Arturia’s modeling expertise comes to the Casio synths that helped define ‘80s pop.
Japanese electronics manufacturer Casio patented a new form of digital synthesis in 1982 they called phase distortion (PD). After two years of development with input from electronic music pioneers Isao Tomita and Yukihiro Takahashi (Yellow Magic Orchestra, Sadistic Mika Band), Casio unveiled the rack-mounted COSMO PD synthesizer based on their extremely advanced office computer. While Tomita did use it, that first COSMO was never to see the mass market.
When Yamaha’s DX7 became the bestselling synth to date almost overnight in 1983, Casio wanted some of that market. Casio engineers were able to leverage their consumer-market experience perfecting LSI (large-scale integration) chips, packaging PD into the much more compact and affordable CZ-101. The first polyphonic synthesizer under $500—only one quarter the price of the DX7—it took off. To keep the price low, the CZ-101 featured only 49 miniature keys. The CZ-1000 quickly followed using the same sound engine, but sporting full-sized keys. Several other models followed, all basically dressed-up variations on the same core PD sound engine.
Casio’s success also owed to the fact that their PD synthesis was simpler to program than the DX7’s FM technology, while covering some of the same space as both FM and analog. CZ-driven hits included “Walk the Dinosaur” and “Spy in the House of Love” from Was (Not Was) and Jane Child’s “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love”. The synths on Salt –N-Pepa’s 1987 hit “Push It” are primarily CZ. Vince Clarke (Erasure, Depeche Mode) employed a stack of eight CZ-101’s connected to a computer sequencer. Other Casio artists over the years include Eurythmics, Blancmange, Loverboy, The Thompson Twins, Richard Souther, Moby, Ariel Pink, Junkie XL and Nile Rodgers.
Now our CZ V adds authentically modeled Phase Distortion synthesis to your musical palette—and that’s just the start.
A different kind of digital synthesizer
Our DSP team reverse-engineered the code inside the CZ-series and even modeled the DAC outputs, bringing that authentic ‘80s Casio sound to your rig today.
Like FM, phase distortion is based on the principel of one digitally controlled oscillator (DCO) modulating another. With PD, however, the time domain of the carrier sine or cosine wave is being altered by the modulating waveform to yield a different overall DCO wave shape. Put another way, if you change the linearity of how a simple sine waveform plays—like speeding up at the beginning of the cycle and slowing down at the end—it’s no longer a sine wave. That’s the core concept behind phase distortion synthesis.
DCO > DCW > DCA
Each DCO in CZ V lets you select from the 8 original waveforms or draw your own. Some serial combinations of two different waveforms are provided for, resulting in many more possibilities. Each DCO is followed by a corresponding digitally controlled waveshaper (DCW) section, including key follow and an 8-stage envelope generator. This animates the amount of waveshaping from the modulator—and thus the DCO timbre—over time. There’s also an eight-stage envelope for DCO frequency, allowing for pitch-change effects far beyond vibrato, trills and lasers. A digitally controlled amplifier (DCA) with its own eight-stage envelope rounds out a DCO>DCW>DCA signal chain roughly equivalent to that of analog VCO>VCF>VCA.
Like the original, the CZ V has two complete DCO>DCW>DCA signal lines that you can use either singly or in parallel. Duplicate settings in each line allows for a fatter sound given the ability to transpose and/or detune them, while separate settings provide for much more complex timbres. You might, for example, shape a hyper-percussive sound in one line and craft a pad in the other to combine into a compound timbre. Other goodies faithful to the original include a dedicated vibrato section, polyphonic portamento, ring modulation and noise modulation.
Ultimately, the beauty of PD compared to the better-known FM is that there are only four primary things that really control the timbre of each CZ line: the DCO’s modulating waveform and the three envelopes. Moreover, changing the parameters in any one of those components doesn’t impact the others’ influence on the patch. While the unique sonic characters of both PD and FM have made great and distinct contributions to recent music, PD’s simpler arrangement can ironically get a lot closer to analog bass, brass, strings and more with a lot less fiddling.
Paging CZ-101… paging CZ-1000…
it’s time for your makeovers.
Call us crazy, but we just can’t seem to leave a good thing alone.
After awesome modeling, the most important things on our list of improvements were 1/ a much more intuitive user experience and 2/ bringing PD fully into the modern age. Needless to say, we popped the cork on more than one bottle of champagne after wrapping development on CZ V.
No more poking around with data entry buttons and small LCD screens. The streamlined front panel makes using CZ V a breeze. When you need more, it expands with an intuitive graphic interface exposing all the parameters of the DCOs, DCWs and DCAs.
