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 JVC KB-500
JVC KB-500

Review
When I bought the KB-500 I was expecting it to be a bit disappointing next to my beloved and more fully featured KB-800. But I have to say I've grown really found of the 500.  In fact I probably like the 500's sound more than the 800's, which is a pity seeing it lacks MIDI.  In fact the more I use the 500 the more I like it's sound, even compared to many professional synthesizers... yes really!  I don't want to mislead people here, there's no way out sounds, no sounds that immediately make you go "wow" and of course you can't edit the sounds either.  But there is something i really like about the basic character of the sound, so for simple melody sounds i think it excels.  Compared to the KB-800 it's a bit more full sounding - richer and warmer, it's sounds are a little rawer and,  in a charismatic way, simpler.  The Ensemble and Stereo effects add a lot to the character.

I also like the look of the 300, 500 and 700 more than the MIDI KBs.  It's a bit groovier and "modern" looking, well at least what they thought looked modern in the 80's anyway!

As you'd expect it has auto accompaniment, which in JVC speak is Fascinating Chord.  This consists of 4 parts, they being accomp, bass, arpeggio and rhythm (ie drums).  Accomp is a simple sawtooth type tone, it plays staccato chords when there is a rhythm playing or when it is not sustained notes.  If one finger is selected it will play a cord, if multi finger is selected you can play individual notes.  The bass sound is nice and deep and the arpeggio is a nice plonky sound which plays the same pattern no matter which style is selected. See below for info on the rhythm part.  Each part has a volume fader. The style is determined by the rhythm selected.  There's nothing fancy about Fascinating Chord but it does it's job adequately
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The drums sounds are your typical analogue home organ style sounds and in fact i'd guess both the drum and melodic sounds are at least close relations to those developed on JVC's Victron organs.  If you have an appreciation for cheesyness you'll like the drums sounds.  And of course there's all the styles we have come to expect from machines of this ilk - rock, disco, bossa nova and swing for example. A disappointment though is that there is no fill-in function on this machine! It's odd because all other KBs have it, even the lower range models.

The main melody tones are 8 note polyphonic, plus the accomp sound in accessible from the left side of the keyboard with 4 note polyphony.  I have noticed that if you use anymore than 8 notes in total at once some oscillator borrowing goes on (the main tone is constructed of several oscillators), but then how often are you going to want to play more than 8 notes at once? There's no MIDI here remember so it's just what you can play with your hands.

Another thing unique to the 500 within the KB range is that the faders increase in value as you slide them down (ie towards your body), which is of course the opposite to how most machines work. It's annoying having to remember to push the slider up to decrease volume or tempo.  I think this is a hangover from JVC's Victron Organs - I know that the G-250 has these "reverse" sliders.

Compucorder is used to record chord progressions for Fascinating Chord.  The manual says "At the rate of 2 chords per bar, it is possible to record up to 42 bars" in each of the 3 memories.  Note that it doesn't remember things such as the style used or tempo; it simply records the chord progression.

Specifications
Keys: 49

Orchestral Presets: (10) string ensemble, piano, hawaiian guitar, harpsichord, vibraphone, brass ensemble, organ, jazz organ, clarinet, jazz flute

Effects: ultra chord, ensemble/stereo, sustain

Auto Rhythm: start & stop, synchro start, tempo, rhythm volume, beat conductor. (no intro & fill in!)

Rhythm Selectors: (10) waltz, samba, bossa nova, rock, swing, tango, rhumba, slow rock, disco, polka/march

Fascinating Chord: normal, one finger, multi-finger, memory, accomp volume, bass volume, arpeggio volume, compucorder (selector, record, replay)

Back Panel: expression pedal terminal, output terminals (left and right), headphone terminal, DC in, AC in, microphone terminal, microphone volume, pitch control

Speakers: 12 cm x 2

Amplifier Output: 2.5 W x 2

Weight: 6.8 kg / 15 lb (without batteries)

Dimensions: 860(w) x 290(d) x 85(h) mm

Power Consumption: 26 W

Battery Life: 3 hours of continuous operation at maximum output

Battery Type: D x 8 (aka R20)

Provided Accessories: AC cord, owner's manual
Optional Accessories: KC-10 soft carrying case, KS-10 stand, KX-10 expression pedal, CN-332 Car Adapter (for powering the unit from a car).

JVC KB-500

Tips and Tricks
- Start rhythm.  Set rhythm to tango and keep the button held down.  Now while keeping tango pressed if you press rhumba you get a hi tom sound or press slow rock and you get a mid tom sound. Similarly is you have the rhumba pattern going and keep your finger on that button, pressing slow rock will change the tom to a mid tom.

- Hold down more than two instrument selectors at once and you get new sounds. The resulting sound is some sort of cross between the instruments selected.  Some also have a distortion especially when more than one note is played at a time (Organ + Jazz Organ is a good demonstration of this).  It's possible to press the selectors down in such a way that they will stay down.

- Choose any rhythm button that is not already selected and "half" press so that the selected rhythm button pops up but the button your pressing doesn't stay down.  There should now be no rhythm selected.  Set the Fascinating Chord to either one-finger or multi-finger and press down Memory.  Press start and play any of the accompaniment keys.  You get single sustained notes for "accomp" and bass and the arpeggio will still run.

Sound Files
KB-500 Styles 0:39, 270kb
2 bars of each style in the following order: waltz, samba, bossa nova, rock, swing, tango, rhumba, slow rock, disco, polka march.
KB-500 Rock example 0:54, 374kb
An example of rock in use.  The first melody is with Jazz Organ (mp3 process gave it a slight buzzing sound), the second is Harpsichord.  Both melodies have ultra chord, ensemble, stereo and sustain on them.  I've made use of the volume sliders to cut parts in or out.
KB-500 Disco example 1:00, 410kb
An example of disco in use.  Again I've cut parts in and out, also changed to "polka march" to give some fill-in type effects.

Notes
- On the battery cover of my KB-500 there is a date stamp that says oct '82.  I can't image what this could be apart from the date of manufacture.

Manual
The KB-500 manual is the only one I know of that is available on the internet. It is in PDF format in both English and German. Go to Johannes Vrana's homepage and click the "Bedienungsanleitungen / Manuals" link under the Synthesizer heading.

Pictures
JVC KB-500

JVC also released a special silver key version!
JVC KB-500 Silver Key EditionJVC KB-500 Silver Key EditionJVC KB-500 Silver Key EditionJVC KB-500 Silver Key Edition

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