Kurzweil PC3K Series Keyboard Review

Kurzweil History

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.

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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:

  1. The 6, with a 61-key synth action.
  2. The 7, with a 76-key semi-weighted action.
  3. 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.

Artiphon Instrument 1 – A Revolutionary MIDI Controller

The Artiphon Instrument 1 is going to revolutionize the MIDI controller world.

This looks like an amazing instrument. I don’t need my Oxygen 49 and my Launchpad and my Keytar anymore. All I need is the Artiphon. What a great idea.

Here are some features from the Kickstarter Page:

  • Play any instrument, style, and sound with a single device that connects directly to your smartphone, tablet, or computer.
  • Artiphon patented multi-instrument technology transforms the INSTRUMENT 1 into a guitar, violin, bass, piano, drum machine… it’s any instrument you want it to be.
  • Plug in and play hundreds of apps like GarageBand with universal musical gestures: strumming, tapping, bowing, sliding, and more.
  • Digital string-like interface works with any MIDI-compatible software.
  • The unique ergonomic design can be held in multiple positions, and is fully ambidextrous.
  • Design new instruments and custom tunings via the Artiphon companion app.
  • It’s compact, portable, durable, self-powered, and simple.
  • Designed and engineered in Nashville, TN.

I use GarageBand to create and record ideas and then do my full production with Logic or Pro Tools so this is a great instrument for the way that I work because it works with everything that I already use. I love that it is self powered and has internal speakers. I don’t like having to find headphones or rig everything up to record an idea. I just want to play.

Here is some more info:

Artiphon’s patented technology also enables entirely new musical techniques, letting you play in ways that no stringed instrument ever could:

1) Turn the frets on and off. This is the first digital string-like instrument to support fretless playability, which is revolutionary for violinists, bassists, and anyone interested in sliding between notes.

2) Use vibrato to naturally add real nuance to your performance.

3) The entire interface is continuously pressure-sensitive, allowing for unprecedented control over software instruments via polyphonic aftertouch.

4) Instantly change to any tuning (guitar, bass, banjo, dobro, uke, violin… koto anyone?), with capo buttons at your fingertips.

5) Assign a different instrument to each string. For example, play a bass on the bottom and a guitar on the top.

6) Pressure-sensitive effect control, tap and auto-strum modes, multiple notes per string…


If you love this idea you can pre-order one on the Kickstarter page.

Samson Carbon 49 MIDI Controller Review

Samson Carbon 49 MIDI Controller ReviewSamson Carbon 49 MIDI Controller Review

The Samson Carbon 49 MIDI controller is a cool little MIDI Controller. This keyboard is USB powered and works directly with your iPad. There is a slot built in to the keyboard where you can hold your iPad and a USB cable is supplied.

This controller has 49 keys (which should be obvious by the name) and they are velocity sensitive and semi-weighted. I like the size of the 49-key keyboard, it’s big enough to play with two hands and small enough to be portable and not look too odd at the coffee shop.

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Garageband works really well with the Samson Carbon 49 but the keyboard is bundled with the Native Instruments Komplete Elements software which has over 1000 sounds, effects and tools and is designed to work well with this controller.

Here is what some owners have to say:

Mgmg Says:

I bought this keyboard not knowing what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised. First I was very impressed by the weight and sturdiness of this keyboard. The semi weighted keys feel great and I would compare it with some $300 controllers. Having the iPad docked in the keyboard and powered by it makes for great convenience. Worked right out of the box with the camera connector. This one is a winner. Great work Samson. I highly recommend this one.

Review paraphrased for length see the full review here.

Jesse Says:

I had this out of the box and working with garage band on my iPad in less than 60 seconds. The little groove on the keyboard where you can prop the iPad is extremely convenient. I was worried that it would drain my iPad battery quickly (because it draws power from the iPad via USB), but I haven’t noticed this being a problem. You will need the $29 “Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit” to connect the USB connector to the iPad.

Review paraphrased for length see the full review here.

Overall this is a good little MIDI controller and if you are running your music software on your iPad it is one of the most convenient controllers available. I hope this Samson Carbon 49 MIDI Controller Review was helpful.

