Casio CZ-101

Casio CZ-101 Image

It's small, it's cheap, and it's good! This is the pea-size version of the CZ-1000 with a mini-keyboard. The CZ-101 is a digital synth and although the programming is somewhat limited there are plenty of analog-like traits and sounds to interest most anybody. It has a good 8-stage envelope design and uses Phase Distortion (PD) synthesis which gives it some pretty great sounds. The sounds are very similar to the Yamaha DX synthesizers, and they're much more affordable. PD is Casio's own take on digital synthesis from the mid-eighties and is found in all of their CZ series. You basically modify digital waveforms (sine waves) to create various sounds. It can create wild new sounds, notably percussive sounds. But it's not too easy to program if you don't know much about waveform theory and design.

Casio CZ-101 Image

Make no mistake, the CZ-101 is no toy although it can be considered very entry level. Three sets of 8-stage envelope sections are used to modulate your sounds extensively. The first is used to modify the DCO pitches over time. Another 8-stage envelope section in the DCW is used to modify the Phase Angle over time (like filtering). Finally the DCA amplifier also has an 8-stage envelope to modify the volume of sounds over time. For further tweaking the CZ-101 employs some surprisingly analog effects. Four types of Vibrato make up a simple LFO-type section with triangle, square, ramp up or down waveforms as well as rate, depth and delay settings. Portamento adds that classic glide effect from one note to the next. Double up on the oscillators with 4-note polyphony. Built-in noise and ring modulation. It's also MIDI equipped with 4 monophonic multitimbral parts. However, with only 32 patches (16 preset, 16 user) storage is a bit slim.

The CZ-1000 is a full-size keyboard version of the CZ-101 for a slightly more practical edge. Later CZ-series models like the CZ-3000 and CZ-5000 used this new Phase Distortion synthesis in more professional instruments. But none are as small and portable as the CZ-101 is! It can even be strapped on like a guitar and run on battery power. The CZ-101 has been used by Cirrus, Moby, Jimi Tenor, Vince Clarke, Jimmy Edgar, and They Might Be Giants.

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78 Visitor comments
April 14, 2014 @ 10:42 am
These are relatively easy to edit although I am not sure I would recommend one for somebody completely new to synths. This is in part due to the fact that the programming method is kind of unusual. I would say go with a microbrute if you're about to drop $300 on synth for the simple fact that all of the parameters are labeled and its just a better machine in general. I got this as my first synthesizer and I can say it didn't teach me much, though it is a wonderful instrument.
April 14, 2014 @ 10:35 am
These are so much fun. One thing that is slightly bothersome is that if you hold a key while editing a parameter, the audio will kind of stutter in sync with the value as it changes. This may just be my synth, though. Also, all of your saved patches (not including presets) will erase if it is unplugged for ~ ten minutes. I am currently just keeping 6 d cells in it to save my patches when transporting it, and then I just plug it in wherever I end up taking it. Last thing, I had some problems with the factory lcd when I got mine, so I swapped it with a backlit one and it is perfect now.
February 11, 2014 @ 4:02 am
It does not sound "similar" to a FM synth at all. In comparison to an FM-synth this synth is a breeze to edit in my experience, preferably using a program on your computer (like sounddiver). Patch space can be upgraded either with the original cartridge (16 patches, but there is a mod to give you 32 patches on it), or with the third party "EZ-CZ cartridge" you get 4x16=64 patches of space! And yea, go download a nice bank I made for it:
October 30, 2013 @ 7:47 pm
I have a CZ-101 and a casiotone MT-36 duo pack I want to sell if anyone is interested, name your best price!
June 24, 2013 @ 11:57 pm
The CZ-101 is no "toy" & it sounds amazing, @ least in this video.
The guy is using only a Chora Lush stereo chorus pedal, for external FX processing. I must say, the CZ-101 sounds fat as hell! It also sounds very lush, smooth, creamy & has some very crisp, clear & smooth filter "sweeps". I just picked one up on Ebay for $275 (+$20 S&H). I can't wait for it to arrive & I can't wait to layer it with my Casio HT-6000 & or Roland Alpha Juno 1, Korg Poly 800, DW8000. Those layering combinations should make for some very interesting & unique sounds
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  • Check Prices on eBay
  • The link above will take you to a search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - 8 note
  • Oscillators - Digital Phase Distortion Synthesis (sine, saw, square, pulse, resonance, double-sine, saw-pulse)
  • #Instruments - 4 part multitimbral
  • DCW - 8-stage envelope generators with level and rate controls and Key Follow (Adjusts Phase Angle)
  • DCA - 8-stage envelope generators with level and rate controls and Key Follow (Adjusts Volume)
  • Keyboard - 49 note mini keyboard (no Velocity or Aftertouch)
  • Memory - 16 preset, 16 user, 16 more via external cartridge
  • Control - MIDI
  • Date Produced - 1985 - 88

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