Kurzweil's V.A.S.T. (Variable Architecture Synthesis Technology) system, used in its K2000 and K2500 synthesizers is one of the most versatile synth engines available. Because of V.A.S.T., the K2000 and K2500 are capable of many types of synthesis styles such as FM, LA, vector synthesis, traditional analog-style synthesis, and sampling. This allows for almost endless possibilities of sound design, and it is this versatility that has caught and reeled in many synth players including myself. Since the sampling aspect of the K-Series really increases the sonic capabilities but is often misunderstood, let's work through the sampling process.
On the rack-mount K's front panel you'll see Optical In, LoZ left and LoZ right analog inputs, and a stereo HiZ 1/4-inch TRS analog input. I find that an ordinary insert cable with a 1/4-inch TRS plug on one side and two 1/4-inch TS plugs on the other side works fine for analog sampling. If you are going to use the XLR analog inputs, remember that pin 1 is common, pin 2 is high, and pin 3 is low.
Let's take a shot at sampling.
Make sure you already have a box of HD floppies formatted for the Kurzweil, or you won't be able to save your work (more about storage later). We are going to sample, in stereo, a short-decay bass sound from another synth. Connect the TRS side of your insert cable to the 1/4-inch analog input of the Kurzweil. Then connect the plug labeled "ring" to the right output of the source synth and the plug labeled "tip" to the left output of the source. On the front panel of the K, dial to 199 Default Program. Press EDIT, then press the button directly underneath the word KEYMAP. "Grand Piano" should be highlighted. Using the numerical keypad you can type in 168 and ENTER, which will bring you to a keymap called SILENCE. Press EDIT and then MIDI. You are now in the sampling page of the Ks. The top of this page should say, "SampleRecordSamples: xxxxK" where the xxxxK indicates the amount of RAM available in your unit. For instance, a 10 MB machine would read "SamplesRecordSamples: 10240K."
Let's talk about the choices on this sampling page. You can move to the different choices by using the UP, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT arrows and then dialing in the values of your choice.
Samp: This is where the name of the current sample will be displayed.
Input: Choose ANALOG for analog recording.
Time: Sets how long you need to sample, in seconds.
The amount of time you have will vary depending on a how much RAM is installed in your unit, what rate you need to sample at, and whether you are sampling in mono or stereo.
Gain: Choices are 0 dB, 7 dB, 14 dB, and 21 dB.
I find that in most cases, 7 dB works fine. Watch the Gain setting carefully - you don't want samples that have distortion due to clipping.
Rate: Choices are 29.4 kHz, 32.0 kHz, 44.1 kHz, and 48.0 kHz.
The higher rates will use up more memory, so ask yourself if you really need to sample a kick drum at 48.0 kHz.
Mode: Choices are stereo, mono (l), mono (r), and trigger.
Use mono (l) for mono samples. Note that in units with version 3 software, it is possible to use the sample input as a drum trigger.
Thresh: Choices are Off, -90 dB to -6 dB, and Key.
When this is set to Off, the Ks start sampling as soon as you press RECORD. If your source is noisy, that noise will be recorded, too. Experiment with different settings and remember that you can use the Thresh control to set your sensitivity just above any noise that may be coming from the source's output.
Src: This will be set to EXT for sampling external sources.
You can also sample the Ks own output by setting this to INT.
Mon: Set this to On.
This will allow you to monitor what you're recording. Any signal coming into the K's analog input will go to the mix out and headphone jacks.
You will also see "L" and "R" indicators. These are record input meters. Check the level of your source before you start sampling because you won't be able to see these meters while the K is actually recording the sample.
Now we're ready to multisample our synth sound, and as I said earlier a short synth-bass sound will be fine for our purposes. This type of sound can be sampled without the need for looping, depending on how much RAM you have in your unit. Let's assume that we're working with a 10 MB machine. Make sure you have made all your choices on the "SampleRecord" page.
1. Play the source sound at MIDDLE C to check how long it takes for the sound to decay. Check the same sound in a few other octaves and allow the sound to decay naturally each time you play it. This will help you determine how much sampling time will be enough. Now set the TIME control accordingly.
2. Set the THRESH control slightly above any noise that may be coming from the source synth. When sampling some older synths, you may need to set this to -78 dB to -60 dB. Use the GAIN control on the K and the output volume on the source synth to make sure you are not clipping.
3. Press RECORD. The unit will wait until a signal comes in louder that the setting of the THRESH control. Play the source sound at F2 and hold it down until the Kurzweil asks you to "Strike root key." Press F2 either on the Kurzweil or on the MIDI controller you have connected to it.
4. At this time, the Ks display will read "Save this sample?" Answer YES. The display will then read "Save New Sample" as the K finds the first empty memory location. Since we have started together, this should say 200.