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ARTURIA Analog Experience – The Laboratory 49 MIDI Controller

ARTURIA Analog Experience – The Laboratory 49 MIDI Controller

ARTURIA Analog ExperienceThe Arturia Analog Experience with Laboratory 49 is basically a total MIDI Keyboard Controller which means you can set it up with the Analog Lab software and control everything from the keyboard. They call it a hybrid synthesizer.

This version is a 49-key MIDI controller and uses the Laboratory software which comes with over 3,500 presets. Arturia is a leader in the software synths business, they have sounds from the Minimoog V, Moog Modular V, CS-80V, ARP 2600 V, Prophet V, Prophet VS and Jupiter-8V instruments.

This system is surprisingly inexpensive for the quality and the number of sounds.

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Here are the main features:

  • Includes Analog Laboratory with 4300 synths sounds and 200 scenes.
  • All presets are carefully selected from the Arturia Classic Synths (Mini V, Modular V, CS-80V, ARP 2600 V, Prophet V, Prophet VS, Jupiter-8V, Oberheim SEM V and Wurlitzer V). These TAE® powered sounds offer unparalleled audio quality.
  • Fast filter the presets to your requirements: by Instrument, by Type, and by Characteristics.
  • In-depth Preset Editing available for the owners of the Arturia Classic Synthesizers (Mini V, CS-80 V, etc.). Edit your sounds on the original instruments within Analog Laboratory.
  • 200 Scenes organized by musical genres offering complete live sets, including : loops assignation to pads, splitting and layering of two synths and advanced arpeggiation melodies.
  • Straight forward Editing, with a complete array of parameters for tweaking sounds : Filter and LFO sections, 4 Key Parameters differing for each preset, Chorus & Delay mix, 2 ADSR envelopes, 4 pads.

The Analog Lab Software is pretty cool. It has different modes of operation that appeals to a wide range of users.

The Graphic Studio Mode shows the synths and keyboards. The Sound Mode shows all the available sounds that you can choose from. The Multi Mode allows you to create customs splits in your keyboard. With The Performance Mode you can create custom chords for a live performance.

The Laboratory 49 can also be used as a midi keyboard controller for all of the popular sequencer programs: Steinberg Cubase, Digidesign Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Apple Logic Audio, MOTU Digital Performer and Cakewalk Sonar.

If you love amazing analog sounds and want to have total control of your software from your keyboard this is a great buy. This Arturia MIDI keyboard is very high quality and used by professionals like Jordan Rudess, Danny Saber and Alan Hewitt.


Novation Launchkey 49 Review With Updates for MK2

Novation Launchkey 49, 49-key USB/iOS MIDI Keyboard Controller with Synth-weighted Keys

Novation Launchkey 49 Review

Update: MK2 Version

The MK2 version of the Novation Launchkey 49 has the same great features with added control.

New features include:

  • RGB pads that provide color-matching clip feedback to help your workflow when you create and launch clips, trigger samples, or control devices in Ableton Live.
  • The updated Launchkey MK2 also uses inControl  to increase control over Ableton Live. Previously the inControl knobs could only control devices. With the Launchkey MK2 you can easily switch between controllers, pans and A/B sends for each track in your session.
  • There is the new Device Control Function which gives you control over all devices and device parameters in your Ableton Live track via inControl.
  • Requires external power. You can’t power it from your iPad without a powered USB hub.
  • Launchkey MK2 now has four different velocity key curves.
  • Select multiple effects directly from Launchkey MK2.
  • Better knob design for a more solid feel.
  • Due to changes in the firmware, the Launchkey Mk2 is unable to control the Launchkey iPad app via inControl however you can still use the keys to trigger the sounds.

Those are the updates.

With this Novation Launchkey 49 Review. I would like to tell you that the Novation Launchkey 49 is a midi keyboard controller for all major music software like Ableton Live, FL Studio, Pro Tools, Reason, Logic and Cubase giving you control of your mixer, transport and more.

