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Casio XW-P1 Performance Synthesizer

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Ignore Casio at your own peril.

I’m going to start this review with a story about the Peavey DPM-3 keyboard. Say what?!? Well, you’ll see why.

The DPM-3 came out in 1989 and I took an immediate liking to it, in large part because it had non-volatile, flash RAM so it could store its own samples (and the RAM was expandable to a whopping 1 megabyte! Well, it was 23 years ago). But it also had a very “analog” filter, and could transpose sounds over a wide range and still sound musical.

Shortly after it was introduced, I was visiting the offices of Keyboard magazine to visit a friend and saw a DPM-3. “Hey, are you doing a review of that?” I asked. My friend laughed, and basically said “Yeah, right. It’s a Peavey keyboard. C’mon, give me a break.” Or as someone else said to me, “They make amps for country musicians, I’m sure they don’t know how to make a synth.”

Fast forward six months later...same friend, same Keyboard offices. He asked if I’d been doing any music lately, so I brought out a copy of a new song I’d recorded. He listened to it, then said “Wow, that sounds incredible!! What synthesizer did you use?”

You guessed it.

Indeed, you can’t judge a book by looking at its cover. So if you think Casio can’t make a good synth, put tape over the name on the back, then get back to me. Casio has made quite the comeback, which became abundantly clear when I reviewed their WK-7500 workstation. I’d seen it at trade shows, thought it was pretty cool, and assumed the review would basically say it was a good consumer keyboard with a few pro features folded in. Instead, it’s more like a pro keyboard with some good consumer features folded in. It hits on all cylinders: Solid feature set, transparent operating system, arranger options (or what I call an "audio for video soundtrack generator"), a variety of fine sounds, recording/sequencing options, and a $499 street price. Amazing.

Of course, some people on the internet ridiculed it and in true internet fashion, the most vocal critics had never tried it. “Oh, it couldn’t possibly be any good, it’s a Casio.” But then people who actually used it started to chime in, which helped set the stage for NAMM 2012.

Before the show, Casio hyped the introduction of two new synths. But by now, people were intrigued. Casio had pulled off a bunch of seriously cool low-cost instruments, and there was curiosity about the next step. Well, here's one of them: The XW-P1 (the XW-G1, a more groove-oriented keyboard, isn't out yet). [Edit: It has hit the stores since this post was written.]

If you want to do some prep work, check out Casio's XW-P1 landing page for background info and specs. The list price is $699.99, but the street price is typically $500—if you can find one. I was fortunate to get one of the very first units, and it appears the “retail pipeline” hasn’t been filled yet. However, Guitar Center seems to have them, as shown on their XW-P1 web page with a “just arrived” banner.

As is traditional with pro reviews, we’ll start off with a photo tour of the unit. But I have to admit that I’ve already plugged in headphones, and poked around the sounds. The XW-P1 can adopt an "analog" or "digital" character, and the step sequencer is extremely cool. It’s a very versatile synth that’s optimized for live performance, and it’s easy to get around on the buttons. And while the emphasis is on a combination of vintage and cutting-edge sounds, you can still find solid electric pianos, drums, and a wonderful drawbar organ.

Of course, like any other product it’s not perfect; I could hear some stepping when sweeping the filter cutoff, the headphone jack is on the back, and the pitch bend wheel is just a bit smaller than I’d like—although its positioning with respect to the mod wheel makes it easy to do dual-wheel modulation moves that are killer for leads, so I can't complain too much.

Most of all, though, my first impression is that this is a fun and inspiring keyboard. It was a major challenge to resist the temptation to start laying down tracks when I hit some really grooving sequences, but I was able to maintain my professional demeanor and keep typing...I’ll have time enough to play when we get to the audio examples, which I'm pretty sure will turn a few heads. Assuming I have the discipline to stop playing and start recording smile.gif

So here’s a preview of what to expect from the photo tour I’ll be posting tomorrow. I'm really looking forward to digging into this instrument in true pro review fashion--see you then!

Note: Posts that contain attachments, like audio examples or patches, are shown with blue text to make it easier to find them as you scan through the thread.


MC7vp.jpg

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Quote Originally Posted by daviel

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I'm saving gig money

 

...and you haven't even heard the audio examples yet!!

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Let’s start with the rear panel, because one common characteristic of newer Casio keyboards is a lot of connectivity.

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The left rear has an SD card slot for SD or SDHC cards up to 32GB. This saves all the data you’d expect from the XW-P1, but you can also play back MIDI files directly from it.

Next to it is a USB port for MIDI-over-USB. This talks to Windows (XP SP2 or later) and Mac computers as far back as 10.3.9, but it can also handle 64-bit Windows 7 and Mac Lion...so unless you’re still on Windows 98 or Mac System 9, you’re covered.

Toward the right, you can see the MIDI in and MIDI out/thru 5-pin DIN connectors. Props to Casio for including both DIN and USB MIDI; those 5-pin connectors aren’t obsolete yet by a long shot.

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Now for the audio and related I/O. Going from left to right, there’s a jack for an optional sustain switch. This won’t accept an expression pedal, but offers several switched functions. Of course, if you want a continuous controller, you could use a MIDI controller pedal and feed its output into the MIDI input jack. One option is the MIDI Solutions Pedal Controller, which converts a standard expression pedal into one that produces MIDI continuous controller messages. You could also go upscale to a MIDI floorboard controller like the Line 6 FBV Shortboard, or Keith McMillen’s outstanding SoftStep controller (which you probably want anyway, even if you don't have an XW-P1 smile.gif).

Next is an instrument input for electronic instruments; it has a relatively low impedance (about 10k) so it’s not designed to be a high-Z input for guitar. For best results with guitar or bass using passive pickups you'd need to put a preamp, compressor, or other high-impedance in/low-impedance out device between the guitar output and the XW-P1 instrument input.

The minijack is intended for signals from MP3 players, CD players, and the like—another obvious use is backing track playback. Next up: a Mic jack for dynamic mics, and associated level control. The Mic and Instrument inputs can be processed through the XW-P1, and yes, we’ll definitely get into the possibilities that offers.

The two line out jacks provide a stereo signal, or you can use just the left jack for mono. The final audio output connection is a stereo jack for headphones.

The right-most connector is a 9.5V positive tip jack for the included AC adapter. My unit was so “first off the assembly line” the adapter was designed for European outlets, but I had a Euro-to-USA plug adapter, and as the adapter is global and handles 100-240V, 50/60Hz, I was good to go.

