MZ-X Arranger Keyboard series — Casio’s most premium yet


If you’re a performing or studio musician, or even a music teacher or student who wants a good keyboard to not just learn playing music but also want to simultaneously pick up the basic nuances (that you can to to very advanced levels too)  of creating and recording but arranging and mixing individual musical sounds, phrases and pieces to make complete music sound tracks including vocal inputs, then the newly revived and resurrected MZ series from Casio, now out as the MZ-X series, is what you want to definitely look at and try before firming up on a decision on which keyboard to buy. My guess is, you will agree that all its features – including the massive library of preset tone patches and rhythm patterns plus the sound and technology it delivers – will outweigh its price range of 50,000 to 65,000 and you will probably drive home with the MZ-X500 or the MZ-X300 in the back seat of your car.

Let’s look at this lovely, beautifully built keyboard that’s packed with premium features.

casio-mz-x500-pavanrchawladotcomThe MZ-X Series is out with two models — MZ-X500 (Body Color: Blue) and MZ-X300 (Body Color: Black). While the The MZ-X300 has 900 preset tone patches and 280 rhythm patterns, the MZ-X500 features 1100 preset tone patches and 330 rhythm patterns. And the MZ-X series features excellent sound quality with the new MXi sound engine. This is the model I received for review.

The features that make the MZ-X stand way in front of the competition include a 5.3” LCD Color Touch Interface, which makes it incredibly easy to explore and navigate.

With completely new and improved tones like Acoustic guitars tones, which now include fret noise, harmonics, string slides and body slaps and basses having smooth glissando from note to note, the tones can be easily modified to suit the musicians’ tastes, thanks to the real-time control knobs and sliders. You can also draw on a selection of 20 different effects to fit any occasion.

Along with this, the MZ-X500 boasts Casio’s powerful Hex Layer technology first made available on the PX-5S, PX-560, and XW-series instruments.  This flexible architecture allows you layer six different sounds together in a single Tone. Each layer has its own independent key and velocity zones, plus a complete set of synthesizer parameters. It’s like six synthesizers in a single Tone. Now, multiply all that by four, because the MZ-X500 can play an astonishing four Hex Layers simultaneously, giving you control of 24 sounds at once. With Hex Layers, you can command an entire symphony orchestra, a massive polysynth, or any other sound you can imagine.

The MZ-X500’s Bass Synth uses the power of Hex Layers to deliver the fun and versatility of analog-style synthesis. These classic and evocative bass sounds can be played monophonically, with adjustable legato and portamento behavior. A library of vintage bass sounds is included to cover classic songs, and they can be easily modified using the real time controls and Color Touch Interface.

As always, the brand has not forgotten to add the timeless sound of a Vintage Tonewheel Organ with physical sliders that give the user precise drawbar control, and easy onscreen buttons to provide essential adjustments.

casio-mz-x500-pavanrchawladotcomThe MZ-X Series contain hundreds of flexible and great-sounding new Authentic Rhythms, representing musical genres from around the world including Latin, Middle Eastern, European, Asian, and ten entirely New Indian rhythms along with other global Rhythms. Plus a full spectrum of pop, jazz, rock, dance. These Rhythms have multiple intros, endings, and variations, and use advanced chord detection to deliver complete accompaniment ensembles that react smoothly to the way you play. They are ideal for solo performances, songwriting, or just enjoying a jam session with a band of professional musicians.

Adding on to this, Patterns can also be easily created and combined to form custom Rhythms using the Pattern Sequencer. There’re further possibilities of importing external rhythms using the Pattern Converter, which converts SMF data to rhythm data in the MZ-X Series format.

Patterns can be easily created and combined to form your own Rhythms, making the MZ-X500 completely expandable and customizable. If you have a vision for the perfect backing band, you can quickly generate all the performance elements you want, with extensive mixing and editing tools.

The MZ-X500 can load and play standard MIDI files, and it can even import data from an SMF into custom Rhythms. This means that instead of simply playing back a song, you can perform it and make it your own.  You can even import Rhythms from other arrangers, opening up a world of downloadable cross-platform content.

The sound quality is excellent, and that apart, the MZ-X Series is a song writer’s dream, containing a 16-track MIDI recorder with a full suite of mixing (48 Channel Mixer + EXT In/LINE IN, MIC IN) and editing features, plus powerful effect processors and USB audio recording as an upload-ready WAV file. The series is completely expandable (up to 32GB) and customizable with extensive mixing and editing tools.

casio-mz-x500-pavanrchawladotcomA winning approach would be to demonstrate the tone patches and rhythm patterns and the way the keyboard’s production capabilities permits their seamless integration and mixing to grow tunes, and, of course, the demonstration of how the intuitive colour touch interface and the extensive control plus ease of production will help a studio or performing musician to use the keyboard for production or performance with fluid ease.  Then there’s the bass-reflex speaker system that puts out 40 watts of power, retaining clarity across audio levels. There’s also a 4-band parametric equalizer included to customize the MZ-X to suit any space.

