Saturday, January 2, 2016

REVIEW - Casio PX560 Digital Piano - Recommended - New Privia Portable Piano Synthesizer

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - UPDATED REVIEW - December 10, 2016 - Casio PX560 Digital Piano - Recommended - New Privia Low Price Portable Piano & Synthesizer Workstation. The Casio company is known for a lot of things including keyboards, Synths, Digital Pianos, Watches, Calculators, Cameras, and so much more, and they have been in business for over 60 years. They seem to be the low priced leader in many product categories while offering upgraded digital features that people want. Casio produces a line of digital pianos called Privia, and under the Privia name Casio has 7 different models of portable and furniture digital pianos. The most impressive model of all when it comes to biggest bang for the dollar in  my opinion, is the new PX560 portable digital piano at just $1199US internet discount price. The PX560 really breaks all barriers in providing their best piano key action, best piano sound chip, lightweight portable cabinet with impressive built-in speaker system, the most intuitive user interface available in this price range, and the ability to do musical things that no other portable digital piano can do for almost any price, particularly in this price range.

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - As a long time musician and composer, I happen to love digital pianos & keyboards that allow me to be creative with my music in a variety of ways including using built-in instrument sounds and functions on the piano. Unlike many other digital pianos under $2000 including both cabinet models and portables, the Casio PX560 is a great instrument for almost anyone wanting to enjoy playing music including the professional piano player, the beginner piano player, the music arranger, the gigging musician, the studio recording musician, and the composer who loves to compose  all style of music including using big thick movie type synthesizer and orchestral sounds that you might hear in science fiction movies such as Star Trek, Star Wars, etc. The Casio PX560 is really pretty amazing and as good as it is in recreating an impressive stereo acoustic piano sound and impressive key action response in its price range, it goes so much further than that which is why I like it so much. If it wasn't so easy to use this piano, then I would say that all the extra features could be for nothing because in many digital pianos that have extra features, the user controls are not intuitive and are difficult to figure out. This is not the case with the PX560 as getting to and using these very cool and interesting functions on the piano is so easy to do that it allows me to make music and enjoy myself rather than wasting my time trying to figure out how it all works.

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - In reality the Casio PX560 really is much like its lower priced little brother called the PX360...but the PX560 is on digital steroids and very pumped up! The lower price PX360 is internet priced at $899US and I reviewed that model on this blog already and it does a number of the things the PX560 does, but the PX360 does not go to the next level of tonal and effects editing, sound creation, and overall fun. The PX560 has the same keyboard action and internal speaker as the lower priced PX360, along with having many of the same instrument and interactive chord arrangement styles. However, what the PX560 offers is well beyond the PX360 which includes the ability for you to customize the piano, instrument, and synth sounds into what Casio refers to as Hex Layers. A Hex layer is really 6 individual keyboard sounds layered together as one preset sound layer. Having 6 independent sounds playing together (layered) simultaneously every time you press a key gives the player an amazing full sound that cannot be found on any other self contained portable instrument in this price range. Beyond having a whopping total of 6 sounds blended together, those 6 sounds can be individually manipulated and changed in a variety of ways so that the outcome of the entire 6-layer sound can be completely changed in character and performance to suit your own personal tastes. In fact there are so many ways to change the 6 layer sound combination that there are literally millions of tonal possibilities to choose from.

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - The PX560 offers 100 preset Hex layer preset combinations which include acoustic piano layers, electric piano layers, string layers, brass layers, movie synthesizer layers, environmental sound layers, and many more including mixing 6 of your own together such as percussion, strings, brass, choir, woodwinds, and synth. When you come up with a great 6-layer combination, then you can save up to 100 of your personal creations in memory slots accessible on the color touch screen. Each sound within the 6 layer combination acts Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - independently in the way you hear it and how each sound behaves, and when you play a note or chord, each of the six sounds in the Hex layer can be heard distinctly and each sound can be triggered to be heard at different times depending on how hard you strike the key. This feature is called adjustable sound trigger points and can be modified to your own desires for each sound in the 6 layer combinations. All parameters are adjustable independently including effects, key velocity, panning, and many other customizable ways of changing the sound. You can even substitute any instrument sound in the piano for any of the 6 layered sounds in a preset Hex layer to create your own custom Hex layers. There really is no limit to what you can do with these features. The cool thing is that all of the sound layer and editable features are selectable on a large 5.3" color touch screen which Casio also has on two lower priced Casio portable models below the PX560.

