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
September 1, 2011 @ 10:26 am
One query I have regarding my 101 concerns using the RA3 RAM cartridge with it. I managed to acquire one of these, but though it worked fine with both the CZ3000 I had and also still works with my CZ1, it doesn't work with the 101. When I plug it in and turn it on, the keyboard locks up and plays a constant tone. None of the buttons work on it either. Removing the cartridge and all is fine again. I also tried it with a friend's CZ1000 and it did the same thing. Anyone know what is going on and how I can get it to work with the 101, which needs extra patch memory more than my CZ1 does?!!!
September 1, 2011 @ 10:14 am
A great little synth that surprises many with such big sounds coming from its tiny keys. I got my 101 in 1990 and used it on many of my simple 4 track recordings. Despite being digital it did have a thickness and grittiness to its sound that FM synths and other digital synths/ keyboards of the time lacked. Years later I dug it out, loved its quirky sounds all over again and bought a CZ3000, then upgraded that to a CZ1 as a big daddy companion (the 101 is staying!)

I do wish I could find a good PC editor for it though. Does anyone know
of one they can recommend?
August 6, 2011 @ 5:05 am
Another CZ-101 in action — very catchy:
July 10, 2011 @ 7:26 pm
I bought this synth around 1985 in Memphis Tennessee and loved it! It's surprisingly warm, and versatile enough for todays music. If I still had it I'd use it all the time but it died around 11 years ago.

CZynthia is a pretty cool software emulation but I'm not sure how it compares to an actual CZ since I don't have it anymore.
July 8, 2011 @ 6:14 am
For new music fans, some one can find music with wide variety of instruments that can be used. some are least famous and some are most popular with heart touching sound. check out more info
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  • 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
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