mini sampler keyboard
Small it was, and spoke to me. Though no one is about to swap their Emulator for an SK-1 - we are not exactly talking CD quality here - you can't spurn the achievement and power of a four note polyphonic sampler for a ton.
Sampling is via an in-built mike, top right hand corner - or mike and line sockets at the rear which both offer major improvements on the final quality. Press the yellow sampling button... and nothing happens. The input waits until it hears a signal before switching to record. Good. Plenty of time to prepare sound/crunch/rude word. A tone beeps when sampling space is full (actually some time after it's exhausted).
Loop Set will repeat the sample as long as your finger is on the key. The SK-1 forgets what it's heard when the power is off, you can't edit the sample, and it needs a strong initial signal to set it recording. You can find yourself losing the first part of samples featuring slow attacks.
It does remember the preset voices - excellent, swoony human voice with echo, fat synthy brass ensemble, and a dubbish synth drum come recommended. And there are 13 extra envelope shapes which can be superimposed on the presets AND your sample - tweak the attack, kill the decay quickly, turn it into a spike or have a bit of all three. Variety.
There's also an organ synthesising section. The envelopes are chosen by pressing the black keys, but nine of the white keys in the middle of the keyboard mix in harmonics on the original 16ft organ note like one stop drawbars. Yet more variety.
Pity that the built in drum box is a bit wee-wee in terms of the plinky sounds; it harks back to earlier Casios, as does the One Key sequencer system. You can play in chords and lines and either have them come straight back at you (real time, chaps) or if your technique's not up to it, you can bung in the notes, then sort out the timing later.
Finally there are the auto chord possibilities - a nod to the Red Sails In The Sunset mob, but you'd be surprised the ideas (not to mention hit singles) that have fallen out of a few Casio bass lines.
Light, transportable, battery powered and there will be those who shall immediately sample naughty phrases and noises, then play them back (me, Tony, Jon...). I missed having an external trigger, especially for firing samples off external drum machines. Use the SK-1 for writing, producing ideas and some careful recording... rhythm and melody 'quotes' rather than sustained, real instrument re-creations. Don't expect generous treble, or hi-tech fidelity, then you won't miss the fun.