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - On top of having 100 preset 6-layer Hex sounds available at the touch of a virtual button, Casio allows a second Hex layer of your choice to be combined with the first Hex layer that you choose. In other words, you can combine two 6-layer Hex sounds together at one time giving you a whopping 12 layer sound per key that you play. This would be like combing twelve separate instrument sounds together at one time which no other self-contained digital piano can do in or near this price range. This is not counting adding in two left hand sounds (in the split mode) that are available on top of that which would give you at least 14 sounds at one time. I tried doing this to a number of Hex sounds on the PX560 and the outcome was  incredibly really was. Twelve (Hex) sounds together making spectacular music when I just played one note, simple chords, or series of notes. It's like being in a movie theater hearing a huge movie sound track (assuming you're playing the sounds through a good external sound system. It's important to note that the PX560 has 96 memory registrations where you can store your own personal control panel setups for just about any feature(s) on the PX560 so you don't have to recreate them every time you power up the piano. Saving your personal customized sound layers (especially with the multi-layered Hex sounds), splits, edited sound combinations, rhythm accompaniments, effects, and other controls into the memories is very intuitive and easy and then accessing them later on is equally easy...because it's all done from the front panel buttons. It's one thing to be able to make changes and do things on a digital piano, but it's an entirely different thing to easily be able to save and access them I was impressed with how this model was able to function in this way.

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - In my opinion the best way to hear all of the sound nuances of the hex layers and the other full and complex tones in the piano is through a good sound system, as I just mentioned. Although the PX560 has an impressive built-in internal speaker system with 4 quality speakers going through 16 watts of total power in stereo and does sound pretty good and actually very loud for its compact size and weight, using a great pair of stereo headphones or a good pair of external (powered) monitors gives you a more impressive sonic experience listening to these full Hex layers. The fullness of sound along with bigger bass response using external sound devices is much improved in this way. But this would be true of most any portable digital piano with internal speakers so it's good to be aware that you can definitely get that humongous stereo sound when connected to a pair of good external speakers or to stereo headphones. In fact when you connect to external speakers you can hear both the internal and external speakers at the same time, or you have the option of shutting off the internal speakers and only hearing the external speakers, so there is a lot of flexibility in hearing the sounds coming from the PX560.

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Now that I have pointed out a few of the distinctive features of the new PX560 that sets it apart from all other Casio pianos and all other brands and models in this price range, it's time to talk about some impressive fundamental features of this model. One of the most obvious new features is the 5.3" full color touch screen using proprietary Casio touch software with instant feature recognition. I really should not get overly excited about this technology because many consumer products from educational kids electronic toys to Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - family electronics have color touch screens now and instant feature recognition with swipeable screens, so having this technology in a digital piano should be no big deal...right? Well...actually it is a big deal because, at least for new digital pianos in the lower price range under $2000, these piano companies are way behind consumer and commercial electronics when it comes to user interfaces and built-in color touch screens. There are some piano manufacturers who are writing their own proprietary Apps to use on iPad and Android tablets so you can control a limited number of functions on your piano from your tablet connected by WiFi, Bluetooth, or USB cable connection. That's good but it only covers a relatively small portion of what those pianos can do and the screen is the external tablet and not a touch screen in the piano. It is also important to point out that the new Casio color touch screen is not set into the piano control panel completely flat. The screen is slightly raised and slanted for a good viewing experience which is much better than being flat, which I have seen in other brands that have any kind of display screen at all. So I do appreciate that extra "touch" of usability.

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Along with the color touch screen and the features it has, Casio has included a round infinity (alpha) data wheel dial on the control panel to the right of the display screen which allows you to scroll/move through the functions in the touch screen. As an example, if you wanted to find a particular sound like a specific trumpet or piano sound, normally you would go through the library of sound groups and tones to get to the sound you want using buttons. The data dial on the control panel allows you quickly turn it in either direction which moves through the sound library or any other function so that you can land on the sound or feature you want to. There is also an individual up and down button so that you can advance the features in the touch screen one at a time without using the data dial or touch screen. These functions are just other useful ways of selecting the feature (sound, rhythm, song, etc) you want once you have gone into the touch screen mode. Yamaha and Roland have had a data wheel (dial) in a few of their keyboard products for many years on a variety of their digital pianos, but this is the first time that Casio has included the data (alpha) dial function into their digital pianos, so that's a big bonus in terms of how the piano operates.

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Beyond the data wheel controller, Casio has also has some helpful buttons on the control panel itself which will take you directly to the most popular functions of the piano in the color screen including instrument sounds, rhythms,recording, transpose up & down, etc. In other words, let's say you want to transpose the key you are in which is a very popular feature on digital pianos. Rather than go into the color screen and look for the transpose function which you can also access that way, you can just press the transpose button on the control panel and instantly it will transpose the key up or down a 1/2 step at a time. There's no guess work as to where the transpose Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - feature will be in the color touch screen or where to find it because the transpose button on the control panel accesses that feature instantly. You can also adjust the transpose function in the touch screen by touching the appropriate selection and using the data wheel or up/down buttons to select the key. Then once you get to that function you wanted, via the buttons, you can then use the color touch screen to continue your search and/or use the data wheel to speed up your selection. There's just so many intuitive ways to access features on theses pianos that it makes using these two new models lots of fun...and if it's fun & easy, you'll enjoy it more and get more use out of it too.

