Casio is one of the world’s leading consumer electronic manufactures and of course it couldn’t pass by electronic musical instruments as well. It has a wide lineup of digital pianos and electronic keyboards for every person: whether you are a kid, a student, a home player or a professional musician – Casio surely has something suitable for your needs and your wallet. I’ll try to classify Casio keyboard instruments from my point of view, write about some most important pros and cons of most popular keyboards, compare them to other market leaders such as Yamaha and Roland, and give you some advice on what to choose. Hopefully it will help you to find your ideal Casio piano.
I would categorize Casio keyboard instruments into 3 big parts: Portable keyboards, Stage pianos and Console pianos. I will not talk a lot about workstations, synthesizers and music arrangers here, since this is a topic of separate discussion.
Table of Contents
- Casio Portable keyboards
- Casio SA-series: SA-46, SA-76, SA-77 and SA-78
- Casio CTK-series keyboards
- Casio CT-X keyboards
- Casio LK-series keyboards
Casio Portable keyboards
Let’s start from the most affordable, compact, and light Casio keyboards. They are not actually digital pianos (see what’s the difference between digital piano and electronic keyboard), but they can certainly be used by beginner players as a starter instrument. Casio portable keyboards are presented by the following series:
- SA – the smallest Casio keyboards with minimum number of functions
- CTK – starter Casio keyboard with 61 full-size touch response keys and many integrated voices and rhythms
- CT-X – compact keyboards with powerful AiX Sound Source
- LK – full-size lighted keys keyboards for easy learning
Casio SA-series: SA-46, SA-76, SA-77 and SA-78
Casio SA-76, SA-77 and SA-78 are 44-mini-keys keyboards. They are designed mostly for kids, and you may be surprised if I tell you that I, being a professional pianist, have SA-76 at home. And I like it! I will talk about SA-76 below, but everything I say will be true for SA-77 and SA-78 as well because these models differ only by color: SA-76 has orange shell base, SA-77 – grey, and SA-78 is “girls edition” (pink color).
SA-76 (as well as other Casio SA-series keyboards) has 8-note polyphony, 100 tones, 50 rhythms, 5 drum pads, and 10 integrated songs. Large buttons make it easier for young musicians to change voices and control this mini keyboard.
Though you can’t consider SA-76 a serious instrument, but actually it can be very useful even for professional musicians. For example I have it as a portable piano in my bedroom. Yes, sometimes when I go to sleep, an inspiration may come and I need to urgently play some tune which came to my mind in order to remember it. Or I need to work out some harmonic details of the tune when I’m away from the piano. I don’t have to go to another room where my Yamaha console piano stands; I just take this small portable mini piano and play. Though it doesn’t have MIDI controller, but I can connect it to my iPhone by 1/8” mini jack and record the melody!
SA-76 size and weight is very little, moreover it can be battery powered (6 AA batteries are required), so I sometimes take it with me on a trip, and it helps me out in some situations. By the way battery lifetime is very good – I used this keyboard for several months without changing the batteries!
SA-46 modification is a smaller version of SA-76, it has only 32 keys, which is 2.5 octaves. It is even more compact (its length is less than 18”) and is ideal 2-3 years old children.
- If you have big fingers, Casio SA series may not be suitable for you, since the keys are not as big as real piano keys
- Don’t expect this keyboard sound as a $1000 instrument. Voices are not very realistic, though loud and clear
- Note that power adapter should be purchased separately or buy this bundle with power supply
- Price is very low
- Very portable
- Wide choice of voices and rhythms to play around
- Good battery lifetime
- The tempo of 10 demo songs can be changed. You can turn off the melody and play along slowly
- This keyboard has metronome!
- SA is the only cheap keyboard that has a 1/8 headphone jack
Of course you cannot consider Casio SA-76 keyboard a serious instrument for music learning, but it would be ideal for children to play their first tune or for experienced musicians as a take-away and play-on-the-road piano with minimum set of options for the minimum price.
Casio CTK-series keyboards
If you want a beginner keyboard without spending a lot of cash, then you should try Casio CTK. Most popular keyboards in this lineup are CTK-2550, CTK-3500 and CTK-6250.
CTK-2550 – Entry-Level Casio Keyboard
Casio CTK-2550 is the entry-level CTK keyboard. It has 61 full-size keys (not touch sensitive*), 400 voices, 100 rhythms, 48 note polyphony; it is compact and light-weight.
