Synth Site: Kawai: K5000s: User reviews Add review
Average rating: 4.7 out of 5
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Fred from Pittsburgh, PA, USA writes:
I am absolutely in love with this machine. I tried probably more than 20 synths in the last 8 years and I've played some lovely specimens indeed, but nothing that keeps me mesmerized with my mouth watering on a daily basis...like the K5000S. I came to realize I was really yearning for something like this. Very few synths have the synamic range this one has except maybe for Kurzweil and Oberheim...but then again the K5000S has a character completely different than these and most other synths! First of all it's additive, not subtractive or layered AWM or AI2 synthesis ala Yamaha and Korg. Sounds on the K5000 are built like an organic molecule in some scientists lab! Like atom-by-atom, know what I mean? But the sounds aren't just complex, they are warm and juicy too. Not quite as thick or fat as a true analog synth, the K5000 is more organic and full of varying harmonics. The sounds are rich and complex and not quite as digital sounding as with the other "Big 3" from Japan. This board doesn't have much in the way of conventional or traditional sounds. You will find 100's or 1000's of very unique synthy patches at your disposal for all kinds of music. There are sounds which are just plain wierd, highly musical pads which take you where no one had gone before, punchy future-reggae comp sounds, and lot's of sounds which are great for modern recreations of 80's cheese...but a truly GOURMET version of such cheese! Seriously! My friend the guitarist and I were doing "Boys of Summer" by Don Henley last night up in my studio and I was really surprised at how it turned out. I found a compy pad that sounded exquisite for that. It was no DX7, no Obie of that era...but still fit right into the mix. So...RIGHT...I find that this synth is good for alot of neo-80's stuff. It's also great for overtones of Pink Floyd where you get some of the harmonics of Gilmour's guitar and some of the harmonics of Wrights organ in the same patch...and presto. There are sounds that absolutely SLAM songs from The Wall and from Meddle (Echoes) right on the money. It's a slightly different approach to the same thing. While this keyboard does have built in reverb and delay, these effects aren't very deep or intense and yet there's a whole lot of...like...ARTIFICIAL effect that can be built right into the sound ADDITIVELY. The deep sound architecture reminds of Kurzweil's VAST or Yamaha's FDSP. But really it's just that you can program certain harmonics of a sounds decay to be faster than others(example), and I'm not just talking about simple ADSR envelopes per oscillator. I'm saying that the ODD parts of a sound can react to different parameters than the EVENS if you want them too. It's kind of like using multi oscillators but really its far more advanced than simple subtractive enveloping. But it actually does amazingly well trying to imitate some analog-like sounds. It may not hit every classic Obie or Moog patch with the same precision. The difference, in my experience, is usually felt in the filter envelope on such patches. The K5000 has a very organic edge to it, it's more like an organ than an analog synth. Did you know that Hammond B-3 tonewheel organs actually use an early form of additive synthesis where you build up micro-harmonics instead of reducing thick voltage pulses through filtering and enveloping? That's what the K5000 does electronically...but with far more bells and whistles than a B-3. Its an organ from another Galaxy...on LSD!

I love this goddamn synth even though it doesn't everything I like. For that reason I keep Yamahas or Kurzweils around to handle the more traditional stuff: Pianos. Basses. Fat analog leads. Drums. Sampled guitars. Woodwinds. These are not the K5000's strong points. But couple it with a synth that CAN do these other things and you have a rig like no other! The k5000 is not a sick non-confromist freak that doesn't fit in. It is VERY musical. I just needs support from the planet earth while it handles the deeps and the highs. And you be surprised how close it can actually come down to earht sometimes. There actually a few great EP's on the K5000 and some nice guitar lead sounds. It even has decent organ patches, but don't expect Roland Vk8m or Nord quality on that stuff. The K5000's organs get you through the night. And that's it. One last thing the K5K has going for it the awesome freaking keys! They are wonderful! Probably better than any other non-weighted board on the market...then or now. So if you have a couple of modules on the side to handle pianos, "real" organs, basses, guitars, and fat analog synths...the K5K will handle EVRYTHING else. A few VA like sounds even compete with Nord/Waldorf/Virus! But additive synthesis is something you should only fool around with if you are a BUILDER, not a sculptor. There's a difference. And maybe for user-friendly reasons the K5K should not handle that stuff regularly.

