Casio FZ-1 Sampling Synthesizer Hands-On Demo

The latest Synthdude video series offers a hands-on demo of the Casio FZ-1 sampling synthesizer.

The Casio FZ-1 comes from the mid-’80s, when the company was trying to make affordable profession gear. Though the sampling specs are lo-fi by today’s standards, the FZ-1’s hybrid architecture adds additive and subtractive synthesis, letting you create a wide range of interesting sounds.

In addition to offering an overview, the series also offers an introduction to sampling with the FZ-1.

If you’ve used the FZ-1, leave a comment and share your thoughts on it!

15 thoughts on “Casio FZ-1 Sampling Synthesizer Hands-On Demo

  1. I had one of these when it came out, along with the massive memory upgrade (~1Mb???). It was, for the time, a good sampler, but everything was saved onto HD floppy discs, which at the time were £5 each! I remember it was a good keyboard,and it became my master keyboard.

  2. Why do people always spend so much time talking in their videos?
    I just want to listen to the instrument, not a detailed description on how a 90s floppy drive on a synth works

    1. I think it is wonderful people want to spend their time explaining what they do. And for all those that find “people always spend too much time talking in their videos”, there is a simple solution: don’t watch those video’s.

  3. One of my very first keyboards. Had no idea what I was doing and sampling was way above my head. Had a lot of fun with the ability to draw your own waveforms on it though and managed to crank a few good acid house noises out of it. It’s also pretty big and brutally heavy, could not fit it in my studio space today. Kinda wish I’d spent more time with it, now that I’m slightly more clued up about sampling gear…

  4. I had an FZ-1. It wasn’t very good. It was a 16-bit sampler, but for that bit resolution, it had a surprisingly noisy, grainy sound to it. I talked to a Sequential Circuits engineer, who told me he did a test of the FZ-1 where he shorted out the top 2 bits (ie, tested its performance as a 14-bit sampler) and he found no difference in the noise and THD specs with its 16-bit performance. In other words, the FZ-1 performed like a 14-bit sampler. Even worse, it had a floppy disc drive that never spun down as long as you had a floppy in it. THe next result is that, if you left a disc in it, it had the tendency to overheat and die. Its user interface was a nightmare. Being Casio’s first attempt at a “pro music” keyboard (they had been making only hobbyist “toys” up to that point), it felt poorly implemented and organized. I much preferred my SQ Prophet 2000, and Peavey SP, as samplers.

    1. I had one as well, when they came out. I agree with all of this, but it was quite a nice keyboard so I used it as my main controller.
      I saw one being advertised at a ludicrous price as it was “vintage”, I just don’t get that!

    2. Maybe not their first……..The CZ’s were out in 1984 and I remember bands using the Casiotone 201/202 before that. Dont knock good 14 bit convertors. The early Philips CD players used 14 bits and the BBC’s NICAM was 14 bit 32kHz (non linear I think so not exactly directly comparable but close) and there were too many complaints of the R3 broadcasts. And that was the 1970s

  5. The FZ-1 was the first mass-market 16-bit sampler. It really didn’t sound much different from the industry-standard 12-bit samplers of the era. So while it is a true 16-bit sampler, the net effect is that it needs more memory and storage to make 12-bit sounds.

    I believe it was used a lot by Deee-Lite on their groundbreaking “World Clique” album.

  6. To whom it may concern,

    I love my FZ-1. Drawing synth waves and combining with presets was way ahead its time.

    Question: I’m looking for original Casio FZ-1 Disks or at least floppies that will work on this synth. I’m trying to save settings (patches) to a floppy but it’s not working when I initialize the disk. Sometimes it says “Execute OK!” when it’s done but right after trying to save anything, it says “Disk Error”. I would also like to sample sounds and save them but received the same message.

    If you have any info on purchasing disks, either loaded with voices or blank, that work on this machine, I’d greatly appreciate it.

    Thanks for any help!


    1. finding original sample disks (that aren’t corrupted after decades) will be difficult; probably best option is to find another FZ-1 user who is willing to make copies for you?

      finding blanks is *somewhat* easier but still can be a hunt (but you can also get randomly lucky: i stumbled across a *sealed* box of blanks quite by accident a few years ago that i now keep for my Ensoniq samplers; i’m sorry i can’t share any 🙁 they’re too necessary.) harder to find as days/years go by but they are still out there. good hunting!

      two other possible issues: are they the *right* kind of floppy? DD vs HD floppies may or may *not* be compatible depending on the particular unit (my Ensoniqs don’t care and can use either; an old Roland sequencer i once had could only use DD not HD; etc).
      second issue and worst case scenario: there’s something up with the drive itself. they are decades old and don’t last forever (and can sometimes even damage disks). that can become a serious issue: finding the *right* replacement drive can be way harder than finding disks. there are also such things as “floppy emulator” sd card readers that can be retrofitted to some samplers but they can be iffy in terms of functionality/protocol, transferring old files, etc.

      again i am sorry i can’t offer any more particular advice or help specifically re: the FZ-1 but i am familiar with the issues of keeping old floppy-based samplers alive with my Ensoniqs.

      maybe there’s another FZ-1 user who can help more?

  7. Christina,

    Were those blanks you stumbled across actual Casio FZ-1’s or Ensoniq floppies? Did they work immediately?

    I have heard of the floppy emulator but wanted to keep my FZ-1 as original as possible. I’ll probably end up selling it before doing so for the lack of technical skills with electronics. Meanwhile, the search continues for the perfect disk(s) I guess.

    I love my Casio and would hate to part with it. For me, there’s a CASIO in every ocCASIOn! Get it? (ew boy!)

    Thanks so much for your guidance…and patience!


    1. hi Ken!
      no, the floppies were just a random box of floppies like you’d get for a computer in the 90s (the ones i found were Verbatim brand; i also have some old Maxells). the brand doesn’t really matter per se, any blank floppy should work – if it’s the right kind as i said above (Double Density vs High Density; see if the FZ manual says anything about required disk type?) and thus can be formatted for the particular gear. looking on amazon it seems both Maxell and Imation still make new 3.5 floppies to buy (and it doesn’t matter if they’re “pre-formatted” for pc or mac since the first thing you’d do is re-format them for the FZ anyway). and again the problem may not be the disks but the drive itself.
      to be fair i’d hang on to it if possible – having an FZ-1 with a *working* display can be a rarity!
      glad i could help even a little!

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