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - The key action piano keyboard is the most important thing to consider when shopping for any digital piano and the PX560 is no exception. In the price range under $1500 for a portable digital piano, there are five major brands worth considering at this point in my opinion and that's Casio,Yamaha, Roland, Kawai, and Korg. There are other digital piano brands which offer one or more models under $1500 such as Kurzweil and a couple of others, but as of now those brands don't offer anything which competes well with Casio, Yamaha, Roland, & Kawai in this price range with regard to key action. Korg has one model for $1499US but it lags behind the Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - 4 major brands as a digital piano with internal speakers. The PX560 key action is identical to the current model Casio PX160, PX760, PX780, and PX860. All Casio key actions in all Privia models share the same realistic key movements so there won't be any confusion there, unlike other brands which offer multiple models of different key actions. The Casio key action is, in my opinion, superior to many other brands in this price range for a number of reasons including having a triple sensor keyboard for more accurate key repetition sensing and expression, more authentic piano key weight and movement in the keys, a better balance with graded weighted keys and along with having the addition of both ivory & ebony synthetic key tops which try to simulate the feel of real ivory and ebony acoustic piano keys from years ago. Today, real acoustic piano keys have mostly plain plastic top white keys so synthetic ivory and ebony feel can be quite nice because as it offers a more tactile feel along with being able to absorb sweat from the fingers which makes for a smoother playing surface.

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - When it comes to the Casio key action in this price range, the PX560 is quite impressive, although I would not classify the key action as functioning and moving like an acoustic grand piano especially on the black keys, because it does not. It is a cross between a grand and an upright piano and there isn't any other brand or model in this price range that would have a key action which functions like a grand piano don't expect it. Casio, along with other manufacturers likes to add some "hype" to their marketing and promotion efforts to get you to want their products, so with that in mind these people tend to exaggerate sometimes and makes you to believe that their product is exactly like a concert grand in key action and/or sound. Really? Then why buy another digital piano for a lot more money or even a regular grand piano for that matter if Casio's inexpensive digital piano supposedly gives you everything you could ever ask for including a grand key action experience? It's a ridiculous statement when manufacturers make it, but I have come to expect these things because they are trying to get you to buy their piano. You just have to look beyond the hype and play the piano and also have experience playing good acoustic grand pianos to know for sure, which I have done hundreds of times. If you want something at a higher level in playing authenticity, then you'll need to spend more money to get it. However for for what it offers, the PX560 is very enjoyable to play and the keys and action movement do respond nicely and better than most other brands in this price range.

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - A good, realistic piano sound is also obviously important, especially to those who will be primarily interested in playing piano, although the other instrument sounds can be enjoyable as well. But it's really all about the acoustic piano sound authenticity and if it can be expressive with a large dynamic tonal range (which the PX560 definitely has), good organic piano sound elements like virtual vibrating strings, resonance, accurate legato and staccato piano sound, smooth key sensitivity volume and fast repetition sound reproduction, then that is something you want to look for. These things are not easy to get in this price range but Casio has done a a very good job of it. There are some "off-brands," as I call them which do a very poor job of reproducing a good piano sound and response and I don't recommend them at all when it comes to piano sound. All of the organic piano sound elements and functions in the PX560 make for a more enjoyable piano playing experience and is necessary to have in a good digital piano if you want to really express yourself musicially. Dynamic tonal range means the range of tone from mellow to bright as you play the keys softly and then push the keys harder and quicker. Key sensitivity volume is when you press softly and get a low volume and then as you press the keys harder you get a louder volume. You are not supposed to notice any hesitation or jumpiness in volume and the volume range is supposed to be smooth and large and the PX560 performs very well in these ways. The PX560 piano sound itself is recorded/sampled in stereo from a real acoustic grand piano (I believe they sampled a Steinway Grand) and really is pretty impressive. Is it the best I have ever heard in a portable digital piano? But I have pretty high standards when it comes to the piano sound and even so, I really do enjoy playing piano on the PX560, it's quite expressive...however it will not be replacing an actual Steinway grand piano anytime soon:). But again, it's what you are getting in this price range along with everything else in this model. There's a total of 24 acoustic piano sounds and piano sound layers in the PX560 which gives the player a large variety of acoustic piano choices. Beyond all the piano preset choices, there are 3 infinity controller knobs on the top panel to the top left of the display screen and this is a very cool feature because the knobs default to a 3-band parametric EQ to control separate low, medium, and high frequencies, especially useful for the piano sound. Not only can you add to and customize the overall piano sound this way, but it also adds more volume and fullness at the same time. Once you make changes, then you can save them and recall them later. The controller knobs can also be assigned to other functions in the piano to be manually changed in real time such as other volumes and functions and you can quickly modify all knob functions in the color display screen which makes it all very easy to use. I really like the 3 panel knobs and it gives you a sense of old time analog control over many aspects of the piano. This is a feature that no other portable all-in-one name brand digital piano has and I personally find it incredibly useful for beginners through advanced players and especially for live play. By the way, if you have a whole bunch of buttons and features you've selected on the PX560 and just want to get back to the main stereo concert piano sound, Casio has included, what I call, a "panic button" called Grand Piano on the control panel all the way to the far right of the display screen. If you press that button the PX560 automatically resets to acoustic stereo piano and the other features shut off and reset...simple!

