Casio CZ3000 Polysynth
Casio plug a gap in their range by introducing a CZS000 without the sequencer. Trish McGrath uses her fingers to see how it sounds.
And so it goes: the 101 begat the 1000, the 1000 begat the 5000, and the 5000 begat the 3000. To be fair, Casio aren't the only synth manufacturer to follow the Sylvester Stallone School of Marketing ('if you've got a good idea, flog it to death'), a fact which goes to concoct a very busy, and extremely competitive, lower end of the market.
The CZ3000 is basically a stripped-down version of the 5000, and in its attempt to find a niche of its own, it's jettisoned the onboard sequencer of the flagship model (see Simon Trask's epic CZ5000 review, E&MM June '85).
Surprisingly, Casio have also deemed it necessary to replace the Memory Transfer feature (whereby sounds can be saved to normal audio cassette) with a MIDI Thru socket, absent on earlier CZ models. Seeing as the 3000 is pitched at a less affluent market than the 5000, this seems a curious omission. Cartridges may provide speedy access to more sounds, and are invaluable when playing live, but cassette storage is the only choice for prolific home users hoping to build up an extensive, but inexpensive, library of sounds.
What the 3000 has retained from big brother, though, is not to be taken with a pinch of sodium chloride. Like all 'pro' Casios, it uses the Phase Distortion method of sound synthesis, a curious hybrid of a system that aims to offer something approaching FM versatility and clarity, combined with something approaching analogue accessibility and friendliness.
The new CZ offers 16-note polyphony in single DCO mode, eight in double. Tone Mix mode, whereby two sounds can be layered over the entire five-octave keyboard in four-note polyphony, and Split Mode (split-point adjustable over the whole range, but with no overlapping) are also available.
Each voice comprises two DCOs, two DCWs and two DCAs, and each of these boasts its own eight-stage envelope, which is pretty flexible.
It's a pity Casio haven't seen fit to give the CZ3000 a bigger memory, though, as its 32 preset and 32 user memories look pitifully few compared to what's being offered by some of the competition. That said, the similarity between the 3000's voice architecture and that of analogue synths means that programming good sounds of your own entails serving only a brief PD apprenticeship, even if you're a relative novice. And bear in mind that the availability of Casio voice-editing programs (some being examined by E&MM staff as you read this) for popular home computers will soon make the creation of new sounds easier still. The software should enable storage of banks of sounds to cassette and disk, too.
Subjectively, the 3000's sounds don't let the CZ family's good reputation down. The machine has the technology — assuming you have the manipulating talent — to produce a broad selection of strong, characterful sounds, though in some cases, the limited range of preset voices means you have to do a lot of editing before you start reaping rewards. The strings presets, in particular, lack the sweetness of some of the 3000's competitors'. Still, a modicum of programming work should get you some fat, 'analogue' lead synth sounds, a few delicate tuned percussion impersonations, some chunky, hard-edged brass, and a collection of clangy metallic creations (thanks to the onboard ring modulator — nice one, Casio), plus a lot more besides.
The stereo chorus goes no small way toward giving the sounds some movement, but more interestingly, the final stages of the envelope shapers come in handy for introducing subtle reverb-type effects as a sound releases.
Sadly, neither touch-sensitivity nor aftertouch appear to be high on Casio's list of priorities. And the 3000 won't recognise velocity or aftertouch data via MIDI, either, so any human feel has to be injected through the synth's programmable performance wheels.
The CZ3000 has plenty of competition, make no mistake. But its appeal lies in being able to offer a challenge to users of conventional analogue synths, without presenting them with the programming complexities of FM. And when you consider the range of sounds the 3000 can produce, it's not difficult to see that this approach is paying big dividends.
Price £695 including VAT
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