Our Guide to the Kurzweil PC4
Share email twitter linkedin facebook

Our Guide to the Kurzweil PC4

Kurzweil keyboards have a longstanding reputation for totally authentic sounds. Their K2000 range revolutionised the keyboard market and led to the birth of what we now know as the ‘workstation’, with the legendary K2600 being the backbone of many of the hit records in the 80s and 90s.

Kurzweil keyboards have also been widely used in the theatre industry for the last forty years as they can seamlessly integrate with acoustic instruments to provide the additional realistic sounds required in theatres that do not have the capacity for a full orchestra.

The PC (Performance Controller) range superseded the K2000 range with the PC4 being the current incarnation. This powerful and portable 88 note weighted keyboard has been brought fully up to date, in line with the other keyboards in the Kurzweil Pro range – the Artis and Forte. Now, you can have access to all those amazing Kurzweil sounds and their deep editing facilities, all in a completely new, modern instrument.

The Kurzweil Sound

It goes without saying that Kurzweil keyboards sound amazing. The PC4 has over 1000 Programs, ready to go, plus 4096 locations to store your own customised sounds in. On top of that, it is 16-part multitimbral which means you can combine up to 16 Programs into a single mix, called a ‘Multi’, to create some truly massive soundscapes. The PC4 has over 50 Multis to start with and a further 4096 locations for your own Multis. These Multis can be played manually as Layers or Splits or both, they can be synced up as a sound source with your DAW or driven by the PC4’s own built-in Sequencer, enabling you to record your own songs or backing tracks for solo performances.

Here is a video demonstrating just some of the Programs and Multis you can get on the PC4. It also highlights how ‘hands’on’ the PC4 is, with loads of front panel controls for real-time manipulation (more on that later!):

The Sound Engines & Architecture

So, what makes the PC4 sound so good? There are a number of engines under the hood of the PC4 which enable you to create incredibly authentic and great sounding programs.

• 2GB Preset Samples - The Presets are based around hundreds of carefully crafted samples such as the German 9ft and Japanese 7ft grand pianos (all with string resonance), as well as other incredible samples cherry-picked from the Artis and Forte keyboards and from Kurzweil’s amazing expansion board – the Kore 64.

• KB3 Engine - Kurzweil’s KB3 engine provides you with everything you need for superb B3 tone-wheel organ sounds. Couple these sounds with the front panel drawbars and controls and you are ready to rock out !

• V.A.S.T. Synth Engine - is Kurzweil’s Virtual Analogue Synthesis Technology engine which uses their VA1 concept synthesiser. This covers all things ‘analogue’ from thundering bass lines through lush pads to screaming leads. Plus everything in between.

• FM Engine – this true 6-Operator FM engine works just the same way as the famous DX7 (though with some extra improvements). And, yes, the PC4 is compatible with DX7 sysex files so you can easily load original DX7 programs directly into the keyboard.

• 2GB User Sample Storage – As if all the above is not enough, you can load your own samples into the PC4 in non-volatile Flash memory.

• Effects Engines – Effects are always the cream on the cake for enhancing sounds and bringing your programs to life. The PC4 boasts 32 different types of effects, including Reverbs, Chorus, Flangers, Phasers, Rotary Speaker emulations, Distortion and Compressors that you can combine together and edit to make your own effects chains for your Programs or your mixes.

Selecting Programs and Multis

This is a very easy process, thanks to the large colour screen and the Category buttons section. All the preset Programs and Multis have been assigned to categories and the buttons to the right of the main screen allow you to quickly find the type of sound you are after. Simply select a Category and then turn the big value dial or use the -/+ buttons to go through the sounds within that category.

The image and colour of the screen changes too for each category, to provide a simple and effective way of visually identifying what type of sound you have selected. Any of your own Programs and Multis can be found in the User category.

If you prefer typing in Program locations, then the Category buttons can be used as Number buttons instead by switching on the Keypad button.

When navigating the PC4, you have three different View options, selected using the View soft button below the main screen. You can view a single Program, Quick Access view = ten

programs at a time with the currently selected program shown in the top half of the screen, or all the programs simply as a list.

Plus, each Program has its own demo which you activate by pressing the 0 and Enter buttons simultaneously, so you can hear what it sounds like without actually having to play anything. The Exit button stops the demo.

Front Panel and External Controls

As mentioned already, the PC4 has a whole host of controls on the front panel for hands-on manipulation of your Programs and Multis – ideal for live use or to quickly shape a Program/Multi to sound exactly the way you want it. Here is a list of the controllers available:

• 1 pitch wheel

• 1 modulation wheel

• 9 front panel sliders

• 9 Knobs

• 9 switches (assignable/zone mutes/KB3 control)

• 1 variation switch

• Tempo Controls w/ tap tempo

• 2 transpose switches

• Arpeggiator Controls

• Transport Controls for the Sequencer

• Aftertouch (mono pressure)

And sockets on the back of the keyboard for:

• 2 switch pedal inputs (1 switch/sustain pedal is included with the keyboard)

• 2 continuous control pedal inputs

• Ribbon input (ribbon controller sold separately)

Program Mode

In Program Mode, the buttons, sliders and knobs give you hands on control of the following parameters:

• Filter 1 / 2

• Attack

• Release

• Motion

• FX Slots 1 / 2

• Delay

• Reverb

The buttons let you turn a parameter/effect on or off, lighting up blue when a parameter is active.

The sliders control the amount of the parameter/effect.

The knobs control the main function of the parameter/effect ie Delay speed or Reverb size.

