Monday, December 31, 2012

Korg Poly-61 "The breakthrough in polyphonic synthesizers" ad (1-page version), Keyboard 1983

Korg Poly-61 synthesizer "The breakthrough in polyphonic synthesizers" full-page colour advertisement from the front inside cover of the August 1983 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

Well, it will be New Year's Eve and a reminder of another year gone by. As I get older I'm not sure exactly how I feel about being reminded that I'm getting on in years. And blogging about ever-increasingly older advertisements probably doesn't help the situation.

But then an ad like this one comes along and all that nostalgia fills my little aging belly with joy. In this case, it's not so much the ad itself but when it first appeared that got me thinking of the good 'ol days.

When I pull this issue of Keyboard off the shelf the first thing I see is one of my favorite all time old-skool covers featuring Thomas Dolby. That cover photo pretty much summarizes what was going on in my mind when I bought my first synthesizer... and second... and third... and forth... And there was a drum machine purchase somewhere early on too. As I flip through the mag, I re-read the article on Dolby, as well as the one on Lee Curreri (you might remember him as Bruno from Fame). And I also see familiar ads for the Prophet 600, Memorymoog, LinnDrum, and of course, the Poly-61. Aaaah... memories.

Does today's advertisement look familiar? It should.  This is the one-page version of the two-page introductory advertisement for the Poly-61 that I posted last Thursday.

I've probably mentioned it a half-dozen times, but I'm gonna say it again - resizing advertisements is an art form. Pure and simple. This looks like it was Korg's first attempt at it in Keyboard Magazine. And they did a pretty good job of it, even if they had to cut off the top of the "G" in "Korg" to do it.

When resizing ads, many green designers I've worked with first try to shrink everything down except the product itself. But Korg did the right thing to focus this ad redesign around the reduction in the size of the photo of the synth.

Even at the reduced size, many of the front panel labels, including the name of the synth, are still readable. The smaller photo allowed the designer to keep that awesome "Korg Poly-61" design treatment and ad-title at near the same size as in the two-page version (with all that glowing and lens flare effects, it's hard to believe that the first version of Photoshop wasn't released for another five years). And best of all, the ad-copy was kept at  *exactly* the same in font size and column placement. Korg was on fire!  :)

If fact, Korg was on fire with the whole promotional machine surrounding the Poly-61 advertising campaign. Everything was syncing up very well.

For example, Korg included their 1983 General Catalog attached between the two ad pages the first time the two-page version of the ad appeared in the February 1983 issue of Keyboard. Readers picking up the magazine would feel this little extra bulk and flip directly to the ad and the catalog. Perfect.

Then, while the two-page ad-run was still in full swing, Keyboard ran the Spec Sheet promo for the Poly-61 in April 1983, focusing on the digital aspects of the machine and the arpeggiator. This could almost be called the "perfect" Spec Sheet:
"The Korg Poly-61 is a six-voice programmable synthesizer. It has two digitally-controlled oscillators per voice. Each pair of oscillators can be detuned for chorusing effects or tuned to intervals. The 64-program memory has full edit and program move capabilities, with a digital access control system for full control over all program parameters.  A six-digit display indicates each active program. Polyphonic, chord memory/unison, and hold key assign modes allow for monophonic bass and solo sounds as well as full six-note polyphonic playing. The arpeggiator, which automatically memorizes and plays back note and chord sequences in three different patterns and ranges, has a latch mode and can be synched to external sequencers, footswitches, and other synthesizers. Other features include a four-way joystick with separate LFO for pitch-bend, vibrato, and filter tromolo effects, and jacks for foot-switch-controlled sustain and program change. The unit weighs 24 lbs. Price is $1,495.00. Unicord, 89 Frost St., Westbury, NY 11590."
The promotion machine continued the following month when the Poly-61 was featured twice. First, in Part 1 of the NAMM Winter Trade show article, it received the top honors as the first keyboard described under the "Synthesizers" section, before the MIDI'd Prophet-600 and even Roland's long list of products including the Juno-60, as well as prototypes for the Jupiter-6, JX-3P and MC-202.

But that NAMM article didn't spend much time talking about the features of the synth because it simply pointed readers to the Keyboard Report for the Poly-61 written by the always fair Jim Aikin that appeared in the same May 1983 issue.

