By Michelle Loeb

The name “Casio” has become synonymous with high-quality products over its long and storied MI history. So, when the brand marked not only its return to the synthesizer market but also its first foray into the DJ market, The Music & Sound Retailer took notice. We spoke with Mike Martin, General Manager of Marketing at Casio, to get the scoop on two new products that have the whole industry buzzing: the XW-P1 and XW-G1 professional synthesizers.

“Casio’s core keyboard base is strong, so our direction the last two to three years has been to get back into the professional arena,” said Martin. “Most people remembered what we brought to market years ago, and their interest was piqued to see what exactly we would be bringing to market today.” Those years of work and research have resulted in Casio‘s two new synth products, “both of which have found a unique place in the market because they offer a combination of features that has never been available before.”

The first of these two innovative products is the XW-P1, a 61-key performance synthesizer that looks to the future while still paying tribute to Casio’s past, with oscillators that can access waveforms from Casio’s original CZ synthesizers from more than 25 years ago. Each oscillator has an independent filter, envelopes, independent key tracking, portamento, two LFOs and access to master resonant filter. The unit also comes equipped with multiple sound engines, as Martin pointed out, including “one dedicated for drawbar organ sounds” that provides nine steps for each drawbar, vibrato, percussion and rotary speaker control. “The other, called a Hex Layer, can create powerful pads and textures as well as powerful splits and layers within a single program,” he added.

The XW-P1 offers 400 fully editable, PCM-based gig-ready sounds, including stereo pianos, vintage electric pianos, strings, brass, guitars, basses and drums, with real-time control ideal for studio and live applications. “The user can create samples live using the sample looper or load in drums, sample loops or other sampled sounds from an SD card,” added Martin.

The XW-P1 made its big debut earlier this year at Winter NAMM and began shipping to MI retailers in March with an MSRP of $799.99. At the same time, the company also introduced its XW-G1 groove synthesizer, an innovative product combining an interactive step sequencer and a sample looper for digitally capturing performance patterns and external instruments. The XW-G1, which began shipping in April with an MSRP of $899.99, is Casio’s first product squarely aimed at the ever-changing DJ market.

“The resurgence of electronic music has made it a perfect time for Casio to utilize its technology to introduce new products,” said Martin. The company called upon many of its artists from around the world to help make this product as applicable to the real world as possible, including world-famous artists such as The Crystal Method and DJ Enferno. “Working with The Crystal Method [made sense] given that they are a force in the EDM genre, and Enferno was an artist we had worked with in the past with our Privia line of pianos, so bringing him on board with the XW-G1 was natural,” said Martin. “We provided our artists with samples of the XW-G1 as quickly as we could get them into their hands.”
Through its hard work, Casio found a synergy between its gear “and gear that DJs currently use,” creating a one-of-a-kind mix of products. “The XW-G1 is unique in that it is well suited for the traditional keyboardist,” said Martin, “but also provides tools that the DJ/producer can use to create and remix music live.”

Among its key features, the XW-G1 comes equipped with 420 built-in sounds, solo synth and PCM-based sounds, as well as a 19-second sample looper that captures internal, as well as external, sounds for layers and overdubs created on the fly. Its sampler player allows for 10 user tones with up to five samples each to be stored in Flash Memory for instant recall.

The XW-G1 shares the same Hybrid Processing Sound Source as the XW-P1, as well as its step sequencer, which Casio calls “a first of its kind.” According to Martin, “The user interface on the XW-G1 is focused on using the step sequencer in a live-performance environment.” Among its features are nine tracks for drums, basses, synths and chordal parts, four controller tracks for adding panning, filter changes and other animation to existing parts, and eight patterns make up each sequence.

What other features do these two products share? Both the XW-P1 and XW-G1 are equipped with four real-time controller knobs, pitch bend and modulation wheels, and nine sliders. Both models are also outfitted with a Performance Mode that “allows the user to split or layer four sounds at once,” said Martin. “They also have the capability to control other MIDI devices and instantly recall the step sequencer patterns, arpeggios and phrases along with their sound assignments.”

The XW-P1 and XW-G1 have standard MIDI ports, in addition to a class-compliant USB MIDI interface, which makes both units compatible with either a PC or a Mac. “Casio has even created editor and librarian software for both Apple and Windows computers, so you can program performances and edit sounds using a computer,” said Martin. Using Apple’s Camera Connection kit, these models can connect to products like Apple’s iPad and, thanks to their 1/8-inch audio inputs, “you can easily listen to iPad music apps or simply listen to songs from your MP3 player without needing an additional mixer,” Martin explained.

Now available in stores, both the XW-P1 and XW-G1 give Casio and its retailers the opportunity to reach a wide-ranging consumer base with products that are at once familiar and innovative.

“They’re accessible enough for beginners and amateurs because of their price, but their sounds and performance capabilities make them attractive to professional users, too,” declared Martin.

“Most people, upon seeing the units and getting a demo, are blown away by their capabilities,” he continued. “Then, when they hear the cost, feel the weight and actually demo it themselves, their reaction is, ‘Where can I get one of these? I have to have it!’”

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