Casio HT-3000

Casio HT-3000 Image

The Casio HT and HZ series are a very interesting group of synthesizers produced from 1987-1991. They use a very specific form of sound generation called "SD Synthesis". Short for "Spectrum Dynamic" SD Synthesis has some things in common with the subtractive synthesis we know and love. The synth takes a waveform and runs it through a real analog VCF (filter). There are ADSR envelopes for the DCA and VCF that shape the sound. And there is an LFO just like on a standard subtractive synth, although this LFO only modulates pitch (vibrato) and volume (tremolo).

Where things get interesting however, is in the choice of waveforms available from the synth engine. There are 32 incredibly varied waveforms, some sound very nasal or narrow, some like saw or square waveforms, some with an odd metallic timbre, and some feature white noise. It's still a mystery exactly how these waves are created, but experts suggest they contain a number of harmonically-rich pulse waves at different octaves, as well as a ring modulator and an analog noise source.

To make things even more interesting, these waves have pre-programmed amounts of PWM and amplitude modulation built into them. For example, one SD wave could contain two pulse waves fading in and out at different times. But you don't have to understand all of this to get the best out of the synth. The mystery and modulation of it all means you can just pick a preset and change the waves around and see what happens. The synth sounds are in the same ballpark as other DCO-synths of the time, and can even sound a little PPG-like on a good day. The filter is a bit weak for bass but adds a nice swoosh to some sounds. There is also a nice chorus effect on board. Additionally, being a home keyboard, it has built-in speakers, a Drum Machine and an Auto-Accompaniment mode (the lower tone is used for accompaniment). The drum sounds resemble the Casio RZ-1 8-bit drum machine.

The low point of the synth is in the programming. You have one big clunky rotary dial and a list of two digit parameters to edit (e.g.: 10 will be cutoff, 11 is resonance) and these parameters are not listed on the panel, so you need the manual with you at all times! MIDI is present, but limited to just 3-channels and has no SysEx support. Kind of a bummer from a synth with such a tedious programming interface.

The HT-3000 has several brothers (also released in 1987). They include the HT-700, which has 49 mini-keys instead of the 3000's 61 full-size keys. It also has a big brother in the HT-6000, which is a 4 DCO, 8 VCF and 64 waveform monster! (And the HT-6000 lists the edit parameter codes on front-panel.) Now, as no one really knows about the HT-series, they go for very little money and can be a great tool in your synth arsenal for unusual sounds!

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25 Visitor comments
Jojoman
October 4, 2011 @ 12:15 pm
I used friends HZ-600, and it was useful in very very limited way. Sounds are tiny and low-fi in worst sense, nowhere close to any pro keyboard, even editing does not compensate much, if anything.
Professinal-like, toy-sound synthesizer.
Pro5
October 4, 2011 @ 4:35 am
Haha! My first ever 'Synthesizer'. Bought for me as a kid, new in Autumn 1987 for around £500 (with case and ram card) if I remember correctly. :) Brings back nice memories of care free days and the masses of instrumental music I recorded to cassette with it - a series of albums over 2-3 years.

It was good enough for me at the time, but I eventually got a better synth (Juno 6) and moved on, have no interest in picking one up again as it's not really that great and looks like a home keyboard, which it is really, with a synth stuck inside :)

at the time 5/5 but now? 2/5.
Casiomania
October 3, 2011 @ 5:02 am
the lfo can't modulate the volume. there is no tremolo. the filter is very weak and low range dosen't exist. I own a HT 6000 and love it. The waves have a strange 4 bit quality and the ringmodulation sounds beatiful. It can produce some very organic lofi ambient and sequence Sounds and some soft drum electric drums.
Chris
October 2, 2011 @ 1:40 pm
The related HZ-600 was my first synth, bought new in the late 1980's. It was supposed to be the "professional" model of the SD series - lacking the speakers and drums of the HT range, but I seem to recall it had a few more editable parameters such as PWM. It was quite limited, as the parameters could only store a small set of values, and the basic waveforms were not very varied. As the HT review notes, some of the waveforms include white noise, but in a fixed amount. Had Casio persevered, adding waveform editing and an editable noise generator, these synths would have had great potential.
wjmwpg
September 27, 2011 @ 8:31 pm
I've been waiting for someone to tackle an HT synth review!

I must admit that I have the HT6000 not the 3000, but can confirm that it has a tone character all its own. I agree with the review in regards to the PPG comment - even on shimmering pad sounds there seems to be a certain sonic element of low-bit grit.

I'm new to the 6000 so I'm still wrapping my head around the programming. Perhaps once I've mastered it I'll write that review.

Considering the prices you can get these for (got the HT-6000 for $150) they're certainly worth investigating - unless you want bass. No bass here.
 
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Rated 3.46 (150 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 voices
  • Multitimbral - 3 parts: Upper tone, Lower tone, Drums
  • Oscillators - 1 DCO
  • Waveforms - Upper tone: 32 SD waves, Lower Tone: 16 SD waves, Noise generator
  • LFO - 1 LFO with 5 waveforms for the Upper Tone, 1 for the Lower tone. Modulates volume or pitch only.
  • Filter - 1 VCF resonant analog lowpass with ADSR envelope
  • Envelope - 1 DCA with ADSR envelope
  • Effects - Analog Chorus (3 types)
  • Patterns - Drums/accompaniment: 10 user patterns
  • Keyboard - 61 keys (no velocity). Mod and pitch wheels.
  • Memory - 30 preset, 30 user
  • Control - MIDI In/Out/Thru (3 channels only and no SysEx)
  • Date Produced - 1987 - 1991
  • Resources & Credits
  • Review by Alex Juno

    Original images from this site

    Reviewed September 2011

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