New non-trendy bonkers synth day - Casio VZ1

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Inspired by @octatonic 's M1 purchase, I've recently been seeking out and auditioning old synths I'd previously spent some time with in my youth.  Mainly for a bit of nostalgia, but also because my midi controller has died and an old synth would be a fine replacement.  Fortunately, my circle of like-minded mates have got some nice things they've been kind enough to loan me.

For the most part, this has been largely disappointing.  Horrendous user interfaces, broken displays and backlights, sounds I remember being much more specactular than they actually are, and noise.  Lots of noise.

One of my mates gave me a D50 and a Casio VZ10M rack module (which I'd never heard of).  I always imagined my choice would come down to a D50 or a DX7, and a few hours on the D50 confirmed my choice.  I did give the VZ10M a go, laughed at how bad the lame bass and electic piano presets were and put it away again.

When it was due for them to go back, my mate asks for my thoughts about the VZ10M, and when I responded in not very polite terms, he rigged it up and started messing around with it.  After a brief tour of the frankly bewilderingingly powerful synth engine he put together a couple of string and pad patches and played some Eno-eque parts through a shit load of delay and reverb.  The thing is utterly immense - quite like a DX7 can be if you learn the nuts and bolts, but it's warmer.

There are 8 'modules' (basically an 8 waveform DCO and DCA pair), which are grouped in 4 pairs called 'lines'.  Each line can be set up to for the oscillators to be independant, ring modulate or phase modulate.  The output of which can then phase modulate the next line etc.  It also has an 8 stage envelope generator for each of the modules, the rates and amplitude can be set to independantly respond to keyboard position and velocity, so patches can have some real movement.

Up to 4 patches can be combined (at the expence of polyphony) or you can apply a velocity split, keyboard split or a keyboard crossfade.  There's multi waveform vibrato and tremolo, aftertouch, pitch bender and two mod wheels and a global 8 stage pitch envelope.

The interface is a joke - it's marginally less hassle to program than a DX7, and there are graphic representations of the waveforms, envelopes etc. but it's not intuitive at all.  It's also a touch noisy.  Nothing massive, just what you'd hear on something like a DX7II.

My pleas to purchase the VZ10M fell on deaf ears, but I've since managed to source a near mint VZ1 (keyboard version) complete with it's ROM card for not a lot of money.  And the backlight still works.  Bonus.  It's going to take some learning though....



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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 27878
    Cool.

    I shifted the M1 on pretty quickly, actually- they are huge and heavy old things.
    The is a VZ10M here for sale in Geneva for peanuts that I am thinking about picking up.
    http://uptheoctave.com
    Audio Production Reviews and Technique.
    Latest article for Production Expert: Mixing with guitar pedals. https://bit.ly/3hCtIHF
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  • DodgeDodge Frets: 551
    octatonic said:
    Cool.

    I shifted the M1 on pretty quickly, actually- they are huge and heavy old things.
    The is a VZ10M here for sale in Geneva for peanuts that I am thinking about picking up.
    Agreed about the M1, plus the Korg VST's are really quite good.  I don't miss my Wavestation.

    You'll need to have patience if you do go for the VZ10M.  It's crying out for an editor - I think Midiquest supports them, but the software is more than I paid for the synth.

    If you do get it and don't like it, dibs please.  I reckon the rack version and a new controller might actually be a better use of space in the studio (assuming I stick with it of course).


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  • My brother has owned a Casio VZ-10M and ROM card for over thirty years. I cannot recall a single recording that he has used it on or any sound that he programmed himself - either from scratch or by tweaking a factory patch.

    Once, whilst crashing out a my brother's home, inspired by a Beck/Bozzio/Hymas concert the evening before, I MIDI'd together the VZ-10M and DW-8000 to get a monster brassy synth + distorted guitar sound. 

    Editing on the Casio VZ series is the proverbial decorating the hallway through the letter box experience. External editing software or a controller keyboard with lots of sliders and rotary encoders would speed things up.

