Kawai K Series

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Tajnost
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Kawai K Series

Post by Tajnost » Mon Mar 16, 2020 9:07 am

Hello,

recently I've discovered Kawai K series ( K1, K3, K5 and m's... ) and was really impressed with the sound! I like such kind of late 80 yearly 90 synths for "industrial" digital sounds, crazy cold atmospheres, etc... use Yamaha DX and SY for this type of sound.

So I'm wondering and would like to hear the opinion of someone who is really familiar with Kawai K's what's the difference between K1, K3, K5, and "m" models in terms of sound, specs, special features, polyphony/multitimbrality... Is it easy to assign modern midi controllers to the sound engine? Any info and personal experience is welcome : )

Leaving here a nice picture of circuitbent K1M : )

circuitbentkawaik1m.jpg
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Voltcontrol
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Re: Kawai K Series

Post by Voltcontrol » Mon Mar 16, 2020 9:19 am

Iirc the big difference between the K1 (8bit) and K4 (16bit) was the additional digital filter of the K4 next to higher waveform bitrate. How the other models stack up I don't know.

The K1 has a certain rawness to it's ethereal nature that I love. Wish it has an internal filter for sure.

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Re: Kawai K Series

Post by CoreInside » Mon Mar 16, 2020 11:29 am

There's already a good thread about the K1. Check it out with the search function if you haven't already. Ed DMX pointed out that the K1 used by drexciya on the track jazzy fluids. And everyone seems to know that LFO's first album used the K1 too.

I had a K4 when i was 17 and kept it for a few years. It could make some weird ass sounds. The Drums were really great on it.But the damn thing glitched and crackled a lot, maybe i had the volume up too high. I sampled my favourite drum sounds and used them on a few tracks. A local shop in Cardiff had a K4R for sale for ages, I was always tempted to buy it but never did lol. Didn't need two of the same synth.

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Re: Kawai K Series

Post by gruebleengourd » Mon Mar 16, 2020 11:55 am

I've had them all except for the K5.
The K3 rack and K1m are the keepers through me. I've bought and sold K4r and X5-dr rack twice.
The K4 is pretty cool, but didn't draw me more than other rom based synths.
The K1, however sounds special in a way that the K4 did not. I don't think it's really a synth that begs to be circuitbent, but you do want to have some kind of slider box sending it sysex as programming it that way brings out some really unexpected sounds.

K3 is my favorite inexpensive hybrid of the 80s. It sounds less like it's trying to be a pseudo analog synth (ala the korg DWs) and more fully embracing a core digital sound with very nice analog filters and BBD chorus. The filters never really get the chance to do that high harmonic sweep type sounds that you get from a real analog sawtooth, but doesn't mean that sweeps aren't interesting, in fact they are pretty unique, in it's cold/warm/thin deep way. Bass is really good, but infinite harmonics, it does not have. Very techno sounding. If you can get a microwave I, that's better and probably replaces the K3, but otherwise I think it has a space in most any studio. The keyboard is huge, so unless you want to use it as a table I suggest looking for the rack.

The K5 -- some people have a preference to it over the K5000 I cannot comment I've used the K5000, but I've never understood the arguements in the K5's favor.
I've had a K5000 for a long time, and it is a unique and challenging synth. The resynthesis options it can do if you have the proper software are interesting. There are other modern options that for most uses might be preferable, but they are more expensive. Outside of the resynthesis, it does stuff that is reminiscent of FM or a D50 but it typically sounds a lot edgier than either.

k1, k3, k4 all are editible remotely by sysex only, but they respond well to sysex and don't choke. Kawai made their own editor that does the K1, K4, and XD-5 ( I can't remember if has a K3 preset) but any device that can be programmed to send basic sysex will do the kawais, they don't require long complicated messages.

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Re: Kawai K Series

Post by Voltcontrol » Mon Mar 16, 2020 1:29 pm

gruebleengourd wrote:
Mon Mar 16, 2020 11:55 am
I've had them all except for the K5.
The K3 rack and K1m are the keepers
Excellent info! Are you mean g to say that the patches become more easy to edit with sysex devices or are you saying that the parameters become playable? The former would be good the latter really something else. :)

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Re: Kawai K Series

Post by cornutt » Mon Mar 16, 2020 3:22 pm

The K5 is a completely different architecture from the others... it's an additive synthesis machine, that gives you control over the individual partials. It's incredibly powerful. The UI is complex and rather difficult to learn -- you have to remember what all of of those little individual dots on the screen represent. And you have to understand the basic harmonic sequence for the concept of additive synthesis to make any sense.

The K5/K5m machines have a lot of display issues. I have a K5m. A few years ago, the display backlight died. I managed to retrofit a new transformer and EL panel, and got it working again. It worked for a while, but then the display itself went blank. Apparently the driver IC has failed. I haven't attempted to do anything more with it since then. At least on the K5m the display is easier to get to than on the keyboard K5, which requires removing the panel board.

The outputs are kind of weak, but there is a pretty easy mod to fix this (it involves replacing a few resistors). They're also kind of noisy.
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Re: Kawai K Series

Post by wuff_miggler » Mon Mar 16, 2020 3:26 pm

nearly related - i sold my K5000 after battling with trying to get a pc editor to work with it.
the later K series through effects (K4s and K5s) sound unbelievable.

hopefully i will own a K5000 again one one day...the architecture is pure mad scientist shit imo. still nothing in software that does what it does. and still sadly no software which harnesses its full power imo.

