Jump to content
CairnsFella

The G1 - Second Time Around

Recommended Posts

Hi all.

 

Whilst I am having an active period on the forum (though to restate what I have already written elsewhere, I have always popped by to read new posts, but have not been actively contributing), I thought I would share some current thoughts on coming back to the G1.

 

To be fair, I have been using the keyboard throughout, but for some time I have only been grabbing the occasional preset, or laying down a simple drum sequence to jam with (on my bass). Only recently have I begun to get back into the 'deep end'.

 

It's fair to say that I have already forgotten a lot of the limited amount I had previously known. Some of it is coming back quite quickly, other aspects are stumping me, even though they are things that I am sure I had a handle on before.

 

On the whole I would have to say that I remain quite impressed with what the G1 is capable of. It really doesn't need re-stating - though clearly I am going to - but if one uses the various 'features' of the G1 (Step Sequencer, Phrase Sequencer, Multifunction Keys, Arpeggiator, Sampler,  and Sample Looper) then even without bringing the 'keyboard' into the equation, it has a massive amount going for it for what it cost (and I know many of you paid a lot less than I did). In fact if there were no on-board tones other than the sample based features, and otherwise drove external sound sources, it would still be a great piece of kit for the price. As I say though, this is if you 'use' those features (which in my own humble opinion, is largely the point of this piece of gear).

 

However, .....

 

(And I really need to emphasise, the following is a personal point of view, not a professional opinion, nor a stance I am suggesting anyone else adopt).

 

...... Aside from the solo synth, I have become a little less enamoured by the fundamental 'tone/synth' aspect of the G1 (I realise it is a bit pointless excluding the solo synth from my synth considerations, as this really IS the synth part.. but to some extent this is my point). I am unsure why I didn't  come up against this the first time around. Maybe it's because I 'knew' what the basic capabilities of the machine were, so could not justifiably feel disappointed by things which were never promised to be there. It seems I am a little less forgiving nowadays (though no more justified).

 

Now there is a caveat here. And that is - as intimated above - I am very rusty on the details of the G1, and as such I may be missing something. However, on the PCM melody side of things, there may be a significant number of presets available, but whereas I recall feeling that a good percentage are pretty good sounds, I now feel that there are fewer that I would pick over an alternate sound source. It is not helped by the fact that the parameters you can modify for this side of things seems much more limited than I remember. Yes, you can get a certain degree of variation here, but it doesn't really pass for 'synthesis' by my definition (I realise the world is not defined by MY definitions, but of course, my needs are). So, whilst the G1 isnt a 'workstation' per se, it does somewhat fulfil that purpose for dance (and similar, and indeed other) styles, given the tracks available on the step sequencer. But I now feel a little constrained when working on the G1 alone, as the solo synth part is really my only creative outlet when composing sequences, and for the other tones I feel I have to 'make do'. For me then, really good bespoke 'polyphonic synth' tones are not a highlight here. I know half of this post is caveats, but I do not want to be seen as ignoring the obvious, so yes, I can use external sound sources (and do) and yes I can use samples (and do - though to a lesser extent, as I have other, easier to set up, sampler options), but this is more about what "I" am finding to be a limitation, rather than how I can work around it. This is compounded by - what I feel - is a limited effects section. Again, these are okay when working on one sound. But when composing a sequence with multiple tracks, they soon become a constraint. On a more positive note, I haven't yet felt quite so limited by the available drum presets.

 

In fairness, I only passed over the Solo Synth above, and I continue to find this to be a much much more satisfactory part of the sound engine. Not perfect though (in fact far from it in many ways), but as stated many times it is very deep (and this isn't meant to be a five year too late review, but just trying to give credit where credit is due). Then again, I am finding that I need to 'work' to get a good sound. I don't recall it being quite so much effort and am finding that it is very easy to create pretty poor sounds here as well. I think perhaps I was originally entertained/amused by  a lot of the 'oddness' I could create, even though a lot of that was not really usable. So unless 'weird for weird's sake' is the goal, rather more thought is required here than I was anticipating upon coming back to the G1. By comparison, I fired up a couple of soft synths the other day (not something I use very often) and random tweaking generally produced some pretty powerful and usable sounds.