Well. That's my review. I hope I've been convincing. If you don't mind an "alternative" form of synthesis and you have a love of sounds which are kind of a heavy, spacey backbone for any track, then go for this synth. Just make sure you keep around some good bread&butter synths as well. I am actually thinking of using TWO K5000's! And each will be MIDI'd to more conventional gear, i.e Electro or VK8m, Yamaha EX5r or Kurzweil PC2R.

Thanks for reading.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Saturday-Oct-30-2010 at 21:29
FJW a hobbyist user from USA writes:
I've had my K5KS for a few months now, and after going through more than 20 synths I really have finally fallen in love with a synthesizer! There were a number of cool synths in my arsenal: Sy77 & TG77, K2000, Ensoniq MR-76, Jd-8000 and JV-1080, Ion, Novation, Waldorf, and more. The K5000 trumps them all, even though it's sound might not be in the same category as any of these. The K5000S is exotic, surreal and wierd but in a beautiful aesthetic and highly musical way. It is totally PLAYABLE. The dynamic range of both the synthesis engine and the outputs seem vastly superior. The sounds can be extremely full, deep and rich in both lows and highs. Very synths I've ever played could do this. The key is: The sounds have MOMENTUM. You feel like youre pushing a heavy exercise ball around! It's not just the wonderful semi-weighted keyboard (which many people say is second to none, myself included). It's the way the sounds repsond to your fingers. You can work the sounds through timing and release in complex ways that make the patches very much alive. Sonically it's similar to a vector or wavetable synth but much more intelligent and controlled by additive harmonics, two LFO's, and a formative filter. It even has PCM attack samples (like the concept in the D-50 linear synth) used in very much the same way. And did I mention you have SIX of these qualifying occilators available to you for creating a patch?! Additive synthesis creates sounds which are kind of "natural" without being natural...SUPERnatural, I guess. It lends itself well to making sounds like bells, washy-whistley sounds, harps, maybe some guitars. The guitar "sounds" sound great...but not really like a guitar. It's missing some of the pluckiness you get from a sample...but if you're talking about a chorused or phased guitar guitar chord then the residual harmonics that are really important to the atmosphere still go into the mix. If you want to do fancy fingerpicking technics forget it! This machine's sound has much more ability to sound like Hammond B-3 organ. Some keyboards, especially Yamahas, I think sound better for guitar than for organ. Not this one (although it does a very nice moaning feedback in many sounds. It has to do with that formant filter squelching the precise additive harmonics that eminate the tones of typical guitar feedback). Some very organic sounds can come from this machine, but they are best when allowed to be otherwordly like the heart of this alien queen. That's who she is! But for a short period she can come down to earth in plasmic form by touching on certain "natural" harmonics...so this synth kind of feels like she's here and there at the same time like a visitor from another dimension. Plasmic is how I would describe this synth's deepest character. It can go from thin to thick in one second. OR...it can hold a position like bulletproof glass.

All I would prefer more of from this synth is more dedicated "real" samples of acoustic instruments. The K5000W has more than the K5000S. This is a quality that could make the K5K an all inclusive synth. I plan to MIDI mine to a B-3 organ module maybe VK8M or OB-3. Maybe even an Electro rack. Even a Kurzweil PC2R would be an execellent companion. I find that taken alone my K5000 competes with my Microwave II a little bit. It's like: Why would I bring both these synths to a gig? I mean, there are some differences but they can sound very similar. Someone else here said K5K has more character than Microwave and I truly agree. It's also harder to program and maybe falls behind in punchy basses and hard funky clav sounds. The K5000 SLAUGHTERS the Microwave in "living" pads. The Microwave sounds like sophisticated German electronics ala James Bond, The K5000 sounds like "The Plutonian Ice Queen's steamy vacation in the jungles of Venus". Or maybe the synth would be great for the sountrack to a documentary about the elusive moons of Neptune.

