The Novation K Station
A proper techno keyboard that is a true bargain, offering great sounds stuffed within a metallic silver casing, loads of knobs (obviously an important factor), and as this keyboard is designed with the techno song maker in mind, the Novation K-station is gearing up to take over the mantle of the TB303.
The little 2 octave box of tricks is an eight-voice polyphonic, has three oscillators, and also an audio input for treating external signals. A switchable 12/24dB slope filter, a 12-band vocoder and a six pattern arpeggiator with adjustable gate times and multi-effects
Like it has some sort of spotty disease the K-station is covered in buttons and knobs. The first section you come across houses the oscillator controls, has control knobs for portamento, semitone tune and detune, PWM depth and PW position, modulation envelope depth and LFO1 depth, (time to breathe then continue), Oscillator, Octave, Waveform and PW Select buttons. The mixer has three oscillator level knobs and a general level knob. This controls either the noise gain, the external input gain or the ring modulation between oscillator 1 or 2 depending on the selection that you make using the source button to the left. The filter section has five knobs controlling frequency, resonance, modulation envelope depth, key track and LFO2 depth. There's also a push button that switches between the 12dB and 24dB filter slope. The LFO section has two control knobs to alter the speed and delay with two buttons directly underneath selecting LFO number and waveform type. The envelope section contains the controls for the K-Station's two envelopes. There are two sets of attack, decay, sustain and release controls. Four knobs are used for the modulation envelopes and four sliders are used for the amplifier envelopes.
There are knobs to control the volume and keyboard octave buttons. The Arpeggiator section consists of a tempo knob and an on/off push button and the effects section containing the effects level control knob and the effect type select button.
The display and data entry section next to this contains the small LCD display, a data/program knob and two page/program buttons.
The mode and keypad section is where the program, menus, Compare and Write buttons together with the numeric keyboard and the all-important Menu Select buttons.
The keyboard, while being touch-sensitive, cannot generate aftertouch messages. That said, the internal engine is capable of responding to any mono aftertouch messages that are received via the MIDI In socket from another keyboard or sequencer
The K-station has the MIDI In, Out and Thru sockets, plus the left and right audio outputs. You will also find the external audio input plus the 9V power supply socket.
The sounds are really cool, inspirational and excellent. The basses pound and throb, the strings and pads are warm and fresh, while the leads can be made to make your neighbour's ears bleed.
The K-Station has a very hands-on feel to it, and editing is quite easy as most of the functions are laid out for you, clear to see.
A particularly useful feature with regard to editing is that as soon as you touch any of the controllers, a vertical slider bar with a top and bottom arrow appears in the display. As you rotate your controller, the arrow homes in on its original value. When the original value is reached this is represented by a blocked out rectangle in the display. Oooh, by the way and the K-Station's manual is excellent. It's concise and well written and even contains an excellent tutorial on synthesis and MIDI. And at less than 50 pages it should see you flying around the K-Station in next to no time.
The sounds themselves are organised as 400 programs that are divided into 200 preset and 200 user. Preset Bank 1 and 2 (sounds 100-199 and 200-299) are where you find the factory sounds. Preset Banks 3 (sounds 300-399) and 4 (sounds 400-499) are the initial banks set aside for you to create and store your own creations. (Please note: In order to save a sound you first have to turn off the global memory protect then any sound can be overwritten, a factory reset is the only way to get original sounds back).
The vocoder (creating robot and 'talky' sound effects)
The K-Station most certainly a 12-band vocoder. The vocoder is activated using the level knob found in the effects section while the vocoder is currently selected by the Effect Select button. The further you turn the effect level knob, the louder the vocoded sound will get, simple.
Time, feedback, sync time, stereo width, left/right time ratio and wheel level
Reverb type (echo chamber, small room, large room, small hall, large hall, grand hall), decay time and wheel level.
Chorus type (chorus or phaser), rate, sync rate, modulation depth, modulation centre, feedback, LFO sync initial position and wheel level
Level compensation and wheel level
Frequency, modulation depth, modulation rate, sync modulation rate and LFO sync initial position
Modulation depth, rate, sync rate and LFO sync initial position
There are six modes - Up, Down, 2 Up and Down modes, a Random and an Order Played mode. The latter simply repeats the notes in the order that they were played on the keyboard. Further menu pages reveal controls over the octave range, the gate time, latching, key sync and the sync type.
What is there to say? The Novation K-station is a very wise investment especially into the techno song making market. The sounds are great, it's easy and not complicated and it is very cheap. Gone are the days of the $1000 TB303, the new generation has arrived and the K-station is here to stay.
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