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.