In the tradition of the VL-Tones and the 701, the CT1000P digitalised synthesiser is yet another piece of Casio 'Magic' that is innovative in its access of sounds and arpeggio sequencing at low cost.
Its main difference from other synths lies in its sound programming function that offers the possibility of up to 1000 sound variations, with storage of ten programmed to your choice (even when it is switched off). The arpeggio/sequencer function stores up to 127 events, in addition to realtime arpeggio. A digital display is used for frequency tuning, transposition, tone storage and arpeggio indication. Ten preset sounds are also selectable along with the basic effects of vibrato and sustain. The 8-note polyphonic 5-octave keyboard can be split to give independent sounds for the lower 2 octaves and the upper 3 octaves. Like most of these home music making instruments, a built-in amp and speaker is included.
The instrument measures 11.7 x 91.65 x 36.35cms (HxWxD) and is smartly finished in 'velvet black' metal and plastic with silver trim. All the controls range in sections across the main panel from left to right: power switch, mode, arpeggio, tone program, effect, volume and speaker. On the rear panel are sockets for mono headphones, line output (1.4V max), AC mains power lead and external foot volume pedal and sustain switch. All the switch buttons except those in the tone program grid have LED indicators.
Internal layout is exceptionally tidy, with foam wadding round wires and boxed-in 4" speaker rated at 10W. Included with the instrument is a score holder (music rest!), dust cover and batteries that provide a year's back-up power for the memory chips.
When the 1000P is switched on, the circuitry is reset and the display indicates a number from 0 to 9 for one of the ten presets normally available: Pipe Organ, Brilliant Organ, Bassoon, Wah Brass, Piano, Vibraphone, Celesta, Chime and Flute. These are individually selected by simply pressing one of the numbered buttons in the centre tone program section. Volume can be adjusted with the main volume rotary control for the whole keyboard in this initial mode.
As you'll probably realise from the choice of 'feet', plus a glance at an oscilloscope during playback, all the sound waves are nearly all smooth in appearance due to the use of anti-aliasing filters which clean up the digital waveforms.
There is no doubt that the actual sounds of the Casio presets are improving all the time: Pipe Organ fills in well on chords with a group or church music; Brilliant Organ has a bright, rich mixture for toccatas, fugues and Jon Lord solos; Jazz Organ puts a percussive punch to your playing for more jazzy and funkier pieces; Bassoon is a fair representation that uses added resonance; Wah Brass is not as brassy as it should be but it is useful as a back-line accompaniment; Piano has an enjoyable tone with a sharp percussive envelope. It's nice to compose with; Vibraphone and Celesta are both bright percussive instruments for occasional use (and the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy); Chime is really for bells and other 'atmospheric' playing; and Flute is a smooth tone for blending sounds together.
The sounds tend to have an 'organ drawbar with occasional percussion' feel about them and you'll have to keep an eye on the meters during recording as the volume changes considerably over the keyboard span (getting louder on the low footages descending). I missed the strings and the woody clarinets and these can't be programmed either, but you'll learn a lot about using footages and envelopes for a host of interesting sounds once you get on to the programming which more than compensates.
In the effects section there are 4 switch buttons selecting vibrato (either normal, delayed and heavy) and sustain (which in synth terminology is really a long release). Vibrato depth is set the same for normal and delayed, with the latter more musical in use, bringing in the effect after approximately 1 second. But heavy vibrato is over-strong in its modulation from a square wave and is only suitable as a 'weird' effect, especially as the modulation depth is fixed.
A sensible feature of any single manual keyboard instrument is a split facility, for allocating different sounds to lower and upper parts. In the mode section a 'split' button enables the lower 2 octaves to be balanced separately from the upper 3 octaves, using the lower volume control, although the 'main volume' pot still sets the final output level. Each split section has 4 note polyphonic playing and the lower part is raised an octave to give identical pitch from keyboard octaves 2 and 3. There is also a 'tone set' button that allows a choice of individual tone programs for left and right ranges when switched on or off. The sounds used can be either from the presets or your own programmed sounds, with the addition of the arpeggio function in the lower part if desired.
Now we come to the most important section — the tone program — which is set out as a visual data chart with a 10x3 grid that's squared off to show legended sound characteristics, either in words or shapes. Underneath the data chart are the 10 sound selection numbered buttons that do most of the programming. Each row of 10 'elements' corresponds to a different selection of FEET, ENVELOPE, and MODULATION. (See Figure 1).
