Okay, so Casio have crammed a groove box into a Millennium Falcon, and that was a little strange (and means squeezing some of the controls, since the shape is irregular). But now that the shock has worn off, the next question: should we get one for review when it arrives later this March? Should you keep it on your 2015 gear radar?

The answer turns out to be yes, as a few readers have told me online and offline. And the reason has to do with a keyboard you probably ignored from Casio a couple years back. Let us explain.

You’d be forgiven if you missed the XW-G1. Apart from having a name that you might forget in the middle of trying to say it out loud — (“ah, the X-G… X… what?”) — you wouldn’t know by looking at it that it was anything other than another brightly-colored keyboard workstation-ROMpler-something-or-other out of Japan. For added confusion, there was both an XW-G1 (the “G” is for groove), and XW-P1 (for “performance” with “Hybrid Processing Sound Source” and “HexLayer” – that makes everything much clearer).

Okay, so there are two XW synths. But what’s really important is that both have a ridiculously cool step sequencer built into it.

As noted in comments, you can record knob movements. You can import (very, very small) drum samples. On top of that, you can output the arpeggiator and sequencer via MIDI – nine whole tracks of it.

“Ah,” you say, “but I don’t want to buy some giant keyboard just to get a cool step sequencer, no matter how cheap it might be on Craigslist. Why don’t they just break off the sequencer bit?”

Ah-hah.

xw-pd1

Now you’re getting it. That’s nearly exactly what they did. Now, it would have been nice if they broke it off into a rectangle, but… well, they went Han Solo on us. Still, it’s the sequencer that counts. Via Gearslutz, a Casio rep tells the world (thank you, CDM reader Will, in comments – for this and your XW-G1 feedback):

The Step Sequencer itself on the XW-PD1 is 64 tracks. Basically you get a track for each pad and there are 4 selectable banks of 16 pads. The drum sounds are all new and different from the XW-G1 plus it has the ability to load in samples (similar to the XW-G1). The effects are also different from the XW-G1. You can assign effects (Stutter, Delays, Ring Mod, Filters and more) to Pads. The Pads can latch so the effect stays on until you hit it again or they can just function momentary. While an effect is engaged you can use the knobs to manipulate those
effects in real-time. The XW-PD1 also processes incoming audio through those effects.

Okay, then. Hang on a second. This is all sounding awesome. You’re telling us we have a 64-track step sequencer for under US$400 list price and it has drums and effects on it, too, plus various performance features?

Hell, Casio, I don’t care if you stick that into Barbie’s pink SUV. Yes, we’re interested. And yes, we’ll still need to review it to make sure you can’t accidentally hit that power button.

But with Korg’s ElecTribes shipping, Roland’s TB-3, and now this, plus – um, anything that might happen at NAMM – the standalone groovebox/sequencer category is suddenly interesting again.

And yes, that includes the XW… um… the XW … PD1. That’s it.

You know, the red thing. That one. We’re making fun of it, but … yes, we might actually also want one.

With one major, major caveat: As several readers note, the product specs (not yet available when I wrote this and the preview) clearly say USB only – no MIDI DIN. So you can only use this standalone if you have something that acts as a USB host. That’s a pretty big drawback: you can’t just plug this into most gear. You could use internal sounds, but sample size is limited. It’s a shame a US$400 box is absent MIDI connectivity.

  • Mutis Mayfield

    Yes.

  • Mutis Mayfield

    Yes.

  • Mutis Mayfield

    Yes.

  • Pierre Fontaine

    Casio can’t get any respect. Anything they put out is automatically considered a toy. Yes, that’s partially Casio’s fault. I own an XW-P1 and love it. Yes, the step sequencer function is fantastic. It’s nice to see that they have developed this piece of equipment and I hope this brings them a great deal of success and respect (assuming it doesn’t have some silly design flaw). I really look forward to seeing this demoed and reviewed!

    • Dream Hike

      No midi out would be a brutal design flaw to me. Screams toy to me but then again maybe I am not their demographic.