Also note you can power the XW-P1 from six "D" cell batteries (hey, if it can't be battery-powered it's not a Casio...right?). According to Casio, the approximate battery life is around 35 hours.

Oh, and one last rear panel picture: The logo on the back. Of course it has no functionality, but there's something I like about the XW-P1 typeface and besides, the name "Hybrid Processing Sound Source" is a challenge to reviewers—what does that mean, anyway? We'll find out!

WtFUs.jpg

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The front panel has a logical layout, which is another characteristic of “nouveau Casio” keyboards.

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The left side is pretty much all about performance controls. The four knobs on top are assignable controls for parameters like filter, envelope, and the like. The defaults are logical, but you can re-assign them as desired. The lower button matrix relates to the step sequencer to turn steps or parts on or off, while the four switches toward the left determine the functions of the buttons and sliders along the bottom. Although a cursory look might indicate these are only about the drawbar organ, they have other editing functions. Here's a close-up of the drawbars.

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One point worth noting is that the lights that illuminate the switches are bright. Yes, you can use this keyboard live with stage lighting, and still see what you’re doing. In a darkened stage with low-light conditions, you can use them if you want to read a book (just kidding).

Seriously, as someone who’s sometimes had to squint on stage, I appreciate the lights but also, the relatively large and readable typeface used for the labels. (I picture the engineers and graphic artists at Casio getting into pitched battles, and I'm glad the engineers won.) This is something I always seem to be complaining about (“Okay, who had the brilliant idea to use light gray typeface on a white background?!?”), but not this time around. Other manufacturers—please take note!

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The center section is about the display and a variety of utilitarian functions (tempo, operation mode, selecting tones, turning the arpeggiator on and off, etc.). The following shows the center left section, which emphasizes the step sequencer.

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The lower part of the mid-center section has more controls, and the upper section is where the LCD lives.

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The LCD is readable and informative. In this particular image, it’s showing the parameter assignments to the assignable performance knobs.

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The above is a close-up of the lower center section. This selects a tone category, or step sequencer pattern. Granted, we probably didn’t need to include a close-up, but face it—it looks cool. I also kind of like the orange-and-black color scheme...I wonder if I have any Halloween gigs set up for this year...

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The center right section selects presets, banks, performances, etc. Below that are navigation buttons, and at the bottom, transposition and octave buttons.

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And we'll bid adieu to the front panel by heading down to the lower left, which has the pitch bend and mod wheels.

One last comment: If you were paying attention in the first post, you may have noticed the large, black area to the front panel's upper right. This is a rubberized, non-slip surface that is ideal for holding a smart phone, small tablet, KAOSS pad, an effect whose knobs you want to manipulate in live performance, and the like—including (since I knew you'd ask) an iPad.

This is yet another example of the attention to detail in Casio's latest keyboards. A lot of keyboards have a similar blank area; most just have a continuation of the metal or plastic front panel. But someone at Casio (maybe the person who turned up the brightness on the LEDs, or chose the font point size!) had the proverbial light bulb go on over his or her head, and came up with an idea that surely added something to the cost, but is a welcome and intelligent feature.

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Before I sign off for now, I should mention the construction. The XW-P1 is physically light, as it's primarily made of high-impact plastic. However, there may be some kind of reinforcement rod or strip inside, as there's very little flexing. Obviously you wouldn't want to drop it, but that's true of any synthesizer.

The keybed isn't super-light like the typical synth keyboard, but it's not weighted either. It's more like there's just a little bit of resistance...I'd say there's a spongy quality, but that makes it sound soft and indistinct whereas the feel is actually predictable and has a certain stiffness. So think of it as a stiff sponge, I guess smile.gif

As to specs, the keybed uses 61 full-size keys that offer two velocity curves (as well as off). The XW-P1 doesn't generate aftertouch, but the electronics do respond to channel aftertouch coming in from external sources (sorry, no polyphonic aftertouch - well I can dream, can't I?).

I'm sure this isn't an expensive keybed - it can't be at this price - but I really like the way it feels, as you can fly on the keys like a synth, but you get better tactile feedback than usual due to that bit of resistance. I wish there was some way to quantify this, but maybe someone could weigh in with a second opinion about the keyboard feel, given how subjective "feel" can be. Suffice it to say that for me, the keybed is not something I tolerate, but something I enjoy...which is all the more suprising, given the price point.

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Thanks for the review Craig, I am intending to get one of these beasts, I have heard some demo's and it sounds great.

Next is an instrument input for electronic instruments; it has a relatively low impedance (about 10k) so it’s not designed to be a high-Z input for guitar. For best results with guitar or bass using passive pickups you'd need to put a preamp, compressor, or other high-impedance in/low-impedance out device between the guitar output and the XW-P1 instrument input.
Being an owner of a Zoom R8, would the high-z input, through the effects, then output to the XW be ok, or would it sound poor because of mono, or use a stereo to mono Y cable be better.

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Quote Originally Posted by electrochrisso View Post
Thanks for the review Craig, I am intending to get one of these beasts, I have heard some demo's and it sounds great.
Sounds better in person smile.gif I particularly like huge sequenced bass sounds in a left split, and leads in the right.

Being an owner of a Zoom R8, would the high-z input, through the effects, then output to the XW be ok, or would it sound poor because of mono, or use a stereo to mono Y cable be better.
The main thing you want is an impedance conversion, which the Zoom can do. First I'd suggest not using the effects in the Zoom and checking out the ones in the XW-P1. Odds are the XW-P1 effects would obviate the need to use the Zoom stereo effects. However, if there's a particular Zoom effect you like (e.g., a certain distortion), I'd suggest running it in mono. Combining outs can lead to unpredictable results.

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Sounds better in person smile.gif I particularly like huge sequenced bass sounds in a left split, and leads in the right.
You have me drooling now. icon_lol.gif

I forgot to ask you about the keys, is the feel similar to the ctk7000 or a bit softer.

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Hey. I debated adding my comments here about the new XW-P1 because of the reactions I have seen here and elsewhere when people criticize a piece of equipment that another may be fond of, but I decided to go for it. However I will be brief.

