Kawai K5000

Kawai K5000S Image

The K5000 was Kawai's top of the line music workstation digital synthesizer when it was released back in 1996. It's a bold and elegantly designed synth with a large LCD display, realtime controls and incredible sounds! The look and functionality is rivals the competition from the time...the Korg Trinity and Kurzweil K2500.

Programming sounds with the K5000 can be a breeze (once you learn how) although it has over 1,000 parameters per patch! That's plenty to play with. It combines additive synthesis and PCM sampled waveforms for you to layer and combine to design a whole range of sounds. Plenty of LFO modulation, filters and envelope controls allow you to shape and morph your sounds further. On-board multi-effects add the final touch of life to your sounds.

Once you've created some sounds, there's the on-board sequencer (K5000W only) for creating songs or loading Standard Midi File sequences (via disk-drive). It has a 40,000 note capacity and 40 tracks. Real-time record and step-edit modes are available and the sequencer is pretty straight forward.

The K5000S (pictured above) adds 12 dedicated knobs for hands-on control of filter, LFO and envelope parameters. There are 4 user-definable knobs and 2 assignable switches. The K5000S also has a 40-pattern arpeggiator on-board with 8 user-definable patterns too! K5000's have been used by Kraftwerk.

Kawai K5000-Rack Image

In 1997 a rack-module version of the K5000 was released. The rack version shipped with Kawai's more stable OS 3.0 software. The latest is 4.03 and is free to upgrade via download from Kawai. The rack offers all the same power and flexibility as its keyboard counterparts. To get a more hands-on-knobs control of the K5000 (like the K5000S) there is a Knobs Macro box. But other controllers such as Encore Knobby or Keyfax Phatboy can also do the trick.

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60 Visitor comments
Erik Friend
December 4, 2010 @ 1:12 am
I first heard the K5000s at a music store back in 1996. My high school aged brain thought it was the coolest keyboard ever. It sounded like an alien bad-ass. I spent my first paycheck buying one with expanded memory second-hand.

Nearly 15 years later, I am still amazed by the K5000s. Nothing sounds like it. The knobs allow tone sculpting both subtle and extreme. The keys are beveled for fast action and respond to aftertouch by modulating the sound further. Many patches are elaborate soundscapes to be explored.

The factory patches provide immense variety when you consider the insane warping potential of the controller knobs. Every patch is inspiring and you can find thousands more online and load hundreds at a time via a single 3"1/2 floppy.

In short, I love this keyboard. Have I mentioned the midi-syncable arpeggiator? You control the pattern (preset or user defined), octave jumping, speed, and hold via 3 knobs. No menus required for anything but patch programming.
Erik Friend
December 4, 2010 @ 1:08 am
I paid $750 for mine in 1999. I've seen them estimated at $450 and laughed. I think this synth is superb and shares a place among the other great synths of our time.

Comparisons in sound? Well, it does a mean resonant bass growl that sounds like an analog synth overdriven with tubes. To my ears, some flowing water-like accents can be heard in many patches. I've heard it do screaming leads with shrill crushing modulation, or waves of mechanical atmospheric ambience, or even standard instuments like trumpet. Though it offers few precussion options, it defies categorization.

My only complaint? It weighs a ton, about as much as an Ensoniq Mirage. On second thought; this could discourage a hypothetical burglar from snatching it easily, so I guess the weight counts as a feature.a

So, yeah. The K5000s is rad.
Michael Rosner
October 2, 2010 @ 8:53 pm
Hello Group,
Got a K5000R recently, great machine but almost impossible to program...
So we released an editor for the K5000 series, more than 600 parameters at your finger tips in an intuitive / user friendly / workflow efficient GUI!
Check it out, sound demos also available.
We have 25 editors for popular software and hardware synth.
September 18, 2010 @ 1:44 pm
Continuum for previous.

So, if you think you have time and patience to edit those sounds this might work for you, but i felt that my work flow disrupted and i got hang to all this parameters. Some of them could be edited in groups but it was painfully slow.

K5000S version have that small knobbox onboard but rack owners should buy one. General MIDI controllers can be used as that but other more advanced parameters need SYSEX controller, editor software or menu diving and endless amount of time..
Some one asked about controlling effects. I remember editing couple parameters through MOD wheel but can't recall if it's possible through SYSEX or CC's.
September 18, 2010 @ 1:33 pm
Sounds nice. Good for long, forever evolving ambient drones and sweeps.
Also some ruff side sounds could be done. Especially when filter clips -and it does it easily when adding resonance. In that phase it suddenly, without any warning jumps to sound like tortured animal!
Can be edited through SYSEX capable controller but i still found it too time consuming for my use. It might take a day to create one sound...
I wouldnt buy rack model again. Keys are one of the best i've heard.
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  • Check Prices on eBay
  • The link above will take you to a search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - 32 voices
  • Oscillators - Digital Additive Synthesis plus PCM samples; Harmonics: 64 per source; Waveforms: 689 (123 synth, 341 GM, 225 drums). Note: only K5000W features GM sounds
  • Effects - 4 effects algorithms with 32 different effects
  • Filter - 128-band formant filter, 24dB/oct low-pass and high-pass
  • LFO - 2 (one for formant filter, one can be freely routed to other destinations)
  • VCA - 1 ASDR per part, with key scale and velocity
  • Arpeg/Seq - Sequencer: 40 tracks, 40,000 note capacity (K5000W only)
    Arpeggiator: 40 patterns, 8 user (K5000S and K5000R only)
  • Keyboard - 61 Keys with velocity and aftertouch
  • Memory - 200 patches, 64 performances
  • Control - MIDI (K5000S, K5000R: 4-part multi-timbral; K5000W: 32-part multi-timbral)
  • Date Produced - 1996

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