*Touch sensitivity. If a keyboard is touch sensitive that means the volume of the note depends on the pressure with which you pressed it. This is similar to acoustic pianos. Cheaper models are not touch sensitive: the volume is always the same, whether you press keys harder or lighter.
For those of you who like electronic music, CTK-2550 has so called Dance Music Mode (DMM). You can easily create your own dance music using one of 50 built in DMM styles, adding filters, effects and more.
- Keys are not touch sensitive
- No MIDI interface
- Cheap price
- Great toy for your child or for yourself
- Lots of voices and rhythms to play around
- Lesson mode – play along with integrated songs and learn how to play them
- Comes with AC power adapter
- CTK-2550 is compatible with Chordana App (it will display chords of the tune you play through the app, and you can play along with the the tune)
As the price for CTK-2550 is rather low, you can’t expect much from it. I actually can’t recommend it for those who are planning to learn piano seriously. You can buy this keyboard only for the first 6 months – to study basics and learn notes. But later you will have to buy more expensive keyboard. You don’t necessarily need to look for weighted 88-key piano if you are on budget, but I recommend starting with at least Casio CTK-3500 model or above. It costs just a little more, but will be much better for learning.
CTK-3500 – Budget Beginner Casio Keyboard
CTK-3500 is one step higher then CTK-2550.
These two keyboards are similar, CTK-3500 has all the features which CTK-2550 has, but CTK-3500 has the following important additions:
- It has touch sensitive keys (two levels of sensivity), which is very important for those who plan to study seriously
- It has USB port, which can be used as MIDI interface to connect CTK-3500 to computer MIDI programs
- CTK-3500 can be connected to your iOS or Android smartphone for use with free Chordana app. This application uses Casio’s LCD display to show you how to play your favorite songs.
Given the above CTK-3500 is the minimum keyboard I recommend for beginners. You will anyway have to buy weighted keys digital piano after a year or so, but for beginner lessons this keyboard with touch sensitive keys is good enough and will certainly not enforce you to rob the bank to buy it. You will also have fun with its additional features such as Dance Music Mode, plenty of built-in styles and voices.
CTK-6250 – Very Good Keyboard for its Price with Lots of Features
One more CTK keyboard worth talking about is CTK-6250. This is the top Casio keyboard in CTK lineup. Though it costs two times higher than the entry-level CTK-2550, but it’s surely worth it. I consider this keyboard one of the best in its price category.
CTK-6250 has 700 tones. You will find at least a dozen of sounds which you like among them; moreover you can customize sound to your taste using built-in tone editor. Number of integrated rhythms is 210, plus the ability to create your custom rhythms. These numbers are impressive, aren’t they?
Another great thing about CTK-6250 is built-in sequencer which allows you to record 16 tracks mixing 32 channels. And if you are planning to connect it to computer to create music – you have all possibilities to do that, this Casio keyboard has MIDI interface (through USB port) for connecting to MIDI-compatible programs and line-out jack for direct audio recording.
What I liked in this keyboard (except the red color incut on its top) is that you can adjust the volume of the backing rhythm and solo voice independently. And of course tremendous opportunities to edit voices, which moreover sound great on CTK-6250’s two 2-way speakers and can be adjusted with built-in graphic equalizer. I should mention that as for me some of the voices sound even better then on Yamaha keyboards, which are considered the best in their field.
- SD card support
- Lots of sounds and rhythms
- Multiple digital effects
- No lesson system
- Keys are not weighted
- Only 61 keys
Although CTK-6250 doesn’t have lesson mode as other CTK models, but it should be considered more serious keyboard and would be a good instrument for all-level pianists from beginners to professionals. Nowadays when there are lots of online piano lessons are on the Internet, integrated lesson function is not actually needed. And for its price CTK-6250 offers many features which competitors usually add only to higher class keyboards. My verdict: Casio CTK-6250 is good keyboard for beginners and for those who want to play around with sounds without spending a lot of money. Very much recommended.
Casio CT-X keyboards
Casio CT-X product line, which appeared first in 2018, is famous first of all for its sound engine called AiX. It provides very realistic musical instruments sound. Most popular CT-X models are CT-X700 and CT-X3000 (or CT-X5000). I will talk about them below, but first let’s see and compare their main specifications in the form of a table.
