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