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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80 Visitor comments
March 8, 2011 @ 2:25 am
I have joined the yahoo casio cz groups and now have blank patch sheets, and more patches- one is a very nice moog patch, also a prophet patch, prodigy moog, polysix, jupiter6. I understand that this synth was used by Salt N Peppa also, and even Burzum. The patches I have put into this little box have produced massive and haunting sounds. I even have a 4/3 Hammond patch that is to die for. This lil beast could easily make Boards of Canada, Brian Eno, and Gary Numan sounds. It may not have a filter, but my Odyssey and DW8000 do and can fill any gaps. I'm keeping mine, I love it.
March 6, 2011 @ 8:25 pm
I bought one in 90 to try my hand at Skinny Puppy/Ministry/NIN sounds. Sold it later and then regretted that decision. Bought another to start again with music. This time thanks to the internet was able to get patch sheets and owners manual, but no cartridges yet. Now I have the CZ101, Yamaha DX7, Korg DW8000, and ARP Odyssey. Each synth has its own strengths and sound.
March 6, 2011 @ 7:11 pm
I have owned two cz101s and regret that I only had one at a time. Great low end synthesis. Bass like no other. Grumbling, distorted bass was great for industrial
March 1, 2011 @ 8:34 am
I have fond memories of playing this synth at school, live, to provide the bass line for Adamski's Killer! Has great distorted bass sounds and a great portamento effect!
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.
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  • Check Prices on eBay
  • 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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