  • Pierre Fontaine

    Casio can’t get any respect. Anything they put out is automatically considered a toy. Yes, that’s partially Casio’s fault. I own an XW-P1 and love it. Yes, the step sequencer function is fantastic. It’s nice to see that they have developed this piece of equipment and I hope this brings them a great deal of success and respect (assuming it doesn’t have some silly design flaw). I really look forward to seeing this demoed and reviewed!

    • Dream Hike

      No midi out would be a brutal design flaw to me. Screams toy to me but then again maybe I am not their demographic.

  • Pierre Fontaine

    Casio can’t get any respect. Anything they put out is automatically considered a toy. Yes, that’s partially Casio’s fault. I own an XW-P1 and love it. Yes, the step sequencer function is fantastic. It’s nice to see that they have developed this piece of equipment and I hope this brings them a great deal of success and respect (assuming it doesn’t have some silly design flaw). I really look forward to seeing this demoed and reviewed!

    • Dream Hike

      No midi out would be a brutal design flaw to me. Screams toy to me but then again maybe I am not their demographic.

  • Pierre Fontaine

    And yes, thank you for bringing this to our attention. I appreciate the fact that you’ve devoted this much space to something you’ve initially dismissed. I hope it’s a great product and the public and musicians alike will find it an awesome piece of equipment.

    • Yes, I’d rather have an opinion and change it than have no opinion at all. πŸ™‚

      I’m still concerned about the control layout on the left, which it seems didn’t have to be so cramped if the unit had been rectangular. But that’s worth testing in a review.

  • Pierre Fontaine

    Your Barbie’s Pink SUV comment was very funny BTW!

  • Pierre Fontaine

    And yes, thank you for bringing this to our attention. I appreciate the fact that you’ve devoted this much space to something you’ve initially dismissed. I hope it’s a great product and the public and musicians alike will find it an awesome piece of equipment.

    • Yes, I’d rather have an opinion and change it than have no opinion at all. πŸ™‚

      I’m still concerned about the control layout on the left, which it seems didn’t have to be so cramped if the unit had been rectangular. But that’s worth testing in a review.

  • Pierre Fontaine

    Your Barbie’s Pink SUV comment was very funny BTW!

  • Pierre Fontaine

    And yes, thank you for bringing this to our attention. I appreciate the fact that you’ve devoted this much space to something you’ve initially dismissed. I hope it’s a great product and the public and musicians alike will find it an awesome piece of equipment.

    • Yes, I’d rather have an opinion and change it than have no opinion at all. πŸ™‚

      I’m still concerned about the control layout on the left, which it seems didn’t have to be so cramped if the unit had been rectangular. But that’s worth testing in a review.

  • Pierre Fontaine

    Your Barbie’s Pink SUV comment was very funny BTW!

  • martrox

    I have both of the XW synths in my armoury of music making gear, and they are brilliant!

  • martrox

    I have both of the XW synths in my armoury of music making gear, and they are brilliant!

  • martrox

    I have both of the XW synths in my armoury of music making gear, and they are brilliant!

  • sure it looks like a toy… but i’ve been making music on my gameboy for years! i’d be interested to see more about how it works, for sure.

  • sure it looks like a toy… but i’ve been making music on my gameboy for years! i’d be interested to see more about how it works, for sure.

  • sure it looks like a toy… but i’ve been making music on my gameboy for years! i’d be interested to see more about how it works, for sure.

  • rogueops

    Looks like you could add a “fretboard” to it and wear it with a shoulder strap.

  • rogueops

    Looks like you could add a “fretboard” to it and wear it with a shoulder strap.

  • rogueops

    Looks like you could add a “fretboard” to it and wear it with a shoulder strap.

  • cola verde

    not sure if that “thing” will have a midi out…….

  • Gaz Williams

    Aha! Peter I’m glad you see the potential in this thing! When I first saw it I thought it looked a bit daft but upon further inspection I thought ooh Casio taking on Maschine and MPC Renaissance but in the much requested standalone form. Now, it remains to be seen whether the sampling is much cop and how much sample memory it has (probably not much but hopefully lots maybe?) The little red led digit screen won’t make for the best sample handling but there may be some computer import functionality which would make sense. Also those 64 tracks – be sweet to see more than one midi out but I don’t yet think we know if it has midi din sockets do we?
    As for the looks? You know what I now think it is funky!