I, too, was a very eager potential buyer of the new XW-P1. I originally per-ordered this unit in February but ordered it from another online retail audio site 7 weeks later when the first failed to deliver the goods. I drove 2 hours one way to pick it up, and then installed it in my studio the next day, next to my Tecnics workstation, my Korg microKorg synth and Kaossilator unit, my Roland Gaia and V-Synth GT synthesizers, and across from my Korg Kronos. I then used it for the next 3 weeks, trying like hell to like it, but in the end I arrived at the realization that it simply would not suffice, and that I had to declare publicly that the Casio emperor is not wearing any clothes.

This comes from someone who could not care less about what label is on a piece of equipment. If something can do the job that it's producers claim and if it satisfies my needs, I will purchase it regardless of what label is on the product, even if it said K-Tel or Mattel on the outside. I use my hard-earned cash to satisfy my needs, not my ego.

As I began using the new Casio synth, I tried really hard to overlook this little problem over here and rationalize that other problem over there as I delved deeper and deeper into it, but in the end I simply could not ignore the fact that the XW-P1 is a low-quality product that cannot meet the demands it claims to deliver or what other people are being led to believe that it can. It does not matter who Casio has negotiated a business deal with to serve as their publicity-serving frontmen for the XW-P1. Everything from its incredibly cheaply built quality, including its toy-like knobs, and many of its sounds clearly reek of cheese.

After cringing following several hours of hearing certain presets either fuzzing out, shrieking shrill, or breaking up in my studios six monitor speakers and several headphones, I read in the owners manual that this can be expected if the volume is set high - which is crazy, because conventional thinking is that you should always crank up the volume on your synth, keyboard, etc., and keep the gain low on your amp, mixers, monitors, etc., to achieve the lowest possible signal-to-nose ratio. And it does not stop there. The LCD display is cheap as well, all moving parts feel very low quality and so on. Also, this unit does not even provide access to the basic sound waves that all synths need in order to be a synthesizer (sine, triangle, square, saw, noise waves, etc.). It only allows a user to manipulate the pre-programmed waveforms it is preset with. This may be satisfactory for some, but one should not delude oneself into thinking that they are entering the realm of sound synthesis if they cannot independently call up even a single sound wave as a sonic building block in their sound design. As I write this I still cannot get over just how poor the sound quality is, something my wife even commented on when she was in the studio.

Folks, I do not have a dog in this fight. My life remains unchanged whether or not if Casio sells 2 or 2 million of these. I just felt the need to share my views with whoever may be receptive to what I have to say.

I am reminded about the old saying, "you can't cheat an honest man," because if you think about it we should all be asking ourselves, "Why?" Why would Casio give us thousands of dollars worth of audio power for a mere $500? Since when did the Casio corporation become a charity provider? This is really a very good marketing strategy. By preying upon the consumer's deep desire to relatively get something for nothing, quite a few things about this "synth" are flying below consumer radar. Remember: whenever something sounds too good to be true, it always is, something I will be thinking about during my 4-hour, 200-mile round trip to return this mistake I purchased.

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First let me say welcome to the forum. I'm that I'm sorry you didn't like the XW-P1, but I'd like to comment on a few things you said.

Quote Originally Posted by voice of truth View Post
Also, this unit does not even provide access to the basic sound waves that all synths need in order to be a synthesizer (sine, triangle, square, saw, noise waves, etc.). It only allows a user to manipulate the pre-programmed waveforms it is preset with.
This is incorrect. The XW-P1 has all of these waveforms and more. Counting variations Oscillators 1 and 2 there are 310 of these kinds of waveforms available. Page 10 of the Appendix has a list of the choices. http://support.casio.com/pdf/008/Web...PEND-WL-1A.pdf

None of the preset sound distort unless they were designed to do so. You can however overdrive the engine internally. It is very possible in either the Solo Synth or the Hex Layers to do this. The can produce either a desirable or undesirable effect depending on what you're trying to do stylistically. Most people that I've demonstrated this to were actually happy that the XW could get so nasty. This has nothing to do with the level master volume knob which I'd agree you'd want all the way up in a studio situation. I think you're misinterpreting the manual.

In regards to build quality, the XW shares the same chassis and LCD as other Casio keyboards. I agree it is a little unusual to have a 61 key synthesizer that weighs only 11 lbs, but that is Casio manufacturing at its best. Remember we're a company that makes a 25 pound 88 note weighted action digital piano too. Durability wise, I'll put the XW up against anything.

It does not matter who Casio has negotiated a business deal with to serve as frontmen for the XW-P1.
Who or what are you referring to??

In regards to price. No one at Casio has compared the XW to any keyboard costing thousands. Customers that have seen the XW or played have made these comments but no one at Casio, in advertising or otherwise has made such claims. People have commented that individual features such as the Step Sequencer or the Solo Synth on the XW are worth $499 by themselves.

Anyway, I appreciate that you gave the XW-P1 a try. thumb.gif Good luck in your musical endeavors.

-Mike Martin
Casio America, Inc.

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Quote Originally Posted by voice of truth View Post
Hey. I debated adding my comments here about the new XW-P1 because of the reactions I have seen here and elsewhere when people criticize a piece of equipment that another may be fond of, but I decided to go for it.
Thanks for chiming in, Mike. As I don't represent Casio I can be a little more unrestrained smile.gif

Pro Reviews welcome all comments. During the course of a review, people will hear audio examples, see photos, see videos if appropriate, and can make their own judgements. They don't have to rely on my word or the word of any other participants in this discussion.

Everything from its incredibly cheaply built quality, including its toy-like knobs
It's a $500 synthesizer with a huge amount of functionality. People here are savvy enough to realize that it won't have the build quality of a Kronos. They're also savvy enough to realize that the build quality is better than the price tag would lead you to believe.

and many of its sounds clearly reek of cheese.
I will be posting the three demo songs later tonight or tomorrow, and people can judge for themselves. (Although frankly, I've already come up with some sounds I like better than the demo song sounds - but as I said, sound is subjective.)

After cringing following several hours of hearing certain presets either fuzzing out, shrieking shrill, or breaking up in my studios six monitor speakers and several headphones, I read in the owners manual that this can be expected if the volume is set high - which is crazy, because conventional thinking is that you should always crank up the volume on your synth, keyboard, etc., and keep the gain low on your amp, mixers, monitors, etc., to achieve the lowest possible signal-to-nose ratio.
It wasn't that way in the days of analog synths. This "conventional thinking" came about in the early days of digital, where the volume actually affected the resolution of the D/A converters - so with a 12-bit machine, you could end up with 9 or 10 bits by turning down the volume. The XW-P1 is intended for live performance, and has sufficient output to drive just about any mixer on the planet. Some people would consider that an advantage, and would be willing to adjust the volume control level to suit their playback system.

