Excellent, playable action
Relatively light keyboard with quality weighted action
Well-chosen and -executed sample set
Good piano and strings sounds
Live performance controls that are easy to access
A few good electric pianos
Learning curve is relatively simpler
Sixty-four rhythm tracks with variable tempo
The split and layer features are flexible.
Some sounds like bass and guitar are less convincing
USB functionality is not currently supported for the Macintosh
Limiting small LED display
You can’t program your own rhythm tracks or effects
Slightly clinched backing rhythms
Line lump power supply
If you are more of a performer than a programmer, Kurzweil just might have manufactured the stage piano you have been waiting for.Today we review the Kurzweil SP2X digital piano keyboard that screams of superior technology on the inside and elegant simplicity on the outside; just what the company campaigns it to be. The Kurzweil SP2X is an instance for the phrase ‘Simplicity equals power’. The instrument is sleek with an uncluttered exterior that belies a sophisticated performance. It is a capable and reliable road companion that will aid you in domination and any stage with an incredible array of top notch sounds. The best part is that, the SPX2 has been designed to offer all of these mouth watering features to any keyboardist, regardless of their skill level with keyboard playing or even the synthesizer theory.
The Kurzweil SP2X Stage Piano Keyboard is built to be gigged, and this unit has an overall design of sleek lines and minimal extra baggage. It weighs moderately, unlike most of the 88 key instruments and it weighs about 48.5 pounds. This one looks unobtrusive in its colour scheme is of neutral silvers and greys, and the look is modern but not sci-fi. The main chassis is made out of metal with smooth, rounded edges, and the end caps have been made out of hard plastic. We are not sure how well the end caps will survive a drop to the floor, but they looks quite solid enough to withstand the minor impacts. The design says that it has been devised in such as way that it calls attention to the player, not the instrument.
Kurzweil has made sure that there is just enough space at the lower end of the keyboard for full-size modulation and pitch wheels. The end caps are indented, creating a natural ledge for lifting and moving the instrument.
Old School Display:
The control panel in the fascia of the piano is also uncluttered and uncomplicated. It has been gently racked upward to improve visibility and access. You get the visual feedback through a three digit old school type LED display and the keyboard does not have a dedicated LCD display. Though the LED display is readable, it seems to be a little basic to today’s standards. Of course, it is not the end of the world, but a simple LCD screen would make the various editing functions a bit easier to get to gripes with. It is fair to mention that many stage pianos in the price bracket of SP2X also feature the same screen, we are still convinced that it is very outdated. It also comes with a sustain pedal.
For most part, the design has been kept simple, but it requires memorising the locations of your favourite patches. Fortunately, The Kurzweil has employed a quick access bank that allows you to recall your 16 favourite programs and setups with just a single button press. The keyboard has a performance controller section on the left hand side of the front panel that gives quick and easy access to the kind of things you need to change quickly in a live situation. This includes the relative volumes of the different zones you might have created across the keyboard, the amount of reverb and other effects being applied, plus the tempo of any backing rhythms, , as well as assign layers and split points. Another series of buttons is reserved for editing, transposition, and key- and Velocity-range selection.
The Kurzweil SP2X 88-keys Stage Piano is so easy to use that you barely will have to crack open the user manual for a rock performance with the instrument. The four knobs can be assigned to control the other MIDI parameters at your discretion. These four knobs work in conjunction with a 3-way knob mode switch to give you a matrix of 12 knob functions including controlling the zone’s main, layer, split, and rhythm levels; adjusting the effects settings; and setting the rhythm track’s tempo. Each user setup stores and recalls patch, split, and effects settings and mix levels.
Ports and Connectivity:
In the rear, you will find the ports and connectivity including MIDI In, Out and Thru ports, stereo audio outs with a 24 bit DACs, a ¼-inch headphone out, a pair of ¼-inch TRS line outs, ¼-inch sustain and continuous-controller inputs, along with a USB port for transmitting MIDI to and from a computer. Unfortunately, drivers are available only for Windows XP at this time, so if you are a Mac user, you will have to use the SP2X’s MIDI ports with an external MIDI interface instead.
One gripe is the SP2X’s use of a line lump rather than an internal power supply. In the chaos of a stage performance, it is all too easy for ancillary items to get left behind.
