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Kurzweil VAST Appreciation Keyboard Synthesizers
Old 31st January 2018
  #1
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Kurzweil VAST Appreciation

Analogue may be in vogue at the moment, but I have a sizable soft spot for the Kurzweil VAST instruments. It seemed to make sense to start a thread for others who share the passion to share some of their favorite features and build something of a mini-community.

Why now? After all, it started the first time I touched the brand new K2000 in 1991 and realized what a flexible beast it was compared to everything else on the market. It followed me home, and was only replaced five years later with a K2500 which only left me pining for decent digital effects. A few years later the KDFX shipped and I settled in for two decades of synth / sampler / workstation bliss. This week I finally decided to jump to the modern incarnation and ordered a Kurzweil Forte 8.

So I’m reading the manual to catch up on all the little changes. I get why some people find it exhaustingly complex. The current manual is 388 pages and it doesn’t yet cover the sequencer and RIFF performance features coming this quarter that were announced at NAMM as part of OS 3.0. Compare that to the JD-XA and System-8 manuals at 26 and 24 pages, respectively. This beast is deep! There are 15 pages devoted to all the options in the arpeggistor, and the reference guide for all the VAST and KDFX algorithms aren’t even included.

... but I’m clearly reminded of all the reasons why I fell for the architecture in the first place. Better yet, I love what Kurzweil has done over the years and can’t wait to get my hands on the newest incarnation.
Old 31st January 2018
  #2
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100% with you on the Kurzweil love.

I started out with a K2000R, later purchased a K2500RS and spent the next 5 (or so) years acquiring all the expansions (ROMs, PRAM, finally KDFX). Then I bought a K2500XS, then found yet another K2500RS with the KDFX installed for a stupidly low price - not sure the seller even knew it was there; I took a chance because of the KDS connector in the pictures. And I recently acquired a couple K2600Rs that I fully expanded.

On the second 2600R, I completely replaced all the active components and electrolytic caps on the power supply, replaced all the ribbon cables with custom PET sleeved cables, added a couple heat sinks to the VRMs on the audio board, and then just for fun, tried my hand at paracord sleeving the power supply cables (attached pic)

I'm seriously considering getting the Forte now that OS3 is coming out, but I'm holding out hope they'll come up with a synth that has the K2X style dual ribbon controllers, breath controller input, but a 76-note weighted synth action with poly aftertouch.
Attached Thumbnails
Kurzweil VAST Appreciation-k2600r-2-final.jpg  
Old 31st January 2018
  #3
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My progress went: K2vx, K2500R (originally with no options, but eventually, every option has been added, including KDFX), K2661, PC3LE8. I still have all of them except the first. I’d love to find a K2600R too, but they are expensive when they show up.

I also have to say that the SHAPER is my favorite DSP block, when used judiciously it adds a great unpredictability to a sample. I’ve tried WRAP, and have never gotten much good out of it. It descends into noise pretty easily. Triple Mode on the K2661 is very cool, but I haven’t gotten deep into the PC3 (which functions mostly as a practice piano) to try the more complex algorithm building.
Old 31st January 2018
  #4
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bobule's Avatar
 

K2500 then a K2661 and now a PC3 (though my bandmate still has the K2661.
I would never be without one and it would be the last bit of musical gear I would sell.

The ultimate in my opinion! KDFX rules also!
Old 31st January 2018
  #5
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KURZ lover here. I always come back to KURZ for any band situation. Still love the piano action above all others. VAST is amazing and classic!!!
My little list is: Not all at once.
PC2X
PC1X
PC361
SP-5

Still would love a Forte se.
Old 31st January 2018
  #6
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Coorec's Avatar
K2k -> K2500, which i still own. Got them when they were released.

The 2500 is in the cupboard and gets very little work out. In recent years i lost the ability to programm it properly. This amount of parameters needs constant use and traing to stay fit on it.
Screen and handling are not very inviting tho. I wish Kurzweil would make an attempt to get out of the 90s haptically and grafically. A tablet based editor via bluetooth/WLAN would be a good start.
Old 31st January 2018
  #7
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nothing comes close to the Kurzweils for quality signal , some of the classic wind and string patches on them are still unmatched by 300gb sample libraries piped out the arse of your computer, i think one of the most underated studio ' tools ' ....i just send wav samples into the Kurzweil and they come out 100* better with zero effort , the outs on it have some magic , some of the most lush synth pads Ever also....there is no new synth that comes close in terms of sound quality to my ears and i tried most new synths....
Old 31st January 2018
  #8
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EvilDragon's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by babsbosney View Post
there is no new synth that comes close in terms of sound quality to my ears and i tried most new synths....
This is extremely debatable. And this I say as a Kurzweil owner. There are parts of it where it doesn't exactly shine over other synths as much as some might wish it to.
Old 31st January 2018
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dluther View Post
....

I'm seriously considering getting the Forte now that OS3 is coming out, but I'm holding out hope they'll come up with a synth that has the K2X style dual ribbon controllers, breath controller input, but a 76-note weighted synth action with poly aftertouch.