5. Press Rename. Using the arrows and the data dial you will now be able to give your sound a new name. We'll call it TIPS BASS and press OK.
6. The Kurzweil will then ask "Save TIPS BASS as: ID# 200." Press the SAVE button and the K will flip back to the "SampleRecord" page. Now the "Samp:" section of the display should say 200*TIPS BASS-F2.
7. Turn the data dial one click and "Samp:" should say NONE. Press RECORD. Play the source sound at C3 (a fifth above our last sample). When the Kurzweil is finished sampling, it will ask you if you want to save the sample. It will remember that we called the last sample TIPS BASS. It will also remember that you wrote the last sample to ID# 200, so it will ask if you want to save to ID# 201. Save your new sample.
8. Repeat steps 3-7 to collect all your samples of your source. Try multisampling at F2, C3, G3, D4, A4, E5, B5, and F#6. Multisampling like this helps to retain the integrity of the sounds which you'll hear when we arrange the samples into a KEYMAP.
Setting up a KEYMAP
From the "SampleRecord" page, get to the "EditKeyMap" page by pressing EXIT once. Press the button below the word "Assign." You can now select the sample to be place into the KEYMAP. Use the Data Dial to call up 200*TIPS BASS-F2 and press OK. The Kurzweil will tell you to strike a "LOW" key followed by a "HIGH" key. Keep in mind that the top key should not be the same as the "LOW" key of the next sample. The next sample will start on C3, so our first sample should stop at B2. Once you have done this the Kurzweil will bring you back to the "EditKeyMap" page. Press "Assign" and dial up the next sample to be placed into our keymap - 201*TIPS BASS-C3. The LOW KEY for this will be C3 and HIGH KEY should be F#3 because your next sample will start on G3. Notice that you'll be repeating the first three operations for each of the samples.
When all of the samples are placed where you want them, press EXIT once and the Kurzweil will ask if you want to save this new KEYMAP. The name is probably still reading SILENCE, so press "Rename" and call our new KEYMAP "TIPS BASS. " Press OK and the Kurzweil will find the first empty location for this new keymap. It should say "Save TIPS BASS as: ID# 200." Press OK and the unit will take you to the "EditProg*KEYMAP" page. Pressing the " < more " or " more > " buttons will let you navigate through various functions in the Kurzweil.
If you would like to add an effect to the keymap, press "more > " until you see a button labeled "EFFECT". Pressing " EFFECT " will bring you to the "EditProg: EFFECT" page where you can use the Data Dial to call up effect preset 10 (Chorus Slap in the K2000). Adjust the WET/DRY mix to your taste.
You are now ready to save this new program.
Press EXIT once and the Kurzweil will ask if you want to save the program before exiting. The program name is probably reading "DEFAULT," so press "RENAME," title the new program "TIPS BASS," and hit OK. The display should now read "Save TIPS BASS as: ID#200." Press save and you will have now created a new program.
It would be a smart idea to save this to disk now, so press DISK.
For our purposes we will save to floppy, so make sure the display reads "CurrentDisk: Floppy" (if it doesn't, simply turn the Data Dial until it does). Next hit "SAVE." The display should now read "Save selection: 200 . . . 299*." The 200-299 section is where our samples are, so press OK. The display will now read "Save as: ." This is where you will name the file. You will only be allowed to use eight characters (all uppercase) and the file name must start with a letter. Let's call our file TIPSBASS. Press OK and the Kurzweil will tell you if it will be saving onto multiple floppies. This is why you will need to have the disks already formatted. When the disk drive stops writing your new samples and the program, you are finished. Remember that a high-density floppy holds about 1.4, so a 10 MB sample will require nine or ten floppies. That's a whole box of disks, so if your budget allows you might want to buy a SCSI hard drive. I prefer removable media and have been using an 88 MB removable SyQuest rack-mount drive for about two years. While the Syquest works great, I always want more and can't wait for the 1 GB Iomega Jaz or SyQuest Drives.
Kurzweil K2000 and K2500 units that come from the factory with the sampling option already installed are also equipped with 2 MB RAM. Serious sampleheads will definitely need to expand this. In the '90s, 2 MB is not much, but it could be enough to get you started.
The K2000 is expandable to hold up to 64 Mb of RAM and the K2500 can be expanded to 128 MB. Both Ks are capable of playing back samples from Akai S900, S950, and S1000/1100, Ensoniq EPS, EPS-16, and ASR-10, and (of course) Kurzweil sample libraries. Both units can also read the Roland S-700 series sample libraries via SCSI interface. The Ks will also read AIFF and .WAV files.
Whether you are about to open a small MIDI preproduction studio or a full-blown production facility, this is the kind of flexibility you'll want because it is very likely that some of your clients may bring you samples from any one of these other formats.