The Crystal Method's Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland perform at Casio's launch party for the XW-G1 Groove Synthesizer in New York.


By Christopher Walsh

Casio—which debuted the XW-P1 synthesizer at this year’s NAMM show—has now expanded the XW Series with the launch of the XW-G1 Groove Synthesizer. The manufacturer introduced the XW-G1 at a private event this spring at New York’s Highline Ballroom featuring performances by the Crystal Method and DJ Enferno.

“The G1 delivers in one package what no one else can: a synthesizer with an interactive step sequencer, sampler and much, much more,” said Stephen Schmidt, VP of Casio’s Electronic Musical Instruments Division. The XW Series, he added, “marks a return to Casio’s professional roots. We’re enabling a new generation of musicians to create something from nothing—something that is powerful, loud and raw. Musicians and DJs can use the G1 to produce live, original music. It allows musicians to quickly and easily create drumbeats, bass lines and samples on the fly. It’s also the first keyboard synthesizer that is a remixing tool.”

Mike Martin, Casio’s GM of Marketing, Electronic Musical Instruments, demonstrated the XW-G1. “First of all, there’s a solo synthesizer that’s capable of doing leads, bass synthesizers, vintage sounds and sounds you’ve never heard before,” he explained. “That’s combined with a sampler and a step sequencer that allows you to create beats, rhythms and remixes. So it’s great not only for the keyboardist, but also DJs and other people that are doing dance music. It’s a hybrid product in that way.

“Of course the XW-G1 has traditional sounds as well. From the Casio Privia Series you’ll find great piano sounds, electric piano sounds and much more. But the G1 has a much more aggressive nature to it.

“There’s lots of real-time control using the knobs and sliders,” Martin continued. “On the right side there’s a perfect place to put an iPad, so integration with other products is really easy. And all the connectivity: USB to connect to your computer, your iPad, your PA system.” The lightweight XW-G1, Martin added, runs for 36 hours on six D batteries.

We spoke with the Crystal Method’s Scott Kirkland and Ken Jordan just prior to their performance, as DJ Enferno wowed the assembled with a dazzling set. “My first keyboard was a Casio CZ-101,” Kirkland recalled. “You could play with the internal sounds that came with it, but I reached beyond that—you could create some funky sounds. That instrument went on to create some of the sub-bass, bottom end, Roland TR-808-type sounds that were part of our first album, Vegas. We still have it in the studio today.”


The Crystal Method’s members expressed enthusiasm about the XW-G1 as well. “It’s a really powerful synthesizer,” says Jordan, “and if it was just that, it would still be really good, especially for the money. But it’s a really powerful synthesizer and it’s got this amazing step sequencer, which is really easy to use and flexible. It has an arpeggiator, a phrase sequencer, and it’s a sampler too. It’s also really good for a lot of other sounds: organ sounds, pad sounds, piano sounds, any of those instruments you can think of. But it really shines as a heavy-duty synth.”

And, Kirkland notes, “It communicates to your iOS devices seamlessly. Casio created a spot where you could put your iPad, iPhone, iPod or any other smart device, and with a short USB run right in to your device and seamlessly communicate with the apps that you’ve purchased, whether it be GarageBand or Anamoog or [Fingerlab’s] DM1 [Drum Machine]. This is the device that allows you to expand on that. And it leaves so much open for the future: You can see so many other things coming out of the fact that the XW-G1 can communicate directly to an iOS or Android device; that it has the ability to sequence, phrase sequence, step sequence, arpeggiate. It opens the door for the next generation of musicians who may not have the funds to find studio space or all the gear they want to get. This is the device that, hopefully, will discover the next generation of artists and keep moving music forward.”

“There’s software for it as well,” Jordan adds. “There’s a sample converter tool: you can get samples in whatever other worlds you have ready to go right into the Casio. And there is a complete editor to set up the whole keyboard. It lays it out where you can see all the different layers, voices, performances and everything like that. You can categorize, back up and manipulate everything on the keyboard.”

“The goal at Casio is to go beyond sound,” Schmidt declared. “We look beyond the equipment. It’s about the joy of creating something. Thinking beyond conventional instruments, Casio is exploring new ways to produce music, creating products with unique and innovative technologies. This technology enables more people to enjoy, create and play music. We create new vehicles for self-expression and the ability to produce your own sounds.”



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