The introduction naturally focused on the rather low $1,495 retail price tag and a few of its more predominant features such as the clean front panel, arpeggiator and joystick pitchbend. A good portion of the body of the article is spent on the push-button programming and the parameters themselves, and some of the issues that arise:
"The parameter controls are digitized - that is, they can be set only to whole number values. And for many of them, only a few values are available. Ranges such as 0-3 (for vibrato delay), 0-7 (for filter resonance), and 0-15 (ADSR settings) are the norm. This does frankly limit the amount of control you have over the sound. There were times when we wished we could get an envelope decay setting halfway between two of the available setting, for example. But it's usually possible to find an compromise value that sounds quite good, even if it wasn't precisely what you first had in mind."
The conclusion reinforced the nice low price tag for all the features the Poly-61 has, but pointed out the lack of a second envelope generator, and that the "tone seemed a bit thin" -  recommending it for new wave over symphonic rock!

Put all those promotional activities together with a good year-long gorgeous advertising campaign, and Korg did pretty much all they could do to get the Poly-61 into the hands of musicians.

Korg probably enjoyed that New Year's Eve. And time to enjoy mine.

Have a great new year, everyone.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Korg Poly-61 "The breakthrough in polyphonic synthesizers" 2-page ad, Keyboard 1983

Korg Poly-61 "The breakthrough in polyphonic synthesizers" two-page full colour advertisement from the February 1983 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

After posting the lovely Mono/Poly & Polysix brochure last Monday, I started reintroducing myself to Korg's synthesizer family.

Looking back at my gaps in the Korg advertising timeline for Korg, I realized that up until this advertisement, Korg had frequently acquired the back-inside cover spot in Keyboard Magazine (among other placements), but only once had taken up residence on the front-inside cover back in June 1982 with a three-page foldout that included this Mono/Poly ad and a two-page "We put it all together" family ad.

The Korg Poly-61 ad campaign would change all that, and put Korg in that front inside-cover position for the foreseeable future, later placing there many of their notable introductory ads including the Poly-800 and Wavestation.

This two-page introductory advertisement for the Poly-61 appeared consistently from February to July 1983 until a one-page version took over in August for the rest of the year, running all the way to January 1984 when it was replaced by that Poly-800 ad I mentioned above. That's a year-long run - not too shabby.

The two-page version, gorgeous as it is, doesn't stand the test of time too well. The first half of the ad stays bright because of the paper used for the cover of the magazine, but the second half of the ad appears on normal magazine paper, which tends to fade a lot faster over time. The result is an ad that looks distinctly different between the two halves.

A two-pager that is not a centerfold can also be a lot more of a pain in the @ss to scan because it never lies flat enough for the scan. Unless you take the magazine apart to scan the two pages totally separately (um... no...) the middle crease is going to get a little blurry. Boo!

According to sources like Wikipedia, the Poly-61 was the "digitally controlled successor" to the Poly-6 (see ad to the right  -->  ) although some may argue that "successor" may be a bit of a stretch. You see, the Poly-61 has the distinction of being the first Korg synthesizer to use a push-button interface, and that kinda changes the game when it comes to parameter adjustments.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love cool new technology as much as the next geek, but I will always miss the multitude of analogue knobs and switches that allowed a synthesist to quickly and easily change all the different synth parameters such as Envelope Generator Attack or VCF Resonance.

Need an example? Say you are on stage trying to impress the cool chick in the short skirt by quickly making your Poly-61 scream with resonance. But now you can't just instinctively reach for the resonance knob and twist. No. Now you have to look down at the front panel, hit the "parameter" button, then punch in the two-digit program number for VCF resonance, then hit the up value button two or three times to turn the resonance up. Sure, not having a dial or switch for each parameter cleans up that front panel nicely, but to many, this was NOT an innovative move forward. And it was definitely not helping the synth guy get laid. In fact, I will put forward the theory that this may have actually helped the drummer.

To make matters worse,  many of the parameters of the Poly-61 were programmed with limited resolution. VCF resonance only had eight steps (0-7), EG attack,decay, sustain and release parameters only had 16 steps (0-15). Now compare this to the apparent 256 steps of the Polysix.  Again, not exactly seen as a step forward by many.

And to put icing on the cake, apparently the engineers removed the analog effects board that was available on the Polysix. That just blows.

