Casio CZ-1 Digital Synth
Out of his box he comes and he is heavy, professional looking and swarming with buttons. Two beefed up CZ-101s would be one way of describing it.
Casio have had a hit with their Phase Distortion technique. It's a digital sound system that offers the choice of eight waveforms from simple ramps to complex modulations, plus the ability to mix them and produce even wider tones. The envelope generators are also sophisticated - eight stages in all so you can sketch plenty of ups and downs into the pitch, waveshape and volume. Each point is fixed by setting its level and the rate (how long it takes to get there): 0-99 steps for each. All the gen is outlined in a central LCD screen.
This is of course a description of the CZ-101. The CZ-1 uses exactly the same system - except it has a pair of them. The CZ-101 drops down to four note polyphonic when you use the two digitally controlled oscillators on top of each other - that produces the richest sounds. But the CZ-1 still gives you eight notes for dual oscillators thereby getting around probably the single biggest criticism commonly levelled at the CZ-101.
It also embellishes the deal with a sturdy, full-sized keyboard which is both touch sensitive and has second touch response to bring in modulation effects. Consider also the onboard chorus unit (slightly noisy if you insist on having it full on), and the greatly expanded memory.
The CZ-1's programmes are arranged in eight banks of eight called up by the two rows of buttons on the left. All the CZ-1's switches are bigger than its predecessor's and easier to target in a panic. There are 64 sounds permanently preset in the depths of the memory, plus spaces for another 64 you can write yourself. It's possible to layer two different sounds on top of each other (now you do drop down to four notes) and split the keyboard with an unusual degree of control. The split can fall anywhere, and you can individually fix the volume and octave each half.
The LCD screen is now backlit a radiant blue, and we get proper pitch bend and modulation wheels to the immediate left of the keyboard. And there's the chance to slam in yet another 64 seconds via an optional RAM cartridge at the rear.
Since the Phase Distortion system stays the same the CZ-1 doesn't produce any sounds not already heard on the CZ-101. But it does make them all much bigger, courtesy of the chorus and extra oscillators. No great advance in technology, then, but it could attract the 'professionals' who've so far given Casio mini-keys a miss.
Review by Paul Colbert
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