Sunday, March 04, 2007

Some details on that Casio CDP-100

I believe I owe you a review of my new piano. This is it, on the right: a Casio CDP-100 (click on the picture for specs). It is exactly as described, no real surprises. I recall when decent digital keyboards first came on the market they would cost you in the neighborhood of $2500. Casio delivers an authentic piano feel and sound for around $600.

Practically all of the effort in building this thing went into the quality of the keyboard itself. It's weighted and feels precisely like a Steinway (and having lived with a Steinway I do know what I'm talking about). There aren't many instruments included; only piano, electric piano, harpsichord, and strings. You can play a single instrument or gang them by pressing multiple instrument buttons. Switching instruments is very smooth, with the previous instrument being continued for any currently depressed keys or sustained notes, and the new instrument being applied only to new notes. There's no hiccup at all in the changeover, which is extremely handy when playing something like Funeral for a Friend. It might have been nice to include a pipe organ, but I found that the grand piano + strings combination is a suitable substitute.

The sound is good, and can easily fool you into thinking you're hearing the real thing. Particularly good are the grand piano and the electric piano. If you're not familiar with it, an electric piano consists of a normal mechanical action where each hammer hits a string or rod that sets up a sympathetic vibration with a tuning fork. This is detected by electric pickups and run through an amplifier. The CDP-100 precisely duplicates the sound of a Rhodes, right down to the hammer sounds on the tuning forks if you pound the keys.

And you can pound the keys. The stand is solid, and the keyboard itself is reinforced with a steel bar. It means that I can play stuff I wouldn't dare play on my CT-6000.

Rounding out the features are a foot sustain pedal (inexplicably missing on most low-end keyboards), headphone jack, and MIDI IN and MIDI OUT ports. You'll notice that there seem to be a dearth of buttons on the CDP-100, though there are a lot more features listed in the documentation. I like that. Casio's engineers reduced most features down to a combination of a single "Function" button + one of the 88 keys on the keyboard. The upshot of it is that if you want to transpose from C to E-flat, you just press Function + the E-flat key. Sweet. Similarly, you can control the touch-sensitivity of the keys, the volume of layered tones, or select from various reverb effects all using the Function + a musical key. It leaves a clean interface that you're more likely to be able to control in a low-light setting.

So what's missing? Just a few things, which I'll list:
  • No foot volume control. It's sometimes useful to fade up or out with a live performance. You can't do that here, so if you're in a band you'll have to rely on an external mixer.
  • No line out jack. There's a 1/8-inch headphones jack. This means if you want to record, you can't plug directly into your recorder and still be able to hear what you're playing. You're either going to have to use a "Y" connector to your headphones, or you're going to need to run it through a mixer with a monitor. Unfortunately, a "Y" connector leads to impedance mismatches which can botch the recording and introduce hum or hiss. Not having a mixer, I've jury-rigged a connection through my stereo receiver and tape deck. It does for now, but it's not satisfactory.
  • No 1/4-inch jacks at all. You're going to need adapters if you want to hook up anything professional. Keep in mind that this is an educational keyboard; if you really wanted a piece of professional band equipment you'd shell out another grand. Actually, there is one 1/4-inch jack, for the sustain pedal.
  • Wimpy sustain pedal. The pedal that ships with this is a bit stiff and small. It's the sort that you practically have to stand on, which tells me it's primarily designed for stage work, though I really believe it would break with continued use. Fortunately, I have a professional-quality pedal that I was able to plug right in.
  • No MIDI through jack. Nobody uses that much anymore anyway, preferring hubs. I've connected the thing through my computer using an M-Audio USB/MIDI interface cable and MusicWrite 2000, and found that there's a significant delay in decoding and processing the MIDI with that setup. You wouldn't want to use that for feedback as it results in the same kind of hesitations you experience when hearing an echo of your voice over the telephone.
Overall it's a good piece of equipment, likely to last for 25 years or more (which is almost how long my CT-6000 has been with me). It has the advantages of never needing tuning and being able to adjust its tuning to other instruments. The price is exactly right. And the size is dictated by the physical size of the keys, so it's easy to place, unlike a traditional piano. All in all, for a casual musician, composer, or student this is a real keeper. If you're a performer in a band, though, you're going to want something that's got the sturdy quarter-inch jacks and line out. In any event you're going to want to budget for a decent footpedal. Here's the one I use.

Now, as punishment or having sat through the review, here's a quick recording. Sadly, that impedance mismatch I told you about is a factor here. No mixer, so there's a little clipping. I've switched from MP3 to Ogg Vorbis format as well, due to some patent disputes over MP3. Ogg Vorbis is an open format and yeilds smaller files than MP3 anyway. The Vorbis website has the proper codecs to enable your playback software to handle Ogg.

BTW, I really like the lyrics on this one, I think William really nailed the feeling of a quote of Oscar Wilde.

Oscar
lyrics by William Hoover
music by Dave Leigh

Oscar has gone wild again
Then he drives the ladies crazy
With a quick quip and a smile
And the calm charm of a daisy

I could run for days and miles
Not stopping for a rest and
I could never stop the wit
Of Oscar at his best and

I could say that I resisted all
Excepting for temptation
Whenever people side with me
I tend to take a new direction

Brilliant by breakfast time
I could use another drink and
Yet another day's begun
Already taxing me to think and

Sincerity, I've heard, is dangerous
In large doses, even fatal
A sure life-long lesson learned
As I crawled out of that cradle.

