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.

4 thoughts on “Casio FZ-1 Digital Sampling Synthesizer Display Repair

  1. Richard Morley

    Thanks a lot for that heads-up Jim – both my FZ-1 & -10m are now of course dim as vintage and WAS considering the EL foil replacement …. might just get a mini LED clip on light now!! 🙂
    Glad you are still flying the Casio pro audio flag!

  2. I’ve replaced the backlight on two of my FZ-1’s. You just have be careful and delicate. But, yes, these flimsy intricate ribbon connections are a pain. Would be great to find an alternative after all these years.

    1. Richard Morley

      Hi James – ok sounds promising then …. if you don’t mind me asking, whereabouts did you source the backlights please & cost? Did they come with fitting instructions?
      (no chance of a ‘cool blue’ LCD then?!!….)

  3. Hobb Faber

    Not so long ago I çhanged the backlight foil or electroluminescent (EL) panel for the first time in my FZ10m and it was easy, there are no ribbon cables attached to the pcb and the display like in the FZ1, and of course with that one, which is with me now for almost 30 years, everything went completely wrong.

    I managed to replace the backlight foil and it worked fine but just as with Jim some lines where gone, still everything was readable. By trying very carefully to see what exactly had caused the loss of lines, I had to know because after using the FZ for 3000 hours (this is how long the EL panel will last according to the specs) I had to change it again. All of a sudden one ribbon cable just fell apart. It was not the connection, it was the cable itself! The plastic coating was all crackled and fell off and the carbon inside was laying freely in the open. Weird stuff these cables no solid copper wire inside but some sort of graphite powder
    as a conductor. Half of it, which already was close to nothing, dropped out into the metal casing and I lost almost all the rest of the lines and the display became unreadable. In a hopeless attempt do do something about it soon the pcb/display connection was beyond repair.
    (out of frustration smashed it with a hammer, never ever I will try to do a thing like that again! That is, trying to repair it….with or without using a hammer :-))

    So what to do now? I already had put a “HxC floppy emulator” in the FZ1 which had no working floppy drive anymore so I could load floppy’s containing fzv, fzb and fzf files into the FZ10m which did have a working floppy drive, send them through a special, home made cable from the FZ10m to the FZ1 serial port and save those on the HxC as ‘hfe’ files (the case of the serial cable for exchanging data between two FZ samplers through the serial ports is a story of it’s own but a bit off topic here).

    Well, using this method without a display on the FZ1 things became rather nasty so I bought a second HxC floppy emulator and inserted this into the FZ10m after getting the old floppy drive out which I didn’t need anymore because already I had converted all my floppy’s into ‘hfe’ files. Now I can edit everything on the FZ10m, save them as hfe files, copy these to another sd card and load them into the FZ1. The hfe files can only contain full dumps, but that is not really a problem and loading full dumps you can do without the display. Go to ‘Play” mode, push the blue “down tab” twice, then ‘enter’ and finally ‘yes’ like you normally would do loading a full dump from a floppy disk.

    But soon I have to change the EL panel (about 15$ from internet) for the FZ10m again. I better have leds or oled to replace the old EL panel which, as said before will only last for 3000 hours. Leds will last or 100.000.
    Btw, the HxC floppy emulator is a real must for every Casio FZ1/10/20 owner. You can convert downloaded fzf files on a pc and save them on the SD(HC) card you’re using in the FZ. The HxC emulator can read up to 32GB from SDHC cards so plenty of room for all your samples. Fresh recorded samples you can store on a SDHC card directly from the FZ.

    It is very easy to replace the old floppy drive in a FZ1 with this very reliable emulator Not that easy for the FZ10m, You have to disconnect everything inside to get the pcb’s out otherwise you can’t reach for the floppy drive. Once you have done that the rest is like with the FZ1. No soldering, cutting or any modding required only adjusting the position of the emulator in the FZ10m and even for this you don’t need to go through much trouble, just puzzle a bit with the frame that holds the floppy drive. There are some rubber blocks, screws and brackets there, really no prob at all.

    If your backlight is finished and you don’t have a second FZ, unplug the power for the backlight otherwise it will cause more damage to the FZ and in the end no sound will come out and no data transmission (the very slow midi, serial port) will be possible anymore. Better have a non back lit display so you can still edit, than no FZ1 sampler at all. Without the display you can try to go through the menu with the manual next to it just to do some simple editing like trying to change outputs or midi channel but even that it will be very difficult not to say almost impossible! All that is left is that you can use it as a (master)keyboard.
    Good luck everybody and watch out with these crackled ribbon cables.
    Do not touch!

    Hey Jim, great site.

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