Casio’s mid-80s range of CZ synths used digital phase distortion synthesis to generate their sounds, an approach vaguely similar to the FM synthesis used in Yamaha’s DX synths. The CZ series are versatile synths, capable of a range of sounds but perhaps best known in dance music circles for being the source of Kevin Saunderson’s original Reese bass.
From the cheap and cheerful CZ-101 through to the flagship CZ-1, the series has retained a cult following, largely because until recently, there were no software emulations available, meaning that the only way to achieve those sounds was to get busy in the second-hand market and track down the original hardware.
The release of Plugin Boutique’s VirtualCZ made life a lot easier for those of us who want to explore phase distortion synthesis without the hassle and expense of buying a vintage synth. Not only does it accurately recreate the features of the original synths, but the plugin also brings the whole concept up to date with additional features to make it more flexible. In total you get two PD oscillators per voice, plus six loopable envelope generators, tempo-synced LFO, ring modulation and noise modulation, unison and detuning options, and a lot more. It also acts as a SYSEX librarian and editor for the hardware.
The sound is a perfect emulation of the original, capable of everything from fat bass patches to floaty pads and strings. And yes, in case you were wondering, it’ll do a killer Reese.