Online store turned developer, Plugin Boutique, have released their second synthesizer, the VirtualCZ.

Casio synths were big business in the early 80s and in 1984 Casio launched a new line with the release of the Casio CZ-101. It was notable on its release as it used Phase Distortion synthesis, had a 49 minikey keyboard (rather than the more familiar full size 61 keys), and was one of the first synths to put a fully programmable polyphonic synthesizer within reach of the general public with a price point of under $500. It was a massive success and Casio then went on to launch 7 more models in the CZ series culminating in the CZ-1. Perhaps because of some of the features found on some of synths in the range – miniature keys, built in speakers – they never really quite got the same respect afforded to other digital synths of the time but the CZs were fantastic keyboards and became a great weapon in lots of producers arsenals and were in LOADS of techno, house, rave and synth-pop records in the late 80s and early 90s. Little wonder then that the CZs have been brought back to life in the VirtualCZ.

The VirtualCZ mirrors the Phase Distortion architecture and provides all the original features and controls of the original models while adding some very welcome features of its own. You get switchable envelopes between the original 8-stage design and the more familiar ADSR, stereo panning, upto 8 voice unison, there are 2 chorus effects, and while it models the CZ-1 “out the box” you can also choose to emulate either the CZ-101/1000 or the CZ-3000/5000! Intriguingly, the VirtualCZ can also act as a SysEx editor/librarian for any of the hardware synths meaning the original hardware also gets a new lease of life.

Full features:

  • Phase distortion synthesizer
  • Sysex patch editor and librarian for all CZ hardware versions
  • 32-voice polyphony
  • Mono and Legato modes
  • 2 oscillators per voice, 8 wave forms
  • 6 loopable envelope generators per voice
  • Tempo syncable LFO for vibrato with 7 forms
  • Ring and noise modulations
  • Stereo Panner
  • Unison and detune features
  • Microtonal tuning
  • Vintage stereo chorus/ensemble
  • Setting randomisation
  • 200 presets in different formats (FXP, AU Preset, VST Preset, TFX)
  • Ability to download CZ patches online
  • Preset import/export

Priced at a very reasonable £59/$99 it’s available now directly from the Virtual CZ product page where you can also find full details and feature list. Check the demo at the top of the page and a walkthrough below.


Arturia, a company well known for their soft emulations of classic synthesizers but fresh off the heels of their Wurlitzer V, have stuck with the early electrical keyboard theme and reworked the classic VOX Continental into the imaginatively titled VOX Continental V.

Heard on countless hits from the 60s, the VOX Continental has a very distinct sound and getting this sound exactly right has been the driving force for Arturia. But in true Arturia fashion they didn’t stop there, so on top of getting that sound you also get treated to upper manual, lower manual, and bass pedal sections with independent channels per manual, multiple output effects processors with several popular effects including Leslie and guitar amp simulator outputs, individual pitch tuning, alterable key contact timing, and authentic noise bleed control, to name but a few highlights. However, to our minds the most exciting addition is the inclusion of the J70 mode. The now ultra rare Jennings J70 was VOX creator’s Tom Jennings’ VOX organ forerunner and has been included in the VOX Continental V as a switchable extra.

While some hardware manufacturers can maintain their distance on emulations it’s pleasing to see that the VOX Continental V has been blessed by the present day owners of the VOX brand:

“At VOX, we are happy that Arturia is bringing back to life the VOX Continental, one of the great instruments of the Sixties. Arturia’s software instruments are known for their sound quality and attention to detail — which is exactly what the VOX Continental deserves.”

Although most famous for its sound in the 60s, the VOX Continental has endured throughout the subsequent decades and now enjoys the position of being one of the sounds of rock’n’roll and anybody remotely interested in making this music deserved to give this a look.

Available now for Mac (OS X 10.7.5 or higher) and PC (Windows 7 and 8) as AAX, AU, VST, and VST3 plugins and also in standalone versions. Downloads cost $/€99 while boxed version cost $129 and €119. Check the rather cool video up top and then click here for the Arturia VOX Continental V product page to get full details.

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