R.I.P. CASIO VZ-1 Synth

by Stephen Hobley on January 21, 2011

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I think I was 17 when I finally saved up the £300 I needed to buy my first synthesizer. I opted for the Casio VZ-1 – not a particularly powerful synth, but at the time it was a very good controller keyboard.

Casio where well known for “novelty” keyboards, and so the VZ-1 was quite a departure for them. Tagged as “Professional” it was much more rugged (and sleek black) than their other products. (MT-65 I’m looking at you).

It’d been up on the shelf collecting dust for the last few years, so it was time to let it go. I thought I’d have a look under the hood before consigning it the scrap-heap.

It used a very similar synthesis technique to the (then) ubiquitous Yamaha DX-7 but added a ring modulator function to the operator set (something that the DX-7 may not have had – not sure about that). This meant that it was very good at bell like sounds, but not much else – no big sweeping resonant filters here.

I think I used the #26 bass, and the “Crystal Pad” more than anything else – but most of the time it was just controlling the D-110 or U-220 rack mount modules.

It was pretty well-built – the front panel was one large piece of cast aluminium – and it had 3 control wheels, 2 foot VR controllers and was velocity and aftertouch sensitive. “No user serviceable parts inside” states the label – that probably depends on the user 🙂

I couldn’t quite bring myself to get rid of it completely – although I did substantially reduce its on-shelf footprint. (I would be the guy in the sci-fi movies that downloads the consciousness of all the robots before they got blown up.)

Here’s quite a good page about it…

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike February 21, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Are you an idiot? Why did you do that to your VZ-1? What a waste of a great classic instrument!

Stephen Hobley February 21, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Probably a bit crazy – hopefully not an idiot.

It’s not dead, just resting…

sven lemm April 24, 2011 at 4:47 pm

You should be punished-f’

Kev C May 18, 2011 at 6:10 am

VZ1 – still got mine – as you said a great controller keyboard – in-built sounds leave a bit to be desired nowadays!
Mine’s in it’s box under the bed – only bit missing off it is the upright tag on the volume(?) slider.
Interesting how you couldn’t actually get rid of it all – you sound just like me, have to keep some part of anything I throw away(!).
You should have flogged it on ebay – surely someone would have had a use for it. 🙁

Loveunderlaw August 29, 2011 at 3:57 pm

How tragic is that?! Waste of a good synth IMO, many would’ve like to have bought it from you I imagine. Please don’t buy anymore classic synths if you’re just going to take them apart like that!

Stephen Hobley August 29, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Now where did I put that Jupiter 8…

SAXY RIC September 15, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Somebody stole mine and I am still pissed off about it. Since I had time to program so very nice sounds from it back in 88, it was stolen in 91. If anyone wants to get rid of a decent one hit me up, please!!

A musician May 16, 2012 at 4:12 am

Why have you done that, you ASSHOLE!!!

PUTTING A CLASSIC SYNTH IN YOUR HANDS IS LIKE PUTTING CAVIAR IN THE TROUGH OF A PIG

Stephen Hobley May 16, 2012 at 7:44 am

Wow, This really does seem to upset people – I spent time trying to sell it and got no takers – so I just needed the space back.
Having used the thing for years, I really wouldn’t call it a classic though. The sounds were just OK.

marian nicolas lopez September 18, 2012 at 12:14 pm

hola,a ver si alguien me puede ayudar.Tengo un Casio VZ 1 pero he perdido la tarjeta de sonido que lleva y no se donde puedo encontrar una.Si alguien sabe como puedo encontrala y donde que me lo diga por favor.Para mi es muy importante.Gracias

Hello, see if someone can help me. I have a Casio VZ 1 but I lost the sound card and not leading where I can find one. If anyone knows how I can encontrala and where you please tell me. For me is very important. Thanks

Arthur May 11, 2013 at 10:57 pm

I heartily disagree that it not a “particularly powerful” synth. At the time it was made, it was quite formidable (especially for the price), and many instruments today still don’t have synthesis as flexible! The dry output of this synth puts the pre-FX signal of very many modern synthesizers to shame! It is a bit of a pain to program, and there’s not a lot of freedom for the user to modulate timbres in real-time. But its an unusual and special machine. I do agree that it is one of those instruments that is practically impossible to get rid of (at any reasonable price), though. Not a horrible as controller keyboard, either, although Casio didn’t think to add a “local off” setting (which can only be set via MIDI).

Someone took the time to assemble some of the sound possibilities of the VZ-1 in one place:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24QYv1j-vEs

Mark September 19, 2013 at 1:35 pm

I’m just about to sell mine. Bought new and hardly ever used, been sat in it’s box in a wardrobe for years. Just tested it today and all keys work as does the LCD, maybe a few pixels on the very top row are faint but maybe they would come back if it was left on longer.
Can supply photos if required, it will go on eBay soon but will offer it first.
I’m based in Hampshire, UK.

Keith January 22, 2016 at 6:42 pm

Hi,

Came across this old post while looking for spares for a VZ-1 I purchased recently. It came with a bad display and I spent 6hrs changing the LCD backlight. Well.. I managed to see some wordings after the change but seems like the dot matrix is gone in the center.

Do you still happened to have the display unit in your possession? If you are willing to let go, I am willing to get it from you and pay for shipping and handling as well.

Do lemme know at my email: radiolite@hotmail.com

Thank you
Keith

Jiri April 5, 2016 at 4:48 pm

Its very sad to read this. Why an item in good condition, especially this great instrument had to be be wasted as an unneeded junk. If you had given it to anybody for free, the keyboard would have served for other next years. Sorry for my English, I am not a native speaker, but this blog forced me to react. Really R.I.P. for the unnecessarily wasted this awesome, flexible, but underrated synthesizer.

JOEL ELISE July 31, 2017 at 4:04 am

Hey Stephen,
I’m desperately looking for a right side panel for my VZ-1.
Did you keep yours?
Let me know whether we can have a deal please.
Best.

Stephen Hobley September 6, 2017 at 3:29 pm

Sorry no, I do not have the right side panel.

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