Here's a quick-and-dirty review of the Kurzweil PC361. I've owned my PC361 for a bit over two years now. I'm going to keep this to the point, first what rocks about the PC3:
1.) VAST expanded. The PC3 can do 32 Layers (like the previous K-series instruments), but it now offers "Cascade Mode" or the ability to chain together any number of Layers. Similar to Triple Mode on the K26xx, only without the three-Layer limit. Also, users can design their own Algorithms (the arrangement of blocks and how signals flow between them). These enhancements greatly expand what's possible programming-wise with VAST.
2.) Anti-aliasing DSP oscillators. There are new DSP oscillator blocks (relative to what was available on the K2xxx series instruments) that exhibit little or no aliasing. The new anti-aliasing DSP oscillators include sawtooth (in two and three-waveform variants), square, pulse-width variable square, hard sync sawtooth, and hard sync square.
3.) "Mogue" four-pole lowpass filter with resonance. One of my favorite filters, it also self-oscillates at high resonance values.
4.) Enhanced UI. The new (relative, again, to the K2xxx series instruments) UI layout makes it easier to visualize what you're doing within the confines of a text-based interface. It's familiar enough for those who've programmed prior Kurzweil instruments to pick up easily and includes various useful short-cuts (for instance, to assign a slider, button, or other physical control to a parameter you simply highlight the parameter, hold down the "enter" button, and operate the control).
5.) 16 Unit KDFX effects engine with streamlined layout. You get almost all of the awesome effects from the KSP, Rumor, and Mangler effects processors with full editing capability. These effects are extremely cool and quite a bit of synthesis can be done (along, of course, with adding the usual reverb or chorus or distortion) using them. The streamlined layout consists of one Insert Effect Chain per Program and two Aux Effect Chains (a "Chain" being kurzweilspeak for a set of individual effects that are wired together), complete with FXMODS (up to 15 per chain), FXFUNS, FXLFOs, and a whole host of other goodies.
6.) Sample and Keymap editing. You can perform a number of basic sample editing tasks on the ROM keymaps and samples and save your edits. These are all non-destructive (i.e. there's no resampling, for instance) and what you're really changing is metadata associated with a Keymap and/or various Samples. There are lots of fun things that you can do with this, one in particular is to set the Alt Start point to the end of the Sample, then back up the end of the Sample so that it "ends" before the Alt Start point. Then, when you play back the Sample and kick in the AltStart parameter you can cause the PC3 to play back all of its ROM in sequence. Great fun for pads and other "evolving" sounds.
7.) A built-in tracker. Yes, the PC3 has something that's pretty similar to an old-school tracker in the Song Mode Event Editor. You can build an entire composition using the Event Editor alone. Pair that with the PC3's "Riffs" feature and you can build a song from parts that you create in the Event Editor. Not everyone's preferred way of working (the PC3 also does the usual real-time recording, among other things), but it's there if you're into that sort of thing.
8.) Programming the PC3 is a real joy. I say that as a computer programmer and someone who relates well to simple interfaces, but really the PC3 wins big on this front over everything else out there because a.) it has an astonishing range of synthesis options, including doing stuff that nobody else has done yet, b.) the user interface is consistent across the whole machine (any type of synthesis you can cook up is programmed the same way, no "engines" concept where the user interface changes depending on the type of synthesis you want to use), c.) everything sounds excellent if you want it to, but you can also get nasty if you so desire, and d.) flexibility, flexibility, flexibility.
In short, you can get crazy on the PC3 very easily and often find yourself in unexplored synthesis territory. Once you learn the interface, programming is very straightforward. And all of the ingredients sound good, whether they be the DSP functions, the ROM Keymaps, the effects or anything else that might affect the "sound" of the machine.
O.k. now it's time for what sucks:
1.) The user interface. Not because I don't like it (I actually really enjoy it), but because it is a somewhat dated way of doing things. I think there are better ways to graphically represent what's happening under the hood.
