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Kurzweil Forte Clinic in Seattle


SVG

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Chris Martirano from AMS came out to Seattle this week to show off the Kurzweil Forte and the Nord Lead 4.

 

I really enjoyed the presentation and as a long time Kurzweil and Nord owner/player, loved seeing what's new on the block.

 

The new Forte Steinway 9' Grand Piano was rather stunning, even on KRK 6" studio monitors. That alone was causing my back pocket to start itching. 8 velocity single sample per note... buh bye triple strike once and for all. The old triple strike at 16 megs held its own amongst the multi GB pianos as long as it could, now Kurzweil is entering the multi GB piano market as well.

 

All new harpsichord samples (including muted) were very promising. The clavs were also mouth watering. The PC3 pipe organ samples were the same, which is fine because they are about as good as this demanding ear ever needs.

 

But the thing that really turned my ear was the ePianos. Now I'm not a huge fan of EP's, I just use them from time to time. The PC3 EP's are rather good, though not velocity balanced as much as I'd like. Now the Fortes EP's are 8 velocities and single sampled like the pianos. Wow, this is the biggest difference of all. Rich, creamy, and most especially, even sounding throughout the entire velocity range.

 

The Kore64 sample set was included, which is especially great for the electric guitar samples, Mandolin, horns, and drum sets.

 

I immediately recognized the old Mellotron samples from the PC3, which don't really do it for me.

 

Here is one of the biggest selling points for me... it's more of a successor to the PC2 series. That means that it's geared much more to the live player, with all the controls front and center that you'll likely need in a performance setting. The PC3 had an overwhelming feature creep that made it more and more difficult to use as a live board. The thing that I love most about my PC2X is the simplicity of layout, the ease of finding sounds, and only 4 zones. The Forte has copied this way of thinking and has gone back a step to make the Category layout much easier to navigate, got rid of the sequencer, dropped the 16 zones in favour of 4, and gives you front panel knobs for global compression and EQ with simple in/out switches. Now this may be a drawback to some, though it's a big time plus for me. The Forte is NOT a workstation, it's a performance controller.

 

The best part of the whole experience was when I called Dave Weiser the next day to chat about it. I found out that he is a distributor (WeiserSound) so I was able to order directly from him and AMS will drop ship it to my address. What a great way to support one of the most supportive people ever to find his way onto a discussion forum like this one.

 

In the past I've owned two K2600XS's, a PC88, the micro piano, the expression mate, and I still own and use daily my PC2X, PC3X, Rumour, and Mangler FX units. While I do enjoy the tweakability of the PC3X, I think I'm going to let this one go to make room for the Forte. The PC2X I will keep just because I prefer the layout (and even some of the sounds) over the PC3X.

 

I'll give a longer review once the Forte has had a chance to sit in my studio for a while.

 

Cheers,

 

Stephen

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for posting this. I hope we see the new Forte samples show up in a new fully featured Kurzweil workstation before long.

 

While I understand your point about "feature creep" making the PC3 series difficult to use in live performance I don't see where limiting Setups to 4 zones is an advantage. I can easily create four-zone only Setups (or less) in my PC3K. In fact I could have my entire set list consist of only two-zone Setups if I wanted.

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Very cool that you got to go and see firsthand before buying..that rarely happens for me.

 

Just curious...do you know if Chris is any relation to Salvatore Martirano? Not to hijack, but....in the July 2003 edition of Keyboard, Mark Vail's "Vintage Gear" column featured the Salmar Construction, built (with others) and played by Salvatore Martirano. The article, name, etc. has stuck with me...don't know why, but I recognized the name right off.

 

 

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"May you stay...forever young."

 

 

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While I understand your point about "feature creep" making the PC3 series difficult to use in live performance I don't see where limiting Setups to 4 zones is an advantage.

 

Yeah, I agree!

Forte unfortunately won´t work for me as I often use 7-8 zones on my PC3X /PC3K6 live.

I will Have to wait for the next big thing that has these new samples (and hopefully to be able to load GB´s of custom samples) and 16 zones.

 

 

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

Arthur Schopenhauer

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Hi Stephen! , Thanks for awesome report. I would drive 500 miles to buy my next Kurzweil off Dave W :).

 

Brett

That would put you somewhere in the Tasman Sea...

