Synth Site: Korg: Z1: User reviews Add review
Average rating: 4.8 out of 5
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Alessandro Pedicelli (The Cutoff Frequency) a hobbyist user from Canada writes:
Would anyone wanna trade their Z1 for a Korg Prophecy? C'mon! It's got 13 oscillators, and is still the fattest synth on earth!

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Tuesday-Jan-12-1999 at 14:04
Rodney Gipson a professional user from USA writes:
The Z1 is an extremley powerful instrument. Even without the voice expansion option 12 voices is still very capable. The voice architectue in the Z1 consists of two oscillators, a sub oscillator and noise generator.

Additionlly, when using the cross modulation and phase modulation algorithms, a modulation oscillator is provided for both osc 1 & osc 2. So you're actually gaining two extra oscillators. As far the Z1's algorithms, they're not quite as extensive as the Yamaha VL1 but with a some creative programming, you can come up with some incredible life like sounds. I have a NED Synclavier II and I think that the Z1 is capable of producing any of those FM and additive sounds and more.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Thursday-Dec-24-1998 at 08:12
Blackstone Hamilton a professional user from USA writes:
I often read complaints that the Z1, or any other Virtual Analog (VA) synth, is low on polyphony. I think it's important to put this into perspective. The Z1 voice architecture can be described this way, one or two analog style oscillators, a sub osc, AND a noise generator per voice, into two filters either in parallel or in series. With 12 voices this is would be up to 48 oscillators, with 18 voices it would be up to 72 oscillators. Each oscillator can be routed through one or both filters in parallel mode.

When a PCM synth such as the JV-1080 boasts 64 voice polyphony, you really need to think of this as 64 oscillators, because to create a two oscillator patch uses up two "tones" in Roland terminology which equates to two voices of polyphony. So if you were to model the architecture of the Z1, for instance, you would have to divide the 64 oscillators by 4 which would be 16 voice polyphony.

The main differences here, then, are that with the Roland architecture, each "tone" or layer (oscillator), can have its own filter, envelope and LFO settings, so this would mean that while the Roland (or any other sample based synth), has up to 4 filters (sometimes of different types, even) per voice ( a 4-osc patch ), the Z1 can only have up to 2 filters (also of different type) per voice. You begin to see that it's not a matter of polyphony, but rather voice architecture. In most patches you create with a PCM synth that recreate analog sounds, you will use AT LEAST two oscillators. A patch with a stereo sample will necessarily use two oscillators, or two voices of polyphony. No way around it. The difference is that with the Roland architecture, in this case, you could have a patch that has three or four square waves.

So when you compare polyphony, think more about voice architecture. I think it only makes sense to compare polyphony between VA synths anyway. This goes for sound quality as well, since PCM synths are better for creating other types of sounds, especially real world sounds.

For anyone who cares, the Z1 has an interesting reason behind its name. Z1 is used in the algebraic notation of acoustic modeling, like Sigma means summation. It's not just some stupid designation grabbed out of a hat. Need I mention any names?

While the Z1 is capable of up to 6 timbres, it's not intended as a workstation synth. It's a performance synth that will give needed flavor to your PCM gear. This is further emphasized by the fact that there are only two insert FX and one master FX and no drum programs. Because it models analog synthesis, it can, of course, make analog style kicks and snares, but this is a far cry from a drum kit with a different key having a drum sound.

The arpeggiator is very cool with up to 32 steps which can be transposed. So you could hold down one key and the next beat could play a different interval. And depending on the arp resolution, could last over several measures. There is a knob for Velocity and Gate which is especially useful for crescendos and building tension (read trance).

The overall construction is very solid and it has a good weight, about 30lbs. Keyboard feel is a little on the light side but not cheesy as with the Roland JX-305. It has a nice built-in power supply with a detachable three-prong power cord, not like some Yamaha gear I could mention. You wonder why a CS1x is so cheap? That's one reason. The connections on the back do not fall in the middle of the board so if you use and APEX stand it would bump into the center post.