Any customised settings here can be stored with the current program.

KB3 Mode

However, in KB3 mode, the controls are dedicated to Organ functionality:

The sliders become your drawbars

The buttons turn organ functions on and off ie Brake, Vibrato, Chorus, Percussion etc

The Variation button changes the Rotary speed from slow to fast

The Modulation wheel controls distortion


The sliders control volume for the Layers/Splits combo within a selected Multi

The buttons are your mutes

The knobs are your pan controls

The controls all have their own CC numbers and the PC4 has a clever feature called CC Sequence where you can record CC movement and then use the sequence to automatically manipulate your sound. A bit like automation in a DAW.

You can also change the control’s CC assignments so you can use the PC4 to control specific functions on external devices if you need to.

Arpeggiators and Riffs

The Arpeggiator has its own dedicated front panel controls for running and latching (holding) plus a Tempo dial and a useful Tap Tempo button to quickly adjust speed. Each Program can be saved with its own Arpeggiator settings and this really comes into its own when you start combining Programs in a Multi, all with different Arpeggiators running simultaneously.

Riffs takes the Arpeggiator idea a whole lot further. Riffs are full songs or individual tracks of a song created in the PC4’s Song mode that you can trigger in Multi Mode. Standard MIDI files can also be imported to Song mode and then used as riffs in Multis. This means you can have a different Riff for each sound in your Multi and, holding or just pressing a note will make that Riff play that sound. Or, you could have one Riff trigger all the sounds in a current Multi. This is a whole new and flexible way of creating backing tracks, for example, where you can literally change the arrangements on the fly.

Editing Programs

The front panel controls provide you with the basic functionality for quick editing of a program. But if you want to get deeper into your sound creation, then you need to go under the hood by pressing the Edit button

Editing PC4 programs is menu-based and there are lots of parameters that you can tweak to fine-tune your sounds and adjust how they behave and respond to the controllers mentioned above (that’s how Kurzweil make their instruments sounds so good). The new big colour screen makes the editing process much easier on the eye then the older Kurzweil keyboards but the general architecture remains the same, so it looks familiar to experienced Kurzweil users.

There is too much editing functionality to cover in a blog, but it is worth mentioning that there is also a dedicated Sound Editor software app for the PC4, available to download for free from the Kurzweil website for Mac and PC. So, if menu diving isn’t your thing, then the PC4 Sound Editor will enable you to edit your sounds in a more graphic friendly way.


Multi-Mode is where you can combine up to 16 Programs together in Zones to play as Layers or Splits or a combination of both.

Press the Edit button and you get a nice graphic representation of all the Zones in a Multi, which ones are active and where the various programs are mapped to. You can select each Zone, for editing, using the Zone buttons to the left of the screen.

Once you have selected a Zone, you can change the program assigned to it, you can easily change the Key Range to map the sound anywhere you want on the keyboard and you also have access to Volume and Pan so you can quickly get a good mix of all the programs within the Multi.

As mentioned above, there is a PC4 Sound Editor app and this covers Multi-Mode too. Therefore, you can easily edit all the Zones in your Multis on the screen of your computer, if you prefer.

Song Mode

Finally, we come to Song Mode. The PC4 has a built in 16 track sequencer where you can construct songs, using any of the Programs on the keyboard, including your own customised instruments. This is a MIDI Sequencer so it is not recording the audio itself, it is recording the note information you play. The advantage of this is that you can change the sounds, pitch, tempo and quantisation of any of the tracks in the song at any time without having to re-record the performance.

Song Mode has its own dedicated front panel transport buttons, making it very easy to control and record your songs and a Mixer page for mixing the various tracks within your song, all controlled from the sliders and knobs on the front panel.

You can also import midifiles into Song Mode which is useful again for creating your own backing tracks.

Song Mode is also where you create Riffs, as mentioned previously.


The PC4 has a number of connections on the rear panel, including: 

A headphone socket

Two pairs of balanced ¼” outputs so you can route Programs or zones within Multi’s to separate channels on a mixing desk, for example. Or you can mirror Outputs A to Outputs B so you can provide a stereo feed to FOH whilst still maintaining your own independent stereo feed to your monitors.

A pair of ¼” Line inputs so you can route audio from an external device straight in and through the PC4, making it easy to play along with backing tracks etc without the need of an external mixer. A neat addition here is that the Audio Inputs have their own independent fx so you can enhance any incoming audio separately from the PC4’s internal sounds.

A 1/8” stereo Line input for the same as above.

MIDI In and Out

USB A and B sockets for MIDI communication or for loading OS updates or samples etc into the PC4 from USB Flash Drives


Height: 6.5” (16.51 cm) Width: 14.75” (37.46 cm) Length: 50” (127 cm) Weight: 28.7 lb (13.01 kg) – YES!!! Only 13.01 kg for an 88 weighted keyboard !! External Power Supply, 15VDC 2.5A

Hopefully, this brief overview has given you an indication of what the PC4 can do. Packed with incredible sounds and the many real-time controls, it is a very powerful and portable 88 note keyboard for studio or performance use. If you are looking for a new instrument to supplement your arsenal of sounds, or to be the centre-piece of your studio or maybe a one-stop solution for your solo performances, then check out the Kurzweil PC4.

Thank you for taking the time to read our guide to the Kurzweil PC4. For more information on Kurzweil, please visit our brand page

Subscribe to our mailing list

This new blog is presented by the team at Sound Technology Ltd, a leading distributor of musical instruments and pro audio equipment in the UK and ROI.