Release Date: 2003
Type: Virtual Analog / Subtractive Synthesis
The Novation KS4 / KS5 is a 16-voice polyphonic synth that is easy to use, sounds great and is available at decent prices on the second hand market. This is an excellent synth to learn the basics of subtractive synthesis on. Most of all, it’s fun to play and tweak as it has an easily accessible user interface and some additional parameters not found on other synths I’ve encountered.
Oscillators: you’ve got 3 to play with, each with standard waveforms (saw, square, pulse, triangle, sine)… but beyond this you also have access to “double” waveforms (ie double saw) and 17 additional sample waveforms! This opens up the sonic palette considerably when it comes to sound creation, giving you additional flexibility to craft interesting patches from scratch. The oscillators are digital, but they sound excellent overall.
The mixer section lets you bring in noise, ring modulation and even an external input, and you can adjust levels between the various oscillators accordingly. You also have 2 LFOs to work with, each with standard waveforms + additional waveshapes and patterns — again, these extra waveshapes can create some impressive motion effects when applied to the sound, that go beyond standard waveforms. Things can get quite interesting with the “one-shot” LFO mode as well.
The ADSR envelopes are great for shaping your sound and you’ve also got simultaneous effects including reverb, delay, distortion, panning and more. While there is some menu diving required to setup effects levels etc, overall its pretty quick and easy to do.
Of course, everyone knows that a filter can heavily influence a synth’s sonic character. One thing that can be said about the Novation KS4 / KS5 synthesizer’s filter is that it sounds extremely WET and LIQUID… it’s hard to describe but you can get some very “elastic” type of sounds depending on your filter, resonance and LFO modulation settings. This is a very resonant filter and it certainly has a strong character. The KS4/KS5 also has low-pass, bandpass and high-pass filter settings, but watch your gain staging and resonance levels to avoid clipping.
There is a limited & fixed mod matrix, but the synth is 4-part multi-timbral — so if you have a need to play many sounds/patches simultaneously, you do have some flexibility here. Additional features include a 16-band vocoder, drum map, and “Hypersync” setting that syncs up all tempo related parameters, enabling you to save these configurations for quick re-use later. Adjustable Hypersync parameters include LFO speed and delay, delay time, panning, chorus rate and EQ ‘sweep’ cycle.
Let’s also not forget about the fun and easy to use arpeggiator — you’ve got 32 present patterns, 4 modes (up, down, random, chord), arp range and latch settings which can be adjusted, and up to 4 arpeggiators can be layered together at one time in multi-mode!
For me I find the Novation KS4 / KS5 packs plenty of sonic power, has a number of cool features (multi-osc and LFO waveforms beyond standard types, vocoder, simultaneous effects per patch etc), and a near knob-per-function interface that makes it instantly accessible and most of all, FUN to play. Some synths can be a chore to program, others a breeze, and yet others are just plain fun — for me, I find the Novation KS4 / KS5 fits in the latter category ; it is a great synth for beginners/intermediate synthesists, offers a variety of features at a decent price, and is inviting and FUN to use.
If you’re looking for a nice hands-on digital synth to get your feet wet or just to play and not have to “think” about programming every step of the way, the Novation KS4 / KS5 is a great piece of kit that fits the bill nicely, at a decent price.
|Interface||29 knobs, 49 buttons, 54 LEDs|
|Oscillators||3 oscillators, each with Square / Saw / Variable Pulse / Tri / Sine / Double Saw / Double Tri / Double Sine waveforms + 17 additional sample waveforms.
Osc 1-2 sync, FM, Ring Mod, Noise and external audio in (mono).
|LFO||2 LFOs: sine, triangle, saw, square, sample-and-hold, panning + additional waveforms and patterns. Speed and delay parameters. Cyclic or 1-shot.|
|Filter||Low/High/Bandpass. 12/24 dB switchable.|
|VCA||2 ADSR envelope generators|
|ModMatrix||Fixed modulation paths; LFO1 modulates pitch, LFO2 modulates filter.|
|Arpeggiator||4 independent in multi mode; up, down, random, chord modes; 32 preset patterns; range and latch mode saved per program.|
|Effects||24 simultaneous FX per program: Reverb, Distortion plus tempo-locked Chorus, Phaser, Delay, Panner & Enveloped Filter with EQ|
|Keyboard||KS4: 49 keys, KS5: 61 keys
Velocity and aftertouch (keyboard models only)
|Memory||200 preset programs, 50 preset performances, 100 drum sounds; 200 user programs, 100 user drum programs, 50 user performances.|
|Control||4 multitimbral parts. MIDI IN/OUT/THRU. Aux & Master L+R outs, 1 audio input, 2 pedal inputs, headphone input.|