Casio's RZ1 was possibly the first sampling drum machine - certainly the first affordable sampling drum machine.

It offered 12 x PCM samples but also had four pads into which you could sample your own sounds which could be used as part of patterns. Sampling quality wasn't good and sampling time was limited to just a few seconds but it was useful for augmenting the ROM sounds.

I bought one when it was released in 1986 and I enjoyed using it very much - the sounds were reasonable. It had pads for every sound and sliders to balance the sounds in real time (although it also had individual outputs for each sound and they benefitted from external EQ and effects, etc.).

Of course, limited memory meant that the sounds were short and of limited bandwidth but they were useable nonetheless - the ability to sample your own sounds added greatly to the unit's versatility and I remember having a lot of fun with this feature!

It was also very easy to program patterns and easy to chain them together to create songs. It had MIDI and synchronised well to the growing number of sequencers that were emerging at the time. Build quality was also quite good for such a low cost product and Casio managed to put together a nice little package all things considered. I am not sure if the product was successful for them or how many were sold but Casio never followed it up with a successor.

Samples donated by Terence 'Tramp Baby' Abney.