But all is not lost - the Poly-61 does contain a few upgrades. For example, the beast has two oscillators compared to the Polysix's one. And twice the patch memory at 64. And personally, I really liked that Korg decided to replace the pitch and modulation wheels with their lovely joystick controller. I love that thing - the only problem being that it was only a matter of time before one of your friends broke it off while transporting it to the next recording session or stage gig.

And last but not least, when MIDI reared its ugly head, Korg man-up'd pretty quickly to slap it in to the Poly-61M.

I had a broken Poly-61 dropped off at my place when a friend dumped a bunch of synths before moving out of province last year or so. Maybe I'll dig it up and get it repaired one day. Maybe. Need to do more research first.

I'm not convince yet.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Korg Mono/Poly and Polysix "Sounds to shape the future" brochure, 1981

Korg Mono/Poly and Polysix synthesizers "Sounds to shape the future" brochure from December 1981.

"Sounds to shape the future"... how f*%king awesomely futuristic is this?!?!?  

Tell me what is better than synthesizers in transparent pill capsules! No. Really. Tell me. I'm waiting.

Okay, maybe adorable kittens on synthesizers. Maybe. But besides that.

You can't. I knew it.

And that is exactly why I'm posting this brochure on Christmas Eve. 'Cause that front cover is one of my favorites. And, I'll admit, to help deflect any suggestion that I may not be blogging that much this week or next. I'm enjoying my rum and eggnogs just a little too much to be typing too much right now.  :)

Almost as cool as that front cover photo -  this brochure was printed in December 1981 - exactly 31 years ago. And that front cover photo would probably fit into many of today's synthesizer marketing campaigns (and various electronic music cultures) just as well it fits into the early 80's fascination with the future. Spectacular!

And... it... just... gets... better... Truly.

Just flip open the brochure and not only are you greeted by the front panels of both the Korg Mono/Poly and Polysix, but also with really well done "panel function by section" images with reference numbers. And it doesn't end there, for the Korg Polysix, the designer included a little "Sound Sampler" reference chart on the bottom right side, that gives readers a good preview of the programming and sound capabilities. It provides a nice little window back to 1981 and what was probably the most popular sounds of the day - electronic piano, organ, string and sound effects.

The back page also provides a nice close-up of the back of each machine, along with two really

That front photo is so great I immediately saw a "Keep calm..." image of some sort in my mind. Too good to pass up:

Now time to pour myself another 'nog. 

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

ARP 2600 "The ARP for the studio. The ARP for the stage." ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1979

ARP 2600 synthesizer "The ARP for the studio. The ARP for the stage." full page colour advertisement from the September 1979 issue of Contemporary Keyboard.

People around me are starting to make their New Year resolutions.  Or is that "New Year's"? Or "New Years"? My resolution should really be along the lines of learning grammar. But instead, the only resolution that I can come up with that my lazy ass could even come remotely close to actually fulfilling is to try and get the blog's Advertising Timelines updated. But even that sounds tiring and makes me more anxious about the whole thing.

And posting this ARP 2600 ad only piles more anxiety onto that growing mountain of what-the-f**k-am-I-thinking.  :)    But yet I can't help but adding onto the ARP timeline work-load with this juicy number.

The ad is just too dang good to appear only twice - in the September and November 1979 issues of Contemporary Keyboard. Everything about this ad makes it deserve at least a six month run.  The dual-theme concept (around here we call it a "Betty and Veronica" sell) is a great way to showcase the 2600's abilities and the two gorgeous photos play off these two themes nicely. With the studio perspective photo, the reader sees the front panel of the 2600, riddled with cables - obviously the result of a musician's hard at work coming up with that perfect string sound. With the stage perspective, the reader sees the opposite side of the 2600 with the left-side control panel on proud display. Definitely works.

The ad-copy only builds upon the photo for each perspective. On the studio side, ARP reinforces the sound recording capabilities of the 2600. Lead lines, string sounds, electronic effects. On the stage side, ARP drops the names of a number of musicians and bands - from Chicago to Weather Report. ARP is pulling out all the stops.

If I'm not mistaken, this is only the second ARP 2600 solo advertisement to appear in CK, appearing roughly three years after the first 2600 two-page extravaganza ad appeared in the December 1976 issue.

That first ad featured an awesome 1+1/3 page-sized photo of Joe Zawinul surround by two ARP 2600s. And almost two full columns of ad copy.

I also posted a 1971 - yes, 71 - ARP 2600 reference sheet back in 2010.