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - When it comes to the pedaling experience, this is another important aspect to consider when shopping for a new digital piano. The PX560 pedal damper resonance and damper noise which is the resonance of the tone and physical movement of the damper rail in an acoustic piano.These two elements add a depth of realism to the piano sound when using the damper/sustain pedal. The pedaling also includes a half-damper effect which adds more incremental sustain times to the damper pedaling, but only if you are using the optional 3-pedal unit ($75 internet price). Pedal resonance, damper noise, and especially half-damper effect are very good features to Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - have as you progress in your playing ability or already play well. A person can certainly live without it but it's better if you can access it. However, as I mentioned, you'll need the optional triple pedal unit to access the half-damper sustain effect on the Casio's. Kawai also has half-damper function on their popular ES100 portable piano ($799 internet price) and that feature can be accessed with the included full size single piano pedal, unlike the Casio's. I was hoping Casio would have updated their half-damper access to a single pedal from previous models, but they did not. So that's a negative (although a smaller one) in my book. As far as pedal decay time which is how long a note will sustain after letting go of the key and holding down the sustain pedal, the PX560 do a pretty good job. The sustain time is fairly long on sustained notes but I have heard other digital pianos with even better (longer) decay times especially on the higher notes, but those digital pianos would cost more money. So in this price range the Casio pedaling experience is, overall, a good one.

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - The PX560 has a very large library 650 built-in instrument tones (including the Hex layers) and 220 built-in rhythms & ensemble chord arrangements. When using the feature on the rhythm arrangements, you then get another 200 selections which gives you a total of 400 rhythms/ensemble arrangements. So when it comes to having a variety of enjoyable instrument sounds and rhythm patterns along with musical arrangements (aka:one man band), it's difficult to need more than that. Casio has increased and advanced Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - the realism of many instrument sounds from previous models as well as the musicality and voicing of the rhythms & arrangements. The increase in realism on some of these selections was quite noticeable to me and made for a more expressive playing experience with all styles of music including classical, jazz, rock, big band, oldies, Latin, country, modern, world music, and everything in-between, and most of them sound great considering how little these pianos cost. The intros and endings as well as drum Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - fill-ins and accompaniment patterns were surprisingly good and far better than on previous models. All of it was expressive and musically realistic for this price range, and variety is plentiful. Casio also inserted some very cool, very realistic musical ritardandos, crescendos, decrescendos, and syncopation into the intros and endings making the music sound more natural instead of digital and robotic, and it's done in full stereo with stereo panning as well. The Casio sound and accompaniment designers/programmers really have done an outstanding job upgrading these particular features as compared to past models, although there are a few auto accompaniment styles that do sound toy-like and amateurish, so they are not all great...but I  expected that. When using the auto-accompaniment feature you can play simple 1-finger left hand chords, 3-finger chords, or full professional chording playing both left and right hand together with multiple fingers over the accompaniment and the accompaniment will follow you.

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - AZPianoNews.comAs far as the solo instruments go, many (but certainly not all) do sound noticeably more authentic than in previous Casio models, and include velocity triggers which adds additional organic nuances to that sound as you press the key harder and quicker. This feature helps in the overall realism of that sound and is a nice thing to have. Beyond offering a variety of acoustic piano sounds, these instrument sounds would include much better electric pianos, brass, organs, woodwinds, strings, etc, and the variety of tones has Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - substantially increased from the previous 250 selections on previous models to the 650 musical sound library it has now with the updated selections, as I previously mentioned. A few of the instrument sounds from previous models such as trumpet and flutes are mostly just average and not as convincing as I had hoped for in these new models. But they are still fun to have and are certainly better than other digital pianos I have played in this price range under $1000, and if you are not too critical, you may like them just
Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - fine. All instrument sounds are quickly accessible through the color touch screen and there are picture icons for each sound group so you just touch it and that group of sounds or rhythms instantly comes up. It really is a pleasure using the color touch screen to quickly see & access all 650's a breeze to do it and definitely makes it fun to use this piano to achieve the musical sounds of your choice. Also, unlike any of the other Casio digital pianos, you can create and save 400 of your own personal user tones so that if you don't like one of the preset tones on the piano, you can modify that instrument tone to your liking and then save up to 400 of them in the user memories accessed easily by the color touch screen. That's a crazy huge amount of potential instrument/sound choices...but hey, it's just one more way of expanding beyond the preset sound library that Casio includes...and that's always a good thing.

