Long‑term K2000 user Paul Ward gets to grips with the latest in Kurzweil's line of groundbreaking synths for just long enough to produce this hands‑on preview...
From my first experience of Kurzweil's K2000, I knew I was in the presence of something special — it has that indefinable quality where all the elements work together to produce a truly 'musical' instrument. I've often wondered how Kurzweil would attempt to better such an instrument. Enter the K2500R...
On the face of it, the K2500R represents a bigger and better K2000R. With a true polyphony of 48 voices, the K2500R certainly enables much fuller arrangements to be accommodated; indeed, this single feature alone might well justify some existing K2000 owners to consider an upgrade. The now familiar VAST (Variable Architecture Synthesis Technology) system provides the basic sound architecture, offering 60 different DSP functions arranged in 31 algorithms. Each of the 48 voices can have its own DSP treatment, if required. I have often found the K2000 to be somewhat sluggish in multitimbral mode, and the K2500R's new 25MHz Motorola 68340 CPU represents a significant improvement in processing power.
A new soundset of 200 programs and 100 setups is available, including a whole new selection of custom drum samples, which are very good indeed. Kurzweil have also taken the opportunity to tweak some of the original K2000 samples in the K2500R's ROM, with the result that many of them are supposed to sound subjectively better than those in the original K2000. Having played the two machines side by side, I can report that any differences are subtle, although the overall output of the K2500R does seem slightly cleaner and brighter. The programs and setups do the machine more justice than those which graced the K2000, and are certainly arranged in a much more logical manner.
As might be expected in a professional rack synth these days, the panels are awash with useful sockets, including a master stereo pair and a healthy complement of eight audio outputs (which can also double as inserts). A pair of SCSI connectors give access to external storage media, such as hard drives, CD ROMs or magneto‑optical drives. The review machine came fitted with the optional sampling upgrade, which gives a choice of both analogue (via low‑impedance XLRs or high‑impedance stereo jack) and digital (optical or electrical RCA/SPDIF) recording. Promised future options include a more sophisticated digital effects processor and a digital multitrack interface to provide conversion of eight K2500R channels to Alesis ADAT or Tascam DA88 formats.
Rather than design a completely new operating system for users to get to grips with, Kurzweil have wisely chosen to stay with a winning formula. Consequently, anyone familiar with the K2000's working methods will be at home here. For those who have become used to the cryptic parameter access of some other synth manufacturers over the years, Kurzweil's operating system is a force 10 gale of fresh air. My own K2000 (keyboard version) is endowed with version 3 software, complete with 32‑track sequencing, enhanced disk operations and an object management system to satisfy the most demanding of users. Happily, the K2500R incorporates all of these features, and one or two more.
Compatibility with other manufacturers' sample libraries has become a must in today's sampler market, and the K2500R retains Kurzweil's commitment to providing access to Roland, Akai and Ensoniq libraries. It's also capable of reading AIFF and WAV sample files. Compatibility with existing K2000 libraries is assured, although this may involve one or two tweaks, due to changes in some keymaps and those new drum samples. Thankfully, Kurzweil supply a K2000 compatibility diskette to help in these instances. Standard MIDI song files can be both read and written in type zero format.
Despite what you might have heard, fully working models of the K2500R have been in this country for such a short while that there hasn't been time to produce an in‑depth review of the K2500R before this issue of SOS goes to print. While everyone else is out soaking up the sun and dodging the North Sea sewage, I will do my duty as a committed reviewer and lock myself away to produce the full review for next month's SOS. It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it... See you next issue.
Thanks to the M Corporation for loan of their K2500R.
With the operating software held in Flash ROM, K2500R software upgrades can be made from floppy disk, rather than by opening up the machine and fitting new chips. Kurzweil have certainly passed the test of time as far as software upgrades are concerned, continuing to support the K2000 series through three major software levels, with a constant supply of enhancements and bug fixes in between — and the version 4 operating software is already at the planning stage, according to the latest information. With this in mind, it is reassuring that I'll no longer have to take out my screwdriver to upgrade! Indeed, Kurzweil are making software releases available from an on‑line service, which certainly goes a long way towards making the whole process as painless as possible.
The K2500R holds a base ROM of 8Mb, expandable to a maximum of 28Mb with Kurzweil's ROM SoundBlocks, including a new 4Mb Stereo Grand Piano. Up to 128Mb of sample RAM can be added in the form of Macintosh‑type 30‑pin SIMMs. User programs are held in 240K of battery‑backed RAM, which is again expandable to 1.25Mb via the optional memory upgrade kit.