Battery-Powered Hundred Dollar Synthesizers?
By James Grahame
Back in the early 1980s, American photography magazines ran amazingly dense ads for discount camera shops at the back of each issue. And, if you looked carefully through the hundreds of items on each page, there were often some rather odd things in stock. Things like the Casio CZ-101 synthesizer, discounted to an incredibly low $109.
The CZ-101 was Casio's debut into the world of "professional" synthesis. The 101 was a miniature polyphonic programmable synthesizer with MIDI. It even offered a couple of clips for a guitar strap, letting keyboard players step to the front of the stage for their solos. The only problem was that the keys were too small for full-sized humans to play with great speed. To that end, Casio released a full-sized version named the CZ-1000.
This pint-sized synth actually packed a lot of power into a hundred bucks worth of plastic. It offered 8 oscillators, but you'd only get 4-voice polyphony if you doubled them up to create a respectable sound. The synthesis engine was completely digital, using something termed Phase Distortion synthesis -- it was somewhat cryptic, but some nifty sounds were possible.
Zillions of these little critters were made and they show up all the time on eBay. Don't pay too much, and have fun!
Casio CZ-101 Phase Distortion Synthesizer (Vintage Synth Explorer)