There are 96 Registrations Banks to store all key settings of the keyboard and are available for recall at the press of a button. The option to connect any of the latest Assignable Expression Pedals further expands the players’ possibilities, be it the stage or an exam hall.

Casio’s MZ-X series offers 16 touch-responsive multi-pads for broadening performance capabilities. The pads can be used to trigger preset patches and samples {Sound Input from EXT IN (LINE IN, MIC IN)} created by the user, as well as to play back musical phrases & chords, allowing the users to enhance a performance with percussive hits and additional melodies.Similarly, the MZ-X300 has 4 multi-pads which can be used for triggering phrases, samples, chords and more. Such features will make this a truly attractive series for accomplished and student musician alike. Or course, a lot will depend upon how the music store musician-salesman demonstrates the product.

The bright 5.3-inch Color Touch Interface makes it easy to explore and navigate the MZ-X Series with great touch, twist, tap navigation. You’re just a few touches away from any essential function, and selecting Tones and Rhythms is very easy too.

There are interactive visual tools like mixers, synthesizer functions, effect controls, and more.

It can even be used as an X/Y controller for the built-in effects and filters, controlling two parameters with just one touch.  The onscreen text is large and easy to read from any angle.

casio-mz-x500-pavanrchawladotcomThe stylish “cockpit” design of the MZ-X500 is well  laid out, with the most important controls where a player would logically need them. Along with the display,  what’s good is the newly designed knobs, sliders, pads, and other performance controls. Bright backlit buttons also keep you informed and in control.

You can store and recall your favorite settings easily with eight convenient Registration buttons.

A Registration can contain Rhythm, Tone, effect, tempo, transposition, and many other settings. A professional musician can organize her/his favorites for quick access at the next gig, and store up to twelve Banks of eight Registrations apiece for total flexibility.

MULTI-FUNCTION PADS: The MZ-X500 has 16 backlit, velocity sensitive multi-function pads. Initially, you’ll find they can add new, creative, and fun elements to your music. As you explore them further, you’ll realize they can open up a new dimension to your performance and composition.

SAMPLING: Quicky and easily record high-quality samples from any source via the line and mic inputs, and assign them to the pads. Create a drum kit with custom percussion sounds, record your vocal harmonies, or create a soundboard of clips to trigger during your performance.

PHRASE: The pads can also trigger musical phrases. You can easily create phrases yourself, or use the many included presets for many different instruments and genres. Phrases can be melodies, drum grooves, arpeggios, or accompaniment patterns. They can play back as recorded, or transpose automatically to match the chord being played. The MZ-X500’s phrases even include musical articulations, such as tremolos, glissandos, horn rises and falls, and many others, along with the capability to create your own.

CHORD: You can also use the MZ-X500’s pads is to trigger chords, which can drive the MZ-X500’s accompaniment Rhythms. This can simplify a performance, freeing up your hands to play a two-handed melody, or use controllers. You can even store a complete chord progression on a single chord, giving you unprecedented live remix capability. For example, you could store a verse on one pad, a chorus on another, a bridge on another, and so on.

Each pad is individually and highly customizable. You can combine all of these (and other) functions into your own custom pad layout, triggering samples, sound effects, phrases, and Tone articulations all from one set of 16 pads.

So, having seen the demo, you step back, and weigh the features against the price. Let’s see. Some of the features:

A 5.3″ display Color touch Interface. Sixty-one Velocity Sensitive keys. MXi sound source, 128 Note Polyphony, 1100 Preset/650 User Tones in the MZ-X500, 900 Presets/450 User Tones in the MZ-X300, Hex Layers Synthesis Capabilities in the MZ-X500, 330 Preset/100 User Rhythms in the MZ-X500; 280 Presets/100 User Rhythms in the MZ-X300; 16 Velocity Sensitive, backlit Multi-Pads in the MZ-X500; 4 Multi-Pads in the MZ-X300; Easy Split & Layer; 96 Performance Registration 48 Channel Mixer + EXT In; Pitch bend Wheel & Modulation wheel, Headphone output, USB and Standard MIDI I/O, Direct Access transpose, Expression Pedal Input,  plulss that 20W + 20W Speaker System.

Hmmm. If you’re a Performing / Studio Musician or a Music Examination student or teacher looking for a premium keyboard, the MZ-X500 for an MRP of Rs. 65,000 or the MZ-X300 at an MRP of Rs. 50,000, both are great buys providing excellent value for money, and come with the Casio quality.

So shell out. The MZ-X500 is, after all, the most premium arranger keyboard from Casio till date.

Go make some great music.

