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Reviews Workstation

Yamaha MOXF6 Review

Changing of the Guard Incorporating most of the sound engine of the Motif XF, the MOXF aims to redefine the standard of mid-range workstations. A sound change? read more…

Korg Kross Review

Entry-Level Redefined Two years after Kronos, Korg keeps on developing its workstation range ─ this time with its most affordable model yet. read more…

Korg Kronos Mini-Review

Giant Step! Presented at the NAMM 2011 and already available since this summer, the Kronos represents a new step in the workstation market — a cruel world where every product becomes immediately obsolete as soon as the successor is launched. The Kronos is very innovative and comprehensive, but will it be able to break this fatal rule? read more…

User reviews on Workstation products

Great instrument, brilliant sounds, excellent synth engine (GEM - Equinox 61)

By JP8, 09/09/2015
This workstation (synthesizer, sequencer, sample-reader) is a joy to use. The sounds are really great and definately take after GEM's predecessors (the S-series synths). The only two little nags are in the display (waaaay too small) and the lack of polyphonic aftertouch. The drawbar-section is a very nice addition with a number of brilliant organ sounds already in memory. I really like the Equinox a lot, though I'd prefer the S3 as a performance tool.

Oh, and another minor downside (of all GEM-synths) is it's weight. You really don't want to carry these machines to gigs, it'll hurt your back.

They go quite cheap these days as this is an underrated synth, the last serious machine that left the GEM factory...

Try one if you run into it. You'll like it.
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Kurzweil PC3X (Kurzweil - PC3X)

By olivier.jalet, 25/07/2016
Its main features -at least those that caught my attention- are as follows :

*the heavy touch type keyboard:
-the keyboard is pleasant to use with a quick rebound (quicker than on Yamaha heavy touch keyboards)
-it seems the Fatar mechanical parts (TP40L) are sturdier than the previous generation keyboards used on Kurzweil products such as the PC88 (which is known to be quite fragile)
-the keyboard features aftertouch (which is not the case of Roland’s RD700GX, which keyboard is otherwise very good)

*elaborated MIDI features, including:
-2 midi out plugs
-5 pedal ins
- 1 breath controller
- 9 sliders
-feature allowing (I think) to program your own velocity curves

*the price is neither negligible nor excessive: €2000 to €2300.

*weight is 25kg (compared with the Yamaha Motif XS8 and Roland G8).

USE

As a piano player, I often play duets with my singer using only a few sounds (acoustic piano, electric piano and pads) in a soul/jazz genre.

As I use a laptot computer with very good acoustic ands electric software pianos, I was after a good 88-key control keyboard with heavy touch, a nice look, rather advanced MIDI features and a weight not esceeding 25 kg.

Also, the fact is features internal sounds has to be a real asset.
It’s quite practical in case of a computer crash (never happened to me so far), or if I forget my computer’s cord (this HAS happened to me already…), or when you have very little time to set your gear up.

So, if these internal sounds are good, it can only be better.

By the way, since I have it I tend to play more often as you just turn it on and here you go. This wasn’t the case with my Yamaha KX88 which had to be plugged to my computer for any sound to come out… Plus, its 30 kg weight was growing to be a problem for my back.

All in all, playing the PC3X is more spontaneous. I didn’t believe it at first, but as far as I’m concerned it has proven true.

SOUNDS

There are several variations of the acoustic piano sound, all derived from a single sampled piano (three different sample layers).
I wasn’t impressed, even though it sounds quite good. I’ll admit I’m quite demanding as I own Synthology’s Ivory (featuring 10 velocity layers: no sich thing in the hardware world).

Actually, these samples are the same basic ones that Kurzweil has used since the 1980s.
I believe they’re from a Steinway. This is why you always get the same "Kurzweil" sound color, even if the samples are better edited on the PC3X compared with the PC2X for instance. The feelings while playing are better with the PC3X.

Electric piano sounds are better with a lot of expressiveness. I was pleasantly surprised. I own the CEP software from www.scarbee.com (best samples Rhodes sound IMO) and you really get close to it as far as musicality’s concerned, thanks to the possibility yo stack up to 30 different velocity layers for a great sound dynamic.

I play a little funk and also use the following sound types :

Hammond-type organs, but I don’t like the the PC3X’s which sound too synthetic. I prefer by far www.native-instruments.com’s B4.

Still, the Clavinet sounds are quite varied and can be used with an auto-wah or wah pedal : what a sound !

Classical synth sounds (basses, leads, pads) are great, especially those using the integrated VA module that simulates the warmth of analog sounds.

to conclude :

The sounds that imitate real life instruments are nice, but they’re not my kind.
I prefer a good analog brass sound to a sampled brass section that is bound to be under par compared with real instruments.
The same goes for strings such as violins.
So I prefer not to spend too much time detailing these.

The multi-effect section seems powerful but I haven’t got into it yet.

OVERALL

I hesitated before choosing this keyboard, as the following choice were offered to those seeking a quality midi keyboard with good piano sounds:

- Roland RD700GX : features nice acoustic piano sounds, though a little too electric-sounding to my taste. Electric pianos are nice but nothing exceptional. Very good touch again. Too bad it lacks aftertouch… Price is correct, around €2000.