The Novation Launchkey 49 is the latest midi keyboard controller from Novation. This midi controller features up to 50 physical controls that include 16 velocity-sensitive multi-color launch pads.  The launch pads trigger and stop clips, and launch scenes in Ableton Live. This is the keyboard version of the Launchpad.

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One of the cool things about the Launchkey is that you can run it not only with your computer but now with your iPad. They have an app called the Launchkey synth app which is very cool and FREE for a limited time and is used for triggering loops. The Launchkey will also enable control of your DAW’s mixer, instruments and more. You also get V-Station and Bass Station soft synths and V-Station and Bass Station soft synths.

The Launchkey has 16 multi-color backlit velocity-sensitive launch pads can be used to play drums and trigger loops without being near a computer. The launch pads are great for working out beats, drum patterns, or triggering clips and scenes in Ableton Live. The velocity-sensitive keyboard mechanism has pitch and mod wheels with octave, track up/down buttons.

Here are some features:

  • You can instantly use all major DAWs and music software
  • An entire suite of software for iPad, Mac and PC included
  • 16 velocity-sensitive multi-color launch pads trigger loops and play drums
  • Professional keyboard with 50 plus hardware controls
  • Novation Launchpad app for iPad included

I like the size of the Launchkey 49 keyboard. Sometimes a smaller size is not quite enough for how I like to work and the bigger size is too much. Novation also makes a 25 key and a 61 key version of the Launchkey.

I hope you enjoyed the Novation Launchkey 49 Review. If you are looking for a great MIDI keyboard controller with trigger pads and one that is versatile enough to do anything with whatever system you are using then the Novation Launchkey 49 is a good choice.

Akai Pro LPK25 Review

Akai Pro LPK25 ReviewAkai Pro LPK25 – A Keyboard For Ants?

My Akai Pro LPK25 Review was inspired by this little mini keyboard that I saw the other day and had to check it out. This is the Akai Pro LPK25 Laptop Performance Keyboard and it is so cute!

Not only is this MIDI keyboard controller small, it is packed with really cool features too.

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The Akai Pro LPK25 Laptop Performance Keyboard is a smaller sized relative to the MPK series of keyboard performance controllers. This keyboard has 25 miniature keyboard keys that are velocity-sensitive, plays like a synth and is a wonderful solution for working remotely with your laptop.  The LPK25 is less than 13 inches across and weighs in at under a pound, you can put it in your laptop case, backpack or tote bag for extreme portability.

Some of the Features are:

  • USB-MIDI controller works with virtually all audio software
  • 25 velocity-sensitive mini-keyboard keys
  • Arpeggiator, sustain button, octave up and down, and tap tempo controls
  • Plug-and-play USB connection for Mac and PC requires no driver installation
  • Small enough to fit in a backpack or laptop bag
  • Four programmable memory banks
  • Comes with editor software for Mac and PC
  • USB bus powered–no additional power cable needed

Despite its looks the LPK25 is not a toy, it’s a very usable and convenient MIDI controller as you can tell by the features listed.

Here are what some owners say:

Samuel says:

The LPK25 has a good build quality. I travel often and it’s perfect for that. Still, there are two major annoyances so I can’t give it five stars.

It feels like an instrument more than a toy and it is possible to play expressively, though for me it requires much concentration to hit the keys hard enough to make a sound yet soft enough to avoid running out of velocity response. I could not find any evidence that it is possible to program the velocity curve.

There is room for improvement but it is still the best in its class.

Review paraphrased for length.

G.J. Oshea says:

I use FL Studio 10 on a laptop that i like to bring around with me to friend’s houses, the laundromat, etc. The LPK25 is the perfect edition to my traveling studio! It is a great price for the quality…it does not feel like a cheap toy (like some other MIDIs in the same price range) the key sizes are perfect, and it still fits in my backpack with my laptop. It’s perfect for easily, and effortlessly trying different riffs, and progressions.

Any downsides? Okay, fine…the keys have a pretty decent reaction to velocity, but you do have to be a little aggressive to get it the loudest, or to react as highest velocity.

Review paraphrased for length.

