Sometimes a product comes out with everything it takes to blow the competition out of the water and yet remains virtually unknown and unappreciated, eventually sinking without a trace while other, lesser products reap profits and praise.
Such was the case with Casio’s FZ-1. It should have become a classic. It broke new ground in terms of sound quality, price and interface, and yet critical reaction was lukewarm at best and sales, while good, were not anywhere near the numbers that the humungous calculator company was accustomed to dealing with. Even the blockbuster sales of the CZ-101 weren't enough to keep Casio interested in the pro music market.
And the FZ-1 was indeed a thoroughly professional instrument. Built like a tank and looking far more sophisticated than most other samplers of the day, it sported a cool LCD screen on which you could actually see your waveforms. And those waveforms? They were recorded in 16-bit (albeit 32kHz) glory, baby. This was pretty exciting stuff in 1987, especially given that the FZ-1 cost just over a couple of grand. Other machines in this price range lacked graphical displays and were hobbled by 12-bit sampling.
Furthermore, the FZ-1 provided built-in additive synthesis, allowing users to cobble together their own waveforms that could then be combined with samples and spat through the usual subtractive signal path. Many of the synthesis functions were carried over from Casio’s CZ series, including its eight-stage envelopes.
The FZ-1 was understandably seen as a threat by many competitive manufacturers, and some of them went out of their way to slander the product. They needn’t have bothered. Casio’s indifference to the pro market was already setting in and there wouldn’t be a follow up to this fine sampler. Nevertheless, the FZ-1 left the marketplace and the competition thinking very hard about what features should be included in a mid-priced sampler.