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E-MU XK-6 

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Some synths are not bad, but they aren't good at the same time. They are neither good nor bad; they are just only okay.

The case with XK6 is that it's a great tool with lots of things inside, but the way everything is organized stifles my enthusiasm and the will to carry on. While looking at the manual I thought "hmm... nice... wow, really nice... wow, wow, can't wait to make some unique sounds". But each time I sat down in front of the machine and got myself engrossed in clicking thru the buttons and menus, I just thought "aawww, fuck this". Those lousy cursors and scrolls get on my nerves so much. It would be so much easier if EMU decided to make function keys which correspond to the slots on LCD display. In order to make one move I need to spend 4x as much time as I would spend with other synths. It's a real shame, cause the EMU / Ensoniq guys seem to be really creative and put many ideas inside their gear, but they somehow fail to invite the user to fully explore that and make it comfortable for him / her to materlialize these ideas. Of course I'm talking about burdens of deeper programming here, which is not what this model was designed for, being advertized as a live dance machine. I guess it's okay for live electronica (yet IMHO it sounds legitimate with regard to dance music, only for the year 1995). It features a matrix of buttons and knobs for realtime control, and the buttons on the right-side panel work under various modes. Seems fine... or maybe not... definitely it's fine for the $200 which I paid for it.

There's a large number of valuable presets and patterns and you can just power it up and go, having fun with what has been given to you. Just remember that the patches can sound interesting and deep, even better than the ones on the $3000 Access Virus TI, but also very boring and muffled (just like on the $3000 Access Virus TI, too...), so prepare yourself to cross some samples out of the picture and tweak the better things that are still available. Actually I think that if all the TI-Viruses vanished from the surface of the Earth, the XK-6 would be the most suitable synth to replace it. For 10 percent of the Virus price you get a similar vibe minus the interface.

The instrument looks and feels quite cheap, but it's a smart-cheap construction. Nothing misbehaves. Still, I bet XK6 is the epitome of what analog purists hate - plastic - soundwise and touchwise. We need to remember that this is a rompler. They do have their own appeal and some people do like the rompler sound. Lots of samples, 4 layers, drums, arpeggiators, effects, and generally lots of cool & funky shit. Sample tweaking possibilities make it good for weird sounds and movie scores. Layering a sawwave with a saxophone sample and an arpeggiated cabasa sample routed thru some hemi-quaver LFO and lag processors and shit seems like fun. But in my case this "fun" triggers too much frustration in me. I feel like I would waste too much of my life diving and clicking thru these levels on a small LCD, and there are so many more gratifying synths out there to check out...



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