Hands-On Review:Proteus power at a breakthrough price
By Wade Richmond
E-MU has incorporated their revolutionary Proteus 2500 synth engine into a trio of affordable keyboards bound to wow even the most jaded gearheads. E-MU has demonstrated yet again that their real genius lies in making heavy-duty synth processing power accessible to the creative side of musicians' brains, not just to the technical side.
I've been using E-MU's equipment for a lot of years, and I've always been amazed by their imagination. They have an uncanny ability to size up where musicians are going and open new doors to let us go there. Their sound modules have been blowing away standards for years. So I snapped at the chance to get my hands on three new keyboards: the PK-6 Proteus Keys, featuring an updated version of the Composer ROM found in the ubiquitous Proteus 2000; the XK-6 Extreme Keys, which has a hot collection of Euro and techno/electronica-flavored synth sounds; and the MK-6 Mo'Phatt Keys, sporting a hard-hitting selection of E-MU's latest sounds and grooves from the world of hip-hop, R&B, and rap.
Right out of the box, I could tell E-MU had put a lot of thought into their new babies. The bodies were well-designed, sleek, and substantial. And the internal power supply removed the need for a wall wart. That's a feature usually reserved for much more expensive boards. The keyboard action was a real surprise. I've played simple controllers at twice the price that didn't have action as crisp and vibrant. I wound up playing the PK-6 at an all-night gig-turned-jam-session and loved the keys even more when I finished than I had when I started.
In my studio, I set up all three keyboards together on a three-tier stand and immediately got sucked into an afternoon of discovery and amusement. It's really fun to put such intuitively accessible instruments through their paces. The first thing that struck me was the phenomenal sound quality. The Proteus 2500 engine, around which all three of these keyboards are built, is a true screamin' demon among processors. It is three times faster than any other E-MU machine. All that processing power, combined with 24-bit D/A conversion, provides amazingly full and clean studio-quality sound. And the four assignable audio outs gave me total control over where the sound went.
Sixty-four-voice polyphony proved to be more than I needed for almost any application. And the onboard effects were studio quality. I could control every element of the effects with great precision and I didn't have to spend an hour with the manual to figure out how. That was something that impressed me time and time again as I worked with all of these boards. I thought of the most probable way to do something, tried it, and it always worked. There's obviously a lot of beta testing that goes into making these units friendly to real musicians.
Features & Specs: (both units feature)