I like Kurzweil and often consider getting another one.
But all their current stuff seems like a big step backwards from the K2600 I had.
Not in synthesis terms, but in cost cutting hardware terms - no ribbons,
less pedal inputs and audio outputs, and no sampling or even live mode.

Mostly what I'd like to see from them is a light weight controller keyboard with all the ribbons and pedal/breath inputs,
as well as a nice assortment of knobs and sliders with zoning capabilities.
VAST never really overly thrilled me, but the KDFX stuff is great.
Old 31st January 2018
  #10
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There are 5 pedal inputs on PC3/K and Forte, which is really plenty, and more than what you get from most other manufacturers... K2600 only had one extra pedal input by comparison, big whoopin' deal.
Old 31st January 2018
  #11
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OK - forget pedal inputs. What about the rest of it.
Old 31st January 2018
  #12
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drockfresh's Avatar
If Kurz redesigned their interface

Like a DSI or Quantum

They would be much more popular

Problem is they all have 90s workstation vibe

Keeps a lot of us from using them
Old 31st January 2018
  #13
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EvilDragon's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by felis View Post
OK - forget pedal inputs. What about the rest of it.
Ribbons, sure. My PC3K8 has one, it's just not mounted into the chassis, but glued onto it. Do I need two ribbons? Nope, this one is enough. I just wish it wasn't so fickle about finger placement (it's only sensitive around the middle horizontally, not across its whole area). Forte not even having an input for the ribbon is a fail, though, agreed.

Live mode... must say it could be interesting for various insanities, but at that point you can just as well get it in rack format. I don't think this feature will be back on any newer Kurzweils, personally, similarly to how some other VAST-related features were never included in PC3 series onwards (sample skipping parameter, being able to set VTRIG ranges, phaser effect borked up not sounding the same as it did on K26/K25xx, etc. etc.).

Sampling, I must say I find it easier to use a computer for that nowadays...
Old 31st January 2018
  #14
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worm's Avatar
 

Never managed to find a video that made me go wow when checking the Kurz stuff. Anyone got any examples to share?
Old 31st January 2018
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilDragon View Post
This is extremely debatable. And this I say as a Kurzweil owner. There are parts of it where it doesn't exactly shine over other synths as much as some might wish it to.
i was referring to its unique sound quality , i find it stands out in a pretty drastic way compared to software samplers in particular, its got a weighty and rich sound which you must have noticed as a user ? and your saying Kontakt sounds as good straight out of the Daw ? , doing direct comparisons of the same wav file inside Kontakt through a decent Da and then the same wav via the K2600r is pretty shocking , personally my focus is quality of sound rather than convenience of use as this is how you make decent sounding music , Convenience has a trade off of sound quality often and its not worth it if your serious about making top end sounding music , the accumulative lowering of sound quality for ' technological convenience ' via software especially killed the quality of so much new music to my ears .
Old 31st January 2018
  #16
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I'm saying there are Kontakt libraires that sound much better than Kurzweil's orchestral sounds, yes, without getting into AD/DA nitty-gritty or any sort of "magic treatment". Not just sound better, but more comprehensive and realistic, too. You'd be deaf not to notice it, just check out for example Spitfire libraries. Kurzweil's strings and flutes can't touch that.

(Also: I develop Kontakt libraries for living.)
Old 31st January 2018
  #17
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The sample ROM is a curious mix of what was technically feasible when the K2000 first launched (the original orchestral block contains a whopping total of 8MB of samples), plus other additions over time. Presumably KORE64 was a 64MB collection? All of those original samples fit neatly into a tiny corner of the Forte’s 16GB ROM so they’re available but clearly no longer state of the art. An amazing amount of life can be coaxed from even fairly simple samples through VAST, though, so they’re useful if not competitive with modern sample libraries in terms of the raw recordings. The ability to load 3GB+ of my own samples into always-available flash storage makes it enough of a sampler for my needs! I have great, clean outboard A/D and editing tools. What I need is the rich layer of synthesesis tools connected to my controller that can make use of that raw material.

One of my favorite refinements along the evolutionary path is the ability to route audio between layers. The original Triple Mode expanded the amount of DSP processing you could use in a voice threefold, but the Forte’s Cascade Mode ups that to a full 32 layers you can route among. Suddenly the three-block algorithms like 4-pole filters no longer eliminate other sonic possibilities.
Old 31st January 2018
  #18
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Yess yess yes!!

Totally love the VAST + KDFX

Imagine that engine in a box like the ELEKTRON grooveboxex ala Octatrack!
With parameterlocks!

WHATTA ULTIMTE GROOVE/SYNTH/SAMPLER box!

