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  K5000s At a Glance
Click for larger view arrowReleased: 1996  Specifications
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Steve Pescatore writes:
I've been an analog purist for some time now, veering away from anything di***al. When i heard this synth, i changed my mind. I'm not too fond of the new wave of digital synts pretending to be analogs - it seems kind of stupid to me, but Kawai has the right idea with the K5000S. It doesn't pretend to be analog by any stretch of the imagination, yet it has several of the great features that we all love about analogs. 12 defined knobs (FF bias, FF speed, FF depth, cutoff, resonance, velocity, attack, decay, release, hi harmonic mix, lo harmonic mix, even/odd harm mix), 4 user definable knobs, portomento speed knob, pitch bend and mod wheels, 2 user definable on/off switches, a 40-pattern arpeggiator (with 8 user definable patterns!). So as you can see, it has tons of real time control.

But wait! There's more. It has an insanely comples additive synthesis engine. For those of you unfamiliar with this, i'll give a quick explanation: typical (analog, sample playback, etc) synths are all subtractive. You start out with a noise source (oscillator, noise, sample,...), then run it through filters and envelopes and what not to take away the parts of the noise that you don't want. Additive is just the opposite. You start with nothing, then define which harmonics you want to be present in your sound source, and what volumes you want them at, and when you want them at what volume. To give an example of how complex this can get: the K5000s can have 4 multitimbral parts in a multi. Each voice can have up to 6 sources (analogous to an oscillator) at once. Each source can have up to 128 (i think?) harmonics. On top of that each individual harmonic can have 3 envelopes (FF, DCA, mod, and maybe one more). Just a note, however: you don't have to edit them one at a time - they can be edited in groups, making life a lot easier :-) The effects aren't the best i've ever heard, but i think they are pretty average for onboard effects. they definitely help beef up some of the sounds. The bottom line: Run. Don't walk, Run really fast, trampling anything in your way down to your local Kawai dealer and buy it (no, i'm not affiliated w/ Kawai, i just think they deserve to sell as many of these as possible) But be warned - Additive synthesis can be very complex, so don't expect to be churning out world-class patched in a day or two. I've now had mine for 3 days, and the presets still make my patches look like an unmodulated square wave - plain and unoriginal.

Are Leistad Writes thanks Are!)

Some real info about K5000 for the hard-core synthesist ----------------------------------------------- When the K5000 was launched it grabbed my interest as something as rare as an additive synthesizer and seemingly of a quite high calibre.

However, it proved next to impossible to obtain any concise imformation about it, other than the price - It seemed shrouded in mystery :)

The manual is not very good. It lists (most of) the display pages, but fails to explain how it all fits together. There is no diagram of the voice-structure. The effects section (half of the manual) is somewhat better written, with diagrams and explanations.

To cut a long story short, I took my chances and bought a K5000S after having a quick hands-on test in a shop. Here is what I have found out, mixed with my own review-comments:

This review is in three parts:

  • - Overview
  • - The voice structure
  • - The effects section
  • - Using the K5000
  • - The sound

    Overview: --------- The Kawai K5000 comes in three versions designated by a suffix of S/R/W for synth, rack, workstation. This review concentrates on the K5000S.

    The K5000R is identical except for not having the keyboard and maco-buttons, being a rackmount unit.

    The K5000W contains the same synthesis engine but also has an additional GM PCM-based synth with 32 voices and a 40-track sequencer. It lacks the macro-buttons

    For the K5000 R/W you can get a separate macro-button box.

    The K5000 voice isn't too far from the "standard" mould for general synthesizer arcitechtures, meaning that it has a signal chain consisting of oscillators, filters and amplifiers with modulators to go.

    However it is also *very* special in that the oscillators are of the additive variety (alternatively you can choose a PCM oscillator). This means that they synthesize the waveform dynamically from a series of 64 harmonics. Each harmonic has it's own loopable amplitude envelope, and the additive oscillator as a whole can be modulated. This means that a dynamically evolving spectrum can be synthesized. You've probably seen those fancy 3-D audio-plots (FFTs)... The K5000 can make these "mountains" of sound.

    There are actually two series of harmonics, one SOFT and one LOUD, which can be crossfaded by velocity - they share the same 64 envelopes.

    Then there are the filters - first is a 128 band formant filter that can be used to shape the dynamic spectrum from the additive oscillators. The formant filter has its own envelope or LFO; you must choose between one of these, but the envelope is loopable.

    Next is the DCF, a more tradiational filter with low and high- pass modes. It is a 24 dB/octave filter with variable resonance, and you can make it scream in self-oscillation. The DCF also has a gain control on its input.

    Finally there is the DCA with its own envelope and panning.

    To knit it all together there is a global LFO and a good selection of modulation sources and destinations.

    This makes up what Kawai calls a "source". A "patch" can contain upto 6 sources and a "multi" can contain upto 4 patches. At patch and multi -level you can arrange the sounds in 4 zones/layers. In multi-mode you get a 4 part multitimral synth.

