Tricking Out A Vintage Kurzweil K2000 Synthesizer

In this video, Hank Coffey takes a look at upgrading a vintage Kurzweil K2000, which was originally introduced in 1991.

Coffey covers a variety of updates, ranging from a floppy replacement to sound ROM and PRAM expansions, fully tricking the K2000.

While the K2000 is close to 30 years old, it was one of the top-of-the-line sampling workstation designs of its day and is still an incredibly deep and powerful platform.

17 thoughts on “Tricking Out A Vintage Kurzweil K2000 Synthesizer

  1. Sounds that cut through anything. Unique signature. SO happy to have gotten the PC3k6 to replace my clunky K2500s…thank goodness I backed up my scsi Zip drive back in 2015 thinking ahead. I just LOVE the beast!

    1. What do you mean by unique signature?

      I would not be able to say out from a mix “Oh here is used a K2000, you can hear that because…”

      1. I guess the drum samples, (in particular the “Castle Drums”) are pretty recognizable by K2000 users. Some other of the original factory sounds are similarly unique and recognizable. That’s not to say whether they are “cool” or “not cool”.

  2. Yeah… ummm….

    I had a K2000 a few years ago which I bought because of all of the hype about how unique Kurzweil synths were… I ended up hot-rodding that synth to the max… new blue screen, sample board upgrade, scsi2SD replacement, P/RAM upgrade… the works…. I really liked the quality of the sounds and the keyboard felt great to play but programming it was a PITA and I just couldn’t gel with that synth no matter how I tried…. I ended up swapping it with some guy for his Deepmind12 (!!!!) … believe it or not, I ended up getting more use out of the DM12 than the Kurzweil…. to each their own I suppose.

    1. I’ve been caught thinking a synth with endless possibilities would give me endless sounds only to be given an endless PITA. Step forward Kawai K5000. The EMU racks were similar but the Microwaves weren’t

      1. You could’ve just got the SMP-K option for the K2000 and sampled the Deep Mind-12 & then run’em through V.A.S.T. talk about power that’s far & beyond what the DM-12 could ever do I mean that one’s only a 12 voice where as the Kurz is 24 that u can stack with no note ripoff the Behringer may be more immediate but once you get a handle on V.A.S.T. it’s easy to navigate but like you said TEHO thanx dude.

  3. These synths (and the later K2xxx and PCx versions) are insanely powerful and provide a myriad of sound design options, but I’ve never enjoyed programming them. The OS is painful and only got worse as features were added.

    Loading samples into the PC3 takes only slightly less time than the last receding of the ice caps.

  4. I’ve had my K2000 since 1993 and it is one of my favorite keyboards of all time. Great sounds along with unbelievable sampling features and overall power in one package. About ten years ago I started having trouble with the display. It got worse and worse and then burned out. I took it to the best keyboard service center here in Dallas, TX. They replaced the screen for a cost of several hundred dollars. The new screen worked for about a month and then totally went out. The keyboard has set in storage since then. I don’t want to sell it because I really love it, however, I don’t want to spend several more hundred dollars for another one month of a working display. Do I have any DIY options that will get my K2000 back up yet won’t break the bank? I’d love to get it back online again and then trick it out with all of the mods described here. Thanks for any advice!

    1. There’s a website called Mastering VAST. If you search it, you may see “godlike” in the results. That’s it.

      Lots of nice and knowledgable Kurzweil users there. There have been plenty of threads about people repairing their K2000 displays. I’m sure you’d get some good advice. Maybe the replacement display was faulty, or the connection is poor. I wonder if the repair shop might have followed up to check their work, or replace the failed part. Probably too late now.

      In any case, that forum may have some useful info or steer you in the right direction.

    2. I’m looking into a new display for my K2000 as well. From what I’ve seen, they go for anywhere from around $65 to $100 or so, and they don’t appear to be too difficult to install yourself. My buddy just did it on his K2000R, in fact.

  5. For me, the power of the K2xxx series was in the way it handled sample keymaps. The result is that you can map any sample to any key and velocity range, and you can set a separate volume and pitch offset for every keyrange you define. And the editor was pretty straight-forward.

    Complaints about the workflow are valid, but weighed against the fact that there were usually multiple ways to get what you need done, and — for me– I rarely ran into limitations for getting what I needed– apart from enough voices of polyphony, and amount of RAM size– which were all perfectly reasonable for the tech of that era.

  6. My K2500 is maxed out, too, and I have yet to find a machine that’s more powerful. One of my favorite synths.

    I’ve had it for about 12 year, and it is such a deep machine that I’ve still got tons of territory to explore. It does stuff that no other can do, even 20 years later.

    I agree that it’s cumbersome to program, though. There are so many options that you end up with tons of menu-diving.

    If there was ever a synth that cried out for an iPad patch editor/sample manager, it’s the K2500/K2600 synths!

  7. I love my K200R. These days I don’t use it as much as I should but my 1st album is at least 2/3rd K2000. I have mostly used it as a synthesizer and the VAST engine is great. I used to know my way around it pretty well.

  8. In the K series and the PC3/4 series, most parameters are shown in useful unit values: dB, cents, Hz, etc. Each parameter has hard-wired access to key-tracking and velocity-tracking, and has two additional control sources (from a long control source list) with a dangerously wide range, AND one of those assignment sections provides a secondary depth control source. That’s 4 control sources, with an additional depth control on one of them for all the DSP block parameters. That level of control is rare.

    For people seeking the power and versatility of that series, it makes more sense to look for a K2500 (keyboard or rack) or K26xx. If you can find them with the optional ROMs you might use, all the better. Making sure they have max sample RAM installed and expanded PRAM (if applicable).

    The PC3 does bring more power and features (without sample loading)– however, be warned that the PC3 lacks a few key features that some K2xxx fans would miss. ARRANGE mode is one of them. It allows you to trigger sequences from individual keys and even scale the volume of the sequence with velocity. Very useful for theater stuff, but all kinds of options there. The PC3K includes 128 MB for sample loading– and will load legacy K2xxx samples/keymaps– but into the PC3 architecture. A pretty nice balance of features if you don’t need lots of sample RAM.

    The newer PC4 and Forte bring much more sample loading room– and shift to newer features over older ones.

    A massive strength of the Kurzweil K series is its backward compatibility and resilient operating system. They even provide compatibility tools to bring older files into newer versions.

    One blessing/curse with K-series, PC3/4, and VAST generally is that it builds on a stable base of this legacy code. So you can expand your use of it, and learn new skills. The downside as that some weaknesses in the VAST DSP have lingered. Most notably, the DSP based oscillators have some aliasing at higher notes.

    It may be an over-generalization to say that these Kurzweil produces provide a nice experience for users who play factory and 3rd party content only. Kurzweil’s VAST products can provide a satisfying experience for power-users who like to do deep editing. However, some editors who like a big GUI, with lots of easy/fast editing will find it tedious to edit. Some of the structures can be a little opaque without some manual reading. Fortunately, there is a wonderful community of users to help out.

  9. Synths this big inside can’t help but be a PITA for anyone who isn’t an oscillator-head. Its a modular, by most standards. Its gorgeous overall, but if someone built a full knobby hardware controller for it, it’d be (conservatively) six by four feet. If you’ve maxed one out, I admire your bravery.

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