Re: Why would Kurzweil have moved 'forward' by removing digital outputs on their keyboards?

Postby desmond » Wed Dec 02, 2020 7:31 pm

Aren't most people using those as live/gig keyboards though? That's my perception (though I may well be wrong on that).

Digital outs are not really used that much for gigging - it's a small, fiddly connector/cable, plus you have clocking issues - far easier for most people to whack in some balanced cables with jacks/XLR etc - so maybe that's a contributory factor as to where Kurz see the majority of use cases..?
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Re: Why would Kurzweil have moved 'forward' by removing digital outputs on their keyboards?

Postby The Elf » Wed Dec 02, 2020 7:53 pm

Digital outs aren't actually very useful.

You either have to get a clock *into* the sending device, or lock the receiving device to the sender. Often senders wouldn't have a digital input to receive a clock and the receiver is probably better self-clocked.

As soon as you have more than one device with a digital output then these problems multiply and the picture begins to look very messy.

So I don't find it surprising that the world doesn't care about digital outputs.
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Re: Why would Kurzweil have moved 'forward' by removing digital outputs on their keyboards?

Postby Sequencer » Wed Dec 02, 2020 8:18 pm

Yeh, I totally get the live/gig argument - the analog outs would totally be the way to go there (and they have always been balanced outs)

- it's just that so much is made of the massively impressive synthesis capabilities in these machines - and yet it seems like they are more used as high-end Rompler Grand Pianos really

Does anyone actually do any VAST programming - or is it all (mostly) turned off and playing back multisamples?
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Re: Why would Kurzweil have moved 'forward' by removing digital outputs on their keyboards?

Postby Dave B » Wed Dec 02, 2020 8:39 pm

The Forte is actually a very strange - and slightly schizoid - beast. I love mine to bits for so many reasons, but it was a bit of a "fling it at the wall and see what sticks" kind of unit when it launched. It was originally more of a stage piano. Then live keyboard. Now a full fat workstation again. And some of the specs are stunning.

(I think it's more like a development platform that they release tbh)

And that is the problem - as noted in other threads, manufacturers need to differentiate between instruments. The PC4 is now deemed a lesser unit than a Forte so it has a plastic case, no aftertouch and a wall wart. As the Forte doesn't have a digital output, it seems that the PC4 won't either. Hey ho.

Oh - and yes, VAST programming is alive and well. And all those multisamples are a core part of the architecture.
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Re: Why would Kurzweil have moved 'forward' by removing digital outputs on their keyboards?

Postby zenguitar » Wed Dec 02, 2020 9:11 pm

It's worth bearing in mind that S/PDIF stands for Sony/Phillips Digital Interface and it dates back to the birth of the CD player in the 80's.

Was it ever really designed for musical instruments and recording studios? I very much doubt it. However, as it was something that appeared on mass market hi-fi equipment I expect it was very cheap when mass produced. So very easy for instrument and studio manufacturers to leap on the digital bandwagon at little cost.

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Re: Why would Kurzweil have moved 'forward' by removing digital outputs on their keyboards?

Postby Agharta » Wed Dec 02, 2020 9:30 pm

It's also disappearing in consumer A/V devices due to the ubiquity of HDMI.
Analogue outputs are also disappearing in some consumer devices just leaving HDMI.
It keeps the cost down.
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Re: Why would Kurzweil have moved 'forward' by removing digital outputs on their keyboards?

Postby 4TrackMadman » Wed Dec 02, 2020 9:39 pm

Could it be that they've improved the D/A converters and don't want to risk the changes in sonic quality when having another signal route that doesn't use them and bypasses that part of the chain?

Or probably the more likely explanation is that they've decided to cheapen manufacturing costs.
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Re: Why would Kurzweil have moved 'forward' by removing digital outputs on their keyboards?

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Dec 03, 2020 1:02 am

The Elf wrote:Digital outs aren't actually very useful.

You either have to get a clock *into* the sending device, or lock the receiving device to the sender. Often senders wouldn't have a digital input to receive a clock and the receiver is probably better self-clocked.

As soon as you have more than one device with a digital output then these problems multiply and the picture begins to look very messy.

So I don't find it surprising that the world doesn't care about digital outputs.

+1 to this explanation by The Elf.

I remember a time many years ago when the concept of digital outputs on keyboards/synths seemed rather exciting, but that was before I realised that the majority of such keyboards only had a digital out, so every other digital device in your studio would have to be locked to that clock.

As digital converters got better and better, the thought of relying on a keyboard clock to sync all your digital gear together started to feel less appealing.


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Re: Why would Kurzweil have moved 'forward' by removing digital outputs on their keyboards?

Postby Eddy Deegan » Thu Dec 03, 2020 1:24 am

I was very into the idea of 'pristine' digital outputs for some time between 10 and 20 years ago. I still have an M-Audio S/PDIF patchbay from that era.

It turns out it's not needed. Analogue outputs sound absolutely fine, are less fiddly to set up and ubiquitous. I never discerned any benefit from using the S/P DIF outputs on anything from that time.

For Hi-Fi it make sense especially when transferring recordings from one place to another. For synths, not so much.
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Re: Why would Kurzweil have moved 'forward' by removing digital outputs on their keyboards?

Postby ManFromGlass » Thu Dec 03, 2020 1:53 am

I've been cleaning out old boxes of cables and in the bottom of one I found an old black burst generator (I think that's what it's called). I remember needing it to sync 2 Yamaha CBXd-5 units to Logic back in the day. I recall installing it the first time and suddenly sync was rock solid and not hit or miss.
and now what do I do with the generator? I hate throwing gear into the landfill.
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Re: Why would Kurzweil have moved 'forward' by removing digital outputs on their keyboards?

Postby 4TrackMadman » Thu Dec 03, 2020 3:22 am

There are still a few SPDIF bespoke preamps though that might be fun to run this through.
Personally I haven't seen the need either, but for example on my 2012 interface by Presonus, you could gain 2 channels by going digital, for total of 10 channels. If recording a full band that was a definite plus as it gave me 2 more channels.
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Re: Why would Kurzweil have moved 'forward' by removing digital outputs on their keyboards?

Postby BigRedX » Thu Dec 03, 2020 12:14 pm

The only advantage I can see with having digital outputs nowadays is that you can reduce latency if you have a lot of digital devices in the signal chain as each one wouldn't need to add an additional set of AD-DA conversion. However as The Elf has said you then introduce the problem of getting all the devices to lock to a single digital clock, which becomes more trouble than it is worth.
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