Deep architecture, 8 modules oscillators , incredible editing power; the pinnacle of Phase Distortion technology; like a DX7 on steroids. In the iPD system, the wave generated by any module can be used in either of two ways; to produce audible sounds or to modify waves generated by other modules. The 8 iPD sound source modules work in associated pairs that are called "Internal Lines,", or simply "lines". There are 4 internal lines - A, B, C and D The waveforms generated by both modules in any line can be used together in three different ways. And with the use of a standard ROM card, the VZM gives you incredible tonal expansion potential - up to patches and keyboard setups are literally at your fingertips. To alter VZM sounds or programming, you simply alter the value of these parameters using a value slider or value keys.
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The case design also reflected a more professional approach that Casio was taking; a sleek and minimal all black design free from clutter with a brushed steel front plate, making it a very impressive unit to look at - it is also very well built having an all metal chassis, yet maintains a relatively light weight making it especially good for gigging.
The first notable departure from the CZ line is the programming interface, replacing analog-like button per function programming with a page driven system similar to that of the FZ-1 released the previous year. Unlike other synthesizers on the market at the time, the edit pages were not nested and their location and function were clearly marked on the front panel above the menu and function buttons.
The VZ-1 takes a hybrid approach to its sound generation. The end result is a unique and hauntingly space-age sounding synthesizer with many smooth "twangy" textures - but it can also be very harsh and noisy when complex phasing is employed. Thumping bass-lines and sweeping pads are its strongest points but it is also very capable of analog-ish brass and strings. The Casio VZM rack mount The voice architecture is similar to the Yamaha DX synthesizers in that you have several oscillators that link together to generate extra harmonics via some form of algorithm.
Where the DX7 has six oscillators to choose from, the VZ has eight. Each oscillator is part of a "module" and each module has a long list of functions independent of the other modules: Waveform, detune, envelope, envelope depth that also functions as oscillator volume , envelope velocity sensitivity, envelope key follow and amplifier sensitivity.
Each module is then arranged in 4 pairs: A, B, C and D. The first module in a pair then has the option to mix with the second module similar to a dual oscillator synthesizer , ring modulate the second module or phase modulate the second module. The output from this can then be sent to the main output, or used to modulate the second module of the following pair for example: the output from Pair A modulates the second module in Pair B which is also being ring modulated with the first module in Pair B.
This freedom to pick and choose your own voice combinations allows for some very wild and complex sounds. Aftertouch was also rather generous for the time too, allowing modulation of vibrato depth and rate, tremolo depth and rate, portamento time, pitch modulation and envelope bias. The VZ-1 also features a combination mode that lets you stack up to 4 patches on top of each other giving a total of 32 oscillators per voice.
Working in combination mode does lower polyphony, however, with 4 patches only allowing monophonic operation. Each patch in a combination could then be velocity switched, velocity triggered, crossfaded, have their tremolo and vibrato inverted, detuned, transposed and split across the keyboard.
Even today, this is an impressive list of features for a non-workstation synthesizer. The keyboard also has two outputs that come in great use when controlling over MIDI or when playing split. Some careful trickery with Tremolo in combination mode with these two outputs can also give you a stereo panning effect.
There are some drawbacks, however. Where other synthesizers of the time could store up to patches in memory, the VZ only has 64 8 banks of 8 slots and the ROM cards were limited to a max of 64 patches due to the way the front panel was laid out. The synthesizer does not contain any onboard effects or a sequencer and the presets are of the typical cheap Japanese keyboard affair - with the only usable patches out the box being the DX7-ish slap bass guitar and e-piano.
Although easy to program, especially when compared to a D or a DX7 , the long list of parameters that need to be edited for each individual module make this synthesizer very tedious to program larger sounds and textures. Add on the complexity of its sound engine and how twitchy it can be and it may end up frustrating to those not well versed in synthesizer technology. Despite these failings, the synthesizer is still bewilderingly powerful and versatile if you spend time to become better aquaintted with it and it can easily become the focal point of any track with its uniquely warm yet cutting tonality.
The VZ still has better audio and more versatile algorithms.
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