Casio has been quietly producing keyboards for years–but it’s calculators and watches that immediately spring to mind for most who hear the name. Last Thursday night during an exclusive media event at the 2012 NAMM Show, however, the company boldly stated they intend to change all that. Enter their two new keyboard synthesizers, the XW P1 & XW G1.
“Casio is changing who we are and what we mean to the world,” said Steven Schmidt, VP of Production at Casio. “The XW models will synthesize music with a combination of features not currently available in a single instrument.”
Unlike other synth workstation keyboards that demand plenty of preprogramming, Casio’s XW synths are designed to function readily in live settings. The company describes the XW G1 as “a groove synthesizer that combines the functions of the various digital equipment used by club DJs in a single unit.” The G1 can sample music and layer sounds and overdub live, in the moment:
The XW-G1 is a synthesizer that lets users enjoy many of the features club DJs use on their digital equipment. The functions of various DJ gear are included in this all-in-one unit, including its Step Sequencer for selecting an array of rhythm patterns, Phrase Sequencer offering preset phrases that spice up DJ performances, and Sample Looper for digitally sampling rhythm patterns, keyboard performances, or externally input sound ,allowing overdubbing. Using the built-in 61-key keyboard, users can not only play the keyboard live while using rhythm patterns as backing tracks, but can also use the keyboard to call up features quickly while DJ-ing, giving them real-time control of the instrumentfs cool club sounds.
Casio says its XW-P1 is “a true performance synthesizer particularly designed for creating sounds for live performances and playing expressively.” The P1 is loaded with preset sounds and functions created specifically for live performance. It’s light, lean and can run on batteries–so it can be played anywhere:
The XW-P1 is a synthesizer particularly designed for creating sounds and playing expressively in live performances. This model features 620 preset tones, including Solo Synthesizer presets that reproduce vintage analog synthesizer sounds, Hex Layer ensemble sounds that comprise as many as six tones, and Drawbar Organ presets that can be controlled using nine sliders functioning as drawbars. A wide array of sounds can be created using the preset tones and a wide range of internal waves. Moreover, the XW-P1 is loaded with various functions to give discerning performers more power of expression, including the Performance function that allows performance setups to be independently assigned for up to four designated keyboard zones.
We spoke with Casio sound designer Daniel Fisher, who explained the considerable detail that went into engineering the machines and creating realistic sounds with the realistic varying wave lengths and sound decay you hear when notes made by real instruments fade away. He explained the added complexity of doing it all at reasonable price points. Fisher emphasized the synths’ sound layering features and overall bang for the buck are the boards’ biggest selling points.
The Casio team at NAMM walked us through the various features of the machines and as a whole seemed excited and enthusiastic about the new synths. We are familiar with synthesizers and must say the Casio XW models were pleasant surprises–big sound, plenty of capability, unique features (especially the DJ compatibility, which we’ve never seen before). While they are unlikely to pose serious competition for big daddies like Yamaha and Korg workstation synths, the Casio XW models cost a fraction of those hefty prices, are considerably lighter, more portable and target a niche market looking to create synthesized music in atypical environments.
Casio was chosen as one of the “Companies to Watch” in NAMM’s “Best in Show” list for 2012. We agree. While we don’t think these synths will be replace heavy-duty workstations for serious keyboard players, they look to us like excellent and affordable entry-level choices for someone new to synths or nice expansion boards for the pro on the go. And Casio clearly means business with these. We’re interested to see where the company will take them.
The XW-P1 will be available in March 2012 for an MSRP of $699.00 and the XW-G1 will be available in April 2012 for an MSRP of $799.00.
Find out more about the XW synths here.
About the NAMM Show
The NAMM Show is one of the largest music products trade shows in the world. It is hosted by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) and is attended each year by musical instrument manufacturers, retailers, associates and their invited guests from around the world. The NAMM Show is not open to the public. For more information, visit namm.org.