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Kawai K5000W
Overall Rating
Submitted: August 14th, 2000
by Brock Walters
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Sound Quality
I own (& have owned) many synths - Korg, Roland, Kurzweil Yamaha, Moog, Arp, Clavia, Kawai so I know what they sound like. I have no bang for the $$ issues like some people seem to have about this keyboard. Let's face it: I saw its unveiling at NAMM several years ago & it was marketed as a "workstation". It's not. It's not a Triton, or Roland XP or a Kurzweil. However, this is an excellent sounding unit w/ a really unique personality. People who think the sample-playback sounds are crap have not really checked them out, or don't really play music. They are the kind of people who want a keyboard to make music FOR them. I was a little suspicious of the sounds at first as well. Indeed, some things, like strings, are just pure shit. But if you're reading this, don't you already have 3 other synths that have killer string sounds? I know I do. Why would you want all your keyboards to do the same things? How boring. I use this keyboard on gigs A LOT because I love the action, aftertouch & the sounds. The synth sounds, especially leads & pads, are fat, sustain beautifully & are very expressive - they are set up to work well w/ aftertouch/wheel/exp pedal, etc. My only complaint here is pitchbend - on some sounds you can hear it stepping. UGH! Poor Kawai.... I even use the piano. I have a PC88 which I like, but I have found that it works better in a loud full stage mix than it does alone w/ a small amp for a small, quiet, short gig. I think the best you can hope for anyway w/ most sampled pianos is to be UNOFFENSIVE, kind of inert. The K5000W piano samples are pleasant & musical, w/o being harsh, even if they are sampled a little bit out of tune in a few spots. :) There are a couple of pads that I could never, ever replace w/ any other synth. There is one mystery elec piano sample which I have grown to love, & it has been used on several recording sessions. I like the drum sounds, though percussion stuff is a little lacking. The bass sounds are great if you use the bandpass filter in the effects section to shape them. The electric guitar lead & crunch (which is not a sample, but an AA synth patch) is (I am embarrassed to say it) the BEST on any keyboard I have ever heard. Last but not least, some of those "cheesy samples" are cheesy because the instruments they are samples of are cheesy. I use the accordian sounds in this thing, & they are unbelieveably convincing for Brazilian baon music, tango, Klezmer & Americana type stuff. Also, BANJO & SLIDE GUITAR! If it only had a dobro sample... [sigh] I also use the organs. The stops they chose to sample are great, the percussion sounds good, & even the Leslie (when used in stereo) is pretty decent, though tame. The other effects are good as well. I have made some very nice sounding, on the fly seq demos w/ this thing. All the sounds really work TOGETHER in the sequences, which is NOT something you can say about most other "workstation" type keyboards. I have had 3 or 4 different recording engineers, guys who are real pros & who have great ears (who lots of times HATE synthesizers, & especially SAMPLE PLAYBACK gear) ask me what kind of keyboard it was when I was on sessions or gigs, because they could not believe they liked its sounds. You just have to know how to use it!
Hmm.... Be gentle w/ the buttons. They are VERY poorly made, & I have already had BOTH sets (circuit boards) replaced. Because it is software based (& because it is made by Kawai...) sometimes it just does really, really, weird things. I have used it on over a hundred gigs easily, so I definitely have depended on it. The body itself is good & sturdy. That is not to say I haven't had a few panic moments w/ it, like when there was NO AUDIO coming out of it! Oh well, it keeps you on your toes.
General Comments
I would definitely replace it. In fact when they got really cheap, I went out & bought another so I would have a spare when mine crapped out. I have been playing seriously for about 15 yrs. I don't wish that it was anything other than what it is, so I like it, but I do think Kawai REALLY could have had something amazing if they had gone all the way w/ it.
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