The LCD display is cheap as well
Meaning what...it's not color? True, it's not color, but it's informative and easy to read. See the photo above.

All moving parts feel very low quality and so on.
Try to break off one of the knobs or sliders. When people go to a store, they can determine for themselves whether the construction is on a par with similar devices of similar cost. With online retailers, most allow returns if you're dissatisfied. But I think most people will realize that the build quality is either equal to, or better than, the price point would indicate.

Also, this unit does not even provide access to the basic sound waves that all synths need in order to be a synthesizer (sine, triangle, square, saw, noise waves, etc.). It only allows a user to manipulate the pre-programmed waveforms it is preset with.
This is so 100% wrong it pretty much undermines your credibility. The XW-P1 provides sine, triangle, sawtooth, ramp, pulse width, hard sync, etc. waveforms with multiple variations including waves like sub-octave sine. I don't know how you could have missed this, it's one of the synth's key features. You can layer them as well, so if you layer a bunch of sine waves, you can do tricks like pseudo additive synthesis.

This may be satisfactory for some, but one should not delude oneself into thinking that they are entering the realm of sound synthesis if they cannot independently call up even a single sound wave as a sonic building block in their sound design
Again, you are 100% wrong. If you want a sound that consists solely of a single sine wave, you can do that.

As I write this I still cannot get over just how poor the sound quality is, something my wife even commented on when she was in the studio.
Sound quality is subjective, of course. But at this point, given your obvious lack of familiarity with the unit, I doubt that you knew how to tweak sounds to your liking. Very few synths give me factory preset sounds "out of the box" that I like, so I learn how to tweak them. The XW-P1 offers plenty of opportunities for tweaking, although it seems you did not know how to avail yourself of those possibilities.

Folks, I do not have a dog in this fight. My life remains unchanged whether or not if Casio sells 2 or 2 million of these. I just felt the need to share my views with whoever may be receptive to what I have to say.
Well, people would probably be more receptive if you paid more attention to being factually correct.

I am reminded about the old saying, "you can't cheat an honest man," because if you think about it we should all be asking ourselves, "Why?" Why would Casio give us thousands of dollars worth of audio power for a mere $500? Since when did the Casio corporation become a charity provider? This is really a very good marketing strategy. By preying upon the consumer's deep desire to relatively get something for nothing, quite a few things about this "synth" are flying below consumer radar. Remember: whenever something sounds too good to be true, it always is, something I will be thinking about during my 4-hour, 200-mile round trip to return this mistake I purchased.
I think this is a very condescending attitude toward customers who DON'T expect "something for nothing." They're smart enough to realize this is a $500 synth, and should be judged on that basis. I don't think they're expecting a $3,000 synth, they're expecting a versatile keyboard with a good feel, programmability, and an ability to perform its intended function - live performance - that they can afford. I don't know what your expectations were, but I doubt others here share them. I also suspect others here will figure out where to find the waveforms smile.gif

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I obviously overlooked the basic waveforms that I discussed, and for that I do humbly apologize. I obviously failed to notice them, and so I will return to that area and give it another go. However, the sound quality is something that I am very much sure about. Good luck to you and Casio with this and any other products that may be released in the future. Without a doubt you will indeed have a piece of the market whose desires meet up with what this gear can provide. And again I do apologize for that slight oversight of mine and appreciate you correcting me.

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I obviously have acknowledged my oversight of the basic waveforms being included, and I have no doubt that you will find that this product matches your goals and abilities. But as I mentioned from the beginning people such as yourself take these issues way too seriously. There is no reason for personal attacks now or later. Everyone has a right to an opinion, and sometimes that means being wrong sometime, such as my overlooking the basi waveforms. But that does not render my opinion invalid, but go ahead and attack; it is what I expected. Just know you will be fighting alone, as I am going back to more productive matters....

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...and his comments bring up another point that needs to be said. The user says he has quite a collection of instruments - "Tecnics workstation, my Korg microKorg synth and Kaossilator unit, my Roland Gaia and V-Synth GT synthesizers, and across from my Korg Kronos."

Is this kind of user the target market? Well, I suppose so, if you want to add a certain color you can't get from those other synths, which are extremely capable instruments. Otherwise, this is kind of like having a tricked-out Pro Tools HD system, buying a Zoom R8, and complaining that it has a cheap feel - instead of recognizing that for $299, the R8 lets you take a pretty decent portable studio anywhere you want to go, and do anything from grab sounds for future use as samples, or capture songwriting ideas. I love the R8, even though it doesn't have the capabilities of my DAW-based workstation. Like the XW-P1 I feel that it's an overachiever for its price point.

I want to see more people get into music and synthesizers. I want to see MORE people expressing themselves. Ten years ago, $500 wouldn't have bought you very much; price was a major barrier to entry. With an instrument like the XW-P1, those who don't have an armada of costly synths, but manage to bring home enough each week to save up for an XW-P1, will very likely feel they got value received, if not more.

After they go gigging with the XW-P1 and bring in some bucks, then they can get that Kronos they've always wanted. smile.gif But I bet that when they do, they won't get rid of the XW-P1. It brings its own unique sounds to the party.

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One last note before I go for good: yes, I did overlook that part of the basic waveforms in the manual. But having used synths for more than 4 decades and currently owning 4 other synths, I admittedly did not read the manual as fully as a novice might; I didn't need to since I usually delete the presets of a synth before using it & then set about creating my own sound programs. With this particular keyboard it simply wasn't easily noticed by myself that the basic waveforms are there. Being eager to hear the sounds i was expecting to from this new Casio, i definitely did wire it up into the studio and jump into sound modeling very quickly, because I was quite eager to use it, having waited since it was announced to finally own it. Me overlooking the basic waveforms has no bearing whatsoever on what this keyboard can do, or about the quality of its presets straight from the box. It is what it is. Maybe it was the layout of this unit plus me feeling like I didn't have to read every word of the manual that caused me to overlook the basic waveforms, i dont know, but as far as manipulating the preset waveforms I had no misunderstanding whatsoever about the sound results that came from this product. That's all. Bye bye.

