Kurzweil Kore64 ROM Expansion for PC3 and PC3K

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PROS: Excellent and expertly programmed synths, guitars, horns, mallets, drums, and atmospheres. New waveform data sampled from vintage analog synths. Setups and new song starters for your sequencer are a bonus.

CONS: Sound organization doesn’t correspond to the category buttons on your PC3 or PC3K.

Bottom Line: If you have a PC3 or PC3K and rely on its internal sounds, this is a no-brainer.

$399 list | $299 street | kurzweil.com

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Makers of synths and workstations used to release ROM sound expansions pretty regularly. In recent years, this has become less the case due to several factors: the increasing use of soft synths at live gigs and the reliance of many workstations on sample RAM or Flash memory to host third-party sounds, to name two. Kurzweil bucks this trend with Kore64. If you’ve come to rely on a Kurzweil PC3 or PC3K synths for stage or studio use, you’ve probably been hankering for some new waveform raw materials and patches for some time. Kore64 delivers the goods across a wide range of sound categories.

Kore64 works with PC3 and PC3K keyboards, but neither the PC3LE series (reviewed April ’13) nor the SP stage pianos. Installation is easy: Unscrew the access panel on the bottom of your keyboard, and pop in the DIMM board. The Kore64 board does have a jumper you’ll need to move if you have a PC3 instead of a PC3K. On a PC3K, Kore64 needs to be in slot 0; your 128MB of sample RAM should be taking up slot 1 anyway.

Since the waveform data and associated sound Programs and Setups all live in ROM, everything should just be there once you verify the installation in Master mode. New objects in Program, Setup, and Song modes begin at location 3200 on the keypad. In Program mode, you can hop in from the Exp1 and Exp2 bank buttons above your sliders.

Speaking of sliders, the Kore64 sounds take great advantage of them, with at least two or three (usually more) making tweaks you’d reach for. Filter cutoff and resonance are mapped to sliders A and B on most synth sounds, for instance, and the handy Info button tells you what the programmers assigned each controller to do. One gripe: The category buttons are irrelevant to the type of sound they’ll actually jump you to in Kore64. It’d be nice to hit “Bass” to go right to all the killer synth basses, and so forth.

As for the sounds themselves, I’d need a review the length of our George Duke cover story to do justice to them all. You get 50 new Setups and 390 new Programs, 100 of which are synths that, with very few exceptions, are off-the-charts cool. Some make use of new waveform samples and others draw on the PC3 series’ KVA analog modeling engine. There is a slant towards more aggressive timbres you might hear in genres like trap and dubstep—not to mention motion-filled soundscapes I could see being very inspiring for film and video game scoring. That said, you’ll still find plenty to make you grin if your taste in synth sounds has more to do with classic prog rock or ’80s electro-pop. “Super Saw” and “PolySynth Stack” are two good examples here.

New electric and acoustic guitars are a huge improvement over past stock sounds in this category, and the first Kore64 demo song (there are a bunch of these, and they tend to be pattern-length and meant as song starters) shows off just how realistic they can get.

Seventy-one new drum kits pack some serious beef and punch, and cover all the stylistic bases. I lingered a lot on the “Skrlx” kit, which combined a subwoofer-pounding electronic kick with Indian percussion up top, and got me writing a downtempo groove with an almost Goth-horror feel.

Again, I could fill this issue talking about all the sounds, what they made me want to play, and how I used them, so click here to check out the audio examples. I won’t say that Kore64 is a stand-alone reason to go get a Kurzweil, but if you’ve read my reviews of the PC3 and PC3K, there are plenty of other good reasons to do that. If you’re a longtime user, these sounds will certainly up your game.