Kurzweil SP5-8 Review

Kurzweil SP5-8 Review
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Kurzweil SP5-8 has an average rating of 1 out of 5 based on 1 user reviews.
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The Kurzweil SP5-8 is engineered and touted as a high end work station and a high performance stage piano. It offers a sumptuous sound pallet that Kurzweil is known for as well as many advances in performance and functionality.

The entire unit measures 4.7 x 13.8 x 54.8 inches and weighs in at a hefty 46 pounds. It is all black, except for the white keys of course. It has five faders next to the master gain, a small 2 x 20 character LCD display, and rotary dial for quick page through. To the left of the key board is the standard pitch wheel and modulation wheel.

After several average forays into physical keyboard design the Kurzweil SP5-8 has a newly developed 88-key graded hammer-weighted action keyboard. This gives a grand piano feel to the keys which gives it much better playability. Although weighted keys can effect versatility due the slow recovery speeds, the SP5-8 key recovery speed is equal to an electric piano’s or synth which gives it organ and synth like speed.

The SP5-8 has impressive MIDI controller capabilities. The keyboard includes customizable velocity maps to accommodate individual playing styles. And, it can split into four zones with 22 controllers per zone. These zones can also be layered as long as the output stays within its polyphonic limits.

Inside, the Kurzweil SP5-8 has 64 voice polyphony with 16 part multitimberal capability, one per MIDI channel. Although this amount of polyphony can get easily chewed up once sounds are layered, or the keyboard is split, most users will find it sufficient.

Onboard are 861 sounds/programs from the Kurzweil PC3 sound set. There are 64 available user presets with 65 factory MIDI setups. Within the PC3 sound set the SP5-8 is armed with a battery of superior piano presets, from concert grand’s in any number of simulated venues, to compressed studio pianos. Along with these there are vintage instrument emulations from Mellotrons to Clavinets. Kurzweil also includes string sections, orchestral brass, winds, percussion, drums and guitars.

Where the SP5-8 falls short, besides its arguably limited polyphony, is its lack of an onboard sequencer, processing tools, or audio inputs. Most successful workstations have some form of sequencing or recording capability, and many have at least limited inputs. The Kurzweil SP5-8 does not. So, even though Kurzweil would like to classify the SP5-8 as a workstation, it definitely falls flat. Whether live on stage or in a studio setting it is far more powerful as a controller or generating its own lush sounds.

All in all the Kurzweil SP5-8 is impressive. Its weighted keyboard action is effective and well balanced, its look is sleek and professional and its overall performance makes it a go to workhorse for many applications. With a very clean and powerful signal, no additional processing is necessary and its MIDI/USB capability makes it simple to integrate and use even within a complex chain of effects and modules. It falls short as a workstation without at least a little outside help, but can be very effective in a studio where its strengths in sound quality and performance can shine through. There is no single silver bullet to meet every musical need, but the Kurzweil SP5-8 is definitely a powerful tool for a musician’s tool box.

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  1. joe  - September 25, 2015 - 10:36 am

    lol @ something being called a ‘high-end” workstation with no sequencer and 64 polyphony. I can just see the Kurzweil employees who DID have a clue rolling their eyes as this was planned and rolled out. Whoever approved it should be fired. This should be renamed the Edsel.

  2. Miles Bryant  - March 12, 2016 - 10:27 pm

    I recently purchased the SP5-8. Although it took a little while to get the right velocity mapping for certain sounds, in particular the real pianos, the rest has been a joy. The EPs, the orchestra stuff, and the pianos are superior to anything I’ve ever heard or played. I know some (but not all) onboard computer sounds are pretty good, but because of latency and just more stuff to deal with, I have always preferred keeping my sounds separate from the computer I record on. These sounds match and some surpass anything I have ever heard from computer sounds.

    If the SP5-8 has any weakness sound wise I would say it lacks a lot of really good “pattern” pads. But thankfully I have a Korg N1 which is chock full of them.

    No Workstation? No there really isn’t. Buy this and you save enough money to go buy an M-Box w/Pro Tools. Every other Workstation with even lesser sounds (see Motif) costs 1-2K more than this.

    And the action is lightning. I have pretty serious chops, and this thing plays faster with weighted keys than anything I’ve ever put my fingers on, with the exception of a couple Steinways. The other thing I had to get used to is that the “throw” of the keys was a little higher than I was used to, but a few days of finger drills took care of that.

    The above review is very accurate in my opinion. It is great for what it is supposed to be, a great sounding, great playing keyboard. I keep it in my studio and am 100% pleased with it!

  3. Glenn  - March 24, 2016 - 2:18 pm

    The SP5-8 is my second Kurzweil purchase. The first was their super SP88x stage piano. PLease make no mistake, this keyboard is not a workstation – as you will understand when you get to my dislikes. This is a live performance ax and quite frankly, with te sounds it has onboard, for most gigs, you don’t need any separate sound mods. Here’s what I like about the SP-5.
    1. The sounds – especially the orchestral patches are outstanding.
    2. Pianos, at first, I was disappointed in that the SP-5 did not have the same piano resonance as my SP88. However, when matching it to my Knabe baby grand, I did find that the SP5-8 ha the ability to come close. Comparing it to one of my practice keyboards, the Yamaha YDP 135 is an issue however. The Yamaha while much more limited in its ability (much lower price) seems to me to have a better classic grand piano sound and much better piano action. Again however, the 135 is a digital piano – not a digital keyboard.
    3. The ability to split and layer in four zones is great..especially with 88 keys. this means that for most gigging situations you can program everything you have to do using one keyboard.
    4. Organ: After understanding how the organ sounds work and playing around with the sliders that function as drawbars, I’m wondering why I bought a Nord Electro 4 as a 2nd keyboard for Hammond simulation. While not perfect most audiences won’t know the difference between the SP-5 organ patches and the real thing. Personally, I’ve found the onboard Leslie simulator in the Kurz more liking to my ear than the Nord.
    Now, for what could be better:
    1. 64 Polyphony????? ran out of notes doing my first performance split. Your competitors are selling 128 and 256 instruments at the same or lower costs
    2. What!!! No programming interface? Seriously, while not organic chemistry, you will have to study the book to understand how to program this thing. It all has to be done manually and it’s time consuming. Also, what’s with the tiny LCD screen. Cmon, could have put an iPhone sized screen in this thing.
    3. Weight. It’s a boat anchor say compared to a Nord. 47 pounds. However, appears to be very road worthy.

    Summary: Excellent high end gigging keyboard with full lush sounds and breakthrough pianos in a rock or country band setting. Kills Nord piano sounds by a mile. Acceptable B3 simulation, excellent Vox and Farfisa. Kills all other sounds i.e. Brass, Strings, Woodwinds, Pads, etc. compared to Korg and Roland. Could have gone with Yamaha but Kurzweil sounds seem less digital. I hope this helps.

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