The long‑awaited keyboard version of Kurzweil's flagship synth is finally unleashed. Paul Ward nearly falls out of his P‑RAM with excitement...
I can't help it. The prospect of a new synthesizer from the Kurzweil stable gives me the sort of tingling feeling I used to get as a child on Christmas morning. The arrival of the new K2500 keyboard is certainly no exception. Unfortunately, that arrival came too close to our press date to make a full review possible, so for the moment I'll confine myself to an hands‑on overview, before plunging into all its labyrinthine complexity — watch this space!
The K2500 certainly seems more than merely a keyboard‑endowed version of the rackmounted K2500R. Its sheer weight is enough to suggest that Kurzweil have added a few more features. The rear panel is fairly bristling with connectors, including four pairs of audio outputs, in addition to the main mix outputs. Given that keyboards are usually the poor relations of modular versions in this respect, I'd call this a generous offering.
Digital output is catered for in both electrical and optical forms. For control purposes, there are four footswitch sockets, two control pedal sockets and a breath controller input (oh, what a joy to type those words!). A pair of SCSI ports is provided for the connection of external storage devices, one of which is designated as a SCSI thru. Another helpful feature is a switch that enables the MIDI thru socket to double up as a MIDI out, duplicating the data appearing at the normal MIDI out. This should help in situations where the K2500 is to be utilised as a mother keyboard.
For sampling types, the K2500 can handle both balanced, low‑impedance or unbalanced high impedance signals. Optical and electrical digital inputs are also available.
The K2500 has a semi‑weighted keyboard. Although I'm not generally much taken with weighted actions, in the brief time I have played with this one, I have to say that I'm more than content with its responsiveness and overall feel. The 76‑note range is also very welcome on a synth with this breadth of tonal range. For those who make use of Kurzweil's highly effective sequencer, first seen in the K2000's version 3 software release, the start/pause, stop and record controls have now found their way onto dedicated front panel buttons. Kurzweil have obviously been listening to their customers!
Just above the keyboard is Kurzweil's newest weapon, in the form of a ribbon controller. For those who have not had the pleasure of meeting a ribbon controller before, the principle is quite easy: play a note or two on the keyboard, then reach out and press down on the ribbon. Nothing will happen until you slide you finger from side to side, at which point the pitch of the note(s) you are playing (assuming the ribbon is set up to modulate pitch, of course) will bend as you move your finger along the ribbon. For long, downward sweeps, start with your finger at the right‑hand end of the ribbon and pull down; for long upward sweeps, do the reverse. I recall the days of giving myself severe friction burns along the ribbon of the mighty Yamaha CS80, and loving every minute of it [it's just as effective to use your finger — Ed].
Perhaps more intriguing are the bank of eight faders and switches to the left of the control surface, labelled 'Assignable Controllers'. A quick glance at a MIDI monitor told me that the faders are certainly putting out MIDI control data, but what of the internal mixer? At the time of writing I hadn't yet pressed these into service (if you'll pardon the pun), but the prospect for MIDI‑controlled mixing and editing is enticing.
Like its rackmount predecessor, the K2500 is 48 note‑polyphonic, and utilises the now familiar VAST (Variable Architecture Synthesis Technology) synth engine to produce its range of tone colours. With a total of 60 DSP functions arranged in 31 possible algorithms, and each of the 48 voices capable of being given its own DSP treatment, the K2500 is not short on audio muscle. The fast Motorola 68340 CPU in the K2500 allows for eight drum channels to be operative, unlike the single drum channel of the earlier K2000.
In keeping with the K2500R, the K2500 holds a base ROM of 8Mb, expandable to a maximum of 28Mb with the addition of Kurzweil's ROM SoundBlocks. Up to 128Mb of sample can be added, in the form of Macintosh‑type 30‑pin SIMMs. 240Kb of battery‑backed RAM holds program and song data, this being expandable to 1.25Mb via the optional P‑RAM upgrade kit.
The operating system resides in Flash ROM, making upgrades laughably easy. I can see this is becoming an increasingly important part of modern music technology, and it's nice to see a company prepared to carry the flag.
That's all for now. In the full review, we'll get down to the nitty gritty. Maybe I'll even get to see a manual...