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 (it has eight basic wave types, e.g. 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.

Lookup Casio CZ-101 Prices

The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings with more images, specs and information. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace. Our marketplace gets thousands of visits every week so make sure to check back often if you want to buy or sell a synth.

Related forum topics


Are you looking to buy or sell a Casio CZ-101? Post an ad in Gear For Sale or a request in Gear Wanted. For spare parts and repair services check out Gear Services & Other Goods. Our forums also has a Buyer’s Guide section where you can ask for advice on buying synthesizers.

81 Visitor comments
July 12, 2014 @ 5:08 pm
Like most reviews it compares it to a DX, but they're not, if you learn to program them they're capable of lovely strings and pads with their own character. They can certainly do percussive FM sounds as part of their sonic palate, but that's just one string to their bow. A bargain.
April 20, 2014 @ 9:07 am
please swap rounder = richer. thankyou:)
April 20, 2014 @ 9:02 am
I really like the grainy digital character of its sound, reminds me of 8 bit PPG or Emulator, especially when the ringmodulator is activ. PD CAN sound similar to FM, but there are clear differnces between both. PD is not as glassy and harsh as Yamaha DX, but therefore capable of a warmer rounder, but still edgy tone and it is has definitely more punch at the bottom end. Poor cpu makes some fun glitchy artefacts when all voices are played. A truely unique synth!
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.
VSE Rating


User Rating

Rated 3.64 (773 Votes)

  • Check Price
  • The link above will take you to an eBay 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
  • Resources & Credits
  • Images from

Errors or Corrections? Send them here.