Yup - this thing has been around a long time. According to Vintage Synth Explorer's ARP 2600 page, from 1971-1980. It's Wikipedia page clocks it's lifespan lasting until 1981.

Either way... a looooong time.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wersi Alpha DX 300 "After all confusion the digital conclusion" ad, Keyboard 1984

Wersi Alpha DX 300 organ/synthesizer/delay/drums/sequencer/special effects keyboard "After all confusion the digital conclusion" full page colour advertisement from page 57 in the February 1984 issue of Keyboard.

I blogged a bit about the Wersi Bassie back in 2010, but something happened that recently raised my curiosity about the company again.

You see, holidays are approaching, and no matter how much of a Grinch I become during this anxiety-inducing season, very few things make me smile more than hearing some classic pop organ riff when out and about.  Every so often during the holidays you will catch a song or two in stores or flipping randomly through the radio. Stuff like Klaus Wunderlich. Always makes me giggle a little.

And exactly that happened recently. And after hearing the song, I started surfing around Klaus' Wikipedia page. It got me thinking about Wersi again, and so I started digging through old Keyboard mags for their organ ads, and this one got my attention.

Looking back, there wasn't much Alpha DX 300 info for interested Keyboard readers. The ad itself appeared only three or four times during the first half of 1984 and reads a bit like a translation straight from Germany with awesomely awkward sentences like:
"400 miles of written software and many patents finally led to an important breakthrough in the field of music". 
"It's just the sound you like... having a quality that seems almost impossible."
 Even the "Digital conclusion" theme is a little uncomfortable to process. Let's face it, there's a lot of fluff going on in this ad, but there isn't a lot of technical information Keyboard readers would find useful - things like sequencer memory or number of voices.

You would think the Spec Sheet promo for the DX 300 that appeared in June 1984 would be a little bit more forthcoming about the tech side of things, but I'm afraid not:
"Wersi Keyboard. The Wersi Alpha DX 300 features two 44-note, F-to-F keyboards and digital sound generating circuitry. The unit as organ, synthesizer, drum machine, and sequencer capability. A computer interface is built in for connecting it to a personal computer. Weight is 55 lbs, including built-in speakers and amplifiers. Wersi, Box 5318, Lancaster, PA 17601."

Then again, I'm going to assume that maybe Keyboard wasn't the first place organ players really looked for a lot of their tech info. Maybe there was a magazine called "Organ", which hopefully didn't get mixed up in the magazine rack with some medical journal of the same name. Or even worse, a hip 80's p0rn mag. The purpose of ads in peripheral markets aren't to hard-sell a product, but to get people interested just enough that they walk into their local organ store the next time they are passing by. 

So, I'm not knocking Wersi. The company was definitely doing the right things to promote this beast. According to the ad, there was a brochure and sound sheet available for the Alpha DX 300. And thanks in no small part to Chrome's Web page translation abilities, I was also able to find MP3s for a Wersi Alpha DX 300 "The Magic of a Digital-Organ - Alpha DX 300 in concert" record from the early 80s in this RKCA (Recreational Keyboard Club Antwerp) forum, posted by one of the administrators, Roppeke.

But if you want something to blare on your sound system today, I recommend this apparent Klaus Wunderlich promo for Wersi from the early 70s that I found on YouTube this morning. No DX 300, but who gives a crap when you can dance alone in your living room while hanging wet laundry.

*That* is what cheers me up on a miserable day like today.     :)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Yamaha CS-5 and CS-15 "Turn yourself loose on a Yamaha synthesizer" brochure, 1979

Yamaha CS-5 and CS-15 "Turn yourself loose on a Yamaha synthesizer" brochure from approximately 1979.

Work is crazy busy. So, as usual, I'm putting into effect "protocol: dodge the blog". AKA post something really awesome so I don't have to write so much.

And I'm sure you will agree...


I'm serious.

The only thing more awesome than this CS-15 brochure is the CS-15 itself. Mine sits next to my Korg MS-20, and I have to say that the Yamaha CS-15 sees a lot more action in music production work than the MS-20. I know... hard to believe... but its true. My CS-15 tuning is a lot more stable, and the control on the front panel just seem a lot more logical to me. The sections are well laid out, and that little splash or orange in the section labels really do help a lot in finding controls quickly, especially after its been ignore for a month or four.

Enough gushing... have to think of something not so good...