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While I understand your point about "feature creep" making the PC3 series difficult to use in live performance I don't see where limiting Setups to 4 zones is an advantage. I can easily create four-zone only Setups (or less) in my PC3K. In fact I could have my entire set list consist of only two-zone Setups if I wanted.

 

On the PC2, there are 4 buttons which turn the zones on and off. The PC3 doesn't have the equivalent 16 buttons to do this, so in effect it is an advantage to have a simpler system.

 

Similar to the PC3, the 9 sliders are used for specific purposes. While the PC3 may or may not follow these (it usually does), the Forte always does. This 'limitation' is a real blessing for the live performer as moving a slider always means the same thing. Sliders 1 and 2 are for filter resonance and cutoff frequency. 3 and 4 are for envelope functions, while the last 5 are for FX with 8 being delay and 9 being reverb (I think I'm remembering all this correctly). Each slider can be activated/deactivated with a dedicated button. While the PC3 has these same sliders and buttons, they can be used for anything. By limiting them to specific functions, the UI is far more powerful at the expense of options being limited. While this is not for everyone, it most certainly is for me. Also, the sliders have 'ladder LED's' along the side of each one. The sliders can be set to 'jump' to the new setting when moved or will only take effect when the slider is moved past the current setting. This is incredibly useful to a workflow like the one that I use.

 

Another sticking point for the tremendously powerful PC3 and also related to 'feature creep' is how out of kilter the 'category' system is. The Forte has fixed this.

 

Forte unfortunately won´t work for me as I often use 7-8 zones on my PC3X /PC3K6 live.

The good news for you is that Kurzweil will more than likely keep most if not all of these improvements in their next workstation. That would be the one to watch out for if 8 zones is your workflow.

 

Stephen

 

 

 

 

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SVG, I've had the itchy trigger finger for the Forte as well. I have a PC3K7 & while it sounds great (Dave Weiser, super cool dude extrodinaire - designed a few custom EP's & AP's that kick some serious booty), the feel of the key bed is a bit too springy for me... need to get a weighted board for the AP's.

I gave DW a call a couple of months ago asking about the Forte & sure enough he not only made time in his busy schedule for my questions (and I had many)... he's a distributor through "WeiserSound". As you all know Dave's very generous with his expert advice on the forum and is truly a good & humble guy to a fault so I'll be ordering through him besides who better to have as tech support?

I'm saving my pennies, selling the PC3K7 (shhh, don't tell my wife) and making room for a new bundle of sonic joy!! Review to come once I get it!!!

You don't know you're in the dark until you're in the light.
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Thanks for that review Stephen, very helpful indeed. For me, the Forte is out of financial reach. Actually thinking about the Nord Piano 2 HA88. Just concerned how those pianos will sound playing live in mono. I know they are great in stereo.
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Agreed, the Forte ain't cheap but what 's under the the hood makes the hefty price tag more understandable. Heck, I spent more than that on a memorymoog back in the early eighties & that was a lot back then...
You don't know you're in the dark until you're in the light.
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Interesting that he was demoing the Lead 4, which is sort of old news, and not the Lead A1.

 

Except that the Lead A1 is the little brother to the more powerful and more expensive Lead 4. Why show off a keyboard that is more or less a mere subset of the bigger (and still new-ish) Lead flagship?

 

Stephen

 

 

 

 

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I'm in wait-and-see mode with the Forte -- I love the improvements, but am really salivating at the possibility that some chunk of the Flash RAM could be user-accessible. In my heart of hearts I do all my drum programming by manipulating loops live, so far it looks like VAST is the only way to really get to where I want to go in terms of setting up loops the way I'd like for performance purposes (and believe me, I've tried everything under the sun, both hardware and software).

 

And, a big shout-out to Dave Weiser. If there's anyone on the face of the earth from whom I'd purchase anything Kurzweil-related, it's him.

My music http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/Pk12

 

My Soundware (Kurzweil PC3)http://pksoundware.blogspot.com/

 

My Kurzweil PC3 Tutorials http://www.youtube.com/user/poserp.

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The Forte 88 uses the piano action Fatar TP40L, same as the PC3X.

 

The Nord uses a synth action keyboard, not sure of the model.

 

It's not an easy task to compare two such disparate keybeds.

 

Stephen

 

 

 

 

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