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The Age of Reason
Who would have ever thought that a simple bet between friends would change the face of music forever? That’s exactly what happened in 1984, when Stevie Wonder made a personal bet with author, inventor, scientist, and engineer Ray Kurzweil.
The result was the first synthesizer that could accurately reproduce the sounds of real acoustic instruments. Today, you would be hard-pressed to find an electronic keyboard that does not incorporate at least some of this technology. Kurzweil keyboards have shared the stage with some of the top names in music, such as Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Duran Duran, Eddie Van Halen, David Paich (Toto), David Innis (Restless Heart), Jon Carin (Pink Floyd), Maurice Gibb (Bee Gees), Ray Charles, and a host of others. All of Kurzweil keyboards are built stage-tough, have outstanding sounds and playability, and the company provides excellent customer service.
Very Humble Beginnings
Ray Kurzweil was the son of Jewish Austrian refugees from NAZI Germany. He grew up in Queens New York, and from an early age, demonstrated an uncanny talent for science and technology. His uncle, an engineer at Bell Labs, taught him the basics of the then new field of Computer Science.
While still in High School, Ray invented a pattern-recognition software program that could ‘listen’ to a classical music piece, and recreate it’s own original compositions in that same style. It won him recognition with the Westinghouse Talent Search, and he was personally congratulated by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965.
While still a student at MIT, Kurzwell invented several software programs, while obtaining his Bachelor of Computer Science degree. In 1974, he started a company specializing in computer products, and he invented one program which could ‘read’ text, and another to synthesize speech. He used these two programs to develop a Reading Machine for the Blind. His first customer was none other than Stevie Wonder. This began a long-running friendship between the two, and in 1982, Stevie complained to Ray about the huge performance gap between current synthesizers, and acoustic pianos. A bet was made, Kurzweil Music Systems was started, and in 1984, the Kurzweil K-250 Synth was born. The K-250 was the first keyboard able to accurately reproduce the sounds of acoustic instruments, so good that the human ear was unable to tell the difference. The added recording and mixing capabilities of this fine instrument made it possible for a single performer to compose, and perform entire orchestral arrangements. In 1990, Kurzweil Music was sold to a Korean Company, which was in turn purchased by Hyundai in 2006. Raymond Kurzweil is still the Chief Strategy Officer of Kurzweil Music. So you can be assured that if you own any Kurzweil instrument, it has a very noble pedigree.
Coming To Terms
Before evaluating Kurzweil Keyboards, you should know about a few of the things that make Kurweils unique:
- V.A.S.T.-stands for Variable Architecture Synthesis Technology. Without getting too technical, it is just the name for the algorithms that generate the incredible DSP-based (Digital Sound Processing) sounds. It is variable, and the user can select different signal paths, customizing the sound to their taste.
- Triple Strike Piano- the most outstanding piano patch available, anywhere. It accurately reproduces every nuance of an acoustic Grand Piano, even the ones beyond human hearing.
- K250 Synthesizer-the worlds first sampling keyboard, and first keyboard capable of reproducing perfectly, the sounds of acoustic instruments, namely, a grand piano. By today’s standards, they were limited, heavy, and expensive. Now considered a ‘classic’, there are still a lot of working K250s around.
- K1xxx Synths- designed to offer the outstanding Sound Library of the K250 in a smaller, less expensive unit. K1xxx units had no sampling capability, but the Libraries were second-to-none. They were replaced in the early 1990s by the K2xxx series.
- K2xxx Synths- the first Kurzweil to incorporate the new V.A.S.T. system, all units were fully upgradable and expandable. Although initially expensive, the upgrade and expansion ability made them one of the most powerful and expressive instruments available. Discontinued in 2008, but a large inventory is still available, and they continue to be highly sought-after by professional recording artists and performers.
- PCx Series-debuting in the mid 1990s, the PCx Series introduced the ability to act as a MIDI Controller for a computer, or other instruments. One if it’s defining features was the lack of on-board sequencer, the reason being that software music programs from Cakewalk, Steinberg and others, had sequencing abilities, and the new laptop computers were portable enough to be taken on-stage. It was felt that an on-board sequencer would be redundant. The CP3K-8, introduced in 2010, is Kurzweil’s current flagship synthesizer. The CP3LE-8 is the basically same unit in a more stage-friendly design for live -music applications, and is called a Performance Controller. .
- SP Series- Kurweils line of superior stage pianos. They come with at least 32 stunning sounds, such as pianos, organs, electric pianos, strings, and even brass. They can also function as great MIDI controllers, and even come with Ribbon Controllers, and Wind Controllers, making them the most expressive stage pianos available. The current top-of-the-line is the SP4-8.
- Home Digital Pianos-the MP, MPS, CUP, and XPRO Series have most of the same features as the SP Series Stage Pianos, but in a more conventional console design, like acoustic pianos. They are elegant-looking, and can compliment any home’s decor. The wooden consoles are manufactured by actual acoustic piano companies for Kurzweil. They come in Upright, Baby-Grand, and Mini-Grand Styles.
Kurzweil keyboards are designed mostly for the professional, and semi-professional market, but they are also designed to be so user-friendly that even a beginner or novice can quickly learn to take advantage of the outstanding capabilities of these fine instruments.
Kurzweil’s craftsmanship is impeccable, and their reliability is second-to-none. They design and manufacture their own electronic chips, to their own specs, which probably accounts for a lot of the reliability. It is true that Kurzweil keyboards are pricier than some other brands, but their features, and reliability make the extra cost more than worth it. You get what you pay for. Along with Roland, it is easy to see why these two brands are at the top of the list among professional musicians.