CTX-700 – Budget Casio Keyboard with Great Voices
When Casio first introduced its CTX keyboards in 2018 and its base model CTX-700 in particular, I should say that it was some sort of a revolution in inexpensive keyboards. When I tested CTX-700 last year I was blown away with the quality of sound it produced, because for such a price (it costs less than 200 USD) it sounds like a professional 1000-dollar instrument! Of course this is my subjective feeling, but I’m continuously testing many keyboards, and I have some experience in that.
CTX-700 has 48 polyphony voices, 600 tones, and 195 rhythms, plus and integrated 6-track MIDI-recorder. This modern Casio keyboard quickly gained popularity for its price, sound, ease of use and lots of functions.
- AiX sound chip delivers very quality and realistic musical instrument voices
- Lots of tones and rhythms
- Reasonable price
- Compatible with MIDI software
- Can be powered by batteries
- Six-track recorder
- Step-Up Lesson system, displaying proper notes and fingering
- The printed manual has very small font, not so easy to ready
- Non-weighted keys (but this is common in this price range)
There are several “packs” of CT-X700 available on Amazon. I don’t recommend buying “educational pack”, because the educational part of it is just a promotion of eMedia course, for which you will anyway have to pay additional money. You’d better buy Premium pack (if it is available) which includes only keyboard itself, power adapter, keyboard stand and headphones. The included stand is rather solid and will be more than enough for the keyboard. Or buy the Standalone pack – the cheapest solution with only keyboard in it. That way you are free to choose any of the keyboard stands separately. I recommend CT-X700 as a budget keyboard with quality voices.
Choosing between Casio CTX-700 and CTK-6250
Very often these two Casio keyboards – CTX-700 and CTK-6250 – are compared to each other. At first sight it may seem that they are really similar. I’ve created a table where specified both keyboards main characteristics.
These keyboards are similar by number of keys, polyphony, number of tones and rhythms, but here are some arguments in favor of CT-X700. First of all it is the sound quality, which is top notch on CT-X700 with its modern AiX sound chip. Secondly, CT-X700 has very friendly user interface, so if you are beginner it will be easier for you to start. And another thing – this keyboard has Step Up Lesson mode for you to practice any of 160 built-in songs yourself. CT-X700 also is slightly cheaper than CTK-6250.
CTK-6250 in turn has only 5 built-in songs, no lesson mode, and a little more complicated interface, but you can consider it more flexible with sound modification: it supports rhythm and tone editor and full 32-channel mixer. If I were a beginner I would choose CT-X700, because you won’t use all these advanced workstation features CTK-6250 offers. But after a year or two I would upgrade to a more heaped CTK, all the more I’m sure that by that time the new model will be announced with some even more interesting features.
Both of these keyboards are great and you should choose by features: if don’t need a workstation and just want great sounds for reasonable price, then I recommend CT-X700. For working with sound more seriously, recording and performing your tracks – choose CTK-6250.
CT-X3000 and CT-X5000
CT-X3000 and CT-X5000 are on the upper level of Casio CT-X lineup. Their main characteristics and differences from the basic model CT-X700 are in the table above. Besides AiX sound chip with great quality of sound, which is a distinctive feature of all CT-X keyboards, there are other highlights of CT-X3000 and CT-X5000 which I should mention.
- Increased number of polyphony voices (64 voices against 48 in CT-X700)
- Increased number of tones (800) and an editor to create your own tones
- USB type A support (flash drives)
- 235 rhythms and rhythm editor (plus 50 user rhythms in CT-X3000 and 100 user rhythms in CT-X5000)
- 17-track MIDI sequencer
- Powerful sound system (12W on CT-X3000 and 30W on CT-X5000)
- CT-X5000 has additional Line Outputs (Left/Right) and Microphone Input, with access to system effects
- CT-X5000 has more effects than CT-X3000, and direct access buttons for quicker access to tones and rhythms
- CT-X5000 has programmable EQ
- CT-X3000 can be battery powered, CT-X5000 can not
There are slight differences between CT-X3000 and CT-X5000, but I can say that you will hardly notice them if you are just starting to learn piano. So for beginners CT-X3000 would be definitely enough. Big plus is that you can insert batteries into it and take this keyboard with you on a picnic or anywhere you like. With CT-X5000 this will not work, because it doesn’t have battery support. But if it doesn’t matter to you, If you are serious on playing and experimenting with sound and have additional couple of hundred dollars, then you should choose CT-X5000 with its most incredible powerful sound system, microphone support, and more sound modification options.