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Quote Originally Posted by voice of truth View Post
I obviously have acknowledged my oversight of the basic waveforms being included, and I have no doubt that you will find that this product matches your goals and abilities. But as I mentioned from the beginning people such as yourself take these issues way too seriously. There is no reason for personal attacks now or later. Everyone has a right to an opinion, and sometimes that means being wrong sometime, such as my overlooking the basi waveforms. But that does not render my opinion invalid, but go ahead and attack; it is what I expected. Just know you will be fighting alone, as I am going back to more productive matters....
I'm sorry if you interpreted what I said as a personal attack; it was an attack on your opinions, some of which were based on wrong assumptions. But I also didn't appreciate what I felt was a condescending attitude toward other musicians - you're welcome to attack Casio all you want, with accusations of deceptiveness, but when you start portraying the people who frequent this forum as gullible people who want something for nothing and fall prey to advertising gimmicks, I get both upset and protective.

You specifically referenced cheating honest men, "preying" on customers who expect "something for nothing," and about how if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. That sounded like an unwarranted attack to me, and a major leap from "I don't like the sounds" to a company preying on people.

I am not here to fight anyone, but given the above, coupled with making fundamental errors in judging what the unit can do, I felt the need to respond in kind. You said "Everyone has a right to an opinion, and sometimes that means being wrong sometime, such as my overlooking the basic waveforms. But that does not render my opinion invalid." Well actually, if an opinion is based on something that's factually wrong, yes, it does invalidate at least a significant part of that opinion.

What it doesn't invalidate is your opinion that you don't like the sound quality. Fine. My opinion is that editing sounds can make them sound the way you want, and during the course of this review, people will find out about the editing functionality so that they can make a more informed decision about whether or not the XW-P1 will serve their needs.

Finally, please understand that I have been doing forums for musicians continually since 1995. Over that time, certain warning signals go off that indicate "agenda!" A single post from someone who's never been involved with a community, adopts the name "Voice of Truth," then goes into a highly negative critique of a piece of gear that in parts is factually wrong does indeed incorporate those warning signs. However, I am willing to accept that this is coincidence, and just because your post has the same vibe as posts made in the past that DID have an agenda doesn't mean you aren't sincere in your comments.

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To end this detour on a lighter note, here's a comment about manuals.

When I was working at Electronic Musician magazine the first time around, we had a review from an author who was very critical of a piece of gear due to its lacking an essential feature. I agreed this was a serious oversight, and wanted to get the manufacturer's take on why they left it out. They were confused, and said "It's in there, look at page 105 of the manual." Well, they were right, it was in there.

So I called the reviewer and told him the feature was in there all along, and was described very thoroughly in the manual. To which he said "Well, I didn't read the whole manual..."

For some reason he wasn't asked to write any more reviews smile.gif

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Voice- I guess Craig and I are both a bit puzzled by your post. Given your gear list, I'd like to know what was the reason you were interested in the XW-P1. What feautures compelled you to make the purchase? Since you say that you do a lot of programming I'm also trying to understand what editing features you used? Did you download our Mac or PC editor?

-Mike Martin
Casio America Inc.

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Actually Voice, I have a question too because your stories aren't adding up. You said you were driving 200 miles round-trip to return it (I guess you didn't buy it at GC, there's gotta be one closer than that icon_lol.gif) but then you said you were going to check out the area of oscillator sounds more. So, have you decided to return it or hold on to it? Did you consider being able to choose individual oscillator sounds sufficient reason to hold on to it, despite your other complaints?

Quote Originally Posted by voice of truth View Post
One last note before I go for good: yes, I did overlook that part of the basic waveforms in the manual. But having used synths for more than 4 decades and currently owning 4 other synths, I admittedly did not read the manual as fully as a novice might; I didn't need to since I usually delete the presets of a synth before using it & then set about creating my own sound programs.
So let me get this straight: You delete all the presets of a synth before using it, yet judged the XW-P1's sound on the presets because you listened to them for several hours ("After cringing following several hours of hearing certain presets..."). If you didn't like them, why did you persist in listening to them for several hours when your standard procedure is to delete them and create your own?

With this particular keyboard it simply wasn't easily noticed by myself that the basic waveforms are there.
If you're in a preset, hit the Edit button. Choose the Waveform from the Oscillator Block. If you can figure out an easier workflow, I'm sure Casio would love to hear your thoughts.

Me overlooking the basic waveforms has no bearing whatsoever on what this keyboard can do
Then why did you say you were going to re-visit that area, once you found out you could indeed choose from a huge variety of basic synth waveforms? I thought you were returning it?

...or about the quality of its presets straight from the box
I thought you deleted synth presets before using them. That would imply you're not happy with the presets that come with synthesizers. So why did you reserve continued listening to presets you don't like with the XW-P1 but eliminate them immediately with other synths?

Maybe it was the layout of this unit plus me feeling like I didn't have to read every word of the manual that caused me to overlook the basic waveforms
I didn't have to read the manual to find the oscillator. I was in a preset and I wanted to edit it, so I kinda assumed that I should hit "Edit." Then a field showed up in the display that said "Oscillator block." I figured it would let me choose the oscillator sound. It did.

...as far as manipulating the preset waveforms I had no misunderstanding whatsoever about the sound results that came from this product.
I respectfully submit that if you didn't hit the Edit button, you probably didn't figure out how to manipulate the sound.

That's all. Bye bye.
Bye! Back to the pro review. My apologies to everyone else for spending time on someone who can't get his stories straight.

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Being a piano player I was looking for my next step so I couldn't decide whether it would be a Moog or a ROMpler or a Hammond sound. For months I looked but sat on the fence not knowing what type of sound I was willing to throw money down to explore. I was also on a shoe string budget. I am glad I sat as long as I did because I feel I got all three of those afformentioned sounds PLUS a step sequencer all in one device. This machine is amazing, I've seriously impressed some of the more accomplished musicians amongst my friends and family, so much so they've starting calling me Phil from Groundhog Day "Wow Phil, I didn't know you could play space stretching, ear splitting, hypersonic synth?" I am beyond happy with this purchase.

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Quote Originally Posted by gneissnfunky

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Being a piano player I was looking for my next step so I couldn't decide whether it would be a Moog or a ROMpler or a Hammond sound. For months I looked but sat on the fence not knowing what type of sound I was willing to throw money down to explore. I was also on a shoe string budget. I am glad I sat as long as I did because I feel I got all three of those afformentioned sounds PLUS a step sequencer all in one device. This machine is amazing, I've seriously impressed some of the more accomplished musicians amongst my friends and family, so much so they've starting calling me Phil from Groundhog Day "Wow Phil, I didn't know you could play space stretching, ear splitting, hypersonic synth?" I am beyond happy with this purchase.

