Sonic LAB Review: Casio XW-P1 Performance Synth

It has the HEX and Solo Synth - what else?      20/06/12
    MP4 12:46 mins    

Buying Choices
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Who’d a thunk it? A new synth from Casio after years without - for more than twenty years it's been a diet of arranger keyboards and pianos from them. But now we have the XW-P1 which incorporates some of their current technology knowhow, but also has a bit of Virtual Analog to offer too.


The XW-P1 has a  complex structure - to begin with there’s the regular PCM voices (pianos, strings, basses, drums and the like) - multi-sampled and synthesis with some basic editing - envelopes, and simple filtering, then we get the HEX layer - this consists of up to six PCM voices. layered, split or switched into a single larger patch, again with simple editing and effects, then there’s the Organ mode - a dedicated 8 drawbar organ voice, with Leslie effect, 2nd and 3rd percussion harmonics, and vibrato.
Then there’s the Solo Synth Voice - this is a monophonic VA voice with 6 sound sources - 2 Synth wave voices - with x modeled waves, 2 PCM oscillators with 2159 waves, add to that a noise source and an external input source taken from the mic or line input. This voice also gets a multi-mode resonant filter - which actually does break up a bit and gets some dirty, driven sounds.

All of these can be stored within a Performance which contains four zones - split/layer. There is also a sequencer element - this is a 16-step, 8 pattern affair with 13 tracks: 8 mono, one chord track and four controller tacks. It is possible with a bit of button pushing to enter in semi-real time which makes it a lot easier than incrementing note values via the data entry or faders, but honestly my patience with step sequencers was ended when computers were introduced. However, for the diligent, you can get some very good results, especially when combined with the arpeggiator.

Additionally, there’s a phrase recorder which can record up to 1600 notes, be sync’ed,  looped and also re-triggered and transposed to the current note on the keyboard.

In Use
I think when it comes to the PCM sounds, they aren’t going to set the world on fire and aren't up to the standard of say the slightly more expensive Roland Juno Di, but are OK. The organ voice has some nice control options and is playable thanks to the slider controls. These controls add a number of ways to manipulate the voices - mostly the mix of elements (or drawbars for Organ) and a couple of effect parameters. Additionally there’s four assignable control knobs , which offer more real-time control of any voices.

Who’s It For?
Practically speaking the XW-P1 is not aimed at the expert synthesizer owner, it's got a load of solid features, but it's sounds are probably not going to adorn the latest crop of cutting edge R&B productions. Having said that there are a few reasonable drum sounds in there, but what it does offer is very good value for features, with plenty to keep the beginner or slightly more experienced user busy. For the bedroom producer who needs extra voices and control, or perhaps the live musician who’d like to advance from a more basic keyboard, the Casio XW-P1 is worth a trial and may have precisely the features you require.

Available now:
Price: £449, $699 €549 - cheaper on the street



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