    The patches/multis can be routed through 4 effect processors, a reverb and an EQ before leaving the box through two stereo pairs.

    In the K5000 S and R models you can store 128 "patches" and 64 "multis", but it has a floppy drive so there's plenty of cheap storage available... In the K5000W the number of memories are doubled. The K5000 R/S can take an optional memory upgrade to get the same ammount of patch-storage as the K5000W. amp mod output +-----------------+----------------+ | Pan |-D +-------------+------+-------------+ | |

    left rightoutputs --> The modulators come in two classes:

    1 - modulation sources that are "destination-routed", fixed routings with ammount control at the destinations

    2 - modulation sources that are "source-routed", variable routings with routing and ammount at the source

    In the diagram above, the various possible modulation destinations are marked with D and/or S.

    The destination-routed modulators are:

    keyscale and velocity

    Posible destinations for ks/vel are: (Kawias abbreviations: DHL = harmonic level, = DHE harmonic envelope(s), DFL = formant filter (the D probably stands for digital as ususal...))

  • ks -> DCO pitch
  • vel -> Pitch envelope level,time
  • ks -> DHL gain
  • vel -> DHL gain
  • ks -> DFE env-ammount
  • vel -> DFE env-ammount
  • ks -> DCF frequency, attack, decay1
  • vel -> DCF frequency, env-ammount, attack, decay1
  • ks -> DCA level, attack, decay1, release
  • vel -> DCA level, attack, decay1, release
  • ks -> LFO DCO-amount, DCF-ammount, DCA-ammount

    The source-routed modulators are:

    fixed macrobuttons 16 fixed destinations/levels user macrobuttons 8 destinations/levels global LFO, 3 fixed destinations/levels (DCO/DCF/DCA) modwheel, 2 destinations/levels pressure, 2 destinations/levels expression, 2 destinations/levels assignable contr. 2 destinations/levels (MIDI controllers)

    The possible (non-fixed) destinations are:

    pitch, cutoff, level, LFO->DCO, LFO->DCF, LFO->DCA LFO speed, attack time (DCF&DCA), decay1 time (DCF&DCA), release time (DCF&DCA), velocity offset, resonance, panpot, formant filter bias, formant filter ENV/LFO depth, formant filter ENV/LFO speed, harmonics lo, harmonics hi, harmonics even, harmonics odd

    The effects section: --------------------

    I will not go into too great detail about this since it is fairly well covered in the manual, and also somewhat less "mysterious" than the voice structure anyway.

    The sources within a patch can be routed to the 4 effect busses via a matrix that allows any routing.

    You can amplitude modulate one (and only *one*) of the sources with the neighbouring source. This is in fact ring modulation!

    There are 4 general purpose effect processors, each of which can perform a couple of effects (yes, they are actually multi-FXs). At the end sits a reverb followed by a 7-band graphic equalizer. The four effects (E1-E4) and the reverb and eq can be arranged in 4 different combinations, termed "algorithms": main bus4 ----------------------------------------------> individual

    bus1 ---E1---------+ bus2 ----------E2--+-------------------+ bus3 -----------------E3----------+ | bus4 ------------------------E4---+---REV----EQ----> main/individual

    bus1 ---E1---------+ bus2 ----------E2--+--------------+ bus3 -----------------E3----------+---REV----EQ----> main bus4 ------------------------E4--------------------> individual

    bus1 ---E1-----E2--+ bus2 --------------+-------------------+ bus3 -----------------E3-----E4-------REV----EQ----> main bus4 ----------------------------------------------> individual --> The main and individual outputs are the two stero pair outputs.

    The E1-E4 effects have 36 algorithms, most of them are true stereo effects. The FX types cover the usual ground:

    early reflection (2), tap delay (2), single delay, dual delay, stereo delay,cross delay, auto-pan, autopan & twin delay, chorus (2), chorus & delay (2), flanger (2), flanger & twin delay (2), ensemble, ensemble & twin delay, celeste, celeste & twin delay, tremolo, tremolo & twin delay, phaser (2), phaser & twin delay (2), rotary, auto wah, bandpass, exciter, enhancer, overdrive/EQ, ditortion/EQ, overdrive/EQ & delay, distortion/EQ & delay,

    The reverb sports a few variants: hall 1-3, room 1-3, plate 1-3, reverse, long delay

    Effects modulation:

    The effects can all have their wet/dry mixes and one selected parameter per effect (hardwired) can be controlled by:

    bender, pressure, wheel, expression, volume, pan, MIDI general controllers 1-8

    Using the K5000 ---------------

    You may think that all this is a bit much to control. Luckily the user-interface is very good, making it relatively easy to move around and adjust paramaters. There's a big graphical display (blue'ish) with lots menu-buttons around it and a dial to set parameter values. There are also hot-keys that takes you to various edit pages.