  • cola verde

    not sure if that “thing” will have a midi out…….

  • Guest

    Aha! Peter I’m glad you see the potential in this thing! When I first saw it I thought it looked a bit daft but upon further inspection I thought ooh Casio taking on Maschine and MPC Renaissance but in the much requested standalone form. Now, it remains to be seen whether the sampling is much cop and how much sample memory it has (probably not much but hopefully lots maybe?) The little red led digit screen won’t make for the best sample handling but there may be some computer import functionality which would make sense. Also those 64 tracks – be sweet to see more than one midi out but I don’t yet think we know if it has midi din sockets do we?
    As for the looks? You know what I now think it is funky!

  • cola verde

    not sure if that “thing” will have a midi out…….

  • Guest

    Aha! Peter I’m glad you see the potential in this thing! When I first saw it I thought it looked a bit daft but upon further inspection I thought ooh Casio taking on Maschine and MPC Renaissance but in the much requested standalone form. Now, it remains to be seen whether the sampling is much cop and how much sample memory it has (probably not much but hopefully lots maybe?) The little red led digit screen won’t make for the best sample handling but there may be some computer import functionality which would make sense. Also those 64 tracks – be sweet to see more than one midi out but I don’t yet think we know if it has midi din sockets do we?
    As for the looks? You know what I now think it is funky!

  • aaron

    so it’s less millennium falcon, and more omnichord meets decent sequencer

  • aaron

    so it’s less millennium falcon, and more omnichord meets decent sequencer

  • aaron

    so it’s less millennium falcon, and more omnichord meets decent sequencer

  • Gaz Williams

    Aha! Peter I’m glad you see the potential in this thing! When I first saw it I thought it looked a bit daft but upon further inspection I thought ooh Casio taking on Maschine and MPC Renaissance but in the much requested standalone form. Now, it remains to be seen whether the sampling is much cop and how much sample memory it has (probably not much but hopefully lots maybe?) The little red led digit screen won’t make for the best sample handling but there may be some computer import functionality which would make sense. Also those 64 tracks – be sweet to see more than one midi out but I don’t yet think we know if it has midi din sockets do we?
    As for the looks? You know what I now think it is funky!

    • David

      Judging from the pictures on the product page, it only has USB, no DIN ports.
      http://www.casio-intl.com/asia-mea/en/emi/djproducts/xw-pd1/

      Can an iConnectivity MIDI interface be used to adapt from USB to MIDI DIN perhaps? Never used that sort of thing.

      • David

        Casio rep Mike Martin have been kind enough to explain the PD1 over at Gearslutz as he is learning it better himself. Thanks Mike, if you’re reading this πŸ™‚

        It is indeed MIDI compliant via USB so an iConnectivity or similar box to MIDI DIN should work just fine.

        From Mike:
        “The MIDI controller capabilities are actually staggering, albeit through USB MIDI. When in the MIDI controller Mode each pad is assignable to be any note number or CC on any MIDI channel with adjustable velocity or depth. A pad can be momentary or toggle, it can also be set to trigger rhythmic values – 1/4, 16th…etc. There are 16 selectable MIDI controller pages. Select a different page all the pads are reconfigured to do something else.”

        I’m keeping my eyes on this for sure!

      • This USB-host MIDI device from Kenton UK will do the trick as long as the MIDI is Class compliant. http://www.kentonuk.com/products/items/utilities/usb-host.shtml

  • Gaz Williams

    Aha! Peter I’m glad you see the potential in this thing! When I first saw it I thought it looked a bit daft but upon further inspection I thought ooh Casio taking on Maschine and MPC Renaissance but in the much requested standalone form. Now, it remains to be seen whether the sampling is much cop and how much sample memory it has (probably not much but hopefully lots maybe?) The little red led digit screen won’t make for the best sample handling but there may be some computer import functionality which would make sense. Also those 64 tracks – be sweet to see more than one midi out but I don’t yet think we know if it has midi din sockets do we?
    As for the looks? You know what I now think it is funky!

