Thanks for all that info Robber,
Since there is a bit of FZ love going on right now I thought I would post my experience with the sampler.
I got my first Casio FZ-1 (1 Meg- no memory upgrade) new in 1989. The local music store was selling FZ-1s at a big discount because they had ordered too many of them a couple years before and they weren’t moving. I also got my JX8P around that same time - new old stock - pretty cheap.
The FZ-1 was my first and only sampler for about 4 years until I got a Kurzweil K2000 with 8 megs of ram and removable Syquest 44 disk storage. I did lots of my own sampling of acoustic instruments as well as drum and instrumental hits and loops off CDs, etc. I used the individual outs of the FZ quite a bit. I also bought many sound disks from the factory library and the Soundwaves library. I had never heard of the 142 disk user group shareware library until years later when they were put on the internet. There was only one occasion when I got together with another local FZ-1 user to trade sounds but I got quite a few disks out of it.
By the mid 90’s I wasn’t using the FZ much anymore and many of the keys and buttons had problems. The disk drive never stopped working though! I eventually got rid of that FZ but kept all my disks.
Around 2011 I decided to start buying all my old gear back from Ebay so I could reconstruct old projects, since I have kept all my old disks, files, tapes etc. over the years. I bought an FZ-20M off Ebay and it’s in great condition and fully working. The vast majority of my FZ disks still worked. I started transferring all my disks to the computer over MIDI and it’s been a very slow process, and not fully complete yet. I have also bought quite a few more FZ disk collections off Ebay so there are always more to transfer.
A few months ago I bought another FZ-1 off Ebay with a disk collection. The FZ-1 was described as non-working, but I really just wanted the disk collection, which turned out to be pretty good. Also it was a local pickup so I didn’t have to pay any shipping. The real surprise was that the FZ-1 turned out to be fully working and in mint condition! It has the 2 meg upgrade in it as well. I won the auction for $27! This was probably my best score ever. The backlight is dimmed out but that is normal, and the keys are just a bit sticky because the foam rubber strip that the keys rest on is starting to go bad. I would like to replace that.
Floppies and drives: I have had great luck so far with FZ drives. My original FZ’s drive never failed even when the unit was in fairly poor condition. My current 2 units both have working drives, but they are also in excellent condition for their age. I always pop the disk out immediately after loading or saving because it will spin constantly - this saves on wear to the drive! I also use a cleaning disk regularly. In the event that one of my drives dies, I have a spare FZ floppy drive waiting.
Back in the day we would sometimes use DD disks to save money or in a pinch. I have found that every old DD disk formatted for FZ has now died. It was a bad idea! Good thing I didn’t do it often. I did buy a couple FZ disks off ebay that were DD and they were also dead, while the HD ones were fine.
It has been suggested that one of the reasons the FZ-1 was never a big hit like the S900 was because it used HD disks. (I believe the biggest reason was the Casio name was not taken seriously by “pros” - people used to cover up the Casio name with black tape). In 1987 HD disks were new and expensive. I still remember the first time I bought a box of 10 HD disks for my FZ-1 it cost almost $100! I was shocked, but paid it anyways. I soon found out I could find them at other stores for ½ the price, but still it was almost $5 for a blank disk. Of course over time HD disk became very cheap. By the way, I recent won an Ebay auction of 50 new HD disks for $1.25. The shipping was $6.00.
Sound: Of course the FZ-1’s claim to fame is that it was the first 16 bit sampler at an affordable price. The original list price was $2500. I got mine new for $1500 on clearance in 1989. I’ve always found it to be great sounding.
The filters are real analog although digitally controlled. You can hear some stepping going on when they sweep up or down. They are definitely aggressive sounding.
Even though the FZ is considered to be “close to CD quality” I feel that it does change the sound slightly and in a good way - we want our vintage samplers to do this! The sound comes back a little bit harder, tighter, crunchier, more aggressive - whatever you want to call it. Also you get some pretty strong aliasing depending on the transposition of the note. I’ve found that playing a sound down 2 steps introduces very noticeable aliasing.
Sound library: Perhaps another contributing factor to the FZ lukewarm reputation at the time of it’s release was the sound library. Official library I guess you could say good but not great. It consists of all acoustic or traditional instruments. The disks were fairly expensive to buy as well. By contrast, the Roland S50 library was available to copy for free if you brought your own disks into the music store. The disks from the first 6 volumes (there were 14 volumes of 5 disk sets) are the most commonly found as they were the first group released. In just about any FZ disk collection there will be some of these. I would guess that by the time the remaining volumes were released there was little interest in the FZ line and very few were sold. Anyway, it is extremely rare to come across these later disks. A few years ago I saw an Ebay auction of the entire 14 volume set of the original disks. It was expensive and I didn’t bid on it but now I wish I had.
The Soundwaves library was the other main source of commercial disks. It was 50 disks in 10, 5 disk sets (I’m still missing 1 disk - Classical Splits). These are also commonly found in FZ disk collections. It’s a mix of electronic and acoustic sounds and a good 80s sample library.
Then there is the Shareware library. It’s quite large (only by 1980s standards) and has tons of varied material, but is a bit uneven in quality because it was done by a mix of different people.
I have lots of original disks as well done either by myself or others. I bought a collection off Ebay recently that turned out to be a great find. Whoever created these disks was very good at sampling and I feel lucky to have come across a unique and good quality FZ disk collection. I will post them when I have gotten them transferred. I really need to build that cable and a DOS box!
An HxC version F will probably be my next big move. I will probably install it in the FZ-1 rather than the FZ-20m as I have heard the rack mount units are extremely hard to access the drive in. That will begin a whole new chapter and I hope to create a complete collection of virtual disks that will be easy to share!