Well, the only disappointing thing about this brochure is there is no print date on it. So, I've taken the liberty of giving it a date of 1979 for one simple reason - it says "New" on the front cover. In a totally different font and shade of grey. You know they mean it when its in a different font *and* shade of grey.  :)

So, to triangulate a print date to go along with "new", I decided to dig into old issues of Keyboard Magazine and find any initial appearances these two synths might have made.

Looking back at advertising, the first Contemporary Keyboard issue that included an ad for the CS-5 and CS-15 synthesizers were, in fact, December 1979. It was actually a Yamaha "How serious are you about..." series advertisement that include those synths along with the CS40m and CS20m.

But, as you can see from the photo, they were kinda pushed into the background to make room for their programmable cousins. Definitely got the short end of the stick in that ad.

Sure, I know what you are thinking. The advertising may have started in 1979, but that doesn't mean the synths were available in 1979. What other evidence do I have?

Well, turns out that the Spec Sheet section of the same issue of CK - December 1979 - also included promos for the CS-5 and CS-15. And, considering the brochure seems to be quite rare, I'm going to assume most readers got the majority of their tech specs from either this Spec Sheet promo, or someone that read this Spec Sheet. Its detailed and provides a reader with a lot of condensed information... but not as much as this brochure :)
"The CS-5 and CS-15 monophonic synths from Yamaha both feature 37-note keyboard (C to C). The CS-5 has a single oscillator with a 6-position octave selector, variable pulse width, portamento control, and an LFO amount control. The unit also feautures a mixer section, state-variable lowpass, highpass, or bandpass filter, an FLO with either sine, negative-going sawtooth, or sample-and-hold output, and ADSR envelope generator, and a VCA. Pitch-bending control is done with a slider pot. The CS-15 includes two VCOs, two VCFs, two VCAs, two envelope generators, and one LFO. The amount of portomento on each oscillator is independently variable, and LFO modulation amount is also variable independently for the oscillators, filters, and VCAs. The output of the two envelope generators can be applied to either of the two VCFs and/or to the VCAs. The envelope generators' outputs can also be reversed or multiplied by a factor of 5 times the normal voltage output. Both filters are state-variable lowpass, highpass, or bandpass. Yamaha. Box 6600. Bueno Park. CA 90622."
Okay, it may be coincidence, but with both the ad and the spec sheet promos appearing in 1979, I'm going to confidently give this a stamp of 1979. 

So there.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Casio CZ-3000 "Musical Creativity Unlimited" brochure, 1985


Casio CZ-3000 synthesizer "Musical Creativity Unlimited" four page brochure from 1985.

Out of all the CZ-series synthesizers, the 3000 always seemed to be the odd one out. All the other CZs had ones and zeros, except the grand-pappy of 'em all, the 5000. And "5000" just sounds cool, so in my brain it works well with the series.

Maybe it was that I've never actually played (or seen) a 3000 in person, so there's been no bonding experiences to make me love 'em like I love the others.

I can't even figure out why they named it the 3000.

According to the CZ Wikipedia page, it "used the same phase distortion engine as the CZ-101 and the CZ-1000". But it had double the voices, double the patch memory,  and you could split the keyboard. Plus a few other things like chorus and I think an extra octave of keys.

So, wouldn't it have made more sense to call it a "2000". Two. Double. Get it?  Meh.  Whatever.

And while I'm on the topic of naming things, I'd like to finally address what I believe is the elephant in the room when it comes to CZs.

Sure, maybe its just me. Maybe everyone else is totally fine with it.

I'm talking about *that* word. 


(I instinctively rolled my eyes even when I typed it).

It just sounds cheesy to me. And honestly, I've NEVER said the word out loud. Ever. I LOVE my CZ-5000 to death, and back in the day I would mention the awesomeness that is phase distortion any chance I could get. But I *never* referred to it as a Casio "Cosmosynthesizer".


Just to dang embarrassing.

A similar word that others may relate to is "Robocop". As in the movie.

When that movie came out, I thought the title was the worst cheesy name for a movie ever. I refused to lend any legitimacy to the movie by saying that title name out load, instead generally referring to it by what I considered to be a much better title:

"That movie with the robot cop".

When my friends actually convinced me to go see it at the movie theatre, I remember looking around that big, full-to-capacity space and asking myself if anyone else in here is secretly pooping themselves with embarrassment. Anyone?

