While I have for the most part cured myself of Gear Acquisition Syndrome (it involved years of meditation and self-medication), the GAS occasionally bubbles back up to the surface for new crushes like this week’s Novation Peak and Circuit Mono Station, as well as for old flames.
LA (Linear Arithmetic) synthesis from the ‘80s has been feeling the renewed love, like in Keyboard’s great tutorial for recreating the LA synthesis of the Roland D-50 using stock devices within Propellerhead Reason. But it turns out that now is also a great time for re-appreciating the underrated sounds of a particular additive synthesizer from the ‘90s.
When Kawai put out the K5000S in 1996 it offered something different but just as attractive as the virtual analog synthesizers that were still a new phenomenon at the time. The K5000 series used additive synthesis along with PCM sampled waveforms that you could layer and combine to create truly distinctive sounds. The instruments excelled in pads, leads, basses, synth guitars you may actually like, bells, and more. The K5000S keyboard specifically had a bank of 12 knobs for the filter, LFO, envelope, and 4 assignable knobs for the more than 1,000 parameters per patch. That was at a time when real-time controls and the K5000S’s onboard 40-pattern arpeggiator were not a given for new synths. That all added up to a wholly appealing and wholly unattainable synth to a broke young person like me.
More than 20 years later, the K5000S’s sounds still bristle with potential, and they sell for a less-than-shocking $550-600 on the used market. But I’m passed those kinds of impulse buys, right? However, an $8 sampled version of the K5000S? That’s something my penny-pinching self can allow.
The sound-design and instrument-making house Puremagnetik has just released its latest sound pack, K-Station Atmospheres - The King of Additive Synthesis, based on layered samples from the K5000S. It’s available for $8 for a limited time as part of the Puremagnetik Spark monthly subscription, where you receive a new sound pack for $8/month. The price will rise to $20 after a short intro period.
For that money you get K-Station Atmospheres formatted for Native Instruments Kontakt, Apple Logic, or as an Ableton Live Pack. Each one comes as a collection of complex and modular textures using the K5000S’s performance, formant filter and additive features. Puremagnetik targets producers working on games, films, and ambient/downtempo vibes who will want mix and match K-Station Atmostpheres’ various layers and create huge, sweeping atmostpheres. See the product page for an audio demo.
The K-Station Atmospheres Live Pack has more than 30 individual patches that you can layer into a Multi in a similar manner as the original synth. It includes a library of starter Multis, as well. The Kontakt format features a 4-part atmosphere stacking from its customized interface. You choose four sounds that you can mix and trasnpose or select from more than 20 pre-programmed instruments. K-Station Atmospheres for Logic has Patches programmed with Smart Controls and more than 30 Track Stacks, where you can swap out EXS instruments modularly.
You can tell by listening to various K5000 series demos that the Kawai synths still sound unique and relevant today. While sound pack instruments won’t fully replace the sonic and programming capabilities of a full synthesizer, Puremagnetik chose wisely for its latest Spark release.
Beneath the thick layers of cheese in this Kawai K5000R factory demo, you can suss out the very distinctive sounds of this unique synth.