Custom phase distortion editor
Go beyond the eight original modulation waveforms by using the custom phase distortion editor to draw and save your own waveforms. Create up to 16 breakpoints including control of the slope curvature between any of the points.
Advanced envelope control
The new dedicated Envelope panel gives you even more advanced control over the six standard envelopes, plus two more modulation envelopes you can freely assign to dozens of new destinations. Choose from the stock Casio-style envelopes, DADSRs or multi-segment MSEG functions—all of which let you dial in the amount of keyboard follow and velocity control you want. The Casio envelopes bonus you a handy composite overlay view that easily lets you see how the timings relate for all your stock envelopes. MSEGs provide the additional flexibility of creating up to 16 breakpoints, setting loop portions, and syncing with divisions of your host BPM to realize stunning rhythmic effects.
Advanced modulation matrix
We’ve added a dedicated modulation matrix that let you choose up to 256 custom modulation routings. Each can connect any component output or popular MIDI CC controller to target every synth parameter you can think of—complete with positive and negative amounts. In fact, you can influence multiple targets in discrete amounts from a single source and/or affect the same target from multiple sources for some serious sonic destruction. This completely transforms CZ V and what you can do with.
New modulation sources
Use two new LFOs and a sample/hold section to modulate just about anything on your CZ V. They can sync to intervals of your host tempo, and even trigger at triplets and dotted values for more complex rhythms. Set whether they cycle freely or reset with new note-on events. LFO mono and poly modes also determine whether the modulations cycle separately or sync when you have multiple notes going simultaneously.
Combine two modulation sources according to operators like sum, difference, multiply, divide or crossfade, turning the result into a new source in the modulation matrix. Let’s say you want to use your mod wheel to perform the amount of an LFO modulating a DCW. Use the combinate feature to multiply the LFO with the mod wheel, then apply the result to the DCW in the modulation matrix. With combinate, there are a zillion more possibilities like that.
New Macro controllers
We’ve surfaced four macro sliders on the front panel that appears as sources in the new Modulations matrix for routing at variable amounts to up to eight targets. Use our universal MIDI Learn feature to map each Macro to your MIDI CC controllers of choice. Want your footpedal to increase DCO 1 pitch and DCW 2 amount while decreasing LFO 1 amplitude and sample/hold rate—each with specific ranges? Easy!
Use the new arpeggiator to add even more motion to your sound. Choose the triggering order from the usual up/down type modes, as played, or random—over any range from one to four octaves. Dial in the master gate time to get the decay crispness you want without having to dive into the patches. Choose whether you want the effect only while depressing notes or after you release. Optionally sync your arpeggiation to quantized divisions of your BPM for techy textures. Go hands free with the hold button.
With CZ V’s complement of onboard modern effects, everything you need to round out your sound is built right in.
Outboard chorus units were so popular with early CZ owners that Casio built the effect into their later CZ-3000 and CZ-5000 synths. And so we did it too. We’ve modeled our own chorus, plus added eight other modern processors—beat-syncable delay, multimode filter, overdrive, bitcrusher and more. Configure the four effects slots as a single chain for line 1 and 2, or as separate two-slot chains for each line. You can even target key effect parameters in the modulation matrix. Want to add the VCF that Casios never had? Just put the multimode filter in your effects chain, choose the filter type, and use the modulation matrix to target its cutoff frequency with one of the new modulation envelopes. Boom!
Hundreds of kick-ass presets
CZ V contains more than 450 presets in a huge variety of tones, sounds, genres, and categories.
Thanks to the skill of some of the world’s top synth sound designers and the vital, cutting sound of CZ V’s synth engine, you can enjoy a huge variety of amazing preset sounds. Use them as they are, or rework them and personalize them to suit your tracks.
Integrated in-app tutorials guide you through every aspect of the instrument, from individual parameters to tips from our sound designers, so you can focus on the creative stuff. It shouldn't be this easy, but it is!
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- Two synthesis lines and independent noise source
- All CZ-101/CZ-1000 original parameters
- 8 original waveform and custom waveform editor
- Original CZ SysEx import
- CZ, DADSR and Multi-Segments envelopes (syncable and loopable) to control pitch, DCW and amplitude
- 2 Modulation envelopes
- 4 assignable macros
- Advanced modulation matrix
- A Sample and Hold module, 2 LFOs with 6 waveforms, 3 sources combinators and an Arpeggiator
- 4 FXs slots that can be routed in serie or per synthesis line
- A synthesis line state viewer for real-time feedback
- Emulation of the original CZ DAC
- 32 voices of polyphony
- Up to 8 voices of unison with unison detune
- Over 400 factory presets