Anyway, this synth is very well built and looks very stylish and classy without being snobbish at all. The sounds tend to be rather surreal and ethereal, but not eclusively so. It sounds very analog sometimes but like an Oberheim OB-X. More like a Solina or a Roland RS-09...just more sophisticated and evolving and alive. It is capable of branching into pop and new wave a bit and excels at progressive rock and New Age. It is only limited by it's filter envelope and white noise which is too weak for woodwinds but nice for washy pads and organs. It is more limited in the type of part it can play than in the type of music it can play.

I'm actually thinking of getting a second one so I'd have two tiers of K5000's MIDI'd to a few ROMpler modules: Roland XV, Kurzweil PC2R, Motif Rack, etc.From here on I will start repeating myself about how awesome this synth is so I am declaring this review CLOSED! :-)

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Sunday-Oct-24-2010 at 23:33
Chris a hobbyist user from Canada writes:
I just got my hands on one of these sonic legends a few weeks ago, and all I can say is anyone who hasn't tried one, has no idea of its incredible potential. This so over-looked, yet sleek board reminds me of a bi-polar babe that you can't run from, even when you want to. The sounds you can get out of her are both frightening and heavenly. Bottom line is the K5000s is definitely way ahead of its time!.

I first saw this lovely silver godess in 96 and the sales dude wanted me to try a Korg Trinity. However, I already had synths then so I didn't try the Kawai, since I couldn't recall any advertising for it..very baddd idea on my part.

One has to be tone deaf not to appreciate it's immense and very unique sounds, adequate effects and vast editing potential. All synths can sound thin, yet it's not an issue if you spend time with them. IMO, this goldmine can sound like whatever you can imagine, plus it's warmth and character have no equal. Analog type sounds are killer for 96. I own Korgs, Rolands and Yamahas, as well as have tried Prophets, Moogs, Obies, but no PPGs. The K5000s is a sonic digital masterpiece for anyone who can handle exploring her infinite depths. I'm gladly diving into additive synthesis to see what other devine miracles can be created.

As others here have said, the incredible key action is unlike no other. The macro controllers are awesome. The overall build quality is from a time when most synths were made to survive WW3!.

Kawai, you had a super synth then, and most likely, insufficient marketing ended it's life way too soon. I look forward to enjoying this gorgeous and other worldly lady for life, since now I know why so many folks hold on to them.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Sunday-Mar-28-2010 at 23:53
Roy (Bud) Taylor a part-time user from USA writes:
I have a Kawai K5000S in great shape with a folding standing a large quantity of patches on floppies. I am looking to get a new piano for my band and have to let this one go. I'm asking $750 even though I know it's out of production and in demand. Email with K5000S in the subject line and I will keep a filter open so I don't miss your message.

Rating: 0 out of 5 posted Sunday-Feb-15-2009 at 19:32
neven dayvid a professional user from berlin writes:
this is the one synth that stands out (owning or having owned about 50 synths so far). yes it is not easy to fit in a mix, yes it is more geared towards experimental / advanced electronica - but it probably is the best digital synth (with the dx7). since so few people bought it, its sounds are always fresh and challenging, and if nothing else it can be used as earcandy to add an otherworldly sparkle to the mix. the hallmark of very high quality gear is present: you can mix it way low and it will still be audible. more character than a microwave, this is a superb addition to your sound design / electro-acoustic studio if you have your analogue bases covered.

they still seem to drop in price, and whether they will ever attain sought-after cult status or not - get one while you can.

the freshest attempt in synthesis in the last 10 years and excellent build quality.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Wednesday-Jun-13-2007 at 02:01
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