I use it with my 13″ Macbook Pro and Apple Logic Pro and I love the ease of use and portability. One of the biggest complaints is that the velocity response is not great. This is not really an issue for me because it does not replace my studio keyboard and if I am doing a keyboard part I will use the studio keyboard.

I hope you enjoyed my Akai Pro LPK25 Review. If you like to get out of the studio and work at a coffee shop or somewhere a little more interesting, this is the perfect little mobile MIDI controller. Keep in mind that the Akai Pro LPK25 is a controller and has no sounds inside its cute little brain.

Yamaha YPG-535 Review

Yamaha YPG-535 Review

Yamaha YPG-535 ReviewMy Yamaha YPG-535 review will cover the basics of this keyboard. The Yamaha YPG-535 is a very good starter piano. The reason that this is one of the best midi keyboards that is good for piano players is that it has 88 keys and a Graded Soft Touch keyboard.

The Graded Soft Touch keyboard is a step down from the full weighted keyboard and feels a little different, less like a piano but better than a touch sensitive keyboard. When you get to the ends of the keyboard the keys are a little stiffer but not a big deal to me.

I like the sound of the piano, it is equipped with the Yamaha Live! Grand stereo sample. There are also multiple instrument sounds like clarinet, trumpet, flutes, saxes, electric pianos, organs and orchestral strings.

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With the Yamaha YPG-535 you also get the Yamaha education suite which helps new players to learn with 30 songs internally and 70 more on the CD-ROM that is included when you buy this midi keyboard.

I use the USB connectivity features to connect to my computer. I can then use the Yamaha YPG-535 as a midi keyboard controller. There is also an internal 6-track sequencer so you can compose and record right from the keyboard.

  • Here are some features of the Yamaha YPG535:
  • Piano Centric Features
  • USB Connectivity
  • Lyric, chord and notation display
  • Ease of Operation
  • Yamaha Education Suite
  • 6-track recorder
  • Excellent Sound Quality
  • Full Keyboard Mode

I hope you enjoyed the Yamaha YPG-535 Review. This is a great midi keyboard for the beginning to advanced player. If you are looking for a real piano feel this would not be the one to get. You should look at something like the Yamaha DGX-530. If you are looking for some great features and a good quality keyboard for a reasonable price then this is a great midi keyboard to consider.

Midi Keyboards – Experimenting With Sounds

A midi keyboard primarily refers to a musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) keyboard which is just like an electric piano only but offers more features than a piano. A midi keyboard is used in recording studios as well as live performances. Some of the more popular midi keyboards are made by m-audio, akai, yamaha, casio, and korg. An electric piano has 88 keys whereas the midi keyboards have a variety of keys making them more appropriate for studio and high end technical recordings.

Though there are a variety of midi keyboards available in the market, it is important to have some basic understanding about the keyboard and its features. Most electronic keyboards offer midi capabilities which means there are more choices and the more choices the more the confusion. Midi keyboards are known to offer perfect quality sound in terms of harmonies, scales and effects. These keyboards are known to bridge the gap between computer generated audio and perfectly refined tunes.

It was in 1983 that MIDI was developed and the concept of midi keyboards captured the market by storm with many amateurs trying their hands on the system and trying on offering varied and differential tunes to cater to the music market.

Considering the choices available in the market it can get quite confusing as there are some basic to extra features which would not only make a huge difference to the sound quality but also render a satisfactied feel to the composer. However, the budget is one of the key factors which should be taken into account while buying a midi keyboard. If you have a restricted budget then it is important to opt for a keyboard which offers the best feel and then later can be upgraded to offer more enhanced sound quality.

Handling skills in the form of number of keyboards that one is comfortable using is another point which must be kept in mind while choosing the keyboard, as one can choose from a 25 to 88 length key board system.

If you are more of a classical musician then you should opt for an 88 keyboard system or else you can also opt for a 76 keys board which is more popular. Fewer keys on a keyboard are always recommended for amateurs as they need to get a feel of how the keys need to be used and how can they improvise on offering better quality sounds. Thus knowing about the sound and the functionality of the keys and the board at large would offer better sounds and would also help the individual in growing with every innovation.