Casio FZ1 Sampler

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CASIO FZ1 SAMPLER

 

The FZ-1 is a huge beast of a thing,with 5 octaves of velocity/aftertouch sound sampling at up to 36kHz - more professional than the SK series.
The keyboard is kind of stiff and clunky and requires quite heavy depression to get aftertouch. All of the control elements - pitch bend/modulation and swell pedal are under the control of the LCD menu system and the modulation system can affect the LFO/VCA and VCF - yes that's "VCF" - voltage controlled filter- which means this thing can sound like an old analogue if you have set the wave forms to the basic default types. The envelope system is similar to the CZ series having 8 steps,sustain and end points.

The rear panel has 8 mono line outs and one mix - LINE/MIC for sampling - sampling level being controlled by the level on the facia - MIDI In/Out/Thru, Pedal and Footswitch inputs and the D socket for sample transfer.

Samples can be stored to internal disk,sent via MIDI or via the D socket - which is not a PC port.

Sending via SYSx is not an easy affair requiring handshaking - so far - not managed to figure it out - so presume that you only have disk storage. The disk itself stores sampled voices as well as bank configurations and effect data- and the layout of samples is quite comprehensive - allowing "areas" to be defined which can lead to layering or multiple samples on the keyboard and cross mixing of sounds as they are spread out.

There is a RAM card for doubling memory space - but to date,since writing,only about 5 have ever been seen on ebay,and at £79-99 - so don't expect to double your sample time any time soon.

The disk drive can sometimes be broken - and as this drive is not compatible with PCs,replacing it is not easy,though it can be done. 

So there are 3 methods of storing data - disk,MIDI or port. In theory MIDI would be the optimal solution, but the requisite handshaking makes default dumpers fail to work. The proprietary FZ1 ones on the net I have failed to get to work in both directions,so the disk drive is a fairly important item to have working on this machine.

The 10 digit keypad also has a "texting" style alpha entry to name sounds and banks- and data parameters can sometimes be in the range -127 to +127 so Casio have given you a data slider so some things can be altered analogue style.

Basic waveforms are available to put into the memory - so these are basic analogue shapes that can be subject to filtering and amplitude modulation under envelope control - making the FZ sound like an old analogue machine even if you do not sample anything. Add samples too - and this is pretty awesome.

The graphic display will also show the waves,envelopes and the "drawn" waves data points - which can be used to generate new waves from 96 points,so you are not just stuck with basic waveshapes.There is also a "random" wave generator. The display is also used when truncating the ends of samples and aids getting rid of those annoying clicks - and when looping the sample - though this only seems to produce so many loops - not an infinite loop point - so the sound stalls at the top of the keyboard for long notes. This is not the case however,when SUStain is chosen for the loop,so it is possible to get infinite loops to hold the sound long enough for the envelope to finish.

Good points: There are several wave generating systems inside - so sampling isn't the only thing it can do.It can sound like an old analogue using the preset wave shapes. The control elements are many - pitch bend/mod wheel and swell pedal...as well as velocity sense and aftertouch - nearly all of which can act upon the LFO,VCA and VCF,you'll end up looking like a body performance artist manipulating all the controls!

Up to 36kHz sampling and length of samples can be doubled with a RAM card - which I have seen only about 5 times on ebay.The ability to spread samples across the keyboard and layer sounds from any source and also mix the split point between samples means this is a few steps above the SK toy samplers. 

Niggles: I do not know if mine is missing an internal battery,but memory is lost on switch off - that includes the state of the display,whose contrast can be set (and it is needed),so annoying to switch on and not be able to see the display (backlight anyone?) and also have a keyboard with no sound in it. It weighs a ton too,so watch your toes when moving it - IF you can lift it!

To my knowledge the PC connecting lead has only appeared once on ebay - and I imagine that even with that operating software is still needed. You can make your own if you can get hold of the details (which I have if anyone needs them). But apparently even using the cable is a dodgy affair with the PC and the FZ both subject to risks of one kind or another if not used properly.



The contrast adjustment is as follows:

Change the "angle" of the display.

1. Press the MODIFY button.
2. Press the DISPLAY button and keep it pressed.
3. Move the VALUE lever up and down until the right angle is obtained. 


Getting samples back and forth between a PC is not easy - and the disk system is incompatible with PCs.That is - although it seems to be a standard IDE A drive- it is NOT in fact a duplicate - and a simple exchange is not possible. However online instructions will explain how to fit a PC A drive if you have an FZ with a faulty unit.


Also:

Find the hidden menu.

1. Switch off the Casio FZ.
2. Press the DISPLAY button and keep it pressed.
3. Turn on the power to the Casio FZ.
4. You can release the DISPLAY button.


Now you should find a new menu item below OPT SOFTWARE called SYSTEM TOOLS. There you will find two menu items, LCD CHECK and FLOPPY CHECK. If you enter the LCD CHECK all the pixels turn black. One more click on the ENTER button shows all the characters the Casio FZ can display. One more click on the ENTER button takes you back. FLOPPY CHECK checks the floppy drive(!). It is a very slow process. Use an empty floppy disk.

Expect to pay: Ebay sellers are currently asking about £150-200,though that seems extortionate to me - I was lucky and got it cheap - I've seen a couple go for £40-50 but I would think over £90 is a realistic price - these are quite rare and sought after.

Size and weight : 1036(W) x 325(D) x 120(H)mm  17.5 kg

Similar Models: Watch out for the FZ10m & FZ 20m which are rack mount versions. Hohner have had some models made under license from CASIO- their HS1 is the FZ1 in white livery. May cost more for being rarer and oddly coloured!





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