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Behind the Scenes
The Story of KAWAI

The release of KAWAI Vintage Legacy is an opportunity to take a closer look at the inspiration behind it. With the support of KAWAI's teams in Japan, this project was a special opportunity to rehabilitate these machines, blending new and vintage sounds from the KAWAI K1, K3, K4, K5, R100, XD5.

The Inspiration Behind KAWAI Vintage Legacy

The beginnings of the Kawai Musical Instruments Company can be traced all the way back to 1927 in Japan. The venerable piano manufacturer spent 50 years creating top quality pianos before releasing their first synthesizer, the monophonic Kawai 100F. This 37 note synth evolved into the 100P and added ‘preset’ selection tabs at the bottom in the late 70’s. In the 80s, when digital synths began to populate the market, Kawai hit their stride with some of the most classic synth entires in modern music. The K3, K5, R100, K1, K4, and XD-5 all hold a special place in the history of synthesis, and it was this legendary collection that inspired UVI’s Kawai Vintage Legacy instrument.

Morphing Technologies

Don’t let the numbering scheme fool you, the K3 came first. This hybrid machine married the worlds of analog and digital in a really unique way. There were 6 digital waveforms to choose from, but the VCA and filter section were both completely analog. When listening to samples of this synth, it sounds *way* ahead of its time. The analog components affecting the digital waveforms give a modern ‘glitchy’ feel that sounds quite a bit like many of today’s modern synths. The K5 followed in the footsteps of the K3, but was completely digital. With a bit more power under the hood, the K5 had 16 part multi-timbral voicing, as well as a digital screen with preset names as opposed to the numbered list of the K3. The K5 was known for making additive synthesis approachable to the average synth player. Kawai Vintage Legacy allows you to get the sound of these vintage instruments but with the convinces of modern preset browsing and categories. You can even use the drive control in the filter section to give a little analog warmth and dirt to your waveforms!

KAWAI K3 Manual
Moving Along

In 1987, Kawai expanded their synth line with the addition of the R100. This was a fully fledged digital drum machine with 12 bit PCM samples at 32kHz. This was a wonderfully high resolution for the time, and it allowed the drum samples to really shine! The R100 had a lot of ins and outs for sync, hi-hat pedal, clock, and more. There was also a memory cartridge slot for storing and sharing kits! You’ll be able to create some really creative tones in Kawai Vintage Legacy’s drum machine. The quick access to the filter along with macros for the decay and drive right on the front page allow you to bring character to the presets without having to dig deep.


Kawai didn’t forget about keyboards with the release of the R100. The next synth in the pipeline was the K1 which dropped in 1988. The K1 had PCM oscillators for reproducing the waveforms. Kawai added a joystick for live mixing between the waveforms, of which there were 256. A ‘sequel’ instrument, the K1-II was released in 1989 with a bit more power behind it to allow for more simultaneous voices, on board reverb, and upgraded percussion sounds. There are so many great patches in Kawai Vintage Legacy inspired by the K1, but the strings and FM bass sounds are among the most cherished.

Hitting Their Stride

After the success of the K1, Kawai released the K4 in 1989. The K4 had 16 bit samples and a very well-developed effect engine. The digital filter section allowed the synth sounds to become more flexible and malleable. Finally, 8-part multi timbral sound sources could be shaped with analog-style filters. The K4 has a really unique sound that can get fairly huge and fuzzy when you want it to! The K4 era also ushered in a new drum machine, and that was the XD-5. This beast was sample based, but focused specifically on drum waveforms. 4 samples can be combined to create a single drum sound. Envelopes and resonant low pass filters really helped push it into popular use for electronic music. The addition of a ring modulator also allowed the XD-5 to get ‘out there’ in terms of sound design!

Honoring the Past

Kawai Vintage Legacy is an instrument that pays a loving tribute to this important slice of synth history. The sounds and soul of the original machines are present, but the presets and convenience of modern libraries allow you to access all of these machines in a snap. This collection has long been a hidden gem used by producers to give distinct character and a unique edge to compositions. With the power of modern computing, you don’t have to be held back by the voice-limitations of the original instruments, either. MIDI assignment is a snap, of course, allowing you to modulate parameters with a variety of controllers from foot pedals to mod wheels. We’ve also added in a powerful arpeggiator to all of the instruments allowing you to use those original sounds in creative ways to get the most out of them! From lo-fi grit to incredibly think sonic textures, you’ll find what you need to take your productions to the next level with Kawai Vintage Legacy.

KAWAI Vintage Legacy

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