What Casio have become very good at is examining the markets they enter, examining what is being produced and then producing a similar model with similar features at a better price.
Whether they are making entry level keyboards or top level professional instruments Casio keep challenging their competitors to lower their prices.
Comparatively CASIO are rivalling their competitors with features and sound technology as well as the quality of their instruments. This is broadening their client base.
The PX-5S is the Casio version of the classic stage piano/synth that offers a range of features for live manipulation of sound. This market strategy has kept them selling large numbers of instruments for many years. The PX-5S forms part of their top of the range Privia series of digital pianos, stage pianos and synths.
The Casio PX-5S uses the AIR sound source that produces realistic tones for instruments such as the grand piano. The 256 note polyphony also gives the instrument the response of a true acoustic instrument. With 370 preset tones and the ability to add 350 user tones, the PX5S provides a large selection of complex tones that have a natural feel and realism to them.
A large variety of controllers, and sliders allow sounds to be manipulated to make use of the incredible hi fidelity sound generation. The hex layering allows other tones to be laid over the base sound in various zones and gives the user a large palette of sounds to play with based on the touch given to the key.
This adds complexity to the tones, allowing for arpeggios, fades and swells and all kinds of manipulation to the sound, simply based on how long notes are held or how much pressure is applied. Endless variations can be created in a live playing situation making for a truly unique sound canvas available to the musician.
The PX-5S uses Tri-Sensor scaled Hammer Action technology. The hammer action full-size keys create a realistically natural feel on the keyboard. The keys are velocity sensitive but don’t have after-touch, which is a small drawback on an instrument of this calibre. The keys are plastic but feel solid enough and respond well across the length of the keyboard.
The keys although, being weighted and velocity sensitive are quite light and I would prefer a slightly heavier feel. So it has a more keyboard feel than a proper piano touch but a very good keyboard at that. If one is used to playing on lighter feeling keyboards, the touch is perfect.
Keyboard: 88-key, Tri-sensor Scaled Hammer Action II
Maximum Polyphony: 256 Notes
Number of Tones: 370 Preset / 350 User
- Keyboard Instrument (including Electric Piano) – 60 Preset, 50 User
- Hex Layer – 50 Preset, 150 User
Stage Settings: 100 User Stage Settings / 4 zone configurations
Controllers: 4 knobs, 6 sliders, Pitch & Modwheel, 2 Pedal Inputs
Arpeggiator: 4 simultaneous programmable 16 step Arpeggiators
Phrase Sequencer: 8 Tracks, up to 1,000 phrases
Storage: USB / File & Audio Recording
System Effects: Reverb, Chorus, Delay, String & Damper Resonance
Insert Effects: 4 simultaneous / Equalizer, Compressor, Limiter, Enhancer, Early Reflection, Phaser, Chorus, Flanger, Tremolo, Auto Pan, Rotary, Drive Rotary, LFO Wah, Auto Wah, Distortion (w/ Amp Simulator), Pitch Shifter, Multi Chorus, Ring Mod, Delay, Piano effect
Master Effects:4 Band EQ & Compressor
MIDI: Independent USB & MIDI I/O
Audio Terminals: 1/4″ L&R Input & Output, 1/8″ Audio Input
Dimension: 52.05 x 11.26 x 5.31 (inch)
Weight: 24.47 lbs (W/O Battery)
The instrument has many features. Amongst the more outstanding are the hex layering system. This allows the user to layer different sounds over each other so that different effects and sounds can be initiated from one note, depending on attack and pressure.
One can also program arpeggios and small phrases or sound clips that can be assigned to sliders on the keyboard and be made to fade in and out while performing. This adds a dynamic performance ability to the keyboard. It makes it ideal particularly in electronica setups.
There are also a large variety of effects that are assignable to the over 300 tones. These include Reverb, Delay, Pitch bends, Chorus, Panning, Wah and many others. Tones can be shaped in real time while playing or programmed into user banks to be used as a preset. Tones are customisable and user tones can be saved for later use in performances once they have been created.
There is a recording function that offers 8-track sequencing for setting up, up to 1000 phrases to be recalled in performances. EQ and Compression sliders also allow the sound to be adapted to maximise chosen frequencies and blend sounds.
USB and other plug-ins allow for a range of devices, both storage and performance, to be used in conjunction with the PX-5S. Two pedal inputs are also available.
My top choice here is, I can pick it up. The number of times I have chosen to play on a lesser instrument simply because my own digital synth is too heavy to move around cannot be counted. It may not seem like a reason to choose a keyboard, but any musician who has to move gear will tell you that 25 pounds makes a huge impact on the word ‘portability’.
Having said that, if it sounded like a ferret in a tin drum no amount of weight saving, would make it a consideration for me. But it sounds almost too good to be true. Nothing else in this price range is even remotely comparable. Keyboards that match the PX-5S weigh double and cost double (at least). It can be powered by battery, which makes it truly portable. (This is rare in keyboards that offer the features of the PX-5S).
A large range of filters and control features add layers to sounds that make it versatile on stage as a performance instrument. For electronic sounds it offers some fully customisable tones that give the user complete flexibility while performing.
The 256 note polyphony allows for many notes to be held and to be multi-layered over each other. It is needed for the hex-layering since one note can use up to 8 notes at a time, using up the polyphony limit quite quickly.
There isn’t much not to like. My first con is purely cosmetic, I don’t like the black/white split of the keyboard chassis. I think it makes it look cheap (which it is). The keyboard offers no after-touch on the keys, which is odd as many lower level keyboards do offer this feature.
With the number of other features on the keyboard it almost seems that it was forgotten on the keyboard and certainly is missed when one comes to playing on a keyboard that offers so many other great sound responses.
All right, the piano sounds don’t quite match the realism of more expensive brands and this will definitely make it a no-no for those who want as realistic a sound as possible to that of a true grand. Nevertheless , it has some truly expensive sounding tones that make for superb playing.
The feel is a little plastic and light compared to some other models I have played on, so may not be as robust in design. It did stand up to some rigorous playing though, and it remains to be seen how long the keys will last before problems are noticed in pressure sensitivity.
Being so light and portable, one would have expected speakers to be on the machine, but unfortunately it will need external amplification to be heard. On the plus side though, the 1/8” audio outputs allow one to use even the lightest of portable speakers.
This instrument offers an incredible buy at the price. It feels good; it sounds good and you’re not having to fork out a fortune for features very often only found on instruments that are three times the price. Purists and brand loyalists will have something to say about it not being their favourite brand, but in the long run this is a great quality instrument that delivers a high level of satisfaction to even the more-discerning musician.
If you are new to stage piano and the dynamics of playing on an instrument that uses adjustable tones and effects in a live setting, this is a great instrument to learn to use these types of features.
The range of sounds that can be created are endless, and the interface is easy to use, making it ideal for use by newbies. For the composer of library music, jingles and other projects, the keyboard provides richly ornamented tones and some creative mixing and shaping of sounds.
Casio have clearly done their homework and while they may not be pioneering the technology of their competitors, they do know how to undercut their prices and still maintain standards. I loved the sound and feel of this instrument and its innate portability makes it a winner. I think Casio have a winner with this one.