And looking at the Wikipedia page for Robocop kinda lends legitimacy to my feelings about the movie. Some fun facts:
  • The film was produced for a relatively modest $13 million.
  • The 1986 Ford Taurus was used as the police cruiser in the movie, due to its then-futuristic design.
  • The movie was given an X rating by the MPAA in 1987 due to its graphic violence.So they toned it down for the release.
I'm not making any of that up. I don't know which of those three facts is most unbelievable.  :)

Okay, enough pooping on "Robocop" and "Cosmosynthesizer".

Besides having to look at *that* word on the front cover of this brochure, the cover of this thing really is a little piece of awesomeness. The fonts, the glowing pyramid, the title - Musical Creativity Unlimited (BTW, a great name for an electronic band). All of it knocks my socks off.

And flipping the page rewards you with a big yummy photo of the CZ-3000. One thing I've never really paid attention to is that extra room at the end of front panel. Casio has used the space to include a whole extra table of Parameter/Variable Range information that I don't think is found on other CZ front panels. Awesome!

The descriptive brochure copy on the inside pages flip back and forth between the promotional and technical and in the end, I think, leaving the reader feeling a little awkward. But if all the person is looking for is information, they will find it in there, as well as on the back page's "Specifications" section.

That back page also gives us a print date: 10-1985. Which I assume is October 1985.

Most sites reference the CZ-3000 production start date as 1986, but this document date does provide some evidence that it may have actually been 1985 when it first appeared. Alternatively, there is also the possibility that this was just printed in advance of its release in 1986.

Either way, a cool little piece.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Casio CZ-1 "When you perform, it performs" ad, Keyboard 1987

Casio CZ-1 synthesizer "When you perform, it performs" full page colour advertisement from page 144 in the July 1987 issue of Keyboard.


Nope - not talking about hipster lingo used to describe something that they think is awesome, although that applies too - "that CZ-1 synthesizer you are playing on stage is choice".

I'm talking about options.

And Casio gave users a lot of choice. I listed out the wall of keyboard choices available by Casio near the end of the RZ-1 reference sheet blog post to prove some point or another.

Yup. A lot of choice there.

Guess what - I've come to hate choice.

It can really stress me out. Make me stop in my tracks, immovable. But thinking about it, its not the idea of choice that bothers me. Its the idea that having to make one choice will then affect some other choice I will have to make the future. For example, making the choice to purchase a Casio keyboard now could affect my ability to pay for a better Casio sometime in the future.

But I'm getting a bit off topic a bit.

Point is, in my head, I look back thinking I could walk into a store on day-one and choose between the 1, 101, 1000, 3000 and 5000. My brain wants me to believe that all these xZ products hit the market pretty much at the same time. But that was clearly not the case. Looking at the date this ad appeared, its now clear just how long the roll-out of the different CZs lasted. But I have to admit, there is a definite disconnect between how it went down in my head and how it really happened.

My brain just wants to rearrange history to how I would have wanted it to be. All my choices, ready to choose, all at once. No more choices to be made after that.

I hate that. 

I also hate that Casio has officially left the human element behind with this CZ-1 ad. Some of you will cheer, while others like me feel its the end of an era. That era included the first round of CZ advertising for the CZ5000, CZ-101 and CZ-230s.

Let's be clear. These weren't famous musicians appearing in these ads - as found in ARP and Moog endorsement ads from the 70s and early 80s. These were honest-to-goodness models dressed as musicians, used by Casio to bring a sense of humanity into what was at the time, a sterile gear-only landscape of hardware ads. No doubt a theme Casio brought over from its consumer marketing side.

But by 1986, when the second round of Casio xZ ads started to appear, the company dropped the bipeds and decided Keyboard readers needed to focus strictly on the gear. Such as in this 1986 family photo advertisement that the CZ-1 first appeared in.

Even though most of the ads in this new round of CZ advertising only appeared once or twice (this solo CZ-1 ad only appeared twice in the July 1987 and January 1988 issue of Keyboard) the campaign did seem to have the desired affect and phase distortion synthesis made a bit of a come-back.

Round two.

And the reality-distortion effect this marketing campaign caused wasn't just localized around me and my few synth friends... everyone seemed to be affected. It was like phase distortion was new again. For example, in July 1988 (bolded for good measure), Keyboard published an article title Introducing the Casio CZ.

Introducing?  We've seen CZ instruments in Keyboard since 1985. WTF?