 

As a piano player, what do you think of the piano sounds? I'd be interested in your take.

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If I had listened to all those people like voice of truth, who were bagging the Casio ctk7000 while I was trawling the web, I would never have purchased it.

I took Craig's word that I would be impressed and purchased the unit without even checking one out because I live 500km from the nearest music store, and for the $500 AUD, delivered, that I paid for the unit, it was a steal. And Craig's review of the Zoom R8, made my mind up to get that unit, before the ctk7000, and his writings were true to the point, so I had no hesitation to get the ctk7000.

I also have at least a dozen synth keyboards/modules in storage. Roland, Korg, Yamaha, Ensoniq, Emu etc etc. and the ctk7000 is right up there with them in my opinion.

You might be thinking why do I need another keyboard, well I now live a very frugal western world existence in the country, powered by a very small solar system, so I am building up a small collection of recording gear, that requires very little power through the inverter and can also be operated from batteries. Who knows what I am going to do with the other stuff, they consume too much power, time will tell.

To get back to the point, I truly believe that if Craig Anderton says a piece of musical equipment works and sounds good, I know it will, and I know that when I purchase my Casio XW-P1 it will complete my low powered and portable studio, that can be all run from one 80watt solar panel.

Regards to all,
Chris

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Quote Originally Posted by electrochrisso View Post
To get back to the point, I truly believe that if Craig Anderton says a piece of musical equipment works and sounds good, I know it will, and I know that when I purchase my Casio XW-P1 it will complete my low powered and portable studio, that can be all run from one 80watt solar panel.

Regards to all,
Chris
I greatly appreciate the props, and I really do try to probe deep into all the gear I try. However, so much of this is subjective...I mean, I like Nine Inch Nails and Antonio Soler harpsichord concertos, so I'm not exactly a "one-size-fits-all" guy!

My goal in reviews is not to say "I like it" or "I don't like it," but instead, to try and describe something with such accuracy that the reader can decide whether it would fit THEIR needs or not - because it's all about the right fit. Of course, if there are things I particularly like or don't like about a unit, I'll mention those. But again, I try not to attach too many value judgements.

For example, I personally find the lack of an expression pedal jack on the PW-X1 a significant omission. But, that's me; other people might not care. So I mentioned that it's not there, but also described how you could interface an expression pedal with the PW-X1. So, not having an expression pedal jack isn't a deal-breaker for me, because there's a workaround thanks to the XW-P! having a 5-pin MIDI input jack.

Also, bear in mind that like M-Audio's Venom, the XW-P1 is right up my alley in terms of music-making. I like step sequencers, huge layered sounds, a simple but deep operating system, and the like. If my main goal with synthesizers was to have a Yamaha acoustic instrument ROM set, I wouldn't diss the PW-X1 for not having it - I'd play the Motif smile.gif

That said, I've come nowhere close to finding out the full capabilities of the XW-P1. For example, while checking out the "conventional" patches, I was frankly surprised at how much I liked the pianos, including the electric piano which had really great velocity sensitivity and expressiveness. The violin and cello - uh, not so much. However, I don't know how editable they are. If I can add some more control to them so the sustains aren't static, that will make a huge difference. And there are some surprises. I found a harp sound, and didn't care for it. But then I found a second harp, and I'd use that one any time.

So, there's still much to discover. One thing I think I can say with certainty is that you really do have to read the manual to figure out what's going on. There are a whole lot of options I haven't seen on other synthesizers, so it really doesn't matter how much experience you've had, you need to treat the XW-P1 as something new to discover. Which is what we'll be doing here smile.gif

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Quote Originally Posted by Anderton

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As a piano player, what do you think of the piano sounds? I'd be interested in your take.

 

Hahaha, you know I've had this synth for almost a month and have yet to explore the piano sounds - having way to much fun with the other features - way to take me off guard facepalm.gif. However after your post I put my headphones on and played a few of my favorite piano tunes on the XW-P1. Let me start by saying I have a Privia, an older basic model one (PX-110), and am consistently blow away by the piano sound from that instrument - my neighbor has a parlor grand piano and I can honestly say the Privia sound is insanely realistic (note, I am not claiming to have a gift for analyzing the true sound and timbre of an instrument, just giving my opinion). So, back to what I think of the piano sounds, well, lets just say I'm gonna keep the Privia as my bottom tier. It seems to lack the "meat" I get from the Privia and a real piano, maybe what I'm trying to say is it's "light on fullness"? Personally, the individual PCM sounds were not the reason I bought this synth and the piano sounds are not a complete wash for me because I would easily use them as a layer for a hex sound, which is really how I've been using the PCMs. Personally, I feel a little bad having said all this hoping this won't deter anyone from buying this instrument because this has been the most fun I've had with my clothes on in quite some time. Been getting some real nice compliments on my beats and sounds and the best part is that it all happens in front of their eyes - no hours of prep in front of a DAW. Lastly, what's really cool is usually at one point in a jam my own jaw drops and I stand there in disbelief at the complexity, depth, and awesomeness of the sound - this synth consistently amazes me!

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I agree the PW-X1 is more about synthesis than being a "ROMpler." But like you, I don't want to give the wrong idea. I really do like the electric pianos, the choir sounds, some of the brass, etc. As to acoustic pianos, if I want a really good piano sound I avoid hardware synths and depend on virtual instruments that eat up Gigabytes of memory (e.g., like Synthogy and some of the Native Instrument pianos for Kontakt). That said, though, I think that in a live performance situation the PW-X1 acoustic piano sounds would more than do the job.

Also I see you've found that the hex layering is what makes the PW-X1 stand out thumb.gif. If you're into layering PCM sounds with the synthesized waveforms, I think you're well on your way to getting the most out of this synth.

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Quote Originally Posted by deanmass View Post
I would be interested in seeing your solar power rig!
No worries deanmass, what I will do is post a new thread on 'Craig Anderton's Sound, Studio, and Stage' , of what I am currently running, with a few photos of the setup (minus the XW-P1 for the moment) that I have been using for about four years now.
It might take me a couple of days to get it together, so keep your eye out. smile.gif

Also, bear in mind that like M-Audio's Venom, the XW-P1 is right up my alley in terms of music-making. I like step sequencers, huge layered sounds, a simple but deep operating system, and the like.
Same here, that is one of the many main reasons why I want to get the XW-P1, so along with the ctk7000, Zoom-R8/Condenser Mic/Guitar, Netbook/Software/VSTi plugins, I can have an incredible variety of music creation possibilities at an incredible price and also run this all on my puny solar system.