2.) Various oddities with how things work. Every so often you'll want to do something and you figure out that it can't be done. For instance, on the K2xxx keyboards some other envelopes responded to changes made via the EnvCtl parameters. On the PC3 only AMPENV responds to those values, so if you want more than one user-controllable envelope on a Layer then you'll have to cook something up yourself. It's a bit of a moot point with Cascade Mode, but it would be nice if you didn't have to use up an entire Layer simply so you can add a user-controllable envelope to some random parameter (like, say, filter cutoff).
...And really, that's it for me on the "sucks" side of things.
Overall I highly recommend the PC3 for anyone who really wants to dig into synthesis -- it delivers far beyond any other hardware synthesizer on the market. And, you really can't beat the price right now. You can still find the "original" PC3 instruments at some online retailers and through auction sites for as little as $1200 for the PC361. Considering that this thing can run circles around the Kronos, the Jupiter 80, the Solaris, the Accelerator, the Virus, and everything else out there it's a no-brainer purchase for anyone who wants some real firepower in their synth arsenal.
In addition to the first review, here's a review that discusses the presets and sounds, more than the technical details and programmability.
I have owned and played the Nord Stage Classic and Motif XS8 for comparison.
The PC3 (I've got the very fancy looking PC3K with beautiful wooden side panels) is in a league of its own when it comes to natural, authentic sounding sampled sounds. The orchestral sounds are stunning. The piano's are really nice, although they have that distinctive, clean, sometimes a little cold Kurzweil flavor. My favorite is the #842 Pro Piano. It sounds fuller and richer than the others imho. Electric piano's are great although I was also impressed by the Nord samples. I think the Kurzweil is more versatile because of its outstanding fx section. KB3 section is wonderful, but only after I upgraded the OS. The presets that were added in that OS-version are way better than the initial ones. Which to me proves how far and deep you can go as far as programmability goes. I use the KB3 with a NEO ventilator and that sounds as good as any hammond clone out there.
I was not impressed by the VA presets. But frankly I hardly use them these days. Please refer to other reviews for synth capacities.
There is one minor: I hoped there would be an easy way to route the KB3 to the aux outputs. I would have loved to layer my KB3 with other sounds and still use the NEO. There definitely is a way of achieving that but compared to how easy the Nord allows you to rout sounds to the aux it's very complicated. But maybe I missed something here. Feel free to rub my ignorance in my face in that case.
Overall I am very pleased to have my Kurz. I owned the K2600XS prior to the PC3K and I immediately had that feeling back when I started using this one. It's a K2600XS on steroids. And more.
I've owned three PC3s--one 61 and two 76 note versions. For my needs (pro performer) these are the best boards out there.
1. Accurate replication of traditional sounds (acoustic pianos, e. pianos, strings, horns, etc)
2. A Hammond (and especially the Leslie effect) that rival Hammond's own (and if you don't think so you can get into this thing and MAKE it do what you want!)
3. Reasonable maneuvering through the whole process of accessing parameter adjustments, changing them and then saving them for future reference.
4. Price point.
There's so many pianos sampled into this machine that I find it hard for anyone to not like--or not be able to arrive at--a quality one. Even if you don't like the way the factory set up the sounds you can easily go in and bend and shape each to your own liking.
For my personal needs, a "good" Hammond and Leslie was a necessary--if not paramount--component of my purchase(s). The competitors (Hammond-Suzuki's XK series, Nord Electro, etc) probably have "better" Hammond and Leslie output although in my estimation the differences are slight enough to be offset by what sort of output device you use during live performances (a subtle difference between shooting your sounds out through a PA-type speaker system versus a "keyboard amp" would statistically be a stand-alone reason for a change in sound). The PC3 emerged above those just in respect of having the most other sounds that were useable beyond the organ area. In addition, the sliders that Kurz' uses on its PC3 series gave me the chance to have more realism in the realtime adjustments I'd make while playing.
I guess, ideally, I'd like a 76 note board (or even 88) that had the XK3c's sounds and Leslie effect built into the technology that Kurzweil puts into their machines. Other than that I believe the PC3 will be all that I need for at least a few years to come.