The article is actually positioned as part of the "Technology" section, sub-titled "Synth and MIDI basics", but  as the introduction points out, the love affair with the CZ goes beyond one article.
"Plenty of keyboard players got (and still get) their first taste of synthesizer programming through the CZ-101. If you've got a CZ and would like to know more about how to program it, then get it out and blow the dust off of it. For the next couple of months we'll be talking about CZ features, and in particular about the phase distortion (PD) process that Casio uses to generate complex waves."
Dust it off? Just a few years later and it looks to me like CZ is being put into the vintage bucket?

Poor thing.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Casio CZ-230S "...designed so a musician doesn't have to be a technician" ad, Keyboard 1986

Casio CZ-230S synthesizer "...designed so a musician doesn't have to be a technician" full page colour advertisement from page 113 in the June 1986 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

Oh, what a confusing and frustrating beast you are, Mr. CZ-230S. So confusing that they must have realized it and decided to only push this ad twice in Keyboard - June and December 1986.

In Casio's own product catalog from 1986, this beast isn't even listed in with the other processional CZ-series synths (CZ-1, CZ-5000 and CZ-2000S [and FZ-1]). Nope. It was demoted and listed under the "High Quality Sound" group, along with the HT-700 and HT-3000. And when you look at that page in the catalog, the facing "Drum Solo Keyboards" page includes this image:

Yeah... that association makes me a little nervous. And this perception of Casio consumer/prosumer keyboards probably had the same effect on other musicians who Casio were trying to convince to buy their professional products at the time. Now, I'm not saying Casio never managed to get over that hurdle (I bought a CZ-5000 and it still rawks!), I'm just saying that it was probably an up-hill battle.

Even CZ's Wikipedia page questions the 230S's abilities as a professional keyboard:
"The CZ-230S was released in 1986. Despite the CZ-230Ss model numbering, it was not really a programmable synthesizer; the specifications of this model more closely resembled that of one of Casio's home keyboard models. It used the synthesizer technology of the CZ-101 in a 100 tone preset sound bank, had a mini keyboard of 49 keys, incorporated the RZ-1 drum computer technology and had a built-in speaker. Only four of the sounds in the sound bank could be programmed by linking the synthesizer to a computer via its MIDI port."
Now, I admit that I get concerned whenever I see any Casio keyboard with a built-in speaker. And normally this is a major sticking point in my head when trying to convince myself this is a professional machine. I actually turned down a great deal on a Roland HS-60 for the same reason. Even a Juno-106 with speakers screams "consumer".

But in this ad, Casio tries to convince readers that the built-in speaker is a positive:
"And an on-board speaker (almost unheard of in a synthesizer)".
Yeah - unheard of for a reason.

Even better, if you look closely in the photo, it looks like Casio is comparing the 230S to a... wait.. what?  Is that aRoland JUNO-106?!?!?  Alongside a dude who's obviously not capable of connecting a patch cord.

So wrong.

On so many levels.

And yet I love that Casio had the balls to do this, especially if that is a Juno-106!!!! Makes me **smile**.  

And Casio was serious about marketing this keyboard to professionals. They slapped MIDI into this thing. And made it look semi-professional looking.

But I wonder  - was Casio strategically trying to blur the line between professional and semi-professional gear?

Or were they blindly trying different things on different keyboards to see what would stick?

Don't think that is a legitimate question? Let's just remember this is the company that slapped MUPPETS on to two of their instruments. But that's not the surprising part. Apparently May 1987 was a slow month at Keyboard Magazine, because they had the room (and even bigger balls) to include it in the Spec Sheet section of their professional magazine. No kidding.
from Toys of the 80s blog
"Casio Muppet Keyboards. Two new Casio mini-keyboards feature portraits of two mini-Muppets. The EP-10 has a portrait of Kermit the Frog, as well as four preset sounds, ten preset rhythms, and 29 monophonic keys, each one identified by colored tabs, which allow beginners to play along with Casio's color-coded songbooks. The EP-20, which Miss Piggy adorns, has eight sounds, 12 rhythms, 32 keys, and built-in speaker and tempo control. Users are guide through simple tunes by following a pattern of lights that blink above the keys. The EP-20 also comes with a songbook. The EP-10 retails for 69.95, the EP-20 for $119.50."
Now, someone will no doubt write me to say that educational professionals probably also read the magazine, and this was a good teaching tool. So, there is that.

And now I've acknowledged it. And saved someone the time.  :)