When it comes to the part of features, the SP2X it not throwing any curveballs; it has all the sounds, effects and some rhythms that are coupled to a set of full size weighted keys. Most of the highlight features relate to the Triple Strike Grand Piano which captures the nuances, character and feel of a grand piano quite accurately. This sample set is used for eight patches, including a bright hard-rock sound and a slightly detuned ragtime sound. The top end is delicate, bottom end suitably thunderous and there is not even the slightest signs of the tinny overtones that can plague some of the grand piano patches. The samples are rich, subtle, and even across the keyboard, although you can hear slight timbral differences at boundaries between samples.
The voicing is quite bright to the ears. The high treble keys, which can be troublesome in some piano sample sets, sound realistic, without any stretching of samples played beyond their believable range. The only issue we would raise here is that, the loop section in the bass strings becomes noticeable when holding a single key down for longer than 4 or 5 seconds and listening carefully. But, this cannot be a deal breaker, as in a real-world playing scenario, this would rarely happen.
The Kurzweil SP2X sports 64 preset sounds and the keyboard can be split into four zones that are stored in sixteen user setups. On stage, these presets can be accessed through the ‘Quick Access Button’, and this button allows you to recall any of your setups, quite instantly. The goal is to make it as simple as possible to get maximum flexibility out of the keyboard in live situations. You will also find a transpose button located on the front control panel for the sake of speedy transposition.
The onboard sounds have been divided into eight banks of eight that are grouped by type. As we already mentioned, the piano sounds are excellent, the electric pianos are quite good and there a few more usable dry and realistic Rhodes patches as well as a decent lo-fi Wurlitzer to accompany the rather more predictable, chorus drenched balled Rhodes sounds. The effects can be removed, however as with so many Rhodes presets, the original patches are rather too close to a xylophone for comfort. We agree that it is a matter of choice and taste, but the tinkly Rhodes effect has fewer uses in modern music than the more rounded, fuzzy sound. Big Red Wurly sounds authentic to us, if you adjust the mod wheel to bring in some Wurlitzer tremolo. None of them sound good when pushed beyond the range of the original instruments, but if you play them appropriately, they get the job done well.
The grand piano presets, when played on this keyboard shows the device in its best light and in this particular aspect, it outshines some of the other pianos in the higher end of the price range.
Moving on to the organs, there are a couple of passable Hammonds to choose from along with a pipe organ to play with. Though the rotary effect is not the best that we have heard, there is redemption in the form of nice spiky Clavis and a rather good harpsichord. If classical organ is your thing, Pipe Organ is a huge, rich, all-stops-out organ sound drenched in reverb. Jazz organ does not fare as well: Ballad of 3 Bar is the best of the bunch, with a Leslie speed simulation on the mod wheel. The sound can work if organ is an occasional part of your bag of tricks, but if you are relying heavily on organ sounds, you should look for a device particularly suited to that task.
‘Strings’ is an area where the SP2X stage piano proves to be particularly adept. Here, you will find some wonderfully lush string patches that are immensely rich and powerful, and is perfect for film music or rein forcing a live performance. As with most of the sounds, they can be layered up and, as you must have guessed, they are very evocative when paired with the grand piano.
Guitars and Basses:
Moving on to the sections of brass, voice and synth, they yield little that is going to impress; so, on to the guitar and bass patches. As in the case of most of the stage pianos and workstations, the guitars do not seem to be very convincing, even though the basses fare much better and the double bass is quite handy while split over the bottom end of the keyboard.
Drums and Percussion:
Last but not the least, there are some drums and percussion kits that do a good job along with some marimbas and knobs that do their job well enough. Studio Drums 1+2 gives you everything you need to sketch out a rock track, and Virtuoso Perc offers a nice variety of ethnic and hand percussion. Dual Marimba and Vibes both provide nice-sounding and useful impersonations of the real instruments.
