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Korg ZSC 01 Sound Collection Z1

Sound Card By Derek Johnson
Published June 1998

Korg ZSC 01 Sound Collection Z1

A few famous names have been co‑opted by Korg to contribute to their first extra sound set for the Z1 physical modelling synth. Derek Johnson lends an ear.

Korg have released the first new sound collection for their Z1 DSP‑based physical modelling synth (reviewed by SOS in October 1997). The sounds come on a PCMCIA card that slips into the synth's rear slot. It features 256 new Programs, 32 Multisets and 15 arpeggio patterns, which are joined by two other memory 'areas', each equivalent to the Z1's complete memory, in which you can save your own edits. One area features a backup of the factory sounds. A tip in the accompanying data sheet that you should follow is to ensure that the Card Area parameter (in the Z1's Global menu) reads '00'. Otherwise the Z1 either won't acknowledge the card, or will see a collection of initialised programs.

On The Card

At first listen, the card appears to offer a similar set to the Z1's factory presets, but closer examination reveals a grittier selection, perhaps more attractive to the bedroom junglist and dancefloor hooligan, amongst the new organs, basses and electric pianos. About 30% of the new sounds originated in the UK, with contributions from such luminaries as Erasure producer Martyn Philips, Tom Green (who's working with The Orb's Kris Weston), SOS contributor Paul Wiffen, and Korg UK's Paul Bundock.

I'll start where I had the most fun: Multisets A00 Crusty Dub and A08 Volcano. Both are built around Programs (dubbed Zoop ? presumably 'Z1 Loop' ? 1‑6) that emulate drum loops with a hint of bass line. There are no samples on board the Z1, but these patches make you believe there are. Similar Programs and Multisets are available in the factory collection, but the card examples go further. These two Multisets are virtually entire tracks in themselves: press a key and the loop kicks in, together with a pumping bass line; one half of the keyboard contains a lead sound in both cases. Crusty Dub is a distorted grind, while Volcano is pure early‑'80s electro‑pop. Multiset A01 Drums&Bass also deserves mention, but a lot of its unpredictable effect is generated by the arpeggiator, with aftertouch adding the rapid snare blurs typical of this genre.

The Z1 is particularly good at mimicking vowel sounds (using a dual band‑pass filter). The card features just a few examples, but A039 AEIOU Choir has an eerie quality about it, with the various vowels brought out by manipulating the Z1's X/Y controller pad. The X/Y pad also helps bring various wind simulations to life: A008 Cave Flute is suitably primitive, with plenty of under‑ and over‑blowing effects available from the pad.

A070 BD/SN Set 1 is a bass/snare emulation that seems to draw its inspiration from 4‑operator FM synthesis; supply a suitable arpeggio (Drum&Bass is ideal) and you get a really funky pattern. Add this ? or the TR606‑ish B043 BD/SN Set 2 ? to a Multiset to create your own instant grooves. Want more percussion? Check out A095 8008 SD+HC or A115 Solid HH/Perc.

On a more traditional synth sound front, you can take your pick. There are pads that are lush and pads with movement, brassy hits and cone‑flapping basses (try A011 'n'Bass), TB303 bloops (check out the wickedly arpeggiated A000 Morph 3003) and subtle (and not so subtle) takes on polysynths of the past. Even bigger synth sounds appear amongst the Multisets; B02 GigaSynthesis plays with just 4‑note polyphony on a basic Z1, though this is quite enough! B13 Thicky Bass Splt, a fat bass/resonant pad split, is also pretty up‑front in an Oberheim kind of way. The convincing and cutting B124 Got Mini? and A005 mini Lead are ideal old‑school lead sounds, while B118 VPM Sync (using, surprisingly, the Z1's FM‑like model) and A096 Sizzlin' Lead also belong on top. The Z1 is a synth that's designed to be tweaked, and the programmers have given even the more conventional sounds something extra courtesy of aftertouch, the X/Y pad or real‑time knobs. They also know how to use sync'd LFOs as an alternative to the arpeggiator.

Inevitably, there are some impressive yet musically questionable sounds on this card, but even these could provide inspiration for sound designers. A007 V8, for example, uses the Z1's reed model to produce an unstable powerhouse of an engine that chugs away until it screams into life when you crank the mod wheel, and B127 Bomb Test is an instant WWI newsreel soundtrack.


I've just scratched the surface of this uniformly well‑programmed collection. At £129 it's perhaps a little pricey, though the excellent sounds are augmented by the extra memory (and to be honest, Z1 owners don't have a lot of choice at the moment, since there don't appear to be any third‑party developers with Z1 sounds ready yet). Many of the sounds spark ideas, and the card could even be educational: deconstructing those loop‑heavy Multisets has shown me the way towards some intriguing areas of sonic exploration. Recommended.


  • Well‑programmed, varied selection of patches.
  • Extra memory for your own edits.


  • A bit pricey.


This is a good collection of sounds that extends the sonic scope of the Z1, and one that any Z1 owner should seriously consider.