- Clavia Nordstage 88 :
+ : good acoustic and electric piano sounds,
When you play you can feel the lack of velocity layers but to the audience it all sounds natural.
For such types of sounds, this was undoubtedly the best haredware available.
+ : warm organ sounds (better than the PC3X’s)
+ : same reactive touch as the Kurzweil PC3X, also with aftertouch,
+ : perfect weight (18 kg), as little cumbersome as an 88-key can be.
- : its price (2600 € taxes in vs 2000 € for the PC3X)
- : polyphony for piano sounds : 40 notes… for such a price, it’s a bit hard to accept,
- : synthetic sounds are less elaborated than the PC3X’s.
- : interesting midi control functionalities, yet inferior to the PC3X’s.

Had the Nordstage 88 been available around 2000 € I might have opted for it for its weight.

- last possible configuration I considered :
A VMK 188 plus (with TP40H) Fatar keyboard : approx. 600 € (don’t like its look too much but hey, at this price, you don’t get too picky) associated to a Macbook computer with 4GB RAM ; approx. 1200 €, a good sound interface : 300 € at least, and finally a good external hard drive (200 € at least). Ivory licence : around 250 €. Total : a good 2500 € overall price, that is almost the same as a Clavia Norstage 88, for a really excellent acoustic piano sound but also a lot of cables to plug...

I finally opted for the PC3X as :

- engineer Dave Weiser from Kurzweil is a really nice guy and easy to reach. You feel this instrument cas conceived by people with a real passion for what they do.

- synth sounds are warm and have a real character, making it a great complement to my software sounds (Ivory’s Steinway and Scarbee’s Rhodes). Also, that kind of devices with an important synthesis capacity keep up to a certain price on the used market, which is not the case with those involving classic sampled sounds (especially piano sounds) which quality gets outdated quite soon by software sampled sounds.

A few regrets (but you can’t get everything) :

- no audio in that would have allowed getting a voice through the multi-effect section,

- the memory card reader only uses xD format, which is not the most common. An SD card reader or USB port would have been a real must, but it seems that it would have been more expensive to include according to Kurzweil.

Hopefully my opinion will be helpful.

Olivier.
Nancy, France.
»

An exceptional instrument (Korg - Kronos 73 (2015))

By liviou2004, 13/07/2017
I use the Kronos in a context where I'm getting back to making music after stopping it for many years.

In the past, I’ve played many keyboards of all kinds, including a Korg MS-20 in 1979.
The Kronos is the first keyboard I’ve bought since returning to music.
I chose it because of its capacities, the numerous videos about it and a great test about it on AudioFanzine’s French version.

I’ve ha dit for two months asof writing this review.
To sum up muy impression, it’s 99.9% positive as to its sound synthesis and processing capacities, as well as its sound quality (tweak it a little and you can really get it to sound big, almost analog-like).
Factory settings are good overall. There’s a large additional offer with excellent presets – even among the free offers. Some offer very cheap yet very high-quality soundbanks, such as coyote14 (https://www.youtube.com/user/coyotesynth/videos) who also offers very valuable tutorials). There are also more expensive professional soundbanks.
However, the most important remains to have fun with sound experimentation.
The 9 synth engines open the door to seemingly infinite possibilities.

Ergonomically, the synth is well-thought, especially regarding the way to access each screen. However, the file management system is very complex, sometimes even obscure.

As I’ve said I’m not a beginner, however this keyboard demands much, much time to be plainly mastered or even really usable. As an example, I’ve counted that the entire collection of manuals amounts to approximately 1800 pages!! Still, this comes with the feeling to have a particularly powerful keyboard.
An outstanding care has been given to these mauals. Beware if you’re not at ease in English though, as the 1200-page Parameters Guide is in English only, and this guide is a must-read to get into the core of the machine and consider mastering its entire parameters.
Hence, I wouldn’t recommend this keyboard to a beginner.

Alongside these manuals, I’ve used Youtube videos, the “Audiokeys” and “KorgForums” online forums.

This is undoubtedly a fascinating synth (or should I say workstation).

So why giving it 4 stars instead of 5? Because of the keyboard, which is the said “heavy” RH3. It being a heavy-touch keayboard suits my taste, as I couldn’t play a piano sound on light-touch keys. The keys are mobile enough to get a good velocity level on other kinds of sounds (such as organ, pads, solos &c) so no problem regarding that.
The problems are as follows:
1/ The noise generated by the keys . This question has been raised by many (not all) users. The keys are noisy at impact (which is rather normal), but they’re also noisy when released (which is way less). Consequently, the keys hardly get forgotten when playing softly.
2/ Bad calibration of the key’s velocity . The maximum velocity settings (120 to 127) are indeed impossible to reach, even when hitting very hard. The consequence with some layer-programmed sounds is that the last layer simply can’t be reached. Again, many users have reported that problem.
3/ Aftertouch : again a mechanical calibrating issue . It takes at least two fingers when pressing to start getting an effect – no matter which velocity curve is selected.

I could write a lot more on this awesome instrument. Is could talk about sampling or audio ins for instance, and the possibility to sample any external source to turn it into a sample that will be used as the basis for a nex programme, and so on.

This instrument requires to invest much time (especially in reading) to learn how to use it, but the pleasure it offers is well worth the time spent.
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News Workstation

[NAMM] [VIDEO] A Casio MZ-X500 demo

Published on 01/23/16
Casio demo their new MZ-X500 synthesizer at their NAMM Show booth.

The Synclavier updated to v3

Published on 03/05/15

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