Kurzweil is especially proud of its 24-bit effects, stating that its DSP algorithms are of superb quality for products in this price range. There are two blocks of effects, with 64 presets available for the effect block and 30 for the reverb block. Either of them can be turned off independently and they are suitably effective, by adding depth and interest to the sounds. The reverbs include the usual rooms, chambers, and halls. The additional effects include chorus, flange, delay, compression, distortion, filter, Lazerverb, and “misc.” The misc effect is context sensitive; on the piano patches, it creates a detuned effect, and on the Hammond patches, it simulates the Leslie speaker. The hall and chamber reverb effects are particularly good, with a nice bloom and a clean, smooth tail. Though the real time controller section is quite intuitive, by selecting the presets, you are still limited by the basic LED display.
The SP2X’s rhythm tracks are a useful aid for practice and composition. These 64 patterns are organized into 8 musical genres: ballads, Latin, country, and so forth. The tempo knob allows you to change the tempo of each groove from 40 to 280 bpm. There is also a metronome that allows you choose between four time signatures. The rhythm patterns have been chosen to create a well rounded collection, but like the effects settings, they are fixed. We would not recommend you using them in performance, but as a speedy practice tool to help get your timing together, they are left unbeaten.
Being able to have a good 88-key action within a solidly constructed case at a weight that is reasonable for gigging is terrific. The keys of the instrument itself is quite responsive and even the seasoned players will feel right home. The SP2X’s action is fully weighted and feels great to play. There is just sufficient resistance to allow your fingers something to push against, yet enough give and springiness to allow for really speedy repeated notes on a single key. The throw is not as deep as the action on the acoustic pianos, but this fairly short key depth makes for a pretty fast action, you can rip lightning-quick runs up and down the SP2X’s keyboard. There are seven global Velocity Sensitivity settings, from very light to very heavy. We just loved the default, linear setting right out of the box.
Kurzweil SP2X Stage Piano MIDI Keyboard is extremely good at what it is fundamentally trying to do, which provides a realistic experience of playing a piano. In a lot of ways, it is reminiscent of Kruzweil’s MicroPiano, a long discontinued sound module that features wonderful grand piano and string patches. The same applies here too, but, obviously there is also an impressive weighted keyboard that is attached as well.
Beyond these sounds, there is nothing significant to discuss about. And, although there are a few gems, it is in the pianos and strings that the strength of this instrument lies in.
Kurzweil SP2X Stage Keyboard comes with one year warranty for parts and labour.
The Kurzweil SP2X is a model of simplicity and quality, an eminently playable instrument that is well suited to the practice room or the casual circuit. As you can see with the set of features, they are geared towards live performance and are certainly effective. So, the Kurzweil SP2X will serve any of the performing musicians quite well, provided they do not need an arsenal of sounds at their disposal. The out dated display is a bit of a shame and detracts slightly from the idea that this is actually quite a serious instrument. The USB MIDI functionality is certainly a welcome addition. To conclude, with a top quality sound, playable keyboard and some impressive pianos and strings, the SP2X is quite a solid performer.
Kurzweil SP2X Stage Piano Keyboard – Technical Specification Table
|Dimensions (H x W x D)||12.60 x 141.20 x 33.75 cm|
|Keyboard||88-note, fully-weighted hammer-action,
with velocity sensitive adjustable keys
|Display||7-segment 3-digit LED|
|Effects||Dual Processors (A & B) offering: 58 Reverbs, 6 Delays,
10 Choruses, 6 Flangers, 3 Phasors, 4 Shapers,
2 Enhancers, 8 Filtered Effects, 4 Distortions,
1 Mono Stereo, 3 Wide Stereo, 4 Compressors,
2 Panners, 7 Rotarys, Stereo Tremolo, and 44 combination
effects chains utilizing Kurzweil1s unique aserverb
|Polyphony||64 Voice Polyphony, dynamically allocated|
|Multitimbral||16 parts (one per MIDI channel)|
|Midi setups||16 user setup locations with 4 programmable
zones for splits, layers and rhythms
|Factory Presets||64 Programs|
|Drum Grooves||64 pre-programmed patterns|
|Controls||Pitch wheel, modulation wheel, 4 front panel knobs,
1 switch-pedal input, 1 continuous control pedal input
|Analog Outputs||Two 1/4″ balanced TRS analog (24-bit DACs)|
|Headphones||Back panel, 1/4″ headphone output|
|MIDI||In, Out, Thru|
|USB||Complete MIDI functionality over USB as well as
OS updates (both Mac & PC)