PRO AUDIO
Chris

Chris
October 30, 2012

Casio XW-P1 Overview

In this overview we cover the features of the Casio XW-P1. The XW-P1 is one of Casio’s latest professional synthesizers and comes loaded with all kinds of cool features. But let’s start with the basics. There are 61 semi-weighted keys on this unit. Two large transpose buttons give you easy access to five different octaves. The P1 has all of the standard PCM voices you expect from any synthesizer both sampled and synthesized. You’ve got your piano, brass, strings, and some great drum sounds. Four large assignable knobs control of some basic filters and envelopes on each of those voices by default.

But there’s a lot more going inside the brain. You’ve got your sine, triangle, sawtooth, ramp, pulse width, hard sync, etc. waveforms with many variations including waves like sub-octave sine. You can layer them as well, so if you layer a bunch of sine waves, you can do tricks like pseudo additive synthesis.

Casio XW-P1

All the magic starts with Solo Synthesizer, which is the first of three voices that make the P1 a total powerhouse. It has 6 layers that play simultaneously. The first two are X modeled wave synthesizers. Then you’ve got 2 PCM oscillators, a noise generator, and an external input for either line level or microphone. The external input opens a world of opportunity. You can send your signal to an external effects processor if you really want a heavily affected sound or you can harness the power of an app like Animoog if you want to beef up your synth. A large, black rubber pad with a bottom lip sits on the right side P1 so you’ve got a secure place to put something like an iPhone, an iPad, a tablet, a KAOSS pad or any other small device you like. Each of the layers has it’s own attack, delay, sustain, and release filters. There’s a multimode master filter with resonance. This filter controls all of the layers and gives you the ability to generate some really dirty, screaming sounds.

The HEX layer synthesizer is the second voice in the trio and also has 6 layers of sound as the name suggests. Each PCM based layer is customizable. Each layer has key ranges as well as velocity ranges. Each layer has the same four filters and envelopes that the Solo Synth layer has. The amount of sound you can get by playing the six layers combined is incredible. You have a lot of editing capability on the HEX layer as well through two parameters, A and B. You can tweak your LFO’s and you have a number of effects to choose from like wah, auto panning, and compression.

PCM, Hex Layer, and Drawbar Organ

The third member of the trio is a full drawbar organ, which sealed the deal for me. I love the classic organ sound. The P1’s organ has 9 sliders, adjustable rotary speakers, key click, vibrato, and percussion. With the push of a button you can have a B3 organ at your fingertips and I think it sounds just like the real thing. Enough said.

The phrase sequencer allows you to play a riff, quantize it, loop it, and then play it in any key using the key play feature. You can also overdub on phrase sequences you’ve already recorded. You can record at any tempo you like and then speed it up or slow it down afterwards. You’ve also got a hold button which sustains any note you play until you either play another note, or deselect the hold button.

The sliders on the P1 control the volume of each layer in the drawbar organ, the HexLayer synth, and the solo synthesizer. They can also control parameters in the step sequencer. It’s very easy to go through the different tracks in the sequencer and set up the rhythm of your different parts. Once you’ve got your groove going, you can use the sliders to change notes that are being played. Casio supplies a number of different scales like the pentatonic and the lydian scale which can be applied to a track. No matter where you move your slider. you’re triggering a note from that scale. You can also use the keys to play a part while the sequencer is going and the P1 will quantize what you’ve played, and add it to the sequence. You’ve got all the standard tracks like bass, drum, synth, and choral parts, and you also have four controller tracks so you can add panning, filter changes and other animation to existing parts. After you set up an eight measure groove that you like, you can then add seven more eight-measure grooves to the sequence. Then you can switch between the different grooves that you’ve programed and the P1 will control the transition so that the timing is flawless and the beat is never lost. Once the sequence is programmed you can play arpeggiators, record a phrase sequence, or select a tone and play along. With the push of a button you can assign a key play feature to the bottom keys of the P1. Then when you play one of those dedicated keys, the sequence will transpose to that key.

The P1 has a performance mode, which has four different zones. You can assign each zone to any range of keys. The first zone is dedicated to one of the three layered voices – HexLayer, Solosynth, or Drawbar organ. The other three zones are dedicated to the PCM voices. The performance mode offers a lot of possibilities, for example I can split the keyboard so that four different ranges of keys play different tones. But I can also layer tones. So for example,  I can trigger three different piano tone octaves of a given note with a single keystroke. Effects, step sequences, and other settings can also be saved as a performance and then those can be recalled whenever it’s necessary even if you’re in the middle of playing something.

