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Sound Quality

The new pianos/EPs/clavs and more that were created for the Forte and Artis series are all great!  The electric pianos, and specifically the Rhodes are among the best that I have played on any hardware or software instrument.  The pianos are based on German (Steinway) 9' and Japanese (Yamaha) 7' grands and are a huge improvement over the older triple strike pianos found in generations of Kurzweil keyboards.  The programs based on the 7' Yamaha are my favorite and cover a wide range within the presets.  They are not all bright and thin like some other manufacturers' versions of Yamaha pianos.  The Rhodes and Wurlitzer programs have amazing character and often instead of switching presets, I'll use the physical controllers to add tremolo, gain, phaser, etc.     The organ sounds are an improvement on previous incarnations of KB3 technology and the physical controllers are perfectly mapped out for organ playing with sliders for 9 drawbars, switches for leslie speed, brake, etc.  If you're not a Hammond purist this should get you through as much B3 playing as you need without bringing another keyboard out.       The clav sounds are amazing with every variation needed for classic songs and the Wah effect used with an expression pedal is particularly fun to play.  The synth sounds are an improvement over previous Kurzweils but the programs based on VA1 and sampled synth content could be better.  It does not have a workstation range of endless pad and lead sounds that get you in the ballpark of whatever you may have been looking for.       The drum set and percussion sounds are amazing also, but unless you are using the built in arppeggiator, step sequencer, or standard sequencer, you may not have much use for them.       My least favorite sounds are the bass and guitar sounds.  The string bass samples, in particular, are less playable than some older hardware keyboards and these should be addressed in future updates.  Also, of note, the stock Multi sounds seem to be an afterthought, and many of them are useless for just about any situation I can think of.  Creating your own multis, on the other hand, is a very easy process and the sliders are automatically mapped for volume control of the 1st four zones.  Unfortunately when a software update expanded the multis to 8 zones, the slider assignments were not updated for that purpose.  

Reliability/Durability

I have not had any issues with the keyboard.  The build/design is one of my favorite aspects of the Forte SE.  Not only is this keyboard very light for a fully weighted 88 key stage piano (40lbs), but the relatively short length also makes it easy to lift and carry.  The keyboard is basically the length of the key range with no extra length at each side.  This is accomplished by having the pitch bend and mod wheels higher than the keys, as opposed to the left.  The result is that you can hold the keyboard by both end cheeks like a 76/73 key mid-sized keyboard.  

Price/Value

It's difficult to evaluate the pricing of a professional keyboard. The Forte SE originally debuted around the $3,000 point.  Now it is available for $2,495 from most vendors.  This puts it at the same price point as the newer RD2000 which is more comparable to the $4,000 Kurzweil Forte flagship model.  There are also cheaper alternatives in the workstation category, like the Yamaha MODX and Korg Krome that do more for less money than the Forte SE.  

General Comments

The Forte SE, like the flagship Forte, began as full featured stage pianos and have evolved into light workstations.  As such, the user interface is more suited to stage piano applications.  If you need to switch between hundreds of sounds, for example, there is no numeric keypad or setlist mode, and navigation can be awkward.  If you are using it to mainly play keyboard-centric sounds, the layout is great.  You can play Hammond B3 organ with all of the drawbars etc.  There are dedicated reverb and delay sliders as well as global EQ.  There is a great variation button that allows you to add a pad to a piano sound with one button press an no programming necessary.      All of the realtime controllers give immediate feedback on the screen as to what parameter is being manipulated.  This is a great feature, and overall the design of the user interface is very well laid out for stage piano applications.      I generally use my Forte SE as a stage piano and a controller on my studio desk.  I can get through many gigs with just the Forte SE, but when I'm on a gig that requires custom sounds for most songs and quick access to any sound, I use a workstation instead.  


Reviewer's Background

I have been playing in working bands for 20+ years.  I tend to gig with one workstation-style 76/73 synth-action keyboard for the majority of my work playing in rock cover bands/weddings, etc.  I only bring an 88 weighted keyboard out for piano heavy situations, cocktail hours, jazz gigs, etc.   I replaced an older Kurzweil PC2X with the Forte SE, and it is certainly an improvement over that keyboard in every way.  


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