[Instrumental]

I could run for days and miles
Not stopping for a rest and
I could never stop the wit
Of Oscar at his best and

Sincerity, I've heard, is dangerous
In large doses, even fatal
A sure life-long lesson learned
As I crawled out of that cradle.

Oscar.ogg ~1.7MB

Creative Commons License

This music free to share under a Creative Commons Music Sharing License. As usual, I'll point out that I have no interest in performing, so this is a quick and dirty file to give you an idea of the song. Share it as you like with proper credit to the composers, Dave Leigh and William Hoover. However, if you want to perform or distribute it for money, contact Dave to arrange for proper permission.

20 comments:

  1. Very helpful review. You've convinced me.

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  2. I'm also convinced..thanks for the review. We'd been researching and looking at this casio, and i think i'm going to pull the trigger on it. Thanks again!

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  3. I'm generally a bit questionable about things that say "Casio" on them; this review helped a lot.

    Especially since my long term goal is to use it as a MIDI keyboard to sequence from, the analog issues are less pressing to me.

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  4. Currently selling for $399, this keyboard called to me. But it has one serious drawback - the keys "click" on rebound. I found it very distracting. A real piano would not do that and Yamaha keyboards, granted pricier, (a p85 runs about $600), do not.

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  5. Mine doesn't click. In fact, it's very quiet... I often play it with headphones in the dead of night.

    However, it was a bit more expensive when I bought it, and that was more than a year ago. I'd be sad to learn that the quality has generally degraded along with the price.

    As with any instrument purchase, I would recommend testing it out before buying, and then TAKE HOME THE INSTRUMENT YOU TESTED.

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  6. I bought this keyboard mainly as a midi controller so the sounds really don't matter that much to me. But,.. the piano sound is actually quite realistic though.! I find the hammer action weighted keys very feel of an acoustic piano & even across the board.
    This is *the* best value for money digital piano 88 keys on the market in my opinion.

    Pzz,. JNK

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  7. Hey Mr Leigh I Arrived to your blog by searching recording for cdp 100 keyboards (I live in Argentina and one of those costs nearly U$D800 because of taxers and price remarks so Even being able to try it I wanted to know from people who had used the piano for a time)
    Your post and recordings convinced me.
    Altough I have a request :) would it be possible to post the sheet music for this song? I loved it.

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  8. Thanks, perrito686. I'm planning to make lead sheets for all of the songs on this site and on my YouTube channel (links are in the sidebar near the top of this web page). Though I probably will not be making full sheet music arrangements for all of them, the melody line and chord progressions should help you fake your way through them as well as I do.

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  9. I bought one today based on this review! 349 free shipping from musicians friend. Now i have to sneak it past my wife :)

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  10. Hi Dave, I was lucky enough to pick up a CDP-100 today with a trade in at a pawn-shop for $400. Being a pianist I would never even look at a keyboard because it was ├Ârgan". I like the piano keyboard feel. I didn't get a manual with it so I guess I'll just have to work it out myself. Very impressed. If I knew weighted keyboards felt like this I would not have wasted the last 9 months trying to find a decent 2nd hand piano, (within my budget). Finding your site has just reinforced how I felt when I first tried it out at the shop this morning. Thanks. I think it's a ripper. - And saves so much $$$ on tuning, removing, upkeep etc. Thanks for the tips and review, I'll keep an eye on your site. CFGBE

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  11. my wife got one for the same price as the other gentleman mentioned and says its almost better than the real thing!

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  12. I've had the CDP-100 for about a year now. I have a small home recording studio, and I use it mostly as a MIDI controller for my plugins. However, another problem occured recently. I have an external MIDI sound module (Edirol SD-20) connected to my computer, and I connect the CDP-100 through it. I was thinking I could use the piano to switch sounds on the SD-20, but I can't quite figure out how. There's a strange form about "Program Change" in the manual, but it really doesn't make any sense. Any suggestions, anyone?

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  13. Very comprehensive review on the portable keyboard. Normally, the reviews that I have come across are very general.

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  14. loved the review. I've got one just like that in my bedroom and I can tell you guys: It's all true!

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  15. Hi there,
    Excellent review. I have this keyboard as well and am looking for a better sustain pedal. May I ask which one you have? I've read mixed reviews on the pedals that work for this model.
    Thank you!

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  16. My sustain pedal is a Fatar StudioLogic VFP 1/25 and it is amazingly good. By that I mean kick-ass.

    Here's a link to a seller, but shop around for the best price.

    http://www.midi-store.com/Fatar-Studiologic-VFP-1-25-p-16635.html

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  17. Thank you so much!!

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  18. bought it today, €325.
    tested it, no clicks, weighted keys, the real deal :)
    for a basic electric piano it's a good price-quality. very happy to have the keys back in my room, since i moved from antwerp and my real piano was too heavy !
    if you're thinking about buying a basic piano, this is it!
    thanks for the review

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  19. I just bought a used one and I love the feel of the action. As for the sound, a keyboard like that is never going to sound like a real piano: there is no "resonance box". But, C'est la vie. It is light and easy to move around. True that, the pedal is very bad, but one can always plug another one in. As for the output, I believe using a "laptop DI box" makes it impedance-compatible to plug in a professional sound system or amp, which could improve the sound, because the in-built speakers also contribute to the so-so sound quality!

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  20. Some digital pianos have 535 instruments! Others may solely have ten. Generally, you're buying the digital piano for its actual piano therefore so these different instruments might not matter an excessive amount of.

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