Casio Privia Digital Piano

Hands-On Review: Casio Privia Digital Pianos

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Casio leaps into the big leagues with bush-league prices

By Randall Mannix

With the Privia PX-110 and Privia PX-310 88-key digital pianos, Casio combines pro-level feel and pristine tri-sampled sounds with astonishingly low weight, small size, and entry-level price tags. The fully weighted, graded-hammer-action keys are touch adjustable and they trigger incredibly musical and realistic sound sets: grand piano, upright and electric pianos, organs, synths, and more. Layer and split functions, 32-note polyphony, song memory, reverb and chorus, plus tuning and transpose functions add truly professional functionality.

All Keyed Up

For decades, electronic pianos had either wimpy action or bulk and weight that made them not much more fun to lug around than an acoustic piano. Thankfully, that era has passed. I was amazed at the Privia PX-110’s and PX-310’s incredibly light 26 lbs., 3 oz., and their diminutive 11" depth and 5" height. They’re not much harder to transport than a heavy guitar case, and they’ll easily fit in any closet or under your bed.

I’ve never felt action anywhere near this good on keyboards of this size. The response is very consistent and all 88 full-sized keys return fully and quickly to their original positions with the perfect amount of spring back. Particularly striking is the way the action gets lighter as you ascend to the higher notes—just like an acoustic piano. And you can adjust the overall sensitivity to the aggressiveness of your touch—something you can’t do on an acoustic piano.

The Privia keyboards look really cool as well. Handsomely sculpted with silver matte finish, silver grille cloth, and large LEDs, they’ll be equally at home under the stage lights or in the living room.

Virtual Reality

The stereo Grand Piano on the Privia keyboards is fabulous. As on an acoustic, the volume change is graded depending on how hard you hit but, in addition to that, each note is sampled three times to accurately reflect the way strings vibrate when struck with different intensities. The piano tone also boasts something called Acoustic Resonance. This simulates an environment around the instrument so you get a more realistic sounding piano tone.

When letting notes ring for a long time, many lesser keyboards audibly cycle the sample over and over. No such problem with the Privias. The decay is totally natural. Playing with the (included) sustain pedal down, there’s even the magical sympathetic vibrations of the other strings. I found the 32-note polyphony to be plenty. Even when playing fast complex passages with the sustain pedal down, I couldn’t hear any dropouts. The sum is uncannily accurate, sonorous, and satisfying grand piano tone.

One of the big advantages of an electronic piano is that it’s not just a piano. It’s also a lot of other instruments. The Privia PX-110 and PX-310 share dedicated buttons for Grand Piano, Rock Piano, Electric Grand Piano, Electric Piano 1, Electric Piano 2, ’60s Electric Piano, Rock Organ, Jazz Organ, Strings, Synth Voice, Synth Brass, and Fantasy. This is an extremely useful collection of sounds covering all the basic needs for any pro keyboardist. Each is carefully crafted and marvelously musical. In particular, the Strings have a very organic feel, the ’60s Electric Piano is a nostalgic triumph, and the Synth Voice is otherworldly.

The PX-310 adds 180 tones, 128 GM tones, and 10 drum sets. I had a whale of a time cruising through this huge smorgasbord of sound. The applause tone would be a lot of fun to put on the end of studio recordings; the gazillions of synth tones cover a whole range of modern music styles. There’s an incredible breathy sax patch, and check out patch 160 for a totally cool sci-fi sound. There’s also a wealth of video-game style accents perfect for soundtrack work.

World-Class Toolkit

Here’s another way electronic pianos are better than acoustic ones: the transpose function. It’s super simple on the Privias—just hold down the function button and two other buttons let you adjust the entire keyboard up or down by half steps. This is very cool for soloing. Are you strongest in C? Just adjust up or down to the key of the song you’re in, and solo your heart out on the white keys!

Splits and layers, MIDI in and out (plus thru on the PX-310), eight digital effects, brilliance, pedal effects, DSP, dual headphone jacks, 32 registration memory on the PX-310, and two-track song memory make the Privia keyboards totally adaptable to everything from family singalongs to lessons to stage and studio applications. The PX-110 sports a host of auto-accompaniment features with 60 built-in songs and 20 rhythms while the PX-310 features 120 rhythms, and both keyboards offer three different auto-chord functions.

The Privia PX-110 and PX-310 have definitely got it going on. They’re a giant leap for Casio and a giant boon for the rest of us.

Features & Specs

  • 88 full-sized keys with scaled hammer action
  • ZPI sound source with tri-element
  • 32-note polyphony
  • 3 levels of touch sensitivity
  • Layer and split functions
  • 1 song, 2-track song memory
  • 8 digital effects, brilliance, pedal effects, and DSP
  • Bass reflex system for improved low frequency
  • Selectable touch sensitivity
  • Transpose and tuning functions
  • 3 auto-chord modes
  • Damper and soft/sostenuto pedal jacks
  • 1 pedal included
  • Dual 1/8" headphone jacks
  • 1/4" stereo ins and outs
  • Included AC adapter
  • 16W output
  • 26 lbs., 3 oz.
  • 51-3/4"L x 11"D x 5"H

Casio Privia PX-110:

  • 11 tones
  • 20 rhythms
  • MIDI in/out
  • 60 built-in songs

Casio Privia PX-310

  • 202 tones
  • 120 rhythms
  • MIDI in/out/thru
  • 32-registration memory
  • Biamped internal 4-3/4" x 2-3/10" speakers and 2" tweeters

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