Every once in a while, a piece of gear comes along that attracts a huge amount of interest, not because it offers anything really new in the way of facilities, but because its enables a lot of people to buy something that they couldn't previously afford. The S2000 falls squarely into the 'more for less' category -- for under £1000, it offers a huge amount of sampling power and, equally importantly, upgradability.

tn_alesis_ionBuilt on a 500 MIPS processor platform (500 million instructions per second), the ION offers continuously variable wave shapes, plus sync and FM synthesis. 16 filter types are included, along with two LFOs, Sample & Hold, and an Arpeggiator—all of which sync to MIDI clock. The ION has 8-voice polyphony with 3 oscillators per voice, and is 4-part multi-timbral. A powerful and intuitive modulation matrix is built in, as well as a 40-band vocoder that does not use up any polyphony.

Ensoniq have made a brave move with this hybrid sampler, because in deciding to enter the Akai-dominated sampling workstation market they could have come unstuck rather than coming up trumps. Although the MPC2000 may be more highly specified in the sampling department, it doesn't offer the ASRX's built-in ROM sounds, effects as standard, or resampling.

The K1m is the table top module version of the K1 keyboard. It shares the same basic synth architecture as the K1, K1-II, K1r, and K1RII.

The sound architecture of the K1 is simple, but not crippling. Four DCOs (DAs, really) with four DADSR EG'd DCAs. They're organized into two pairs whose contributing DCO outputs can be summed or amplitude-modulated. In memory, there are 256 8-bit PCM samples (204 loop waveforms, another 51 misc longer one-hit or loop samples).

tn_kawai_k4rThe Kawai K4r is the rack-mount sibling of the K4 keyboard and it has all the features of the keyboard version except for the effect processor section (and the keyboard itself, as you might have guessed). Instead it has eight individual outputs.

The K4r resembles in many ways the Kawai K1 synthesizer - it also uses preset PCM samples of acoustic instruments as a base for its sounds. The biggest difference is an added filter section.

The EA1 contains two independent programmable monosynths, with independent mono outputs and effects, while the {ln:Korg ER-1 mk II 'ER1 rhythm synth} is a 6-voice stereo beatbox offering two sample-based voices and four physically modelled ones. Both provide built-in pattern-based sequencing along with plentiful helpings of real-time control, including a Motion Sequencer which allows (some of) your real-time knob movements to be recorded within a song.

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