Old 31st January 2018
  #19
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Not sure if parameter locks make any sense in a modular architecture such as VAST, because algorithms can be set up wildly differently...
Old 31st January 2018
  #20
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Shadowkast's Avatar
I doubt I'll ever be smart or patient enough to program a Kurz but I damn sure still want a PC3K or Forte. There 's a special sonic richness to them I love.
Old 31st January 2018
  #21
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It's not about smarts, it's about perseverance. VAST is not drastically different from other synthesis systems, it still has all the building blocks: oscillators, filters, LFOs (albeit aliasing ones ), envelopes... ASRs are basically triggerable Attack-Sustain-Release envelopes (you can use any available modulator to trigger them, i.e. triggering an envelope periodically with an LFO, or only if you play above a certain velocity, etc.). FUNs are the same thing as Modifiers in Waldorf speak, except they offer quite a bit more functionality.

It's not rocket science, really. However the biggest stumbling blocks (pun intended) could very well be some of more esoteric DSP blocks, like WRAP or SHAPER, but once you figure out what they do, it's pretty easy to find uses for them (SHAPER is basically a sine waveshaper, WRAP is increasing the gain of the waveform and wrapping it around from the other side instead of clipping it, etc.)
Old 31st January 2018
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by sokoleski View Post
Yess yess yes!!

Totally love the VAST + KDFX

Imagine that engine in a box like the ELEKTRON grooveboxex ala Octatrack!
With parameterlocks!

WHATTA ULTIMTE GROOVE/SYNTH/SAMPLER box!
Aside from the form factor, you can program in whatever midi CCs you'd like in Song mode. I believe they can also be replayed in Riffs, so you can put a bunch of CC data into a Riff (at 960 ppq) and play it back in Setup mode (on the PC3xx series, at least, I don't know what the Forte sequencer/riff system will support). I've been meaning to try that, actually, and see how well it works for modifying Program parameters in "p-lock" fashion. Of course, one should understand how CCs are mapped in a Program. There are a bunch of standard CCs that Programs recognize (volume, balance, pan, pitch and mod wheel, etc), so if you make Riffs for those CCs they should work across all Programs.
Old 31st January 2018
  #23
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There's nothing even remotely resembling p-locks in Kurzweil's system, from what I can tell. The trick is in only being able to set a particular parameter to a particular value for just some steps in the sequence, for other steps it's freely tweakable. I can't see that happening without some clashes in which CCs are received.


Also, Song mode is absolutely not fast enough to use compared to Elektron-style p-locks.
Old 31st January 2018
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilDragon View Post
I'm saying there are Kontakt libraires that sound much better than Kurzweil's orchestral sounds.......

(Also: I develop Kontakt libraries for living.)

A little biased maybe?

I hope I didn't give the impression I was bitching about Kurzweil too much.
No board is perfect, but IMO they come far closer to it than most other manufacturers.
Old 31st January 2018
  #25
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Well, it could be bias, but I don't think you cannot say that i.e. Spitfire libraries sound worse than Kurzweil's orchestral sounds. They are much more comprehensive in every imaginable way.

You didn't come off as bitching about Kurz - there are some valid points you made there.
Old 31st January 2018
  #26
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I never heard the Spitfire libraries, but I really have no reason to doubt you.
I was just kidding you a little.
I've done just a little bit of sampling years back that I also thought was a bit better than what came with the unit.
Old 31st January 2018
  #27
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilDragon View Post
It's not about smarts, it's about perseverance.
Well said. The building blocks aren’t that novel, but VAST gives you a lot of freedom where other manufacturers put you “on rails.” I get the appeal of a design where every parameter gets a knob but ultimately it’s going to limit how much variation is possible.

Quote:
VAST is not drastically different from other synthesis systems, it still has all the building blocks...
All very true, and yet the details are where things get interesting. Five envelopes, three with multi-stage loopable attack and release segments, two retriggerable as you mentioned. The two classic LFOs have definite limits and aren’t meant to be pushed into audio-rate territory, nor are the two additional LFOs per effects chain, but there are filter effects that have their own built-in LFO which does go up into the kHz range.

The degree to which everything can be modulated is pretty unreal, if limited by that damnable 50Hz update clock. A reminder of humble beginnings?

I’m really looking forward to digging into the more recent additions, some of which are already familiar to PC3 owners. The anti-aliased oscillator salvaged from the VA-1 prototype. String resonance as applied to more than just pianos. The RIFF system. Arpeggiation. The ability to cross fade across samples when using portamento. It should keep me busy for a while!
Old 31st January 2018
  #28
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brockorama's Avatar
 

Still rocking my K2000 from '93 as a controller mostly.

Nothing new in controllers feels as nice as this keybed to me.

Little noisy on the output now, but doesn't show up in the recordings, so that's ok.

LCD is low output now, so I won't be editing much on it.

I added ram and the fan kit years ago. Kinda noisy.
Old 31st January 2018
  #29
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Just picked up a K2kRS for $200, came with a zip drive and 2 dozen disks if sounds. What a score! This thing is amazing. Gonna take a while to explore and take full advantage of it. It's deep.
Old 31st January 2018
  #30
Here for the gear
Thanks for reminding me to use my K2000RS again in future productions.
The only thing I‘m really missing are self resonating filters.
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