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Speaking of achieving musical sounds, another exclusive and impressive feature of  the PX560 is its ability to visually edit individual parameters of each instrument sound using what is called sound editing "envelopes." These are specific parameters that were and still are used on professional synthesizer keyboards to modify and create new sounds from existing tones on the keyboard. In the PX560 as an example, there are three sound editing parameters called pitch, filter, and amp. You can select any of these three functions and then enter into an envelope editing mode to adjust different parts of those sound parameters which include initial level, attack time, attack level, decay time, decay level, release time, release level, and envelope time. There are also additional editing parameters for portamentos (sliding/gliding tones), panning, and LFO's among other things so adjustments and the things you can adjust are almost endless. These adjustments or parameters can be useful to pro musicians looking make slight adjustments to the internal tones, studio musicians wanting to create new sounds altogether, or just music enthusiasts who want more digital "stuff" to play around with:). I have used these kinds of features before in pro keyboards but typically editing parameters were overall difficult to figure out, difficult to use, difficult to save when you did create something that you liked, and just not very accessible. However within the PX560, using these editing envelopes (not for mailing a letter:) are readily accessible from the color touch screen, visually easy to find, easy to use, and are displayed in a color graphic layout which allows the editing to be visually pleasing and naturally intuitive as well. Even if you know nothing about this kind of editing or "programming," you can pretend that you do because it's that easy to use and changing the amount (up or down) of that editing parameter is done by turning the alpha dial either left or right and watching the color screen as changes are made. You can certainly make some pretty strange sounds if you want to do that which might be useful as video game tones or Halloween special effects and I know some young kids who might like to do that! But even if you have no desire to do these things and you never use these filters and envelopes to create or adjust new and preset sounds, this should not scare you into thinking the PX560 is not the right portable instrument for you. The best way to explain it would be to say that with all these many, many features offered on this model that no other piano I know of under $2000 can do, there is something for everyone and it allows this instrument to be not only offer a very enjoyable piano playing experience, but it goes so much further for those people who want to take advantage of this creative technology. If you don't like the "extra stuff" then that is fine because you never need to use or touch those features and then you'll never know they are there:).

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - For beginners, amateurs, or even pro players, the PX560 can also make you sound better than you actually are, and that can be a good thing depending on what you want out of your music. Casio has a very cool feature called "Auto-Harmonize" which does what it allows the automatic harmony to come in when you play a single melody note. One of the goals of any student or musician is to play a song so it sounds as full as possible with multiple notes being played by both the left and right hand. Most of the time students and recreational players know how to play accompaniment chords with their left hand, but playing multiple note chords simultaneously with your right hand takes many years of Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - learning and practice to accomplish this. Some people get to that point but most people do not. They can play chords with their left hand with a one (or maybe 2) note melody with their right hand. So wouldn't it be special if you could play one note melodies with your right hand as your left hand is playing the full 3 or 4 finger chords and have your right hand one note melody sound like 3 or 4 notes playing correctly every time you play one key on the right hand? Well...that's what the "auto-harmonize" feature does for you. It automatically harmonizes the right hand single note melody with your left hand chords and makes it sound like you are playing multiple notes on your right hand even though you are only playing one key! The harmonize function also works when playing simple 1-finger chords on the left hand so that a complete beginner can sound like they have been playing for years:). The right hand harmonize Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - feature includes 12 harmonizer variations for your melody accessible from the touch screen and it really does make your right hand sound like you've been playing multiple fingers for years...even though you're just playing one key at a time. This feature can be selected on or off when you want it directly from the master main screen in the touch display so it's easy to use. Whatever chord your left hand is playing and whatever song style you are playing in, the auto-harmonizer automatically adjusts the right hand melody to sound big and full in any number of musical styles while using the accompaniment section. OK...I know that some people will call this harmonizer feature a waste of time and an unnecessary toy. But when you try it, it will definitely bring a smile to your face because it makes your music sound fantastic, and if you don't play well, then I say that you should use all the help you can get:). It's great to learn how to play properly and traditionally...but as a long time piano teacher I always encourage my students to have fun and do whatever it takes to keep playing and enjoy the music....and that's what this feature does.

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Most (but not all) digital pianos offer fundamental features which include being able to change the touch sensitivity from soft to hard, layer two instrument sounds together at one time to play the sounds simultaneously, split two sounds at a time with one on the left and right side of the keyboard, have special effects added to the sounds including reverb/echo, chorus, delay, adjusting EQ/brilliance, and using special DPS digital processing effects for further sound enhancement. The previous model Casio's had 4 levels of reverb, 4 levels of chorus effect, and 3 levels of brilliance control. These new Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - models have 4 times as many selections and variations so that's a huge jump in instrument sound control. Also, when it comes to the 256-note polyphonic stereo acoustic piano sounds which is the largest amount of polyphony memory in its class, the PX560 offers the user full control over the natural piano sound elements within the piano sound including 16 adjustable levels of damper resonance, 8 levels of adjustable hammer response, and 16 levels of adjustable string resonance (sympathetic vibrations) and they are all easily selectable in the color touch screen along with using the data wheel if you prefer to scroll through the various option that way. No other digital piano in this range offers anything like that so as far as customizing the acoustic piano sound to your tastes, there is virtually no limit to what you can do. Once you make those personal changes you can then easily save that change into memories and access them again later.

