Casio WK-7500 Keyboard Workstation
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Hands-On Review: Casio WK-7500 Keyboard Workstation

Posted on .

Before you jump to conclusions…keep reading.

By Craig Anderton
Editor in Chief, Harmony Central

The semi-weighted, 76-key, velocity-sensitive keyboard has a bit more resistance than typical synth keybeds. It's comfortable, with a solid "feel." The display is a big, readable LCD; plenty of buttons simplify navigating through the relatively transparent operating system. There are nine physical "drawbars" for drawbar organ sounds, but can also serve as controllers for editing sequencer track parameters.

Note the rear-panel I/O: 1/4" dynamic mic in, 1/4" instrument in, 1/8" jack stereo line in (e.g., for iPods, CD players, and the like), 1/4" stereo headphone out, and 1/4" left and right outs (as well as a 1/4" sustain/assignable pedal jack). There are no MIDI 5-pin DIN connectors, but a USB port can transfer audio/MIDI data to and from Mac and Windows computers, and you don't need an amp to monitor thanks to two sets of remarkably good-sounding two-way speakers.

A built-in 16-track sequencer (with an extra "System" track for chord changes, etc.) has a very cool extra feature—you can play back the sequence, and record the result as audio to an SD/SDHC card (2 to 32GB), while simultaneously recording audio from the mic or instrument input. (Or just record the audio—ideal for capturing a vocal, guitar, or other musical idea.) You can also save sequencer data as a Standard MIDI File.

So how does Casio meet this price point? Well, the case is high-impact plastic, not metal—but that also accounts for the light weight (19 pounds) and portability. And while there's an external transformer, it accommodates from 100 to 240V, with a detachable AC cord for global use. Note that in addition to a pitch bend wheel, modulation uses a button to apply switched modulation effects.

Yes, it's an arranger—but check the fine print

I used to think arrangers were for people who couldn't play, or one-man bar bands. But they can be used creatively, and they also make fine "soundtrack generators"—with the cost often being less than commercial music libraries. I don't want to detour too far from musician-land, but for audio-for-video, soundtracks, and broadcast, an arranger keyboard can be the fastest, most cost-effective answer when the client asks "How about a sort of Latin theme for this commercial?"

As to the 250 styles (which Casio calls "rhythms"), each rhythm has an intro, two variations, two fills, and an ending; however you can edit these (alter the mix, panning, effects, etc.) or create your own 8-track rhythms with drums, percussion, bass, and five-chord patterns, which you can save to the 100 available memory slots. It's possible to switch styles while playing without glitches.

You can store 999 files on an SD card, as well as record up to five songs (or about 30,000 events) in a sequence. So, calling up a single sequence file can actually load five songs for instant playback—great for live performance. Speaking of live, you can also save 96 complete setups that basically store a snapshot of everything that's happening in the WK-7500.

But the arranger tag is a bit misleading, because you can also consider the WK-7500 a synth/ ROMpler for stage use or, thanks to the portability, something you could take on vacation for songwriting at the beach. The Casio WK-7500 refuses to be stereotyped; the sounds recall Casio's Privia line, and those who judge a workstation by its pianos will not be disappointed by the full-sounding, stereo piano samples. Overall, the 800 onboard "Tones" range from standard to excellent—and if you want more, you can store 100 tones of your own. What's more, you can even get into reasonably complete sound and sequence editing (including step time recording, punching, quantizing, copying and so on)—tweakers will find much to like here, including a rich roster of DSP-based effects.

Conclusions

If I had to describe the Casio WK-7500 in one word, it would be "surprising." It's a fine arranger keyboard, but does much more. The audio recording option goes beyond the norm, and it seemed anything I looked into did more, and was easier to figure out than expected. Even the battery life is decent—around four hours of continuous use—and there's free Data Manager software for transferring various WK-7500 data types to your Mac/Windows computer. Then there's the arpeggiator and alternate tunings, and auto-harmonize, and…

What you can do with the WK-7500 is pretty astounding, but perhaps the biggest surprise is the value. With the WK-7500, Casio is back into workstations in a big and impressive way.

Features & Specs

  • Audio recording and playback using SD/SDHC card and audio I/O
  • Semi-weighted, velocity-sensitive 76-note keyboard
  • 800 factory tones, 100 user tones, digital multi-effects
  • 250 preset rhythms
  • 16-track sequencer (with additional system track) records up to 30,000 notes
  • 32-channel mixer
  • Faders to provide drawbar and controller functions
  • Global power supply; can also run on batteries

Tags: Keyboards Harmony Central

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