 

Anyway, this isn't meant to be a downer on the G1. In fact to be fair, if read as intended, I believe I am being far more positive here than negative, it is just that I have 'expanded' upon my areas of disappointment now that I have come back to the unit.  When all is said and done, whilst I like to dabble in composition, the number of tracks that I have produced that I would be happy to share could be counted on no hands, so these issues are hardly responsible for holding up my million selling track. Equally, for the stuff that I do produce for my own consumption, it isn't exactly a problem to use interim tones on the G1. If I really do want to refine something, I use other equipment later. It would just have been nice (v nice) to feel I can do it all in one place).

 

Nonetheless, my voyage of re-discovery continues, and I am sure that it will be, in the main, an enjoyable journey.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In my opinion (and what else could it be) there should never have been two models of the XW. If all the features of both synths had been initially rolled into only one product, your (our) synthesis options would have been much improved.

 

Sure, this all-in-one model would have been more expensive and with even more features than either of the models we got, potentially more confusing to users. (Even Mike Martin has stated that the sheer number of features makes it difficult to explain the value of an XW to potential customers.) There have been many times in my synthesis explorations on the XW-P1 (more or less documented in The XW-P1 Companion!) when I realized that something I was trying to do would have been easy if the P1 had one or another feature found only on the G1. 

 

To some extent the MZ-X500 answers some of that integration, as it has sampling and most of the XW's synthesis modes all together. But since it lacks the solo synth and the step sequencer - the two defining features of the XW synths, common to both - it's not really a true successor. 

 

The fact that the XW line lacks what all other current polyphonic synthesizers provide - individually modulated filters for all simultaneous notes - is its Achilles heel. I knew about that limitation going in so I'm not complaining about it. But it's one of the reasons many people passed on buying one of the XW models. Notice how quickly Casio rectified that limitation in their next pro product: the PX-5S.

 

Casio could have used another winning strategy for their return to the synth world: emulate the Phase Distortion synthesis of their old CZ line of synths. Why they did not and still do not do that is beyond me. It seems abundantly clear that the CZ synths were Casio's shining synth moment. People still love that sound and many have professed they would buy a synth that included that synthesis method. Just imagine if it had been one of the synthesis modes of an XW synth. Your post above would have sounded quite different! 

 

At the end of the day we either accept and use what we have in whatever way we can or we move on. But what do we really have? I think I have demonstrated in my own explorations that we have somewhat more than we think we do. Yes, fundamental limitations still apply but combining existing features can get us to places we thought we couldn't go. If I had a G1 rather than a P1 who knows what capabilities I could unlock from it? (Given enough time!!)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The XW-G1 is quite different from using an XW-P1. It is more to create rhythms and sounds more easily. But to be "perfect" it would have to be analog modeling. I needed to buy a Novation Mininova and, in the future, a Studiologic Sledge because the XW lack this feature.

Now that I understand the theory of synthesis and the characteristics of the XW-G1, it is indispensable for my creations.

The XW-G1 is rare comparing it to the XW-P1 and other synthesizers because it is a groove synthesizer. It's great for experimenting and creating electronic beats.

The XW-P1 is more "conventional".

 

NOTE: I explain under my "style" of musical creation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are some missing elements that would have made it even greater,

Still can only add I'm having fun with the XW in the years it's profiled itself

as a single part performance keyboard. I wasn't feeling it in the beginning.

Actually to me the sampler in the G1 saved it a little.  

 

edit

*(actually to do what I'm doing with the sampler without it I would need

   four XW Hybrid engines each with its own performance to do the same 

  thing ) *

 

 

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi all, and thanks for the responses.

 

I have to say that I didn't really expect or intend to generate a general "what we dont like about the XW" or "what we would have liked it to be", as I realise this had been covered much in the past. However, now I think about it, all these views were quite some time ago, so your posts are indeed the same as mine in that you are expressing your views on the keyboard from a kind of "long term test" perspective, rather than the "recent acquisition" angle of those older posts. 

 

Alen.

As much as I agree that the XW would have indeed been a superior instrument if it had combined the features of both boards, and I am sure I would have loved the hex layers, the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that this would not have been the 'solution' to any problems that I have. For me, it isn't the lack of whole new features, but more the detail of the existing features that are the limitation. Of course I may be in the minority, and most others may feel your vision would have been ideal for them. I guess this is the problem for designers once you create a keyboard that does more than one thing. Each additional function may or may not add value for any given person, and each feature may or may not be as fully integrated and expanded as any given person may require.

