Kurzweil has been at the forefront of electronic music technology since 1984, when they released the K250, the first instrument to digitally reproduce the sound of an acoustic grand piano. From that point on, not only have they maintained a leading position when it comes to sample libraries, they have developed multiple series of synthesizers , offering immense operational and organizational power while maintaining a highly intuitive and musical user interface.
Kurzweil PC3K is the designation given to their current top-line synths, and they represent continued maturation of their Variable Architecture Synthesis Technology (VAST). VAST is one of the most powerful hardware-based synth formats going, a position it has held starting with the release of the K2000 series in 1991.
Kurzweil PC3K Sounds
Of considerable significance is Kurzweil’s dedication to legacy sounds. Unlike other manufacturers, Kurzweil has maintained voice compatibility throughout decades of synthesizer design. The basic components of a sound originally created for K2000 are fully transferable to their subsequent K2500 and K2600 series, and will load into PC3K instruments with 99% compatibility. The trade-off for not having 100% compatibility is a more robust VAST engine in the Kurzweil PC3K, offering greater flexibility when compared to the first-generation implementation.
In a nutshell, VAST allows for any single sound (Program in Kurz speak) to be composed of as many as 32 layers, each of which can be mapped across the keyboard however one sees fit. In essence, each layer is a self-contained synth, with tone generators, filters, envelopes, and much, much more. In the current implementation, it is also possible to feed the output of one layer into the input of another layer, opening the door for even more varied sound design exploration.
As with Roland’s Performances and Korg’s Combis, Kurzweil PC3K provides Setups, a multi-zone entity allowing for different controller assignments to be programmed per zone. This mode is a very powerful way to work, even when working with single Programs, as you can affect multiple sound parameters with a single slider move.
Of particular importance to live performers is Kurzweil’s Quick Access (QA) mode. VAST instruments have always been able to store at least 1000 of each type of sound entity (Programs and Setups, along with Effects), all those objects (Kurz speak) can now number in multiple thousands. When purchased with the KORE64 expansion board (recommended), a stock PC3K will have over 1570 sounds on board to get you going.
QA mode allows for any combination of Programs and Setups to be arranged into banks of 10. The sounds in each QA bank can be accessed by using the 10-key pad, the increment/decrement buttons, or one of the 3 available switch pedals can be assigned to Data Increment so a live performer can step through sounds without interruption. VAST does implement patch remain, so, as long as there are not radical changes to the effects processing taking place, it is possible to move through a series of sounds while playing seamlessly.
There are currently three models in the Kurzweil PC3K family:
- The 6, with a 61-key synth action.
- The 7, with a 76-key semi-weighted action.
- The 8, with an 88-key piano-weighted action.
My personal preference is for the 76-key, as it lends itself to a wider variety of playing applications, while still providing enough resistance to develop effective piano dynamics.