    The additive oscillators have a few "tools" to harness the 64 harmonics and their associated envelopes:

    You can view and edit all the 64 harmonic levels on s single page in groups of dark, bright, octaves, 5ths, all or individual harmonics. The same goes for the harmonic envelopes, but these can also be viewed and edited individually.

    There are features to copy harmonic series and harmonic envelopes from any patch/source.

    There is also a "morph" page that allows you to specify 4 harmonic series (each having a soft and loud version) from any patch/source and then morph trough them with specified time intervals. What this actually does is to set up the harmonic series and then compute all the harmonic envelopes for you. After doing a morph one will probably want to edit the spectrum in more detail using the methods described above.

    The formant-filter is edited much like the harmonic series, but with groups of 5/10/15/20 bands, "graphic EQ", all and each, and there is a copy facility. This is really cool stuff - a DIY filter!!!

    The DCF/DCA/LFO/effects are perfectly straightforward to edit

    The DCF has a gain stage before its input - very handy. Unfortunately the resonance has only 7 settings, but then again we've already had the formant filter doimg its job.

    The LFOs (global and formant filter) does not have selectable triggering; they are always restarted at noteon. This is about the only "missing" feature as far as I'm concerned.

    For keyboard control, there is one polyphonic and two monophonic triggering modes and portamento. The keyboard itself has aftertouch (channel pressure), and is of a very high quality. It is not of the weighted variety, but still quite responsive. A cross between JX-8P and DX7-II? Oh, well... Very playable anyway.

    The "macro-buttons" of which there are 16 fixed and 4 programmable, can be used to tweak the patches live - very nice! They are among the source-routed modulators described above.

    The arpeggiator deserves a review of its own. It's a blast! Suffice to say its very good and has lots of advanced features and is fully user programmable. If pnly all arpeggiators were like this one...

    The sound ---------

    What can I say....

    Techically, the sound is very clean and there's no noise, specs says 108 dB S/N, good dynamics - nothing wrong here.

    The low end is solid and precise, the mid is perfectly sweet and the highs are shiny bright. It's gentle to the ears, yet very powerful and detailed. Definately the hi-fi feeling.

    Musically, The K5k can make "most kinds of sound", except for some of the wild things you can do with FM and/or feedback. From bright, clear sparkling crystals via lush drones through powerful blasts and all the way to the dirtiest screaming synth, - the K5000 can do it all with a flare.

    How about the sound of blood-red icebergs refracting lasers, or a binary star setting in the horizon, maybe the hammering of trauma in the midsts of your brain? OK, sorry... guess that's my trip, some of you may still the point :-))

    As a synthesizer it excels with a very broad range of textures, and it is probably utterly capable as an accoustic instrument emulator too, but that isn't my department.

    The presets doesn't do the instrument justice, but they do give a hint at what you can acheive. Just tweaking the macro-buttons some can take you far. If you dvelve into the core of this synth, great rewards await you!

    The effects are what you might expect: certainly not Lexicon, but I think they're just fine as far as "bundled effects" go. The FX parameters are limited to "sensible" ranges so you can't e.g. send the flanger into its own spin on greater than unity feedback etc..

    Conclusion ----------

    What it has of (subjective) snags is far outweighed by what it has of (objective?) excellent features and sound.

    It isn't a "everything for everyone" box, but if you're after a beast of a synthesizer check it out.

    The K5k should satisfy the most demanding synthesists with its very detailed control of the spectral evolution. It certainly stirred my synthesist-heart!

    Comments About the Sounds:
    IMHO, this is the coolest Digital Synth I've ever laid my ears on. Some of the presets make sounds that i've never heard come out of a synth before. When you check it out, make sure you try some of the sounds by simply holding down one key for a couple of minutes. The long-term modulation is truly amazing. One of the first synths i've ever seen with killer presets.

  • (Thanks to Steve Pescatore for this info.)

    Links for the Kawai K5000s
     More Synth Gear  Best US prices on many current models
    Joe's studio Kawai K5000 bulltetin board & files
    Fresh New Kawai Sounds (Demobank for FREE download!!!) Infos,audio pharse demos recorded with the new soundbanks. just visit and find out more!!!
    K5000 Mailing List
    The Kawai room at History and technical information about Kawai instruments.
    K5000 Sounds Almost all existent sounds for K5000
    The Patch King The Worlds Largest 3rd Party Synth & Sampler Developers. Thousands of New Sounds for over 100 Synths & Samplers on Floppy, CD-ROM or Zip Disks.
    MINIMAL BERLIN TECHHOUSE Tracks made with a K 5000 S
    Kawai K5000 UNIVERSE History, specs, patches, tech info.
    White Noise Audio Soft. Additve synth A VSTi similar to the K5000
    Kawai K5000S @ deep!sonic Find some rare picts behind the panel
    K5000s Demos demos and links

    Try the Kawai links page for more..

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