Kurzweil Music Systems is an American company that produces electronic musical instruments for professionals and home users. The company was founded by inventor and polymath Ray Kurzweil in 1982, based on a challenge from Stevie Wonder to create a synth that could realistically produce the timbre of a grand piano. With a slate of well-known engineers from the industry including both Bob Moog and Al Pearlman on board, and Wonder serving as the company’s music director, Kurzweil created the K250 sampler / sample playback synth. This was widely judged to be the first synth capable of accurately reproducing acoustic instruments that had proven difficult to imitate with the subtractive synthesis used by most synths of the day. It employed a combination of multisampling, velocity switching, and some filtering of the samples to produce its realistic sounds of specific acoustic instruments, including grand piano. The K250 was introduced in 1984.

This was followed by the K150, a digital additive synthesis machine. The synth came with software that ran on an Apple II microcomputer which performed Fourier analysis (to build harmonic profiles for the additive synthesis), and served as a patch editor. This was Kurzeweil’s only attempt to go outside of the sampler paradigm. It was expensive and did not sell well.

The K1000 series models, introduced in the mid-1980s, were an attempt to bring the K250 technology to a lower price point. They lacked the ability to record samples; they came from the factory containing sample banks in ROM, and several otherwise-identical models were sold containing different ROM sets. They were designed anticipating that the price of computer memory would continue to fall (which did in fact happen), and as it did later models could contain more ROM sets, and earlier models could be retrofitted.

The K2000/2500/2600 series, first introduced in 1990, are DSP-based samplers employing a sort of virtual modular architecture that Kurzweil calls V.A.S.T., for “Variable Architecture Synthesis Technology”. The series expanded greatly over the next 15 years, with a variety of keyboard and rackmounted models available. During this time, the company also introduced two master keyboard models, the PC88 and PC2. The PC88 also contained a sample playback engine, and the PC2 included some capabilities of the V.A.S.T. architecture. In 2008, the company discontinued the Kxxxx series and folded the V.A.S.T. architecture into the PC3 series. As of 2015, the PC3 is the only true synth in the product lineup, which also includes electronic piano models.

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