Casio FZ-1 Digital Sampling Synthesizer Display Repair

Casio FZ-1 Digital Sampling Synthesizer
Casio FZ-1 Digital Sampling Synthesizer

A few months ago I picked up a Casio FZ-1 Digital Sampling Synthesizer in Nagano, Japan for $10. Yeah, it was 1,000 Japanese yen and I couldn’t believe it. I thought there probably would be a ton of things wrong with it, but to my surprise everything worked great, even the belt driven floppy drive. The minor problem ( so I thought ) was that the display needed a new foil for the backlight. I’ve done this many times on other synths and it’s really pretty straight forward.

NOT SO with the Casio FZ-1 Sampler!!

Unfortunately, there are these really old etched ribbon cables attached ( soldered/taped ) to both the display and LCD board. Altogether there are six cables and boy do they look detailed and complicated. The problem is that when replacing the foil for the backlight, it’s almost too easy for the cables to lose a connection or two. This causes missing lines and even garbled data on the display. In fact for the better part of a day while trying to fix the problem, I had a really nice shiny LCD, but no text!!

After some research, I ran down to the 100 yen shop and bought some balsa wood, metal clamps for paper, and 0.6K insulation tubing I use when I solder wires together. I then proceeded to clamp down all cables attached to the display and LCD board. I managed to clamp all sides and after removing the metal handles on the clamps, could successfully put the display back into the FZ-1. The LCD board I could not fit back into it’s original position, so I just secured it slightly above it’s normal spot. I then closed the FZ-1 back up and the photo below is my FINAL result. No way am I going to go any further as likely it will either result in more missing lines or too much work!!

Casio FZ-1 Display Repair
Casio FZ-1 Display Repair

Are there any alternative displays out there? Not according to my research just yet. You basically have to find another FZ-1 or just cross your fingers and hope that you don’t crimp, pull, or mess up the ribbon cable when changing the backlight. Had I known I would go through all of this trouble, I probably would not have done the change. If you can see your screen reasonably well in your studio, I don’t recommend putting in a new backlight. However, if you need to perform or play in darker venues, then of course you’ll have to just go for it.

Best of luck with your display repair. Be VERY careful with those ribbon cables. The instructions that came with my Backlit foil didn’t say a word about them.

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Ensoniq ASR-10 Rack Sampler and SCSI Repair

Ensoniq ASR-10 Rack Sampler
Ensoniq ASR-10 Rack Sampler

Last weekend I picked up a used Ensoniq ASR-10 Rack Sampler in the used music shop here in Nagano-city, JAPAN. It was pretty cheap mainly because the sales clerk couldn’t provide an OS disk, manual, or any other accessory. Thus he couldn’t properly test the product, so he basically sold it as junk and practically gave it away.

I bought the sampler because I’ve always been a big fan of the ASR-10 keyboard, but never found one for a reasonable price in Japan. Although I would have probably preferred the keyboard version, the rack works out well because I feel I already have too many synths and samplers as is. So, this rack shouldn’t take up much extra space.

The condition of the ASR-10 rack is excellent. In fact, inside it was pretty much spotless with no visible signs of wear or dirt. The outside had no scratches, but it was missing the rack ears. I powered up the ASR-10 rack after acquiring an OS disk copy and it booted just fine. I noticed that the OS was 3.53 and the firmware was 1.50. Note I had to create the OS disk using my Windows 98 laptop in DOS using special Ensoniq software.

The Ensoniq ASR-10 rack works fantastic in all areas with the exception of the SCSI interface. Only ONCE, could I successfully boot the ASR-10 rack and get the “searching for SCSI devices” message upon startup. At that time I had my trusty blue Iomega 100MB zip drive with disk inside ready to go. I was able to get to the Format SCSI Drive screen. I proceeded through all the steps even getting past the Interleave screen. When it hit formatting, it just blinked for a second and then reverted to “disconnected SCSI device”. I have since been unable to get back to the “Searching for SCSI Devices” screen during the boot stage. Frustrating! Note I don’t believe I got a light blink which indicates the ASR-10 detected the Zip drive.

I completely took apart the ASR-10 Rack and checked all of the fuses which tested just fine for continuity. I then pulled and reseated all of the cabling which included cleaning. Everything looks amazing inside, but unfortunately, the SCSI simply doesn’t work right now which has left me unsure about what to do next.

Other than the SCSI problem, the Ensoniq ASR-10 Rack works perfectly and it’s really easy to sample and jam with right away. Currently I have 16MB of ram on board, but it will be a chore loading and saving all that data without the SCSI working properly should I choose to utilize it all. The floppy drive works great and I also have a backup HxC Floppy Emulator that works too should I require another drive.

Note that I have tested the ASR-10 rack with a working Iomega 100MB SCSI zip drive, Olympus SCSI MO drive, 2GB SCSI hard disk, and an old SCSI CD Rom drive that all work with all of my old samplers. I don’t believe I have an SCSI cable, drive, or media problem. The issue resides somewhere inside the Ensoniq ASR-10 rack.

No doubt I’ll be making great use of the ASR-10 rack as it’s extremely easy to use and sounds amazing. It’s so much easier to use than my old Akai gear in fact. I just wish I could get the SCSI to snap out of it and start working. I’ll update this article should I find a solution. Stay tuned!

NOTE #1: A few times I got the infamous ASR-10 “Error 129 reboot” message. To fix this you need a 100% working OS floppy disk. There are some bad OS images floating around including those on sites where everybody gets them. After using a quality floppy disk and image, I was able to completely eliminate the 129 reboot message. I haven’t had it all week, not once. I have about 3-4 bad image disks from various sources and they literally flood my ASR-10 with 129 reboot messages. The error is a software one, which means you need a decent software image.