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AlenK

Ideas for Casio's Next Synth Platform

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AlenK,  You should get your hands on an MZ-2000 and see what Casio did back in the day....  I'm still waiting for them to top this one.  It's going to take your list to do that.  

 

mz_2000_2.jpg

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Nice. It does indeed have several of the things on my list. It has aftertouch, an input for an actual expression pedal, a nice, large LCD screen and four DSP effect blocks in addition to reverb, chorus and a master effect (equalizer, compressor, etc.). You can route the DSP blocks in various ways, not just one per part. The selection of DSP effects is very nice, much more comprehensive than the PX-5S. There are no knobs but there are nine sliders as well as pitch bend and mod wheels. It has a drawbar organ mode. In addition to PCM sounds it has a synthesizer that can layer up to four oscillator->resonant low-pass filter->amp structures, with pitch, filter and amp envelopes as well as two LFOs per layer. That's actually pretty sweet for an arranger keyboard.

 

I don't know how the sequencer or arranger features stack up to Casio's current 61-note CTK-7000 arranger product but in other ways it certainly seems like Casio has taken several steps backwards since this was released (given it has a floppy drive that must have been quite some time ago!). However, I'll bet this was substantially more expensive than a CTK-7000, especially if you convert to today's dollars, so it might not be fair of me to compare them.

 

Judging from YouTube videos it makes some nice sounds, too. Frankly, some of them that I heard are much better than in my WX-P1. The pan flute sound is one example. Not that I have any burning desire to use that but the XW-P1's pan flute sounds like someone at Casio sampled the sound from one of those toys you can pick up as souvenirs everywhere in Romania. It is so bad I have to laugh. I frankly don't understand how manufacturers can manage to release products with inferior PCM-based sounds that they did much better in older products. Did they lose the original recordings? Someone please explain that to me.

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The number of effects in the MZ-2000 is a little misleading by today's system.  The DSP architecture has been changed.  I have the PX-5S and MZ-2000 together with me now.  I can tell you that it has most of the effects the MZ-2000 has.  The big difference is, the MZ-2000 can use more effects at one time. 

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Since you have both an MZ-2000 and a PX-5S and I have neither I'll have to take what you say about the number of effects as authoritative. But it sure seems like there are more of them on the MZ-2000. Referring to page A-11 of a badly scanned pdf of the manual, I see 240 insert efffects listed. Some of these are variations (e,g., five versions of EQ-LngDly) but if I remove all of those I still count 162 unique effects, including six types of overdrive/distortion (nice). Granted, some of these are likely now covered by additional options and adjustable parameters within a smaller number of effects in the PX-5S, but I can't see that accounting for every difference.

In any case, I believe there is room for improvement in Casio's effects system. It's obvious from the PX-5S that they have been fine-tuning the individual insert effect algorithms. If in a future keyboard they support up to four of them, as the MZ-2000 does, this will provide even more variety and will allow all four zones to always sound like they should (you won't have to rob Peter to pay Paul).

PS. That assumes I'm not mis-stating things when I say the PX-5S has only one insert effect. You couldn't tell that by reading the manual but I'm almost certain I heard this from Mike Martin himself somewhere.

NOTE: It turns out I DID misstate here. Mike corrected me in a reply below. The PX-5S does indeed have four insert effect processors, although I don't think you can apply more than one to a tone.

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Here's an outline to help.  The effects list for the MZ-2000 is a "preset list" of DSP "stacks".  The PX-5S cannot stack DSP effects so comparing the 2 is difficult.  Also the language is different.  In PX-5S speak the MZ-2000 has 29 DSP effects.  The PX-5S has 20 but those 20 cover a lot more ground than the MZ's 29.  The biggest advantage to the old system was the DSP stacking.  But at most, you had 2 tweakable parameters available.  The new system allows access to all of the DSP parameters.  The true effects in the MZ are listed in the midi implementation manual (google for it.  It's on pdf page 30).    

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Thanks for the explanation about the MZ-2000's effects system. That clears things up. BTW, how do the distortion effects sound on the MZ-2000 (all six of them)? I ask because the (single) distortion effect is pretty poor on the XW synths, which is a pity.   

 

Nothing worse than a crusty manual.

 

If you read German (I don't) there is a very nice official manual here:

http://www.support.casio-europe.com/de/download/manuals/emi/MZ2000_O.pdf

 

If you don't sprechen sie deutsch here's the badly scanned English version: 

http://www.synthzone.com/midi/casio/mz2000/MZ2000%20USER%20MANUAL.pdf

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I can only compare the MZ Distortion effect to the PX-5S.  I have not heard the XW Distortion.   I can say that the Distortion effects on the MZ-2000 have always been a favorite of mine.   

 

Thanks for the link. :)

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PS. That assumes I'm not mis-stating things when I say the PX-5S has only one insert effect. You couldn't tell that by reading the manual but I'm almost certain I heard this from Mike Martin himself somewhere.     

 

AlenK,

The PX-5S has 4 Insert Effects one for each zone.  It is a completely different effects engine than the XW.  The XW-series is limited as you know for DSP power.   The PX-5S has Reverb, Chorus and Delay as system effects plus the Insert Effects which each zone can choose to use.  Sonically there is nothing similar between an XW and PX-5S.

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Mike,

I happily stand corrected. My apologies for stating something so factually wrong. I don't know how I got confused about that.

The improvements in the PX-5S are what make me so hopeful that Casio can pull off a real winner with their next XW series synth. One question, though. How many, if any, of the PX-5S's insert effects are true stereo (i.e., process a stereo signal without destroying the stereo)?

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I was so busy explaining that only one insert DSP effect for a channel is possible that I neglected to mention that each of the 4 zones can have its' own insert.    Sorry Alen.  Bad me.