    Software emulations of the CZ family are very good these days, far exceeding the capabilities of the original instruments. I cannot recall whether anyone has produced a VZ emulation. For sounds of this type, I generally use Rob Papen Blue II.
    Be seeing you.
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  • DodgeDodge Frets: 551
    I've not come across any VZ emulations, but I have found the code for an editor /librarian on GitHub.  I'm no developer, but I might have a play to see if I can get it compiled.
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  • I've got a VZ1 that I bought new in the late '80s when one of the suppliers had a blowout sale when production ended.  Think I paid about £400 for it.  Fantastic thing, so much better feeling keyboard than any of the "cool" makes of the time, and built like a tank.  I mostly use it as a controller now - as has been mentioned it's a sod to program.

    The backlight on mine died a couple of years ago and I replaced it with a new electroluminescent panel I bought off a guy who was selling kits on ebay (in eastern Europe somewhere I think).  Was a fairly straightforward job, but a lot of stuff to take apart to get at it.

    Considering the low value of it today because it doesn't say Roland, Yamaha or Korg on it, there's no way I'd get rid of it.
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  • Dodge said:
    I've recently been seeking out and auditioning old synths I'd previously spent some time with in my youth. ... I always imagined my choice would come down to a D50 or a DX7, and a few hours on the D50 confirmed my choice.
    The one that I reckon deserves a second look is the Roland D-70. It had a programming section that allowed the user to choose the start point of the stored PCM samples. Almost nobody seemed to exploit this. Instead, they tended to treat the D-70 as a U-20 with digital filters. 

    Rival products soon eclipsed the D-70. Some of the cross-mod ideas that Roland had tried carried on into the JV/XP series. IMO, the things that did for the D-70 were the high price and the cheap 'n' nasty feel of its keys.
    Be seeing you.
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  • The M1 was a game changer. A few years ago I played keys in an 80's tribute and an M1 was supplied which i augmented with a new Roland VR09 to give a twin keys set up.
    The M1 more than held it's own and interestingly had a much louder output than the VR09.
    One synth i really like from the 80's is the Roland D110 ( a sort of cheap D50).
    In the 80's when i first had one i hated it, but i found some dude on youtube who did a load of patches for it and it was "revolutionised" - still crap for strings though.
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  • One synth i really like from the 80's is the Roland D110 ( a sort of cheap D50).
    In the 80's when i first had one i hated it, but i found some dude on youtube who did a load of patches for it and it was "revolutionised" - still crap for strings though.
    I still have a rackmount D110 somewhere in the studio, can't quite bring myself to part with it

    I like the space horn and the echo pan
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  • DodgeDodge Frets: 551
    Well, it's been a couple of weeks so I thought I'd post an update.

    I'm much more proficient with the user interface, but editting is still a bit of a nightmare - it's not as bad as a DX7 but in that sort of area.  I failed to compile the Windows editor I found on Github (due to my general ignorance of C++ development amongst other things) but I did stumble across an Atari ST editor that works in an emulator.  It's obviously from the dark ages, but it works and it had all of the optional ROM card banks which was handy.

    I'm really rather smitten by the synth though - it's very different and I've not really come across anything quite like it.  The modulator / VCA modules interact in a way I'm not familiar with - so I find trying to craft a sound I can imagine is actually too difficult for me at present.  I suspect more time here will help with familiarity.

    I get much better results either randomising the settings (whicn the Atari editor can do) or by selecting a preset and randomly turning on and off some operators, then analysing what's actually happening with the editor.

    Soundwise, it's not a million miles away from the sort of thing DX7's can do but it's warmer and richer yet can still do those glassy FM-type sounds.  Each of the 8 modules has an 8 stage envelpope so evolving pads are actually really interestimg.  It makes a great ambient synth with some delay and reverb.  

    @octatonic - did you pick up the VZ10M?
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 27878
    I didn't.
    I already had 6 bags to ship back to the UK and I've left several synths in Switzerland that I need to get back.
    http://uptheoctave.com
    Audio Production Reviews and Technique.
    Latest article for Production Expert: Mixing with guitar pedals. https://bit.ly/3hCtIHF
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  • DodgeDodge Frets: 551
    octatonic said:
    I didn't.
    I already had 6 bags to ship back to the UK and I've left several synths in Switzerland that I need to get back.
    Are you coming back to West Oxon?
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