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.

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81 Visitor comments
June 30, 2011 @ 3:00 am
Johnpopes: Buy it, if it still works.

Cz-101 in action (progressive) :
June 28, 2011 @ 6:32 pm
I watched youtube videos about this machine for months, now I finally found one in Portugal (only one) with a loose power connection. Is 150-200 dollars a fair price for it?
June 10, 2011 @ 4:46 pm
Yeah! This is a synth with real personality, and it is NOT A GOOD DAMN TOY! Some just dont get it. It is a real synth and instrument, and its NOT analog, but it reminds analog synths a lot. Presets are pretty poor, but you realise the power of cz-101 when you start making your own sounds, the sky is the limit! With this almost everything is possible, if you are looking interesting sounds that sounds analog. Perfect for electro, proge, indie and synth stuff. One of the most uniq synths ever made. It is a true scifi-synth!
June 8, 2011 @ 11:33 pm
I freakin love my CZ synths! This is the only one I have never owned before though. Any known issues? My CZ-1000 did lose memory before since I neglected to keep fresh batteries in there. Nice trick on the CZ synths for slap back delay is to adjust Vibrato to wave 4 delay 5 rate 40-50 + depth is always at 99. I like to combine waveforms 1 + 4 in DCO-1... Yeah, good for bass + gnarly unique FX...Who needs a filter dood!!! Oh, and didn't Napoleon Dynamite own one of these badboys? Or was that pedro? :/
May 31, 2011 @ 12:01 am
I bought this, fixed it up, and was going to resell it for more on craigslist as it sat in my basement and did nothing. I took it out and played it today and couldn't believe the sounds I could get out of it. I felt like the sound I could sounded pretty warm and analog by having a slight vibrato affecting the pitch, a really nice and compact synth. This synth is definitely worth buying AND keeping!
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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
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