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Casio CZ-101 Phase Modulation Synthesizer

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The CZ-101 was the first and best-selling synthesizer in this line. Approximately 68,500 were manufactured. Released in November 1984, it was one of the first (if not the first) fully programmable polyphonic synthesizers that was available for under $500. In order to keep the price low, several compromises were made. The CZ-101 only had 49 keys (4 octaves from C to C) instead of the 61 keys most synthesizers had. Instead of full sized keys, the CZ-101 used miniature keys.

The CZ series were a family of low-cost Phase distortion synthesizers produced by Casio mid-1980s. There were eight models of CZ synthesizers released: the CZ-101, CZ-230S, CZ-1000, CZ-2000S, CZ-2600S, CZ-3000, CZ-5000, and the CZ-1. Additionally the home-keyboard model CT-6500 used 48 phase-distortion presets from the CZ line. The CZ series were remarkably flexible synthesizers, and their price made programmable synthesizers affordable enough to be purchased by garage bands.

Casio's Phase-Distortion synthesis technique was championed by Casio engineer Mark Fukuda and evolved from the Cosmo Synth System that was custom-developed for legendary synthesist-composer Isao Tomita. Yukihiro Takahashi was also on board during development, he then toured with a CZ-1 in 1986. To make the CZ synthesizers inexpensive, Casio used digital synthesis without a filter instead of traditional analog subtractive synthesis with a filter. Like many early digital synthesizers, its sound was regarded as "thinner" than the sound of an analog synthesizer.

Also non-resonant waveforms 1~5 can cascade with other waveforms, and as a result, 33 waveforms (basic:8, cascade:25) are available.

However, the CZ line used phase distortion to somewhat simulate an analog filter, it had in total eight different waveforms: as well as the standard sawtooth, square, and pulse waveforms, it had a special double sine waveform, a half-sine waveform, and three waveforms with simulated filter resonance: resonant sawtooth, triangle, and trapezoidal waveforms. The simulated filter resonance was not considered to sound much like real filter resonance, being a simple waveform at the filter cutoff value instead of a real filter resonating.

Each digital oscillator could have one or two waveforms. Unlike other synthesizers, where having multiple waveforms caused those multiple waveforms to be mixed together (parallel), the CZ synthesizers would play one waveform and then play the other, and so on in alternation (series).[2] This could cause the appearance of a sub-harmonic one octave below the nominal pitch of the sound, due to the period of the combined waveform taking twice as long as a single waveform would. It was possible to combine two non-resonant waveforms together, and to combine a resonant waveform with a non-resonant waveform, but it was not possible to combine two resonant waveforms.

Digital Controlled Oscillator (DCO)

The CZ-101 and CZ-1000 had only eight digital oscillators. For patches using one oscillator per voice, this allowed 8-note polyphony, but if two oscillators per voice were used, this restricted polyphony to four voices. The CZ-3000, CZ-5000, and CZ-1 had sixteen digital oscillators, making them sixteen- or eight-voice synthesizers. Each of the oscillators in a two-oscillator patch could be independently programmed.

Digital Controlled Waveform (DCW)

The DCW of an oscillator is the magnitude of distortion that is applied to the reading angle of that oscillator's selected waveform. The DCW can be modified over time using an ADSR envelope, thus changing the timbre of the sound over time. In this capacity, it was described by Casio in the CZ-1's manual as being phase distortion synthesis's equivalent of the VCF (voltage-controlled filter) in analogue synthesisers.[3]

Digital Controlled Amplitude (DCA)

The DCA (which determined how loud a given oscillator was at a given moment) was also modulated by another dedicated 8-stage envelope generator. The DCW and DCA also had a "key follow" feature; which determined how much higher notes affected a sound, making the DCW have a more dull sound with less harmonics with higher notes, and making the DCA envelope faster for higher notes.

8-step Envelope Generators (EG)

The envelope generators in the CZ synthesizers were far more flexible than a traditional four-stage ADSR envelope; they were eight stage envelope generators where each stage had a rate and level value. The rate value determined how fast the envelope would move; the level value would determine what pitch/filter cutoff/volume the envelope would have. There was a single sustain stage, and an end stage.

LFO waveforms

The synthesizers have a single configurable LFO for inducing vibrato, whose settings apply to all notes played in a given patch, although each note has its own independently triggered/cycling LFO (polyphonic LFOs). The LFO can use triangle, square, upwards (ramp) sawtooth, or downwards sawtooth waveforms. The modulatory effects of the LFO are controlled by three settings: speed, depth, and delay.

The pitch of a voice can also be modulated by a dedicated eight-stage envelope, although this can only increase the pitch of a sound, rather than being bidirectional.

Ring and Noise modulators

It was possible to modulate the two voices in a two-voice patch in two different ways. Ring modulation had the output of one of the oscillators affect the volume of the other oscillator, resulting in a controlled distortion. Noise modulation caused the second voice in a two-voice patch to sound like digital noise, roughly simulating the effect of an analog synthesizer's noise source.

Casio CZ-1 mode panel

The CZ synthesizers also had the ability to stack up two different sounds via the "tone mix" feature resulting in a functionally monophonic synthesizer; this was Casio's version of the "unison" feature other polyphonic synthesizers had. Each part in a two-patch stack could be a different patch, allowing great flexibility in stacked sounds. It was not possible to detune the two patches in a tone mix stack; this could be somewhat worked around, however, by giving each of the two patches a different vibrato rate.

Technical Specifications
Type: Digital
Synthesis: Phase Distorion
Oscillators: 2
Waveforms: Pulse, Saw Up, Square, White Noise
Osc Modulation: Envelope, Glide / Portamento, LFO, Mod Wheel, Oscillator, Pitch Wheel, Ring Modulation, Sync Hard, Velocity
Oscillator Notes:
8 basic waveforms: saw, square, saw pulse, saw half-sine, quarter sine, low harmonics, mid harmonics, low & mid harmonics.
+ 25 combo waveforms: non-resonant waveforms 1~5 can cascade resonant waveforms.
Envelopes: 3
Evelope Paramerters: 8-step Casio
Filters: 1
Types: Low Pass, Resonance
LFO: 1
LFO Parameters: Saw Up, Saw Down, Sine, Triangle, Delay
Polyphony & Tuning
Polyphony: 8
Timbrality: 4
Tuning: Atonal, Standard
Modes: Mono, Polyphonic, Split
Patches RAM: 16
Patches ROM: 16
Storage: Internal, RAM Cartridge, ROM Cartridge
Editing: MIDI
Case: Keyboard
Keyboard: 49 keys, Mini-Keys, Non-weighted, Plastic
Controls: Buttons, Switches, Mod - Wheel
Display Type: LCD, LED
Display Count H: 16
Display Count V: 1
Dimensions (WxDxH): 676W x 208D x 70H mm
Weight: 3.2 kg
Audio Output Connections: 1/4" Phone Jack, Mono Out, Stereo Headphone
Audio Output Count: 3
Audio Output Notes: Mono Out, Headphones
Power: DC 9V 5.4 W / 6 D Batteries
Year Released: 1984
Year Discontinued: 1988
Units Made: 68,500
Used By
Vince Clarke, Clarence Jey, They Might Be Giants, Jean Michel Jarre, Seventh Celestia, the Orb, Moby, Jay Metarri, Cirrus, Jimi Tenor and Jimmy Edgar.
Manuals & Documents
MSRP List Price: $499 - convert
Retail Street Price: $400 - convert
Used Price: $75 - $200 - convert
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