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Kurzweil KSP8 Effects Processor

After experiencing a hands-on demo of a prototype Kurzweil KSP8 at Boston's Soundmirror Studios on Halloween day, 2001 - at which I was blown away by its sound and flexibility - I immediately arranged to sell my ten-year old Lexicon 300L effects processor, and put my name on the KSP8 waiting list.

After experiencing a hands-on demo of a prototype Kurzweil KSP8 at Boston’s Soundmirror Studios on Halloween day, 2001 – at which I was blown away by its sound and flexibility – I immediately arranged to sell my ten-year old Lexicon 300L effects processor, and put my name on the KSP8 waiting list. I eventually received my unit in late December, and its companion RSP8 remote in March. Since then, I have been involved as a beta tester for its I/O option boards and continually evolving firmware, and have used it every day. Although I had had much previous experience with Kurzweil’s KDFX circuitry (see my articles on KDFX, PAR 10/98, and the Kurzweil K-2600XS keyboard, PAR 8/01), I was still completely unprepared for a “KDFX on steroids” with multichannel I/O and world class A/D and D/A converters.
Product PointsApplications: Recording, mastering, live music performance

Key Features: Eight-channel; extensive real time control features; hundreds of effects and parameter controls; memory presets; mLAN networking; SmartMedia card slot; choice of I/O schemes; optional external remote unit

Price: $2,995. Optional RSP8 remote, $595. I/O boards vary between $195 and $650. The HUB7 is $230.

Contact: Kurzweil at 253-589-3200, Web Site.

The KSP8 is a 13-pound, two rack-space high x 15-inch deep multi-channel effects processor. Its optional RSP8 remote measures 9-inch x 9-inch x 4-inch, and weighs 6.5 pounds. The basic unit features four channels of balanced analog I/O on eight TRS jacks and a pair of AES/EBU XLR connectors – i.e., six channels of I/O. If you need eight channels of analog I/O, you simply purchase the KANA4 four-channel analog I/O option board, which fits into an appropriate slot on the rear panel. This then provides ten channels of I/O, but only eight inputs can be used at a time. All the outputs are always active, so if you have a digital I/O card, there could be up to 14 or 22 active outputs.

Instead of the four extra analog channels, one can alternatively purchase the KADT8, which gives you eight channels of Alesis lightpipe I/O plus eight channels of TDIF I/O, in addition to the original four analog and two AES/EBU channels (but, remember, you must select only eight input channels at any given time.) All KSP8s digital I/O option boards also provide word clock sync capability on a BNC connector.

Kurzweil also markets the KAES8 eight-channel AES/EBU I/O board, and the new FireWire mLan option board – which turns a KSP8 into a computer I/O and MIDI interface. Although I have not tested it yet, it appears perfectly capable of transforming the KSP8 into one’s computer I/O and DAW effects system.

And for former Lexicon users – who cannot imagine owning an effects box without a L.A.R.C. substitute – Kurzweil offers the aforementioned RSP8 remote, which duplicates all KSP8 front panel features and, in addition, adds a joystick and 8 dedicated control knobs. Finally, Kurzweil also produces the HUB7, a connection box that allows up to seven KSP8s to be controlled from one RSP8, located up to 1,030 feet away.

At the KSP8’s lowest level is the effect algorithm. These algorithms are designed for mono, stereo, and surround applications, with lots of tweakable parameters; from them are created effect presets ranging from spacious and gorgeous to shocking and rude. These presets can be easily linked together to form effect chains on up to eight busses. Manipulation and automation are easily accomplished through MIDI or various local modulation sources including up to 36 LFOs and 36 envelope generators, with 72 functions available for combining control sources! Talk about sound mangling possibilities!