 

Some of the complexity that you refer to I feel is inherent in a deep keyboard such as this, but other parts are not. Anticipating the length of this post I wont give too specific an example, but what I am trying to say here is that yes, sure, people may get frustrated with certain parameter tweaks that really cant be done much better, but I feel I waste as much, if not more time, trying to work out things such as why my DSP settings were ok one minute, but then not ok after a save. If some (well all really) of these 'non creative quirks' (bugs?!?) had been resolved, there would be a lot less pain.

 

The MZ would not be for me at all. Solo Synth and step sequencer were arguably what I purchased the XW for, so again it highlights how a multi-functional instrument can win and lose followers dependent upon the inclusions / omissions. In this case I dont think it would be unfair to say the MZ is a bit like a home keyboard on steroids.. which is great for it's target audience.

 

Cannot agree with you enough though re: the lack of additional modulated filters. Not something I initially ran into so much, but this time around I am really feeling this limitation. This alone almost (not quite, but almost.... well maybe just when I am in a really bad mood) makes me classify the XW as the 'home keyboard' of synths (which I am sure some Casio detractors would argue is the natural order of things).

 

I'll have to take your word on the CZ though. Not something I know much about beyond the love I read in these forums. I would be surprised if I hadnt encountered one in my youth, but probably did not know or appreciate what it was.

 

Gnomo,

 

The P1 was never on my radar, though as it has the solo synth and step sequencer, it really has the 'main' components I was seeking originally. Im sure I'd love to have them as an 'addition' but I felt the Hex Layers and Organ were more adequately represented in my existing setup than the extra features of the G1.

 

Can see where you are coming from re: the need for additional sound sources. Of course, this always depends on what an individual is trying to achieve. Even the 3 synths you list may be overkill for some.... and inadequate for others. I lean towards your point of view, but this is just down to haw I approach things and "why", which I elaborate upon below.

 

Addict.

 

Your comment makes me feel I should give the sampler a little more love than I currently do. I really only used it once when I did the 'sequence' for the Depeche Mode track. I am sure it could help me get 'unstuck' in some situations.The problem has been that I have 2 other hardware samplers, plus the computer (though I dont really use the PC for sampling duties), and have found it easier to turn to those when required.

 

A Little Background

(This is probably a little dull, so it isnt really recommended reading - so STOP NOW - if you are already half asleep. I just include it to give context to some of my views and opinions.)

 

Many years ago I used to come up with a few compositions. I have had a bit of recording gear in my time, but really never got much down. In recent years I have primarily been hanging with a jamming group (playing my bass guitar), but I wanted to get back to composition (trying to compose at least). Time, however, is at even more of a premium now though. So I decided something like a step sequencer would introduce a simplified approach of creating some beats to work with. And having a hardware version would be much more instantaneous to use.

 

When I first purchased the G1 I wasnt even explicitly looking for a sound source. In fact, as I say, my BIG priority was the hardware step sequencer. Of course an included sound source was a bonus, and several of my candidates had this. I was looking at things from the beatstep and electribe, up to the Roland JD XI. When I learnt about the Casio it ended up a choice between that and the Roland. Even then I felt the Roland sounded better, but as I have other sound sources and sound was not my original priority, I decided the features list on the Casio (and the price) meant I went for the XW.

 

So in terms of 'what I bought it for' I have to be fair and say the G1 has met, and in many respects, exceeded what I hoped it would do. Of course it is MUCH more than a step sequencer, but as a step sequencer alone it is very very good.

 

However, my intentions and reality often end up rather different. Yes, I would jam along to simple sequences, but I didnt really find myself doing much composition. However I did start to enjoy the potential of the step sequencer which I explored when doing the aforementioned Depeche Mode track. 

 

Now bear in mind that, as a compositional tool, I had always intended to use other sound sources that I have available. After all the G1 was a home studio tool (according to my original plan). However, our jamming group has these occasional weekend events out in the country on one of the members properties, where he has a homemade covered stage in a natural amphitheater (it's really cool). And at these events (and some of our usual jams to be fair) people often do songs (covers and originals) in addition to the jam sessions. I took my G1 to one of these and the Depeche Mode track went down really well (mainly because of the age group and people could sing along, more than my contribution I think). Of course though, this made me think I should put together a few more so I had something different for next time. This first track was done entirely on the G1 as part of my learning the step sequencer, but of course if I did another I would still need to use just the G1 as I did not want to be lugging any other modules/keyboards/samplers etc around (I already had camp gear, guitars, amps. mics PA etc). But when I started to try other tracks I began to find there just wasnt enough 'synth' there for my needs. I think I just lucked out on the first track with the sounds available. And it was hitting these hurdles that mad me lose touch a bit with the G1. As I got back into it more recently having decided I probably wasnt trying hard enough I find I am hitting the same hurdles.