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Other notable features I really like is the ability to quickly adjust the individual volume, panning, and actual instrument sounds of each of the 16 MIDI recording & playback tracks as well as mute any of those recorded sounds during playback. This is normally referred to as the "mixer" section. On many digital pianos that have recording and playback in this price range or less, they are limited to normally 2-5 tracks of song recording and playback and many of those pianos also have little control over the individual aspects of Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - the song that you're hearing. In the PX560 there are numerous ways to adjust and change the song that is being recorded or played back so that you can do some nice editing of that song even after you have recorded it. Once again because of the easy to use color touch screen, these song editing features are much easier to find and to use compared to digital pianos without large color touch screens. The individual track adjustments will also work with the auto arranger chord music styles so that you can mute, pan, adjust volume, or change actual instrument sounds of any of the one-man-band accompaniment backing tracks. So even though there are many preset styles of auto arranger accompaniments, you have a lot of flexibility in what you can do with them through the real-time mixer, just like it would be in a real band or orchestra.

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - AZPianoNews.comCasio PX560 Digital Piano Review - You can also change the piano tuning of the entire PX560 using different preset tuning temperaments along with piano stretch tuning just like real pianos tuners do. It is true that many people may not initially understand what all these things mean or how they would affect the overall sound, but that's OK because you can just play around with them and see what they do because they will not permanently change anything unless you want to save what you did. Another very useful feature is a "operation lock" function which you can choose at any time to freeze the setups you have on the PX560 so that no one can push buttons or touch the screen and change your settings. This is great for people playing in a live setting such as a outside event, church, school, etc where there are lots of people near your piano and you don't want them inadvertently changing something on the piano. If you have kids running around your house touching stuff all the time, the operation lock setting prevents them from accidentally changing your setups. I use this feature all the time when young kids are in my studio:).When it comes to two people practicing the same song at the same time, you can setup the 88 keys to play in a Duet Mode so that two people can play at the same time each with 44 notes where both keyboards produce the same notes in the same octave. This is becoming a fairly standard feature on many (but not all) brands and models of digital pianos but it is much easier to use and setup on the PX560. You can easily change the octave of any instrument sound up or down whether playing solo or combining (layering) with another sound with the octave change feature in the touch screen. This allows any instrument sound to be played in a higher or lower octave regardless of what keyboard octave you are actually playing. For professionals or recreational players wanting more authenticity out of the non-piano sounds, the PX560 has both modulation and a pitch bend wheels on the left side of the piano keyboard which allows for more realistic effects such as bending the note when (as an example) you use a clarinet or steel guitar sound or adding variable vibrato modulation when (as an example) using a violin or trombone tone. Violin players move there fingers to get vibrato out of the note and clarinet players bend their notes as they glide up from one pitch to the next. This can all be down independently with the two built-in wheels to the left of the keyboard. It's fun and actually pretty easy to do and many people enjoy making the instrument sounds as realistic as possible. There are just so many features and functions on the PX560 that you will likely not use them all...but it's nice to know they are there in case you need or want it...and this new model definitely has more features that I ever expected. Casio even put in a digital/virtual typing keyboard as a touch screen software feature so you can enter data by typing characters (as you would on your cell phone for texting, etc) to locate and save songs and retrieve other internal song and function data you need to find.

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - One thing that I personally like to be able to do quickly on a digital piano is to adjust my individual volumes of the various features so they balance out and blend together the way I want them to. This would include overall master volume, both right hand sounds 1 & 2, left hand sounds 1 & 2, accompaniments (drums, bass, rhythmic sounds, etc) audio recorder, MIDI recorder, audio inputs, audio output to external devices, metronome volume, and other volume controls. Without being able to quickly and easily adjust volumes among the various instruments and rhythms, then your song will not not good and one or more parts may overpower the other parts. Casio makes this a very simple process by going to their PX560 volume balance icon on the main menu page and then touching it on the color touch screen which then displays all of the volume controls for each selection. You can then quickly and easily make the volume adjustments you want with the wheel dial and lock those volumes in to their specific number and instantly save them. The color control icons on the piano such as the balance control make it so intuitive even a 3 year old can figure it out. This is definitely not the case with most other digital pianos where you either need to dig deep into the owners manual to figure it all out (if you ever do) or for a few keyboards/digital pianos that have it, you can connect an iPad to the piano and see the piano controls on the iPad touch screen which obviously makes it much easier and more fun to use. However you need to dedicate an Ipad to your piano and not many people can or will do that. So the importance of built-in color touch screen on the PX560 cannot be overstated with regard to allowing the user to quickly get at the controls that are important to you to help create a useful intuitive environment so you can make good music instead of needing to be a rocket scientist to figure out how to use the piano!

