KAWAI K5000
VINTAGE CONTRIBUTIONS

Additive synthesis is one of those techniques that has never really taken off commercially. It's not surprising really - having to program the frequencies and levels of up to 128 individual harmonics and setting envelopes for each of them is something only the bravest programmer is likely to undertake. Kawai is probably the only manufacturer to have attempted to make additive synthesis accesible in a commercially viable product.

Kawai started with the K5 back in 1987. This offered control of up to 128 harmonics and multi-stage envelopes could be used to control the level of these. The harmonics could also be detuned to animate the sound. The resulting waveform then passed through a filter and there were the usual complement of LFOs, etc., to further augment the sound. It sounds very comprehensive but, as one who had a K5R (the rack mount version) for a short while on loan, I can tell it was an absolute pig to program. It had some fabulous sounds but to construct your own was a nightmare - you could sit there for hours messing with the individual hamonics' levels and it almost always sounded like a bloody organ! It was only when you got in deeper that things got interesting and with perseverance, you could create some interesting sounds. But it wasn't for the feint-hearted though and Kawai's user-interface didn't exactly make things easier. As a result, the K5 was not a big success for Kawai (especially as it came at a time when affordable sampling was on the ascendant).

It would be almost ten years before the company returned to the concept with their K5000 series in 1996. Of course, in that time, a lot of changes had occurred in the industry not least of which was the proliferation of sample-based synths and workstations. With that in mind, the K5000 also offered PCM samples which, combined with the additive synth facilities allowed you to create some truly spectacular sounds. However, as with its predecessor, it's not a synth for the novice!

Several models were introduced. The K5000W was a multi-timbral workstation whilst the K5000R was, not surprisingly, the rack mount version. There was also a K5000S 'performance' version (above) which added a number of front panel knobs to aid the programming process and/or to use as real-time performance controls.

However, again, despite being very powerful digital synthesisers, they were not the success that Kawai had presumably hoped for and as such, were discontinued in 1996.

The trademark of the K5000 is long, evolving sounds that change and undulate over time. Many of the sounds are also overtly 'digital' in nature.

Nostalgia has some of those sounds which have kindly been donated by Brian Thomson : www.stereoroid.com