Sorry for sidetracking this thread a little Craig, this will be my last words (unless I have a direct question about the unit), and I cant wait until you post some of the audio sonic capabilities of the XW-P1. smile.gif

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Quote Originally Posted by electrochrisso View Post
Sorry for sidetracking this thread a little Craig, this will be my last words (unless I have a direct question about the unit), and I cant wait until you post some of the audio sonic capabilities of the XW-P1. smile.gif
Not a sidetrack at all!!! I never would have thought to mention the XW-P1's suitability as the centerpiece of a solar-powered studio, but I think that's a pretty bright (get it? "bright"?) idea.

I'll see if I have six D cells somewhere so I can verify Casio's spec of 425mA current drain when using the AC adapter. They also spec a battery life of about 35 hours with alkaline batteries, so under half an amp seems about right.

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Well, I found six D cells. The current drain varies between about 240 and 260mA, which is really very good. I tried to do worst-case by turning on all the step sequencer LEDs and such, but it never hit more than 260mA. So, it seems the XW-P1 would be eminently suitable for solar power.

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Quote Originally Posted by Anderton View Post
Not a sidetrack at all!!! I never would have thought to mention the XW-P1's suitability as the centerpiece of a solar-powered studio, but I think that's a pretty bright (get it? "bright"?) idea.

I'll see if I have six D cells somewhere so I can verify Casio's spec of 425mA current drain. They also spec a battery life of about 35 hours with alkaline batteries, so under half an amp seems about right.
Yes I believe solar power has a bright future, and I am really surprised at how little audio noise the ctk7000, Zoom R8 and Acer Netbook, through a reasonable price/quality square wave inverter is produced. and if I hook up an earth, I cant notice any buzzing at all. Must be the way they make the power supplies these days, it was a real problem in the past, I am pretty sure the XW-P1 will produce similar results, fingers crossed (not that it will matter with the incredible battery life and rechargeable D cells).

I was really surprised with the 35 hour battery life for the XW-P1, this will be handy and be the centerpiece of the recording process, as battery life is a big consideration for me too because when I overlay the guitar tracks, I will need to use batteries, unfortunately this is one noise problem I will not be able to get rid of because the pick-ups act like an antennae and the inverters switch-mode is like a transmitter, even if placed at some distance (surprisingly the condenser mic is clean though), I think even an expensive sine-wave inverter would be a problem for the guitar also.

Well, I found six D cells. The current drain varies between about 240 and 260mA, which is really very good. I tried to do worst-case by turning on all the step sequencer LEDs and such, but it never hit more than 260mA. So, it seems the XW-P1 would be eminently suitable for solar power.
Hey! that is amazing, each one of the led lights that I use for lighting consume about 200mA, I say with engineers in this world, like they have at Casio, this world can go solar, sooner rather than later, no problems at all. wink.gif

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Craig. I'm a guitar player and really into using Ableton, iPad and other electronic gizmos with it. I love guitars that sound like space ships, so I bought an XW-P1 last week and am anxious to figure out how to work it into my digital guitar rig.

With the audio inputs and rubber pad it seems so aimed at iPad users (or should I say "tablet computer users" since thats the generic phrase all the Casio guys used at NAMM) so I bought it to experiment with. Any advice you can offer on that aspect would be greatly appreciated.

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The XW-P1 comes with three demo songs, so here they are. These are generated in real time from the instrument, they're not WAV files being played from an SD card. The output is unmastered and unprocessed (other than being converted to 192kbps MP3 format); this is from the stereo outs directly into an interface recording into Sonar X1.

Interestingly, when I looked at the waveform where nothing was playing, it seems the noise floor is around -81dB unweighted. That's very good. Unfortunately I don't have the ability to check the A-weighted noise figure right now, but of course, it would take the noise level down even further.


And now, the demo files.

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Quote Originally Posted by tracyevans View Post
Craig. I'm a guitar player and really into using Ableton, iPad and other electronic gizmos with it. I love guitars that sound like space ships, so I bought an XW-P1 last week and am anxious to figure out how to work it into my digital guitar rig.

With the audio inputs and rubber pad it seems so aimed at iPad users (or should I say "tablet computer users" since thats the generic phrase all the Casio guys used at NAMM) so I bought it to experiment with. Any advice you can offer on that aspect would be greatly appreciated.
Anyone who's into AdrenaLinn, Ableton Live, guitars, and synths is okay in my book...we aren't related, are we? icon_lol.gif

I'll be covering the processing angle, but it will be a little while as there's much to explore in terms of the synth's architecture, step sequencing, and effects. But stay tuned...we'll get there!

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Quote Originally Posted by Anderton View Post
Anyone who's into AdrenaLinn, Ableton Live, guitars, and synths is okay
Thanks Craig. I just found your thread on AdrenaLinn. I didn't realize that wrote the book on it ... literally. I have some questions for ya, but I won't hijack this thread to ask them.

Anxiously staying tuned for more on the XW-P1. Will you be talking about the XW-G1 at all? I briefly considered it, but at the last minute chose Hex Layers over Sampling.

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Quote Originally Posted by tracyevans

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Anxiously staying tuned for more on the XW-P1. Will you be talking about the XW-G1 at all? I briefly considered it, but at the last minute chose Hex Layers over Sampling.

 

I don't think it's out yet, and it's not planned to be a part of this review...but we'll see.

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Quote Originally Posted by Anderton View Post
I don't think it's out yet, and it's not planned to be a part of this review...but we'll see.
Craig,
XW-G1's shipped in very limited quantities this month. We have more shipping out in May.

-Mike Martin
Casio America, Inc.

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Quote Originally Posted by Mike Martin

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Mike Martin - Casio America, Inc.

 

Mike, your
not only sold me on the XW-P1, but also greatly helped me get up-to-speed on some of the features. Do you have any plans for doing any tutorial or tips-and-tricks videos.

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Quote Originally Posted by tracyevans View Post
Mike, your
not only sold me on the XW-P1, but also greatly helped me get up-to-speed on some of the features. Do you have any plans for doing any tutorial or tips-and-tricks videos.
Thank you, that's very kind of you to say.