    • David

      Judging from the pictures on the product page, it only has USB, no DIN ports.
      http://www.casio-intl.com/asia-mea/en/emi/djproducts/xw-pd1/

      Can an iConnectivity MIDI interface be used to adapt from USB to MIDI DIN perhaps? Never used that sort of thing.

      • David

        Casio rep Mike Martin have been kind enough to explain the PD1 over at Gearslutz as he is learning it better himself. Thanks Mike, if you’re reading this πŸ™‚

        It is indeed MIDI compliant via USB so an iConnectivity or similar box to MIDI DIN should work just fine.

        From Mike:
        “The MIDI controller capabilities are actually staggering, albeit through USB MIDI. When in the MIDI controller Mode each pad is assignable to be any note number or CC on any MIDI channel with adjustable velocity or depth. A pad can be momentary or toggle, it can also be set to trigger rhythmic values – 1/4, 16th…etc. There are 16 selectable MIDI controller pages. Select a different page all the pads are reconfigured to do something else.”

        I’m keeping my eyes on this for sure!

      • This USB-host MIDI device from Kenton UK will do the trick as long as the MIDI is Class compliant. http://www.kentonuk.com/products/items/utilities/usb-host.shtml

  • Gaz Williams

    Aha! Peter I’m glad you see the potential in this thing! When I first saw it I thought it looked a bit daft but upon further inspection I thought ooh Casio taking on Maschine and MPC Renaissance but in the much requested standalone form. Now, it remains to be seen whether the sampling is much cop and how much sample memory it has (probably not much but hopefully lots maybe?) The little red led digit screen won’t make for the best sample handling but there may be some computer import functionality which would make sense. Also those 64 tracks – be sweet to see more than one midi out but I don’t yet think we know if it has midi din sockets do we?
    As for the looks? You know what I now think it is funky!

    • David

      Judging from the pictures on the product page, it only has USB, no DIN ports.
      http://www.casio-intl.com/asia-mea/en/emi/djproducts/xw-pd1/

      Can an iConnectivity MIDI interface be used to adapt from USB to MIDI DIN perhaps? Never used that sort of thing.

      • David

        Casio rep Mike Martin have been kind enough to explain the PD1 over at Gearslutz as he is learning it better himself. Thanks Mike, if you’re reading this πŸ™‚

        It is indeed MIDI compliant via USB so an iConnectivity or similar box to MIDI DIN should work just fine.

        From Mike:
        “The MIDI controller capabilities are actually staggering, albeit through USB MIDI. When in the MIDI controller Mode each pad is assignable to be any note number or CC on any MIDI channel with adjustable velocity or depth. A pad can be momentary or toggle, it can also be set to trigger rhythmic values – 1/4, 16th…etc. There are 16 selectable MIDI controller pages. Select a different page all the pads are reconfigured to do something else.”

        I’m keeping my eyes on this for sure!

      • This USB-host MIDI device from Kenton UK will do the trick as long as the MIDI is Class compliant. http://www.kentonuk.com/products/items/utilities/usb-host.shtml

  • David

    It has no MIDI In/Out (according to the Casio product page). Only USB. How do I go about connecting it to my synths and drum machines then without going via a computer?

    • David

      Answered this myself above… It’s MIDI compliant over USB so possible to use an iConnectivity interface or similar…

  • David

    It has no MIDI In/Out (according to the Casio product page). Only USB. How do I go about connecting it to my synths and drum machines then without going via a computer?

    • David

      Answered this myself above… It’s MIDI compliant over USB so possible to use an iConnectivity interface or similar…

  • David

    It has no MIDI In/Out (according to the Casio product page). Only USB. How do I go about connecting it to my synths and drum machines then without going via a computer?

    • David

      Answered this myself above… It’s MIDI compliant over USB so possible to use an iConnectivity interface or similar…

  • Jase M

    I wonder if the sequencer is set up like the Trigger Finger Pro, where each pad is a single note sequence. It’d be nice if the pad could contain a polyphonic sequence. We’ll see what’s going on in a couple of weeks, if not sooner.

    • David

      The internal synthesizer is monophonic according to the product page. That might be a hint that they haven’t bothered to put in a polyphonic sequencer in there either. Hoping for poly, though!