 

Casio MZ-X500 Technical Specifications

CASIO MZ-X500 TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
Keyboard 61 Piano-style keys
Touch Response 3 sensitivity levels, Off
Sound Source MXi (Multi-Expressive Integrated) Sound Source
Polyphony (max) 128
Number of Built-in Tones 1,100
Stereo Sampled Piano Tones Yes
Tone Edit Yes
User Tone 650
Drawbar Organ Function 9 drawbars (16′, 5 1/3′, 8′, 4′, 2 2/3′, 2′, 1 3/5′, 1 1/3′, 1′)
Virtual Tone Wheel Yes
Preset Virtual Tone Wheel Organ Tones 75 (Included in 1,100 preset tones.)
User Virtual Tone Wheel Organ Tones 50
Percussion Second / Third
On Click On / Off
Off Click On / Off
Rotary Effect Fast / Slow (Uses DSP)
Reverb 20
Chorus 25
Delay 20
DSP Equalizer, Compressor, Limiter, Enhancer, Early Reflection, Phaser, Chorus, Flanger, Tremolo, Auto Pan, Rotary, Drive Rotary, LFO Wah, Auto Wah, Distortion, Pitch Shifter, Multi Chorus, Ring Modulator, Delay, Piano Effect
Master Comp Editable
Master EQ 4 Bands Parametric EQ
Auto Harmonize 12 types
Arpeggiator 100 types
User Arpeggio 100 types
Layer Lower 1 – 4, Upper 1 – 4 Assignable (Max 4 Tones)
Split Yes (variable split point)
Number of Built-in Rhythms 330
One Touch Preset 330
Auto Accompaniment CASIO chord, Fingered 1, Fingered 2 (6th off), Fingered 3 (on bass),
Full Range Chord
Controllers Start/Stop, Intro1 – 2, Variation1 – 4/Fill-in, Break, Fade In/Out,
Ending1 – 2, Synchro Start, Synchro Stop, Accomp On/Off,
Ritardando, Auto Fill-In, Tap Start
Chord Type 37 Types
Pattern Sequencer Real-time Recording, Event Edit (Delete, Copy, Insert, Quantize, Step Recording ), Part Parameters, SMF Import
User Rhythms 100
Number of Demonstration Songs 6
Number of Music Preset 305 preset with chord progression, chord edit
User Presets 100
MIDI Recorder Real-time Recording, Track Edit, Event Edit ( Delete, Copy, Insert, Quantize, Step Recording ), Punch-In/Out, Over Dubbing, SMF Import
User Songs 100 songs, 17 tracks per song (1 system track + 16 multi tracks)
Approximate Data Capacity 50,000 notes (1 song)
Recording Source Keyboard play, keyboard play with Auto Accompaniment and with Music Preset, MIDI Recorder playback, sound input from EXT IN (LINE IN, MIC IN)
Audio File Format .wav (16bit, 44.1kHz, Stereo)
Recording Capacity Up to 100 audio files (maximum recording time: approximately 90 minutes for a single audio file)
Center Cancel Yes
Requirement USB memory, up to 32GB
Number of Pads 16
Velocity Yes
Phrase 30
Sampling 30
Chord 20
Multi 20
User 100
LED Yes
Sampling Time Long: 9 seconds x 4, Short: 3 seconds x 32
Event Edit Yes
Chord Sync Yes
Synchro Yes
Articulation Yes
Mixer 48 channels + EXT IN (LINE IN, MIC IN), 9-slider operation
Registration 8 sets x 12 banks (96 setups)
Freeze Yes
Registration Sequence 12
Pedal SW Assignable Yes
Sustain On / Off SW Yes
Scale Tuning Equal temperaments plus 16 other types, Scale Fine Tune ±99 cents
Key Transpose ±1 octave (-12 to +12 semitones)
Tuning Control 415.5 – 440.0 – 465.9Hz (0.1Hz units)
Octave Shift ±3 octaves
Metronome 0(Off), 1 – 9 beats
Tempo Range ♩ = 20 to 255 per minute
Volume Adjustable
Display 5.3-inch touch panel color LCD
Pitch Bend Wheel Pitch bend range: 0 to 24 semitones
Modulation Wheel Yes
Knobs 3 (Assignable x 2, Value x 1)
Sliders 9
General MIDI 16 channel multi-timbre received, GM Level 1 standard
Internal User Memory (Tone, Rhythm, Song, Registration, etc) 256MB
PEDAL 1 Yes (Mono standard jack)
PEDAL 2 / EXPRESSION Yes (Stereo standard jack)
PHONES Yes (Stereo standard jack, Front)
LINE OUT Yes (L/MONO, R for each; Standard jack)
LINE IN Yes (L/MONO, R for each; Standard jack)
MIC IN Yes (Mono standard jack), MIC Volume
USB TO HOST Yes
USB TO DEVICE Yes
MIDI IN, OUT/THRU Yes
DC IN Yes (24V)
Supported USB Memory up to 32GB
Functions SMF Playback (up to 320KB per file), File Storage, File Recall, File Delete, Format, Audio Data Playback / Storage
Save/Load User Tone, User Rhythm, User MIDI Data, User Music Preset, User Registration Memory, User Pad Bank, User Sample, User Phrase, User Arpeggio
Size 4.7″ x 2 + 2″ x 2 (2-way, 4-speakers)
Bass-reflex System Yes
Speaker ON/OFF Yes
Amplifiers 20W + 20W
W x D x H 37.4″ x 15.7″ x 5.9″
Weight 16.8 lbs.
AC Adaptor AC Adaptor AD-A24250LW included
Included Accessories AC adaptor, music stand
Stand ARDX
Pedal SP-20, SP-3
UPC Code ‘079767314620

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