Radial's newest problem-solver could prove indispensible to gigging keyboardists.
Back in January 2018, Bob Thomas reviewed — with high praise — a clever little keyboard mixer/interface pedal from Radial Engineering called the Key Largo. As a keyboard player myself I rather liked the concept, but the floor-pedal format didn't appeal so I was overjoyed when Radial announced an enhanced rackmount version at the 2018 NAMM show. We've had to wait a full year for the product to become a reality, but I'm delighted to report that sat in front of me now is the new KL‑8.
Built into a 1U-high, black-painted chassis with a striking blue front panel, the new KL‑8 extends almost 160mm (6.25 inches) behind the rack ears and weighs a substantial 3kg (6.6lbs), largely due to Radial's traditional heavy-duty steel chassis construction. The product name references both the original Key Largo and the fact that this unit has eight instrument inputs (four stereo pairs) instead of its sister model's six.
There are a few other differences too, which start with its universal (100-240V AC) switch-mode line-lump power supply. Although this is still external, it is more sophisticated than the Key Largo's. It delivers a trio of ±15V and +5V power rails (the Key Largo uses a single +15V supply), and connects using a reassuringly secure, latching four-pin XLR. There is no power switch, so if it's plugged in, it's on.
Importantly, the mains safety earth is carried through to the rack chassis and all of the instrument inputs are referenced to it directly, so any Class-2 (double-insulated) instruments can be assured of a solid ground reference via the KL‑8. Sensibly, ground-lift buttons are provided on both the main and monitor outputs to help solve ground-loop problems with destination equipment, should they arise.
The back panel is awash with closely packed connectors, starting with eight unbalanced quarter-inch TS sockets for the stereo keyboard inputs; plugging a mono instrument into a left-channel socket provides a dual-mono signal into the stereo mix bus. Four more TS sockets provide a stereo auxiliary effects loop with separate left/right sends and returns, and again there's some clever cross-linking between the sockets so that a mono effects pedal can be plugged into the left send and return to receive a mono‑summed aux output and deliver a dual-mono return. A pair of TRS sockets provides a stereo mix-bus insert send/return (normalled to maintain the signal path when nothing is plugged in), and is intended for use with a stereo volume pedal or an overall effects processor.
Both the main and monitoring outputs are presented on male XLRs, each pair with an independent ground-lift button as mentioned above. Slotted in between these are two further TRS sockets which provide direct mix-bus access so that multiple KL‑8s can be linked together for larger rigs, and two more TS sockets on the left-hand side accept remote footswitch connections to toggle between the two USB inputs (see below) and to mute the auxiliary send/return signal path.
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