 

As mentioned by Alen, the sampler is probably something that could help a lot here. Whilst I 'should' use the sampler more, I rather feel this way about it. If I were doing my own compositions I would have no problem using the sampler as even if I were "stealing" sounds, I would be using them in my own way, in my own arrangement etc. However, in doing these 'covers' if I were to use samples I would feel I may as well record a backing track. I am not suggesting arranging covers is a skill per se, but I only really enjoy doing it if there is some form of challenge, and trying to get the sounds right(ish) myself is part of the enjoyment for me (and clearly a source of frustration too). Still, that's just me I suppose.

 

So I cannot emphasize enough, in terms of what I purchased the G1 for, it has excelled. It is just that it teased and tempted me with some additional potential that, so far, it hasnt 'quite' fulfilled. Not entirely fair of course. I clearly understand that. But one cannot help how one feels.

 

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/21/2017 at 9:19 AM, AlenK said:

Casio could have used another winning strategy for their return to the synth world: emulate the Phase Distortion synthesis of their old CZ line of synths. Why they did not and still do not do that is beyond me. It seems abundantly clear that the CZ synths were Casio's shining synth moment. People still love that sound and many have professed they would buy a synth that included that synthesis method. Just imagine if it had been one of the synthesis modes of an XW synth. Your post above would have sounded quite different! 

 

That, x 1000!!!!

 

Of the "Big Four" Japanese keyboard/ synth manufacturers, three of them (Yamaha, Roland and Korg) have all issued various degrees of re-issues of their classic keyboards, or brought them up to date via modelling. Roland with their "Boutique" range (Juno, JX and Jupiter), as well as modern takes on the Jupiter and Juno, Yamaha with their "Reface" (including the DX7) range, and Korg with out and out repros of classic synths (MS 20, (Korg)ARP Odyssey). Korg has also pushed the boat out by delving into pure analogue goodness with the recent Minilogue, a four voice VCO (not even DCO!) synth capable of as much analogue squelchiness that you can ask for. 

There is a market for well loved retro synths, as the other three Japanese manufacturers have all capitalised on. Casio could make a killing re-issuing the much loved and respected CZ line, and surely being all digital, it would be dead easy to bring it back in a modern synth with far greater processing power. Add greater polyphony, more features, DSP's, real time parameter (CC) controls, real time filters etc. and they'd sell them like hot cakes. Make them able to read original CZ programming data too, and you'd have a HUGE library of patches available right off the bat. It surely wouldn't have been that hard to incorporate such a synth into the XW/ MZ line. Then, offer a mini key "101" version and a rack version too (to make up for the original CZ line not having a rack version!), and all bases would be covered.  

 

One can still dream and hope. Please give the world the 2017 CZ, Casio!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I suspect that the hardware reason why Casio made no combined XW-P1/G1 model is that they reused a special CPU they had created already in 1990th, which sounds good by highly optimized handmade machine code (so they can't easily replace it), but supports a too small address space to access enough ROM (actually flash memory) to handle the features of both instruments at once. Of course they could have used bank switching, but there may have been a deadline for quickly finishing the chip or such stuff. That is to say, compared with average modern single chip hardware (e.g. Raspberry Pi) the system is surprisingly tiny, which can not be explained with RAM/ROM price anymore, but only by the oldfashioned virtue of "programming on the metal".

An in depth technical analysis can be found in this thread:
Pooched XW-P1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/21/2017 at 9:19 AM, AlenK said:

 

 

To some extent the MZ-X500 answers some of that integration, as it has sampling and most of the XW's synthesis modes all together. But since it lacks the solo synth and the step sequencer - the two defining features of the XW synths, common to both - it's not really a true successor. 

 

 

Great thread and conversation. Just wanted to point out that the MZ-X500 does indeed have a solo synth mode, as well as a new monophonic bass synth engine. You can really get those "juicy" TB sounds when you play with the cutoff/res.  

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good point and one I have made before in other threads. But allow ME to point out that Casio does not call the MZ-X500's monophonic mode for its Hex Layer engine nor the monophonic bass synth, a solo synth mode. That's likely simply to avoid confusion with the solo-synth mode of the XW synths. The differences between the MZ-X500's monophonic modes and the XW's solo synth mode are significant. Wouldn't it be nice to have both? In a true XW successor there's no reason there couldn't be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×