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Casiotone CT1000P

Eight-note poly keyboard with 10 presets, 10 programmable memories and an arpeggiator

After the 49 preset sounds of the 202, we now have a bit of digital DIY. This, the most recent Casio, lets you go some way towards programming your own sounds; not the whole hog, understand — it's not swarming with knobs and buttons. But you can rearrange basic sound building blocks — selected envelopes, waveforms and modulations.

Physically the 1000P is a vision in black and silver grey. The five octave C-to-C keyboard completely fills the front, allowing no room at the sides for controls. All those are on the front panel strip and the outputs form a neat line round the back, including sockets for sustain, foot volume pedal, high and low line out and 'phones.

At this point the only similarity with past models is the ubiquitous Casio built-in speaker that sits under a black grille in the right-hand corner. Even the keyboard itself is different — far lighter than before; in fact it's one of the fastest and most effortless keyboard I've ever come across.

Gone is the Casio system of voice selection where the keys double as switches. Instead 10 small, silver grey buttons that need only the lightest tap run along the bottom of a 7in long oblong of clear plastic mounted in the centre of the panel. The buttons are marked 1 to 0 (the 0 comes after the 9 rather than before the 1) but are also labelled pipe organ, brilliant organ, jazz organ, bassoon, wah brass, piano, vibraphone, celesta, chime and flute.

That's the preset section. The plastic oblong holds the secret of the programming. The 1000P's voices are arranged in three layers — waveform, envelope and modulation. Ten predetermined variations exist in each layer, for example the waveforms include a 16/8/5⅓/4/2 footage organ and an 8/4/2 footage piccolo, the envelopes can produce a slow attack and sharp decay, or a sudden, spikey burst of sound. Any three of these can be patched together by going into the programming mode.

A small LED readout at the top of the panel presents three numbers corresponding to the variations chosen. They're laid out in a grid above the numbered push buttons. Three further buttons run down the right-hand side. Press the waveform switch, the waveform number flashes and you can select a new type by punching the numbered selector underneath it. Repeat the exercise with envelope and modulation and you've loaded in a new sound.

Those ten program buttons work on two levels, either selecting the ten factory preset voices or providing access to ten of your own — 20 sounds in all. The Casio has a battery back-up so the memory lasts when the power's turned off.

(Ten waveforms) x (ten envelopes) x (ten modulations) = 1,000 different sounds, hence the CT1000P — the name makes sense after all. In reality you'd have difficulty picking out any differences between many of them. There are subtle timbre changes from one organ to another, and that does tally with the earlier Casio style where one keyboard contained four or five organ presets each with a little more treble or a little less middle and so on.

The upheavals lie in the modulation section and basic tone generators. The mod is like nothing Casio have done before. For a start there are 5⅓ and 4 foot percussive harmonics adding realism to the bubbly Hammond-ish settings. The usual two or three seconds sustain has been stretched to ten on one option, and an effect dubbed "metallic" has given a lease of life to ring modulator tinged gong, chime and dustbin lid noises.

But for all that, the 1000P is a softer Casio than its predecessors. The oscillators are rounder and more mellow, something you spot at once in the organ and piano tones which are the best they've come up with. Yet it doesn't have the blistering attack the 202 exhibited on its clav and koto.

De rigeur nowadays to have an arpeggio on board, but this one exhibits a twist, as you'd expect. In one form it will happily run up and down a chord, in another it doubles as a strange, semi-intelligent sequencer. Imagine a chord, then decide you want to play its lowest note, highest note, lowest note again, second lowest, third lowest, etc, etc, picking out each one in a specific order.

That's how the Casio works; it can store 127 positions, including rests, but it's up to you to hold down a chord and make sense of it. Once again it's proof of how different thinking and technology — the philosophies allied to calculator and computer manufacturer — can draw out of a machine something that no pure musical instrument designers have ever thought of.

The arpeggiator speed is controlled by a "perpetual" pot. The further clockwise it's turned, the faster the arpeggio runs until it hits a maximum speed then jumps an electronic border to its slowest rate, starting all over again. The pot doubles as a tune control taking the Casio an octave higher or lower than its 442Hz standard, meanwhile the LED display is offering a readout of the frequency.

The final effects are switchable vibrato (slow and not too deep) delayed vibrato that allows a second's grace before introducing modulation, heavy vibrato (they're not kidding — it flips up and down by an octave) and sustain.

Hard to sum up the CT1000P. Casio have again taken several steps forward to appeal to the professional musician — a larger, better keyboard, a faster sound selection system, smoother oscillators and so on — but they've now reached the point of having enough keyboards to produce favourites among players.

The 1000P will appeal to those who prefer broader tones) to flesh out songs and arrangements. Funkier chaps may still prefer the thinner and sharper settings of the 202, but they will be losing out on a semi-sequencer, 1,000 options and a chance to make their Casio sound different from anybody elses — and all for £375.

Also featuring gear in this article

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Moog Rogue

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Teisco 60P

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Synth Special

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