Casio CZ230s

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The CZ230s is rather a strange amalgam and as an oddity is rather sought after. It uses the same synthesizer engine as the other CZ range - using PHASE DISTORTION as the means of synthesis. This was Casio's answer to the DX FM synthesis and as such is nifty and novel and produces a unique sound.
The instrument is MONOPHONIC but has separate outputs for the headphones,drum machine and PD synth engine,allowing the sounds to be processed independently. The internal speaker is perhaps what makes it seem a tad odd,compared with today's stereo machines,but don't be fooled,this is a classy little beast with an LCD display and programmable characteristics and was described by one seller on Ebay as "a wolf in sheeps clothing" which I would tend to agree with.
There are,as there are on the other CZs,guitar strap buttons so you can play this as a clavitar and the pitch bender is well placed to accommodate this.

There are 99 preset voices,the last 4 of which are programmable under MIDI control using SYSx. I have done this - and it is not the easiest thing to do - it is easier if you happen to have a CZ101 or CZ1000 hanging about,since all the parameter controls are on their facia,and even then,choosing which of the 4 sound banks you want to store the sound in is a matter of editing HEXadecimal (if using MIDI-ox).It is possible to get CZ Editors - there are a couple of free ones on the net,and perhaps the capacity to alter 4 of the voices is another reason why the 230s seems a bit of an oddity.
All the sounds are typical of PD - not being as brash as FM or as warm as analogue but falling somewhere in between. The synthesizer method allows brash brasses and warm flutes and the presets are perhaps pretty good compared to some of the cheaper models.No73 is quite useful,being a fedback guitar producing a squeal at the end of the envelope.
There is a portamento (glide) setting and this can be programmed for the time taken to go from one note to the next with the LCD display.
The whole unit can be transposed +-5tones,and retuned.
The rhythm machine is PCM type with about 10 drums,but again,oddly,you can use 4 of the PD tones as drums,the clever thing being that some of the presets are percussion noises and so you can choose 4 of your own drums. If you happened to have put 4 percussion noises in the last 4 presets generated by SYSx then you could use those in the rhythm programmer.
There is a preset section of rhythms and a programmable section,and the graphic legends on the facia allow step programming of rhythms.The rhythm cycles as you add to it or delete from it.
Use of the PD tones allows a rudimentary sequence of notes to be built up and so along with your drum programs,you can create chugging bass lines. It is a rather non-standard step-time arrangement and takes some getting used to-but in some ways is perhaps more useful than real time arrangers.
There is storage for 2 banks of presets and 1 bank of user programs.The whole sequence timing can be synchronised to the MIDI time signal and the stop and start MIDI codes begin and end the sequence.
The 10 user storage areas have 2 measures and 1 fill in and thus there are 30 measures in all and then you structure those into 199 measure song. Programming is quite a testing procedure and its not the easiest thing to get the result you want,which is often the case with step-time programming. However,with persistence,the right on the beat timing is quite helpful if you are after Tangerine Dream style chugging sequencers or as I am informed - Vince Clarke style Erasure patterns.
There is a limitation on the polyphony of the rhythm unit - the drums are grouped into 4 sections and only one of those sounds can be emitted from that section at a time,along with the PD sources there is 8 note total polyphony and you can accent (add volume) to each note.
The CZ230s sports MIDI IN,OUT and THRU which is atypical and allows easy connection to any MIDI setup.
There are 2 modes:set by holding down SOLO at power on,resulting in 4 MIDI channels being responded to the base of which is the MIDI channel set in the POLY mode.
 In 4 channel mode the 230s starts to be a bit lacking in polyphony and so expect notes to go missing if Toccata is coming down the MIDI cable!
The actual SYSx codes for getting the last 4 presets to alter are not in the manual to my knowledge,nor are they in the CZ101 manual - both manuals can be obtained online ,or mail me. If you want those codes then I do have them and can supply them - but be warned - it gets quite technical.
Good points: The LCD display is a useful item and informs of MIDI channel numbers and even the separate mixer volume settings of the 4 channel response.Quite ahead of its time there.The ability to play clavitar style might be over-rated since with the addition of the speaker,it is a bit longer and more cumbersome than a CZ101 or DX100 The facia controls are solid and feel like they will keep working forever,which is more than I can say for the membrane on the CZ1000.There are controls at the back to switch MIDI onto internal or external timing,which makes synchronisation easy. The pitch bender is programmable from the LCD display.
The 230s also sports a tape backup system to store all your programs on which my info/experiments show is the same DIN plug arrangement as the DX100.There seems to be few actual adaptor leads around and you may have to make your own,but perhaps this is easier than using SYSx for some people.

Niggles: By today's standards - monophonic output is sub-standard,but I have found that by use of sound processors,the CZ230s doesn't really lack,the rhythm machine is a tad tacky compared to modern ones,being more akin to the MT PCM type,but not bad for its age.
It's quite a weighty machine physically and so carrying it around as a clavitar is not for the faint of heart,even so - my version has some of the black keys leaning over to the right,which one imagines was due to someone playing it with a guitar strap fitted!

Expect to pay: These seem rarer than CZ101's and I have only seen a few on Ebay - though they do not seem to fetch the same prices as a 101 - if you are under £80 you are doing well.

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