The P1 has a lot of in’s and out’s as well. You’ve got ¼” mic and line inputs, which can be used to process voice or other instruments. There’s also a ⅛” stereo line input to connect an MP3 player, a laptop, or any other input source you like. It has USB and MIDI ports. It’s got ¼” left and right line outputs. The keyboard can also operate on 6 D batteries, and while I would never play a show while running off of battery power, I think it’s a good backup incase someone trips over the power cord.

Limited Edition Gold. I Love Goooooooold!

The P1 is definitely geared for the performer. All the functions are easily accessible. The keyboard’s layout and operations are easy to learn. The P1 has an incredible amount of features and in my opinion, all the sounds – especially the major three voices – are really good quality  But let’s be real. The P1 probably won’t be the centerpiece in a cutting edge R&B production studio anytime soon, and if you’re a seasoned synthesizer collector this keyboard probably won’t blow you out of the water. That being said, the intermediate user or the beginner would have plenty to keep themselves engaged. It’s a great tool for hands-on synthesis learning. It’s perfect for anyone who want’s to play a live gig but wants more than just a basic keyboard. I actually purchased a P1 myself after reviewing the unit. I know how to play keys, I wanted a break from guitar, and I also wanted my band to be a little more versatile. I thought about getting a controller and a laptop, but that was a lot more expensive and a lot more cumbersome to transport and setup. So far P1 has been a great addition to the band. We’ve incorporated it into almost every new cover and every new original song that we’ve played since I bought it. I’d definitely recommend the Casio XW-P1 to a friend.

Transcript

The XW-P1 is a new synthesizer from casio with 61 semi-weighted keys and a large brain with a lot going on inside of it.

There’s the standard PCM sounds like piano, brass, and strings both sampled and synthesized, and I’ve got control of simple filtering and envelopes. But that’s just the beginning.

I’ve also got a Solo Synth which has 6 simultaneous layers. 2 are x modeled wave synths, 2 are PCM oscillators, one is a noise generator, and the last is an external input either line level or microphone. So for example I can hook up an iPad and harness the power of a App like Animoog and Casio even added a nice rubber pad for holding such a thing. Each solo synth layers gets its own attack delay, sustain, and release filters and all of them can then be effected with a master multi-mode filter.

I’ve got a HEX layer which is made up of six PCM base layers of instruments which each have key ranges and velocity ranges. Combine all six layers and I get an incredibly full sound and again I’ve got control of all the basic effects.

I’ve got a drawbar organ with 9 sliders, an adjustable rotary speaker, key click, vibrato and percussion. I mean it sounds just like the original B3.

I have volume control of each layer in the Solo Synthesizer, the HEX layer, and the drawbar organ with these sliders.

I’ve got a phrase sequencer which lets me play a riff, quantize it, and loop it all on the fly and then play it in any key I want the key play feature.

I’ve also got a step sequencer and with it i can setup a groove very quickly. What makes it unique however is that I can change notes or even velocity for each beat playing and I can do it in real time for every part using nothing but the sliders. I can set my sliders to trigger notes only on a specific scale and Casio gives me a wide range of scales to choose from. I can also play 2 measure sequences into the groove.

After I build a groove I can store it. In total I can store 8, then switch between the parts and never lose the beat because all of my effects and all of my LFO’s are all clocked to midi clock. Then I can add my arpeggiators and any phrase sequence I want to record. Or I can just select a tone and play.

I’ve got the ability to split the keyboard into 4 different zones using the performance mode of the P1. I can also save effect, Step Sequencer, and other settings as a setup or a performance which can be recalled whenever it’s necessary even if I’m in the middle of playing something.

The P1 has amazing sound and there’s a lot more to this synthesizer than I had time to cover. I think this keyboard really shines in a performance environment where the musician wants more than a basic keyboard but also needs an easily accessible all-in-one solution. It is also a great tool for the novice to learn on and offers plenty to keep the intermediate user engaged. It’s easy to transport and you get great value for the features. The XW-P1 retails for $499 and is available now at UniqueSquared.com. If you have any questions follow the link below to the related blog and leave them there. You’re watching UniqueSquared.com.