I'm literally in the process of editing some video today. We're doing a series of "How to" videos. This first one (that I hope will be up in a day or two) is a "Basic Navigation" tour. It covers the basics of getting around Performance and Tone mode, selecting sounds along with a few shortcuts. We'll be doing other videos on each of the major sections: The Solo Synth, Hex Layers, Phrase Sequencer, Arpeggiator, Step Sequencer and finally putting all of these things together in a Performance. Eventually I hope to have some tutorials up on using the XW with other devices such as an iPad and processing audio through the external input.

We're also working with some people outside of Casio on tutorial sites such as this - http://xwsynth.wordpress.com/

-Mike Martin
Casio America, Inc.

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Quote Originally Posted by Mike Martin

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I'm literally in the process of editing some video today...

 

Thanks Mike. Great news! I wish more manufacturers would make these types of efforts. Looking forward to the upcoming vids, and I will keep an eye on http://xwsynth.wordpress.com. That blog is how I found this review thread.

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Bought me an XW-P1 on Friday (GC Manhattan) and having a lot of fun with it so far. I'm sure I have a long way to go before I master this synth and I appreciate everyone's involvement here, I'm very much looking forward to the continuation of Craig's review and Mike's 'how-to' videos... all great stuff guys, thank you very much!

I have been involved with synths for 30 years and have owned literally hundreds of analog and digital synths, organs and electric pianos... I currently have a basement full of keyboards and I have to say that I'm please to add this board to the mix. Unlike others, I'm not concerned about the cost or the quality, I get this is a 500 buck synth so I expect the fit and fixtures to fit into that price point, I'm not expecting this unit to be a metal knob laden, SSD driven, 30KG workstation for that price, what I am looking for is some unique character and I think the XW has that... or will have that just as soon as I either tweak the sounds or Casio come up with additional patches (in fact, with the likes of Venom and other recent 500 buck synths, I think manufacturers have now understood that even VAs need to have a unique quality... not all of them have to emulate vintage analog architecture!).

The reason why I say the XW will have character is because, as with a lot of synths, I don't think the built in presets really show off the true nature of this synth and to my ears anyway... If you go into the HEX layer and start to adjust the sliders... it doesn't take much to convert the "rather tame" presets into something a bit more ballsy. I wonder if the 50 built-in presets do the synth "music shop" justice? (can these 50 internal presets be upgraded via firmware?).

I notice that there is a new data editor and will be trying that out this week and I also noticed that the data editor has a rudimentary 'performance' editor page... this excites me because although this is mainly a synth unit, I could quite easily take this synth out with my NY retro funk band and program up the various multi sound, multi layout song patches... which all have at least 4 sounds across the keyboard... looks like this could do it and be a third of the weight of the current board I'm using (Alesis Fusion 6HD)... but what I would really like to see... given that there's that beautiful space for my iPad, is a dedicated Casio XW-P1 IOS app controller!

An app that would have several pages/screens allowing the user to program PERFORMANCES for live playing which actually showed the keys and allowed you to drag to set lower and upper ranges, set presets to be used, volume levels, pans etc. A SET LIST page that would allow you to add your PERFORMANCE patches to your setlist and control the sound changes from one large screen (like on the Kronos and now the Jupiter-80). A SOLO/TONE EDIT screen that had all the controls to edit and save a single preset, either in SOLO mode or TONE mode and obviously the same for the HEX layer... some form of sequencer page, something that you could use to create sequences and also manage them and lastly a big slider page that you could assign to any parameter and use live.

Come on Mike... tell us this is in the works (and if not, anyone here want to help me do this?).

Mal

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Hi Mal,
Welcome to the forum and thanks for purchasing the XW-P1!

Quote Originally Posted by mee3d View Post
I wonder if the 50 built-in presets do the synth "music shop" justice? (can these 50 internal presets be upgraded via firmware?).
In theory yes the presets could be changed with new firmware. Will it happen, I'm not so sure. Now that the unit is shipping I think the staff in Tokyo would be hesitant to change the factory presets. Just imagine if you created a song only to find that after updating your software that all of the presets were different. We're working on a lot of sounds for the XW-P1 and there are plenty of user locations for loading new sounds. Stay tuned.

In regards to iPad apps, there are some great apps out there such as TouchOSC and MIDI Designer (among others) that could be used as control surfaces for the XW-P1. There aren't templates for these apps yet but I purchased them to check out the potential. smile.gif

-Mike Martin
Casio America, Inc.

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I'm happy to announce that Mike Martin, and DigiTechRep from DigiTech, will be teaching courses on "how to do pro reviews" at NYU starting in the fall.

Okay, I'm kidding. But seriously, Mike's contributions are very welcome and I'm surprised he has found the time to give this thread the attention it deserves.

He's also nicer with trolls than I am, so I might take his course as well smile.gif

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A few technical difficulties like the noisy air conditioner at the office and some lighting problems, but this is the first of several of these.



-Mike Martin
Casio America, Inc.

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Thanks Mike... OK, I get your point, I just wished I could tweak a preset and then save it back into it's own slot, so I didn't have to take up another user slot (I don't think 50 user spaces is that much to be honest). I'm going to have a go at creating some iPad templates too... perhaps we should have an upload area for such things on the blog? I haven't checked yet but does the appendices come with a list of the MIDI CCs?

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Can the step sequencer control external parts? i have an MPC 4000. could trigger the sounds from my mpc with the step sequencer? that'd be awesome!!!

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Quote Originally Posted by copesland View Post
Can the step sequencer control external parts? i have an MPC 4000. could trigger the sounds from my mpc with the step sequencer? that'd be awesome!!!
Yes. Each track can be internal, external or both. USB and MIDI outs can even be addressed independently.

-Mike Martin
Casio America, inc.

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I was wondering that myself, so thanks for the answer.

Meanwhile, there's a 1.10 update for the XW-P1 and I think it's an important element of a pro review to mention whether the instructions are clear or not, and the effort involved in doing the update.

Well, high marks to Casio for this one. First off, the instructions are crystal-clear. To do the update itself, you download a file, power up the XW-P1 in update mode, hook a USB cable between the XW-P1 and your computer (you don't need to have installed any prior MIDI/USB driver or anything), and run the executable update program.

The XW-P1 and the computer give you a reassuring progress display so you don't get nervous when it seems to be taking a while (it takes about six minutes to do the update). It tells you when it's erasing data, and when it's writing data. And then it's done, the update executable quits, and the instrument re-starts.

Painless.

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