webbkline 03/21/2008

Kurzweil PC1X : webbkline's user review


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Full 88 key weighted keyboard.

Typical no-frills stereo analog outputs, midi-in, out, through, 2 ports for damper and volume pedal.

Nice, diverse bank of effects which are easily edited or disabled when necessary. 4 rotary controls which perform a variety of functions-octave shift, reverb density, 3 band EQ control, and 2 assignable switches which will do just about anything you need them to do.

Acoustic piano sounds are my first priority and the ones on the PC1X don't disappoint. I wouldn't rate them as the best out there, but they do a fine job of cutting through a less-than-perfect stage mix and crowd noise. Like all stereo acoustic piano samples, they won't satisfy unless they are played in stereo. But, I can always find one that matches the room I am playing in well. Rhodes and Wurly sounds are decent--not the best but decent. Strings are a mixed bag. My personal favorite is the "Intense Strings" patch which is rich and full, with plenty of attack, yet offering excellent dynamics. You can set up your favorite programs from the 6 available preset banks and 2 user banks so that you can access them on-the-fly from their assigned buttons. The PC1X is also very easy to do splits on, as well as layering up to 4 sounds. One of the songs I perform with one of my artist gigs requires 10 program changes within the same song and the Kurzweil gets it done effortlessly.


The action sold the PC1X to me. It is lighter than a Yamaha, Korg or Roland, and even significantly lighter than it's more developed sister, the PC2x. I could have bought either,but opted for the PC1X because I flat-out loved the performance of the keyboard. I'm 52 and have been playing all my life. I can play just about as fast as anyone, but the Kurzweil's keyboard keeps up with me no matter what I throw at it, yet it is extremely dynamic. To me, it is the single most inspiring aspect of the instrument. If I am doing session work and the producer or engineer wants a piano sound that the PC1X is not capable of, I still use its keyboard to play their sample of choice. I can outrun any Yamaha or Roland, so I hope Kurzweil never lets go of this action. However, if you are a classically trained Steinway fan, you might not appreciate the lighter action as much as I do.

The manual is big and complete, although not always easy for this technophobe to understand.


I think the horns and organs leave a lot to be desired. The strings are deceptive. Many of the string settings don't sound that good by themselves, but most of them sound surprisingly fine in a mix. I've often been amazed by how well some of them lay in a recording mix when I listen to the playback. This makes me believe that there are--or at least were--some brilliant sound designers under the employ of Kurzweil.

The Rhodes samples are kind of funny. It really seems that the PC1X's action sucks as badly as an old Fender Rhodes suitcase piano when using any of the Rhodes patches. I find that the Rhodes and Wurlitzer samples have about a 3 octave limit in the center of the keyboard. If you go beyond that zone in either direction, the sound is both unconvincing and unplayable.


I still manage to glean a lot of inspiration from this board after over 3 years of owning it.

There are several things you should be aware of, however.

1. There is a tiny screen contrast knob on the back of the board, which is very necessary, especially if you are going to be using it outdoors. If you try taking this keyboard to a gig in a soft case or with no case, I promise you that you will eventually break that knob off of the circuit board that it is soldered to. It will get pushed back in to the body and the screen will be rendered unreadable. After the 2nd time this happened to me, I glued a large rubber grommet around the knob to prevent this from happening. I'm not the most mechanically inclined guy to come down the pike, but this girl was a bear to get inside of to solder that control knob back on to the circuit board. It took 3 of us wrestling with it to get the job done. This was a terrible engineering oversight.

2. Another completely idiotic afterthought is the fact that you have to scroll down through 16 pages of the global menu to find the transposer. Fortunately, I can make all the setups I need prior to a performance so that I can just keep the screen set on page 16 of the global settings. For someone who plays with the same band all the time, this might not be a problem, but I have as many as a half dozen different gigs, many times having some of the same songs in different keys. A transpose button is a Godsend in those instances. What were they thinking??

3. You have to periodically go around the keyboard and tighten all the screws. It seems that they come loose rather easily.

4. While I haven't broken any yet, the 4 multi-task rotary knobs I mentioned earlier are very spindly and I know quite a few guys who have broken them off, so that is another thing which requires a little TLC.

Well, nothing's perfect. But, overall it is a great board. Mine is over 3 years old and I will likely buy a new one soon and keep this old girl around for a spare. I ride 'em hard and have put 'em away wet more than once and this one has yet to let me down. Kurzweil has had some hurdles in its transitions between companies, and hopefully they have been able to maintain the integrity. Those questions aside, it's a fine tool.