The KSP8 is supplied with a ROM containing 249 effects algorithms; this number is expandable as more algorithms are developed. From these building blocks, the KSP8’s designers carved 636 effect presets, 138 effect chains, and 14 multibus configurations (‘studios’) to accompany the unit as originally sold. The user can fill the unit’s nearly 3,000 memory locations with up to 999 of his/her own presets, effect chains, or studios, and save any and all of them to a SmartMedia card – up to 64 MB. The unit’s software makes it easy to load only certain files, so one can maintain a huge library on one or two SmartMedia cards, and easily customize the KSP8 for different tasks.

For specific detail on the unit’s various effects, I refer the reader to my KDFX article (PAR 10/98). But here’s a quick list of the categories of effects the KSP8’s designers have built from those 249 effects algorithms: reverbs (booths, rooms, chambers, halls, plates, stages, etc.), delays, choruses, flangers, phasers, shapers, enhancers, triggered filters, distortions, tube simulators, compressors, limiters, expanders, gates, bit resolution degenerators, aliasing, ring modulators, cabinet simulators, spatializers, rotary speaker emulators, tremolo, resonant low-pass, high-pass filters, band-pass, notch, parametric, graphic and multiband equalizers, as well as Kurzweil’s trademark LaserVerb, Pitcher and Chaos effects!

The highest level of KSP8 architecture is called the studio – a “snapshot” of the total state of the KSP8 at one time. Studios contain all the physical connection settings, signal routing (analog and digital I/O selections), analog and digital signal levels, as well as the assigned effect presets and effect chains. They also contain effect bus assignments (including all MIDI channel and controller settings) and all multiband equalizer settings. By creating custom studios for various uses, I was able to recall entire sets of settings quite easily. The only parameters I found which are not stored in a studio involve the “Master table,” which includes such things as the KSP8’s clock setting; that table must be saved and restored separately.

The KSP8’s flexible signal routing allows inputs and outputs to be wired up freely, and signals can be bused around the system for extensive control. Each input signal has its own multiband equalizer and stereo or multichannel panner. Effect buses may be routed directly to the KSP8’s outputs, or to internal mixdown buses for submixing. Yes, the KSP8 can also be used as an effective (although faderless) eight-channel digital mixer! The unit’s multistage metering LEDs allow one to monitor four points in the signal path, on all eight channels, so it is easy to view signal presence or overload conditions.

The KSP8 includes new algorithms designed specifically for surround processing, including 5.1 surround ambience and reverb, and multichannel compression. And its preset routing scenarios were quite helpful in setting up a surround environment in my studio. I even got a multichannel volume control happening! I should point out that the KSP8’s A/D and D/A circuitry is really good sounding, despite the fact that it samples only at 44.1 kHz and 48 kHz, so one should have no qualms whatsoever about going in and out of this box via analog.

In Use

Once I became accustomed to the KSP8’s architecture, I found it fast and easy to get to important features and functions such as configuration controls, bus selection, level metering, effect bypassing/comparing, and more. The firmware’s design offers features such as Quick pages, which allow instant access to eight commonly-used effect parameters. And the eight knobs on the RSP8 – dedicated to these parameters – certainly simplified my life.

Scrolling through the various studios and effects chains I have saved during the past six months is a veritable trip down memory lane. For example, I made my first chain during a live vocal duo performance last March. I took the preamplified outputs of two wireless beyer M-500 mics to a pair of KSP8 analog inputs, output digitally to a pair of Antares AMM-1s (set to model C12As), and back into the KSP8 digitally, running through input EQ, #96 RealSmoothPlate, #335 Opto-compress, and #340 Simple Gate. The gate was adjusted to not cut off until the maximum reverb time had been reached. This nifty chain used only six of the 16 available processing units, but sure made the talent sound awesome.


Space constraints preclude my going into more detail, but suffice it to say that I have consistently obtained completely wonderful results with my KSP8. Not only are its algorithms and converters the best-sounding I have ever heard in an effects unit, but its I/O flexibility permits me to interface it easily with all my other gear-analog and digital. It is definitely one of my favorite piece of audio equipment these days!