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
February 16, 2011 @ 9:28 pm
I got one of these in 1990 and another in 96. I still use it Alot. Great deep punchy basslines , Leads that cut thru. I found it pretty easy to program basic sounds and when you get the hang of it you can make some really awesome sounds. I agree with everyone else - don't be fooled by its toyish appearance its a serious keyboard.
Ashley Pomeroy
February 12, 2011 @ 3:21 pm
I had one of these a few years back - I was surprised at how "big" the strings sounded. To look at you'd expect it to be weedy, but it has a classic old analogue-style richness (albeit that it doesn't have a proper filter, and you can't tweak it live). In my opinion it wiped the floor with the old FM synths, which now sound very thin.

It's handy as a miniature MIDI master keyboard as well, although something modern with knobs and a USB interface is more flexible. And as the review points out it has guitar straps! A poor man's SH-101.
February 11, 2011 @ 8:41 am
one vintage synth i will never ever part with. and yes, it has its own personality. i simply love it.
February 6, 2011 @ 6:46 pm
In the 80's the casio Cz series was going to save us all from the DX7 with Phase distortion whatever that was going to be? As it happened damn good for bass lines and metalic sounds. No didn't topple the Dx7 as top dog of the 80's But actually gave bass lines some kick that we hadn't seen since being conned into selling all our analog gear to get digital. I had one until 2 or 3 years ago when some F***! nicked it from where its was stored while I was moving house.
January 29, 2011 @ 1:58 pm
Just got this. This is one of the best synths ever made, for my opinion(Top 20). This one have its own personality. A real killer machine, very powerful. Buy if you can get one!!! RARE.
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Rated 3.64 (773 Votes)

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  • 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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