Casio LK-series keyboards
As you probably know, the name LK stands for Lighted Keys – Casio Key Lighting System used together with integrated learning system: the keys are lighted indicating which notes to play, which should make it easier for beginners to find the right key and is a fun feature for kids. Most professionals, and me also, agree that lighted keys are a gimmick. It will help you to learn how to play some pieces of music, but won’t help you to learn Music. So if your goal is just have fun and learn some tunes fast – then LK keyboards will be good for you. But you won’t need it if you study seriously, in that case I recommend you looking at the CTK-series or higher level CGP-series digital piano.
There are 3 most popular Casio keyboards in this product line – LK-190, LK-265, LK-280. First I’ll compare them to each other and then discuss the highlights and drawbacks of each device.
LK-190 and LK-265
These two keyboards look the same and are very similar by characteristics and LK-265 costs just a little more than LK-190. The keyboard has 48 notes polyphony, 400 tones and 100 rhythms. You can learn to play 60 built-in songs using the integrated Step up Lesson system, and lighted keys will help you find the right key to press when learning (Note that no more than 4 keys can lit at once). The bad thing is that the lessons are very short and some parts of the songs are cut out from learning system.
LK-265 is the only keyboard in LK series which is compatible with Cordana App: you can download your favorite music in Midi format, connect your device’s headphone output to LK-265 Audio input, and practice hand by hand with keys lighting up as the tune is playing.
If we talk about drawbacks, I can say that I wasn’t impressed with the LCD screen of LK-265. It feels like Casio took this screen from one of their 1990’s calculators. It didn’t even have backlit (c’mon Casio, even the keys light up, and you couldn’t add a couple of LEDs to the screen?). The keys in LK-265 are touch sensitive, and in LK-190 they are not, that means in LK-190 it doesn’t matter you press the key hard or soft, the sound volume will be always the same. But you can’t expect more from a beginner keyboard.
Among these two I would prefer LK-265, it’s just a little more expensive then LK-190, but offers a touch responsive keyboard, and Chordana App support. The lighting keys are ok for learning; they will especially delight 3-5 year old kids, who will learn to play with more interest. Note that all LK keyboards are for kids or very beginners. If you plan to study seriously, then you will have to upgrade to a better keyboard with weighted keys after the first year.
LK-280 is the top keyboard in Casio LK lineup. It has the largest number of tones, rhythms and demo songs, than the younger LK models, plus the ability to load your own songs in MIDI format and integrate them into the learning system. I like the Casio Step-up learning system: it allows you to divide the song into sections and gives you grade based on how well you play. First it plays the song for you (listen mode), then you play along with it with keys lighting up (watch mode), and finally you play by memory (remember mode). You can slow down the tempo until you are done with some part and play it correctly. If you are not interested in learning how to read scores and just want to quickly learn some tune – this feature is for you.
The bad thing about the lesson system and your own MIDI files on LK-280 is that if you want to divide file into small parts for practice, you can’t specify the split point. It splits it by equal parts, and it may be in the middle of the phrase. However there is no such problem with internal songs, they are divided logically. May there is a way to do this for custom MIDI files, but I didn’t find it out for a couple of days I tested this model.
Actually LK-280 has a lot of functionality, but some of the functions are really hard to find. You will have to look at the tutorial or search for instructions on YouTube.
LK-280 has the largest number of connection ports among all LK models, cause it additionally offers USB type-B port to connect it to your computer and transfer MIDI files. It also has a built-in sequencer which allows you to record 5 songs (6 tracks each)into internal memory. And another useful feature is SD card compatibility to save your data to or from keyboard to the card.
If we talk about packages available, I can say that at the time of that review Amazon offered only one package which includes the keyboard itself and the power supply. So be sure to buy some solid electronic stand for your LK-280, as well as sustain pedal, and headphones for training in silence.
I recommend Casio LK-280 for those who are not very serious about learning music, but who wants to quickly learn some songs. With the help Casio learning system and a little perseverance you will achieve that very quickly. Also kids will have fun with lighting keys, but for 3-5 year old children there is no need to overpay for the top model, because LK-190 or LK-265 would be enough for them. For those of you who are serious about learning piano I recommend looking for digital piano, not the keyboard. Because after a year or so you will find out that you need weighted keys, wide 88-key keyboard, and more natural sound. I will describe Casio digital pianos in the next part of the article.