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - The PX560 also has a feature rich built-in recording studio system including a full 16-track (16 instrument multi-track) MIDI recorder and playback system along with a 1-track wav file (CD quality) audio recorder and playback control with 100 song recording and playback capacity. The length of time of recording for the MIDI recorder is 50,000 notes and the CD quality audio recorder time per song is a huge 74 minutes long. So when it comes to a vast array of recording and playback features in this lower price range, nothing beats or comes close to these two new models. I really like the fact that you can access the MIDI and audio wav recorders directly from Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - the control panel buttons so that you can quickly use it without needing to change the touch screen. Within the recording system there's a number of recording editing features that allows the process to become more detailed than just a simple digital recorder would offer. But what really sets the recording system apart from all other new digital pianos under $1000 is the user interface controls in the color touch screen. Typically, recorders in digital pianos are not very easy to use, especially multi-track recorders such as what's in this new pianos. So...when features are more difficult to use, then people may not use them very often or at all, especially some of the more complex features like these recorders. The recording functions are nicely laid out in the color touch screen and are easy to access and you can even get into the recorder screen from a button on the control panel which makes it quick and easy to record. When you touch a recorder function on the color touch screen, then you can access a variety of features in that screen without too much guess work. Rather than go into all the recorder functions and features, you'll just have to take my word for it when I say that creating, making, and playing your own music in the PX560 is super fun and allows you to express yourself in ways that many digital pianos cannot do. No other compact digital piano brand in this price range has the recorder control functions and range as this one does.

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Speaking of MIDI recording & playback, the PX560 can playback General MIDI song files off a USB flash drive which allows you to hear and play along with your favorite songs which you can download off the internet on a variety of sites, assuming you don't already have your own MIDI song files. Also, two of the most popular lesson curriculum's available today and used by piano teachers all over the US and the world are by Alfred and Faber & Faber. Both of those lesson book series have optional General MIDI songs which you can purchase and then play back in these Casio pianos through a formatted USB flash drive. This function with available songs allows you to hear the lesson Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - song in the book you're using and get a better for the rhythm & timing of that song along with being able to slow down the song to any tempo while learning that piece. There are literally thousands of General MIDI songs available on the internet and through these two publishers which makes the learning and practice experience at home much more fun and enjoyable. I have been using the MIDI song play-along method for years and find it to be very stimulating because it's like playing along with the orchestra or band. So regardless of your playing skill level whether it be beginner or very advanced, you can definitely have a lot of fun taking advantage of what this piano can do with regard to playing back General MIDI songs files...and the fact is, they make you sound better than you already are and if you don't play at all, then it just makes learning a more enjoyable experience. If you have questions about the General MIDI format, how to use it, and what it can actually do for you on these pianos, just ask me.

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - The PX560 has an interesting and fun feature for both beginners and pros called Music Presets which is a library of left hand chord progressions & arrangements from famous songs and instructional books. Specifically what this function does is play a well known portion (aka:chord progression) of a famous song from a variety of songs in the Casio Music Presets song library and then loops that part of the song so it will play that chord rhythmic arrangement over and over without stopping. When you select a song and start it up, the color touch display screen shows you the name of the tune and displays the actual chord symbols in the color screen of the left hand chords of that chord progression loop. The idea is for you to be able to "jam"along (at any tempo you choose) with the chord progressions using your right hand and play melody notes along with the playback of the left hand chords. Basically it's like playing the piano along with the band only this band just plays a famous portion of a song (not the whole song) and does it over and over until you want to stop. This system allows you to learn to play by ear, to improvise, and to have fun while you do it all the while looking at the chord symbols in the display screen (just like guitar chords) so you know what notes to play depending on the chord playback progression. The more you hear the chord progression loop and the more you see the chord symbols in the display screen, the easier it will be for you to follow along, "jam out," improvise, and feel like you are in the middle of the band or orchestra. Also, the Music Preset system automatically selects a compatible right hand instrument sound for you so that it corresponds well with the song style progression being played so you don't need to guess what to select. However, you can play full piano sound with both left and right hand during the playback of the Music Presets library if you choose to do that with any of the 305 different Music Preset chord selections. You can also create your own personal custom music presets creating any repeating (looped) chord progression you want to with any music style you like and save up to 100 of them in memories. You can edit chords and their sequence, edit intros and endings, and really create your own Music Preset chord progression for jamming. If you are more of a beginner player then the editing features will likely not be of importance to you. But if you are a player and like the "tech stuff" when it comes to digital pianos, then you will like making your own Music Presets. I used this feature many times on the PX560 and it's definitely lots of fun and quite musically stimulating and something that few other digital pianos have at any price.