  • Jase M

    I wonder if the sequencer is set up like the Trigger Finger Pro, where each pad is a single note sequence. It’d be nice if the pad could contain a polyphonic sequence. We’ll see what’s going on in a couple of weeks, if not sooner.

    • David

      The internal synthesizer is monophonic according to the product page. That might be a hint that they haven’t bothered to put in a polyphonic sequencer in there either. Hoping for poly, though!

  • Jase M

    I wonder if the sequencer is set up like the Trigger Finger Pro, where each pad is a single note sequence. It’d be nice if the pad could contain a polyphonic sequence. We’ll see what’s going on in a couple of weeks, if not sooner.

    • David

      The internal synthesizer is monophonic according to the product page. That might be a hint that they haven’t bothered to put in a polyphonic sequencer in there either. Hoping for poly, though!

  • WetBoy
  • WetBoy
  • WetBoy
  • Hans Schnakenhals

    Check the product video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=wVzjFW5ybJs#t=93 – best I’ve seen in a while!

  • Hans Schnakenhals

    Check the product video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=wVzjFW5ybJs#t=93 – best I’ve seen in a while!

  • Hans Schnakenhals

    Check the product video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=wVzjFW5ybJs#t=93 – best I’ve seen in a while!

  • I LOVE it. (though I have yet to play with it. My wife was working at CES and saw it on the display floor and she thought of me! ) CASIO has always had a strange history with Music Gear. I fully concur with other users about them being kind of Joke in Synth Circles (if you Ignore that Reese Bass in the corner though) I remember getting the CZ series and being amazed at how many feature they could pack into such a cheap box and how NOT like a DX-7 is sounded. They really made me rethink the whole concept of “Pro-Line ” gear. Then they came out with the SK-1 – probably the coolest toy keyboard ever! I love my CZ 5000 despite its quirks. That said, I think Casio is not going to be too much effort into this, it is a consumer product and doesn’t even have MIDI out (which can be worked around) Computer based Editing/Control/sample load software. Don’t hold your breath. I might pick one up but the Keyboard series are going for under 400.00 now so its tough call.

  • I LOVE it. (though I have yet to play with it. My wife was working at CES and saw it on the display floor and she thought of me! ) CASIO has always had a strange history with Music Gear. I fully concur with other users about them being kind of Joke in Synth Circles (if you Ignore that Reese Bass in the corner though) I remember getting the CZ series and being amazed at how many feature they could pack into such a cheap box and how NOT like a DX-7 is sounded. They really made me rethink the whole concept of “Pro-Line ” gear. Then they came out with the SK-1 – probably the coolest toy keyboard ever! I love my CZ 5000 despite its quirks. That said, I think Casio is not going to be too much effort into this, it is a consumer product and doesn’t even have MIDI out (which can be worked around) Computer based Editing/Control/sample load software. Don’t hold your breath. I might pick one up but the Keyboard series are going for under 400.00 now so its tough call.

  • I LOVE it. (though I have yet to play with it. My wife was working at CES and saw it on the display floor and she thought of me! ) CASIO has always had a strange history with Music Gear. I fully concur with other users about them being kind of Joke in Synth Circles (if you Ignore that Reese Bass in the corner though) I remember getting the CZ series and being amazed at how many feature they could pack into such a cheap box and how NOT like a DX-7 is sounded. They really made me rethink the whole concept of “Pro-Line ” gear. Then they came out with the SK-1 – probably the coolest toy keyboard ever! I love my CZ 5000 despite its quirks. That said, I think Casio is not going to be too much effort into this, it is a consumer product and doesn’t even have MIDI out (which can be worked around) Computer based Editing/Control/sample load software. Don’t hold your breath. I might pick one up but the Keyboard series are going for under 400.00 now so its tough call.

  • synapticflow

    I won’t consider buying this unless Styleflip makes a Millennium Falcon conversion kit for it.

  • synapticflow

    I won’t consider buying this unless Styleflip makes a Millennium Falcon conversion kit for it.

  • synapticflow

    I won’t consider buying this unless Styleflip makes a Millennium Falcon conversion kit for it.