First, the 'Program/Preset' button is pressed once to switch to program mode (pressing again reverts to Preset). The LED display will now add a hyphen between digits to indicate selection of a Programmed instead of Preset sound. Whichever number is selected at this point will show where your new sound is stored.
To enter a new combination of your own choice, Feet, Envelope, and Modulation buttons are pressed in turn, followed by the numbered selection button vertically in line with the chosen element. The LED display will change automatically to show each of the selected numbers as 3 digits from left to right.
The Feet elements let you choose the pitch for your sound, using combinations of 16', 8', 5⅓', 4', 2⅔', 2', 1⅗' and 1½' in very much the same way as a drawbar organ (except volume is fixed). The Envelope elements give a wide variety of sound shapes from fixed ADSR settings. Modulation elements then treat the frequency and/or amplitude in contrasting ways to produce Wah, Wait (pitch mod. to 5⅓' then 4'-2'), attack (delayed, upward pitch change or 5⅓' or 4' added percussion), extended sustain, treble or bass emphasis, metallic sound (high resonance), or off. A second press of the Modulation button completes the programming of a sound. Nine other sounds can be similarly allocated and during your 'editing', you can keep experimenting with combinations of elements by manipulating the appropriate buttons. Visual indication is confirmed by a flashing digit in the display.
Having completed the sound programming, you'll end up remembering your favourite sounds as 797 (xylophone), 385 (raindrops), 608 (electric bass) and so on! Several examples are given in the comprehensive instruction manual with effects as well as tone program settings.
Although it is theoretically possible to achieve 1000 different combinations, like the drawbar system, you'll no doubt find that your choice regularly narrows down to less than 40 favourite sounds. Still, it's fascinating experimenting with the tone program section and there's always the excitement of coming up with something new for performing with!
While arpeggio/sequence programming is being done more often by LEDs on or above keys, a different method is adopted here. The sound selection buttons are used in conjunction with Record, Memory, Up/Down and Program buttons in the arpeggio section of the control panel. A little thought and preparation is required before playing in order to set an arpeggio pattern. This will consequently operate on any notes held (either manually or by means of the Memory button) in the lower two octaves. A pattern is set by numbering in order of playing a chosen chord shape. For example, a C major chord triad with notes played up and down would be 1, 2, 3, 2. The whole arpeggio pattern is methodically entered using the buttons with trigger tempo adjusted by a 10-turn 'continuous' pot from approximately 1 to 17 Hz.
The program button LED shows the first beat of the arpeggio pattern. Only one pattern at a time can be set, but arpeggios can sound three notes played over three octaves higher (providing these notes can be reached by the oscillator!). Up to 9 note pitches can be allocated, plus a rest (0) for a total of 127 steps. If you go over the limit, 'End' will appear on the display.
Because an arpeggio pattern can start with any number of your 'chord' pattern, a sequence can also be created by numbering each individual note of the passage (lowest to highest, 1 to 9 max), and inserting rests of correct length with 0's. Having entered the correct order for the numbered notes, all you have to do is play all these at the same time on the keyboard! Jotting down on a manuscript your required notes helps a lot, and will no doubt encourage you to experiment and study further.
Finally, the Up/Down button provides a permanent 16-step pattern for you to call on at any time.
Very accurate tuning is possible for matching the 1000P with other instruments and, since the range of tuning is over 1½ octaves, transposition is also easily achieved.
A press of the sound selection button '0' produces a sustained sine wave tone, and with the 'Tune' button pressed, 442 will appear on the display to indicate A = 442 Hz.
Any tuning or transposition pitch required is then done by turning the Tempo control (over the range A = 221-662 Hz). For example, '393' sets your playing so that a Bb clarinettist can read your music too. It also looks as if I'll have to change from A = 440 to A = 442 if I'm to stay with Casio!
The 1000P offers great scope at low cost for musicians looking for a preset and programmable instrument in one, with the bonus of an arpeggio/sequencer, but you must hear it before you buy it.
Points to note are the absence of an external trigger in/out for the arpeggio, making it difficult to synchronise with a drum machine; the use of richer harmonic waveforms would extend the sound possibilities but dramatically increase price (say Casio); and keyboard filter tracking would have helped maintain steady volume output.
Nevertheless, the instrument stands as an example of how Casio can take concepts of polyphonic design previously found on much higher priced instruments, so that the new technology applied can be enjoyed by the ever growing number of music makers.
The Casio 1000P is distributed in the U.K. by Casio Electronics Co Ltd, (Contact Details). Recommended retail price is £375 inc VAT.