Kawai K4r 16bit Digital Synthesizer

Kawai K4r 16bit Digital Synthesizer Module
Kawai K4r 16bit Digital Synthesizer

Today I picked up a “like new” Kawai K4r 16bit Digital Synthesizer Module at a local second shop in Japan for an amazing price of $20. I couldn’t believe the price and they even had the module sitting over in the junk section. I think they either thought it sounded like junk, or they looked it up and couldn’t find any info. Whatever they thought, they basically let me walk out the door with an almost mint condition Kawai K4r Synth. Not only that, but the Kawai K4r came with a Ram Card, set of manuals, power adapter, and an extra Rom Card titled “Synthetic Productions – Masteram Series Voice Card for Kawai K4 Volume 1”.

Honestly I had never heard of the Kawai K4 or K4r until today but for $20 I had to give it a shot. The sounds are pretty good, but after reading about this synth module, there are quite a few cool sounds and editing capabilities under the hood. It will be fun to go through all the presets, card voices, and do some preliminary programming with it. I can say that a few of the pads, basses, and sfx sounds are fabulous that I quickly listened to. At the price I bought it for I feel it’s going to be a really fun synth to work with.

All in all, it was a pretty good week picking up a mint Roland W-30 and Kawai K4r for a total of $100 bucks. My thinking is that they must have come from the same person because they were both produced in 1989 if correct and the they were both in mint condition. It’s going to be a fun weekend jamming with these two machines.

Later I’ll write some additional comments and thoughts about the Kawai K4r synthesizer as I learn the ins and outs of how to program with it in addition to just playing around with the presets. Stay tuned!


6 thoughts on “Kawai K4r 16bit Digital Synthesizer

  1. Great article on finding a K4R. My brother and I have 2 Kawai K4’s, and it would be nice to have instrument separation outputs like the K4R and add external effects to all of the Atari ST music files.

    Hopefully, I can find a good deal in North America, although it appears that Japan is the best place for vintage Japanese synths.

    1. Hello! Thanks for the comment. Indeed I am finding Japan to be a strange place for finding vintage synths and other gear. I used to live in Tokyo and Yokohama for quite some time and found just about every imaginable piece of synth gear could be found there BUT, you had to pay a price. Now I’m in the countryside, Nagano-city, and there’s quite a different atmosphere. In Nagano-city, used or second-hand shops are not so popular as in the States for example. I’ve only ever been to one garage sale and that’s my own. LOL! In Nagano, people tend to take good care of their stuff opting to store it away in some closet. Recently though, used shops are popping up everywhere and families are starting to appear with their used stuff. I’m sure the Kawai K4R was one such piece of gear that someone walked in with. I should also note that in the countryside, used dealers are less knowledgeable about pricing than in Tokyo. Thus good deals are abundant. It’s interesting!

      1. Thanks for the additional information about the used gear market in Japan. I didn’t realize that garage sales were not common.
        It sounds like you enjoy looking for quality musical equipment.
        Are you currently living in Japan?

  2. Kathy Laufer

    I was searching information about Kawai K4r and found your conversation about it.
    My husband got one about 20 years ago from a friend, who purchased it new but couldn’t really figure it out how to use it. My husband is a physician who loves music and experimented with it a bit, but it was way more than he ever needed, so he just put it in a closet. Now we are moving to retirement to Florida, and as I packing our stuff I discovered this piece.
    Is there anyone would be interested to buy it? Give me a call: 319-241-9433
    Kathy Laufer

  3. From an email I received today.

    Hi Jim, I just came across your blog when I was searching for info on the Kawai K4r synth. Just got one from ebay and I’m liking it already. Only downside is it’s a 1.2 version and I would like to upgrade to the latest 1.4. I read on your blog that you’d found someone who burns the roms but I don’t think you followed up on whether the guy got back to you about it. Did you manage to get an upgrade? and if so could you point me in the direction of where to go to get one?


  4. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting for the gentleman I contacted to update me with info about purchasing the OS Rom 1.4 upgrades. Last I heard I had presented me with a quote and I accepted. I believe he is from France and is very busy. Hopefully he’ll reply with an invoice shortly and I can make my purchase. I’ll ask and see if he is willing to make additional Roms.

    This is the original post I found on another forum which I’ll quote here for those interested in contacting yourself. Please update us if you have any success. Thanks!

    From: antdes45
    Subject: Kawai K5 ROM upgrades available again.
    Newsgroups: gmane.music.equipment.kawai.k5
    Date: 2009-09-23 14:33:14 GMT (1 year, 18 weeks, 4 days, 6 hours and 38 minutes ago)

    Hello everyone,

    After last year’s batch, I’m ready to burn ROM chips for the Kawai K5/K5m/K4/K4r again. (The ROMs are on
    28-pin socketed chips)

    Here are the newest ROM versions:
    Kawai K5 version 1.3
    Kawai K5m version 1.2
    Kawai K4 version 1.4
    Kawai K4r version 1.4

    To check the ROM version on the K5/K5m, it’s simply displayed on the boot screen. On the K4/K4r, you need to
    hold the SYSTEM button while you turn the unit on.

    The K5 and K5m ROMs make the synth a lot more stable than V1.0, which sometimes starts to act erratically
    after a lot of SysEx transfers, and needs to be manually reset.

    The K4 and K4r ROMs remove a lot, if not all the lag when playing many notes simultaneously.

    To simplify the whole process on my side, I won’t send PayPal invoices anymore. Instead, I decided to setup
    an osCommerce during the weekend on my website. Checkout is still done via PayPal, and you aren’t sending
    me any money until I authorize the payment when the chips are ready.

    Here’s the link: http://dmsaudio.ca/store/

    ROMs are $7 CAD each, and with shipping, handling, PayPal fees, etc. so the cost is around $10.58 shipped to
    Canada, about $11.50 CAD for one ROM sent to USA, and about $13.65 elsewhere.

    Shipping up to 3 ROMs doesn’t increase the shipping costs, so the only extra fees you get are the actual ROM
    cost and the PayPal 3.9% fees. No one has ever ordered more than 3 ROMs so I can’t tell. I’m sure that the
    weight isn’t a problem, but the envelope starts to get large.

    I hope the waiting delay wasn’t too long so far 😉


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