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
Fozzy The Bear
November 5, 2012 @ 8:25 am
A acquired my CZ101 in 1988 in a swap for a radio controlled helicopter... along with the CZ101 I got a Yamaha QX7 sequencer, and a Moog Rogue. I still have the all that gear I bet he doesn't still have the Helicopter. LOL :-)

The description above is wrong in a lot of ways though!! "You basically modify digital waveforms (sine waves) to create various sounds." WRONG!! That's how a DX7 works.. The CZ has preset waveforms that you combine to make the sounds that you then filter with the DCW section. It's very like programming an analogue synth and very much simpler than a DX7 to do.
September 4, 2012 @ 6:38 pm
I bought my 101 in the '80's and used it in the studio and for our live gigs (The Accessories, circa 1984). The small-scale keys were ideal for me, and the manuals were decent.

Earlier this year it gave up the ghost due to a leaky battery stuck way deep.
Good times.
April 27, 2012 @ 5:58 am
ace. buckets of character.

obviously not a "my only synth, its a workhorse"-affair, but to go off the beaten track without getting fully lost in the woods of programming nightmares of that era - great little piece.

bought mine for what I'd consider next to nothing. highly recommended. let all the others run after their overpriced osc oscars and pro one's and give this little friend a look.
April 3, 2012 @ 1:27 pm
I bought one in 1989(ish) hoping to become the next Ministry/Nitzer Ebb and it was stolen in a break-in (Virginia Beach) promptly ending my foray into synthesis. Dear criminal, if you have a change of heart I'll pay for shipping and you are forgiven.
March 31, 2012 @ 4:17 am
I don't agree that it sounds very similar to the Yamaha DX family. I have a TX7 (table box version of the DX7) which I got for around $100 here in Sweden, but I'm currently on the look out for a CZ-101. They tend to cost at least twice as much. I love the small format of it, and what it can do. Definitely another vibe from the TX7.
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  • 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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