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I have been thinking about Casio's next synth a lot lately! XW-P2? Or even better, MZ-2014!!! OR, even fantastically more awesome, XW-P2 and XW-G2 as well as MZ-2014 that combined both of them into one heck of a workstation.

 

This is one of my sweetest synth dreams, and out of all of my synth fantasies this is the most realistic, almost life like:

 

-XW's mono synth -> Poly... perhaps even slightly updated while at it

-Sampler or at least memory for user samples without having to buy two synths!!!

-PX-5S's effects and Hex Layers -> they are fantastic synth in it self, but I hardly dare to imagine the madness when combined with a poly synth

-Step sequencer from P1

-Organ modelling; I SO very much would like to hear it with the new effect processor

-iPad for knobs(I wouldn't mind synths own resistive screen either; its affordable and still has some delightful selling points)

 

I wouldn't mind if polyphony was low as long as features made me high. I would even accept P1's keys without much whining if the synth engine it self was was robust.

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I have half a mind to mock up a fake 4-page brochure (folded 11x17 glossy) for a future XW synth, just for fun. Bad idea?

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I think Casio should combine the Privia PX- 5s synth engine and keyboard chassis with their WK arranger series. Could you imagine the power of an arranger combined with the Privias sounds?  I can near the Hex-layers playing with the backing band now. WOW!!

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A redesigned WK minus the on-board speakers with the Privia hammer action in 76 key version as an option would be awesome.  And yes, the AiR sound source in a WK as well as hex layers would be the best.  I'd call this dream machine the MZ-1. 

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Here's My second wish option for this dream board.  If you are going to have 8 layer hex sounds make a one button randomize for Hex Layers . Press the button and bam the synth randomizes a hex layer.  Save the ones you like .  Man the possibilities are endless.  Kinda makes the days of two layers seem old fashioned...doesn't it?

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One other feature, since you are all "pushing the envelope"-my old Generalmusic S3T had true polyphonic aftertouch-one could bring in a different sound in a multi on each individual key I think up to six different sounds-what a concept (I sold mine because the piano sound wasn't good and bringing in samples was limited to 1-2 MB). And the keybed was unique to anything I've played-it had a type of weighted/springloaded action that was very smooth, a cross between a weighted piano key and a purely-springloaded typical synth key, very nice to play and quite nicely balanced. The mechanism was different inside, looked very solid. I agree with all other upgrades, would be an exceptional instrument indeed.

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no more built-in displays

wireless transmitter instead

connect to user's mobile device

subscription -based apps - funds may help sustain platform viability

performance app

editor app

recorder/seq app

speech recognition input option

possible open-architecture for teks in the user community

 

gig no. two with px-5s and all is well...

 

regards to all

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Those are some truly horrible ideas :P

 

No display?

 

Tied to a cellphone? (Brand and OS and version specific?)

 

Subscription based? Ick.  Why would I pay good money to RENT my keyboard?

 

I would NEVER shell out one thin dime for such a keyboard.

 

Nah, I'd just be happy if keyboard designers stopped living ten years in the past when it comes to modern technology.

 

By now they should all have 10 " touchscreens and Quad Core 3 GHz CPUs and 32 Gigs of expandable flash RAM all for under $1000.

 

Sometimes I get the impression they still design them with Commodore 64s, Z80's and 80286's :P

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Sure, a mobile device like a tablet or a phablet with a decent size screen would make editing much better for less incremental cost than building a largish touchscreen into the keyboard (ala Kronos, Krome, etc). Mike Martin's upcoming iPad app for editing solo synth voices in the XW synths is a prime example (assuming you have an iPad already - a pretty expensive solution if you don't!). A phone's screen, OTOH, would be too small for editing, IMO, although MIDI control stuff might be fine.

 

But, as the OP for this thread, I was suggesting merely a small improvement to the XW's existing display, which as displays go is pretty minimal and almost certainly very low cost. I wouldn't want to see a synth that lacks a plethora of knobs _depending_ on a mobile device's display for UI feedback. Heck, even a synth WITH a lot of knobs should have some kind of built-in display, IMO; you'll find more than one Gaia user that wishes Roland had at least included a small LCD to allow and show patch names, etc.

 

Subscription based apps? No way.

Speech recognition on a performance synth intended to be used primarily on stage? No.

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I should add that if I had my druthers (that's a real word, by the way) a new 76-key Casio synth would indeed have a decent sized touchscreen. If Korg can do it on the Krome (all three versions of it, even the 61-key model) then Casio could do it too.

However, Korg did saddle the 61-key and 73-key models of the Krome with a craptastic, el-cheapo keybed, perhaps their way of offsetting the cost of the display. Casio's low-cost 61-key and 76-key keybeds are much better than what is on those Krome models and they probably don't cost any more to manufacture. (BTW, Casio, please don't do 73 keys. There's really no good reason for that on a synth.)

But a decent-sized touchscreen, say 7 or 8 inches diagonal - even a relatively low-res (800 x 480) resistive one - is likely a lot more expensive than the super-low-res monochrome LCDs that Casio's current keyboards use, so it WOULD inevitably add to the retail price. I don't mind paying more but I'd rather see Casio put that money into better sound or more real time controls. And realistically, Casio won't start from ground zero on a new synth. So we probably won't see anything like that. But I would still like to see a small, incremental improvement in the display Casio is using. They could do that pretty inexpensively.

The idea of supporting a tablet over WiFi (WiFi is very cheap to add nowadays) for editing and/or control is a good one, but whose? An inexpensive Android-based tablet? Android doesn't have good support for MIDI. The iPad? Great MIDI support and a ton of music apps but it is relatively expensive. A Windows-based tablet? Probably less effort to support than the others (because you can potentially leverage your PC editor development) but there are so few of them out there.

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