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Re: Kawai K Series

Post by authorless » Mon Mar 16, 2020 3:41 pm

I had a XD-5 for years and occasionally think about getting one again. It is a K4 with the sample ROM replaced with drum sounds. It is a fantastic drum synth.
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Re: Kawai K Series

Post by gruebleengourd » Mon Mar 16, 2020 5:52 pm

Voltcontrol wrote:
Mon Mar 16, 2020 1:29 pm
gruebleengourd wrote:
Mon Mar 16, 2020 11:55 am
I've had them all except for the K5.
The K3 rack and K1m are the keepers
Excellent info! Are you mean g to say that the patches become more easy to edit with sysex devices or are you saying that the parameters become playable? The former would be good the latter really something else. :)
Both. The kawais are edited via sysex, which means that parameters won't change during a sustained note, but changes are playable between notes.
The architecture of the k1 k4 and xd-5 are essentially 4 oscillators with individual VCAs that can be ring modulated. The waveforms in the k1 are mostly single cycle waves derived from additive resynthesis of real instruments, a bunch of variations of basic analog waveforms and some samples.
The K4 is essentially the same with more waveforms and a resonant low pass filter, but it is 16 bit, vs 8 bit, and for whatever reason I never got the same vibey sound out of a k4 as I did with the k1. The K4 is a good synth, ultimately it's a better synth than the k1. However I like the joystick and form factor of the k1m. I also had the k4r at the same time as a jd990 and I didn't really find the use for it. The k4 sounds a bit ghostier and creepier that the jd990.

What makes the kawai unusual compared to other makes, and what unites them all is the emphasis on additive resynthesis waveforms. K1, K3, K4, K5, K5000 are all additive synths at heart with different approaches. K1 lofi with 4 parts, AM, and a vector joystick. Using the independant VCAs you can essentially program them as a vector syth, however you must do it by setting each vca independantly rather than using a vector crossfade abstraction. K4 is a somwhat less lofi and expanded K1 with a resonant filter, but no joystick. K3 2 osc additive waveforms, possible to crossfade with velocity. 1 user programmable additive wave -- 2 with the memory card. Typical simplistic analog poly architecture, but with additive waveform oscillators. Nice filters and chorus.

K5 gives you much more control over the additive osc, including changes over time. K5000 takes that even further.

This to me is a good k4 demo


I don't really know any great k1 demos. Most are the presets, but it is both a drone monster and capable of a wide variety of lofi digital sounds.

I get a pretty strong Detroit techno vibe out of K1, K3 and K4. If you listen to that style of music, you've head them for sure.

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Re: Kawai K Series

Post by morgulbee » Mon Mar 16, 2020 10:25 pm

I used to have a K5. I liked the sound. It was good at breathy new-age pads and bell-like tones that were popular in the 80's, but it was very difficult to program so I mostly stuck to the presets provided by Kawaii and others. I remember finding a ton of sounds online back in the day which could be transferred by sysex. Mine also suffered from the malfunctioning LCD backlight, after working fine for 15 years or so.

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Re: Kawai K Series

Post by Blairio » Mon Mar 16, 2020 10:51 pm

cornutt wrote:
Mon Mar 16, 2020 3:22 pm
The K5 is a completely different architecture from the others... it's an additive synthesis machine, that gives you control over the individual partials. It's incredibly powerful. The UI is complex and rather difficult to learn -- you have to remember what all of of those little individual dots on the screen represent. And you have to understand the basic harmonic sequence for the concept of additive synthesis to make any sense.

The K5/K5m machines have a lot of display issues. I have a K5m. A few years ago, the display backlight died. I managed to retrofit a new transformer and EL panel, and got it working again. It worked for a while, but then the display itself went blank. Apparently the driver IC has failed. I haven't attempted to do anything more with it since then. At least on the K5m the display is easier to get to than on the keyboard K5, which requires removing the panel board.

The outputs are kind of weak, but there is a pretty easy mod to fix this (it involves replacing a few resistors). They're also kind of noisy.
I only had three of the range: the K1 and the K5 (keyboard) and K5M (module). The k1 was a wee gem. It was noisy and gritty, but its sounds cut through a mix well, and it managed to sound 'musical' where a lot of rompers did not.

The K5 was as corncutt says, powerful, and required a bit of homework to get the best out of it. I loved mine, and used it to fashion Fairlight / Synclavier type timbres. It was multitimbral, with a decent amount of polyphony, so was good for splits and layers (and fades).

On the screen backlight issue: The K5's sounded great, but I agree they were not the quietest of synths. The display backlight in my K5M failed, and when it did, the synth's noise floor dropped to the point it was practically inaudible. So I had the backlight repaired, and also arranged for the tech to place a small toggle switch on the back panel that interrupted the power feed to the backlight. This enabled me to have the display backlight on, but only when I needed it. The backlight was always switched off when it came to recording a part.

Come to think of it, I have not heard anything else that sounds quite like a K5. PPG's and their variants come close, and so do some Waldorf synths. But nothing quite nails it.

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Re: Kawai K Series

Post by Tajnost » Tue Mar 17, 2020 9:34 am

Thanks for all the interesting info! I believe the rawness and character of K1 are very cool, somehow reminds me PPG a bit. These K1 demos sound really inspiring:





I also checked and learned deeper about K4 and K5000 - yeah they have more to offer but sound more sterile.

Is there any difference between K1 / K1m / K1r except the form factor?
Also what's the K1 II ?

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Re: Kawai K Series

Post by gruebleengourd » Tue Mar 17, 2020 12:48 pm

K1 II has reverb effects and different drum sounds. The K1rII lacks the joystick (As does the K1r).

K1 II keyboard or K1m are the best picks IMO. Having the joystick is good.

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Re: Kawai K Series

Post by Tajnost » Fri Mar 20, 2020 3:56 pm

I just got a nice K1rII here, very happy about my choice and sonic possibilities of this synth. Thanks all for the suggestions and info!

Do you know if the memory card should be original Kawai only, or it's just a common card format and any card of such a kind can be used?

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