The LCD interface borrows from the familiar Windows 95 tabbed dialogs and is very intuitive. The knobs ("knobuttons" I call them – they press in too!) serve to select various parameters and then adjust them. One or two filters can be controlled simultaneously. While all envelopes can be controlled by one set of knobs, you have two banks of envelope knobs so that you could control AMP and FILTER independently. Because of the flexible panning assignment, each oscillator can go through a separate filter. There are 4 LFOs and 5 Envelopes per voice!

The two insert FX offer a nice selection of different algorithms. In fact, because the FX can be controlled in real time, you could spend a few weeks or months just working with a few patches and the FX section to create new sounds. The two FX units are identical, so you can feed your patch into Distortion(1) into Distortion(2) into the Master FX. You definitely do NOT need to use up one of your external FX boxes with this unit.

Here are my chief gripes. There are only two but not really minor.

First is that there is only one stereo out. If it had even one more set of stereo outs, you could augment the internal FX and capitalize on the 6 timbres.

The second gripe is MORE SERIOUS. Voice allocation is NOT dynamic. You must allocate the number of voices to each timbre. This creates other problems. First is that sounds cut off when switching patches. Second is that there is about a one-second delay before a newly selected patch will respond to the keyboard! THAT'S HUGE. For sequencing a tight passage, this is a SERIOUS FLAW. I have spoken to KORG who say they have NO PLANS to revise the ROM, which, as far as I know is NOT upgradable via MIDI SysEx. It's probably such a serious flaw that it goes all the way down to the CPU.

*** As an aside, the Access VIRUS has a similar voice architecture, 6 outs, dynamic voice allocation AND can be upgraded via MIDI. It doesn't suffer from latency like the Z1. And because of its dynamic voice allocation can be 16-part multi-timbral with only 12 voices! The Z1 has stereo digital outs, though, via optical (as an option) along with Word-Clock sync In whereas the VIRUS does not. ***

The real time control possibilities of the Z1 are beyond your wildest dreams! Almost everything can have a real time controller. Also, the Z1 has a built in MIDI filter for a HUGE number of controllers! Both in and out. The stock sounds are medium to poor. Scrap them and make your own! There are 5 assignable knobs which can control up to 4 parameters. Each parameter assigned to that knob can be effected by a different amount. The Z1 does not have Roland's "Motion" recorder which captures the movements of the knobs tweaks for up to 2 measures, but all knob tweaks go out over MIDI.

I haven't messed with the acoustic models much, but this kind of synthesis is really in its infancy (IMO). You can't get very fancy with it like creating a 10-foot trumpet made of glass or wood, for example. So I'm not as intrigued with this. It's more for modeling what already exists in the real world. You can only change things like bell size or lip position. Speaking of trumpets though. This model has a VERY realistic "spit" portion which can be controlled in real time. With a skilled wind player would sound as good as the real thing.

Overall I am very satisfied with the Z1, but I wish KORG would fix the dynamic voice problem. Rather than upgrade the voices from 12 to 18 ($500), I think I would just buy a second Z1.

I would actually give this more of 4 1/2 out 5.

Rating: 3 out of 5 posted Thursday-Sep-03-1998 at 11:32
a professional user from Deep Blue Sound Ltd deepbluesound.mcmail.com Pl writes:
This synth is a real instrument. You can really PLAY the sounds. It's the first time for a long time that I have just sat down and played and thought WOW! It's not a synth that tries to do everything and play a million sounds at once, but then that makes it better in my opinion.

You could spend a lifetime mastering it, but from the word go it is so easy to radically edit sounds. fun fun fun and so much can be done with it.

I've fallen in love, and I'm looking forward to the next ten years spent with it!

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Saturday-Aug-29-1998 at 05:30
Janusz Kujawka a hobbyist user from Canada writes:
I have search thru many keyboards I picked Z1 its the best sounding synth I ever had.Its worth buying it.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Thursday-Aug-13-1998 at 23:15
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