Kawai K5

Kawai K5 Image

The K5 is a digital synthesizer that employs additive synthesis harmonic-building as its method of sound creation. Basically, you can vary up to 126 harmonic levels generated by a sine wave via a bar-graph type graphic display to create, shape and change your sound. De-tuning can also be used to thicken or augment sounds too. In addition, each harmonic has an independent choice of four 6-stage envelopes for further tweaking and shaping. The K5 is also 15-part multi-timbral. Sounds can be split, layered, overlapped and de-tuned for creating thicker sounds or ensembles of instruments and sounds. It has 48 internal patches for memory storage as well as a 48 patch external memory card. There are also 48 patches for the multi-mode settings as well.

The K5 is very digital in its synthesis approach and its overall sound quality. However it has some surprisingly analog-like parameters. Its filter is a Dynamic Digital Filter that has familiar slope, cutoff, envelope amount, keyboard tracking and independent 6-stage envelope controls. The Digital Dynamic Amplifier is set up like a 6-stage envelope for overall sound shaping. The LFO has about six waveform shapes, speed, delay and a new Trend setting which is related to the delay parameter of the LFO. But programming Multi-Mode sounds is a bit more modern in its approach to synthesis than analogs and requires a bit of planning and experimenting.

It should be noted that the user interface makes it particularly difficult to program the K5 well. It's especially hard to tell the envelope-to-harmonic routings, and the various bits of nomenclature used by Kawai to indicate what does what can be a bit misleading. Nonetheless, the K5 is a very powerful instrument for creating digital sounds unlike any other. It works great in any MIDI studio or live situation due mostly in part to its multitimbral abilities, unique sounds and its approach to synthesis. It has been used by Jean Michel Jarre.

Kawai K5m Image

The K5m rack-module version is basically the same as the K5 except that it has 126 adjustable harmonics and 4 assignable audio outputs and a stereo mix output. If you plan to use the K5 strictly as a sound source in an established MIDI studio, the K5M desktop module version is more compact and practical than the keyboard version. The K5m has been used by Jan Hammer.

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15 Visitor comments
September 3, 2012 @ 3:13 am
Just picked one up for 150€, which is cheap as chips if you ask me. Guy warned me it's a [beep] to program though, more difficult than a DX7 for sure, but it's something very special. As "synth magic" pointed out: it's like a breath of fresh air. At some point we'll all get fed up with yet another analogue filter sweep dance song and all the "fatness" of today's dance music. I'll be ready with my music when that time comes! :-))
June 13, 2012 @ 1:44 pm
I have only found this very short demo, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUvdfgC8nc4
Danny Marsh
May 14, 2012 @ 12:14 pm
I can't find a demo (audio or audio/video) of this synth anywhere... can anyone help out with finding something?
synth magic
April 15, 2012 @ 11:44 am
brilliant machine.In these analogue crazy times the K5 is a breath of fresh air.The K5 is a hidden,lost masterpiece.
If you like music from the likes of Boards of Canada or any experimental lo-fi ambience the K5 will deliver the goods.Programming is not that hard and once you get your head around it's design you will fly around it.
Easily the greatest digital drones and clangs ever produced with a certain grainyness to them.Love this synth.
March 9, 2012 @ 5:31 am
The purity of the K5's additive synthesis engine and interface makes it more desirable to me than the K5000. The K5 seems always to have been underrated, probably because its initial set of presets was less than stellar. If you're into e.g. synthetic voices & choirs, this is an ace synth. It might not exactly be fun to program, but it's not unfathomable either. This is for purist synthesists who like to step ouf of subtractive / FM molds and work to open up sounds which can't be had on more mainstream synths. Couple it to e.g. an Ensoniq DP/4, and you'll be set for a long time.
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  • Check Price
  • The link above will take you to an eBay 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 - 16 voices
  • Oscillators - Digital Harmonic Generator (DHG)
  • LFO - 6 waveforms, speed, delay, trend
  • Filter - Digital Dynamic Filter (DDF) with cutoff, slope, envelope amount, keyboard, velocity, aftertouch, independent 6-stage envelope; Digital Formant Filter (DFT) 11-band graphic eq
  • VCA - Dynamic Digital Amplifier (DDA) with independent 6-stage envelopes
  • Keyboard - 61 keys with "release velocity" and aftertouch
  • Memory - 48 patches internal, 48 patches external memory card, 48 multi-mode memories
  • Control - MIDI
  • Date Produced - 1987
  • Resources & Credits
  • Images from Synthony and

    Additional information provided by DAC Crowell.

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