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - When a person is musically and technically advanced enough to play very well, you will often hear them include arpeggios in their music. An arpeggio is a group of notes which are played one after the other, added either going up or going down. Playing an arpeggio requires the player to play the sounds of a chord individually to differentiate the notes. The notes all belong to one chord and the chord may be a simple chord with the 1st, (major or minor) 3rd, and 5th notes of the scale in it. An arpeggio in the key of C major going up two octaves would be the notes (C, E, G, C, E, G, C). An arpeggio really is just a type of broken chord. Other types of broken chords play notes of chords out of sequence or more than one note but less than the full chord simultaneously. Arpeggios can rise or fall for more than one octave and typically you see pianists play across the keyboard from left to right starting with lower notes in the bass section and going all the way up to higher notes in the treble section without stopping. Arpeggios add beauty and warmth to the song as well as giving it extra musical flare and excitement. Playing arpeggios well takes time and practice and in my personal experience, even though the concept of playing arpeggios is simple, they are not necessarily easy to execute. So Casio has done something about this for the person who would love to play them but is not good enough to do so. Casio has included a super cool and fun auto-arpeggiator feature in the PX560 which instantly and automatically plays arpeggios for you while you hold down a simple (or complex) chord. The notes of that chord are played automatically up and down the keyboard without you having to do it. Whatever 2, 3, 4, or 5 finger chord you choose to play and hold down, the arpeggios will be heard playing just like you would have been doing it yourself after many years of practice! Arpeggios will work with any instrument sound and in fact you can have the arpeggiator play an acoustic piano sound in an arpeggio pattern while being layered with another sound (such as strings) which will maintain a constant sustained tone underneath the piano arpeggio. The musical outcome of this sound is super impressive and all you need to do is play simple chords to get it. There are 9 virtual pages totaling 100 different and unique arpeggio patterns quickly and easily accessed by the color touch screen. These arpeggios can be assigned to both the right hand sounds and the left hand sounds all at the same time in combinations or independently. You can use any of the 650 instrument sounds in the piano for any of the four arpeggio sound parts and you can even select a play and hold feature which allow you to play the chord to get the arpeggio started and then let go of the keys and the arpeggio will keep playing so that you can create music within the arpeggio pattern. The tempo of arpeggio pattern can be changed to any speed by using the tempo button on the piano control panel and the arpeggio will respond to sustain pedal as well as transpose key, effects, etc. The arpeggio pattern will even sync up to any rhythm pattern to be used within a rhythmic song accompaniment pattern. I can tell you from personal experience that using an arpeggio feature will make you sound like you have been playing all your life even if you cannot play at all:)...or it make allow the pro player to add special flare and excitement to their music while playing full traditional piano and having the arpeggios playing patterns using another instrument on top of that piano music. With literally millions of pattern and sound combinations at your fingertips, you could spend days and weeks just playing with the auto-arpeggiator and have great musical fun and enjoyment. For some people this feature is just a musical toy, but I have always loved to play musical toys and if it allows me to make music in a way that I could not do otherwise on my own, then I am all for it!

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - As for the piano connectivity, the PX560 has a variety of connectivity for other devices with of the inclusion of 2 mini stereo headphone jacks in front, on the back of the piano two 1/4" audio output jacks to connect to external speakers if you should be playing in a large room or venue where you need extra sound, an audio-in stereo mini jack with separate volume control (for iPods, iPads, mics, and other devices), and a damper pedal jack using an included plastic sustain pedal which is small, but basically OK (at least Casio includes it for free rather than it being an extra cost). The PX560 also provides for an additional  assignable pedal input so that the performer can use a volume pedal or trigger pedal along with having the sustain pedal. The piano has a high speed USB output to computer or tablet device with is "plug & play" class compliant connectivity. There is an input for a USB flash drive on the front of the piano to load audio and MIDI song files as well as save them from the piano after you have created your own song. The PX560 also has two full size 1/4" line input jacks and the internal piano effects such as reverb, brilliance, etc will apply to the Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - connected devices (mics, etc) going through those input jacks...and that's a very useful feature and not something that Casio has ever offered before. For some people, having standard MIDI cable connections for both MIDI in and out ports is important because there's still a need for some people who have MIDI products without USB connection) (sound modules, keyboards, etc) to have MIDI connections and not USB. So the built-in MIDI connectors on the PX560 is a very big thing for some people and many digital pianos in this price range don't have this feature. Whether or not you will use all of these connectivity options one way or the other simply depends on your musical needs and desires but it's definitely good to have them.

So why would someone want to buy a Casio PX560 over another new digital piano under $2000? There are really a number of reasons why a person would want this unique instrument, but first and foremost is because of its lightweight 26 lb weight and small compact dimensions of 52" x 11.5" x 5.8." It's easy to carry and keep in small spaces and can also be placed on an optional Casio furniture style stand to give it a more traditional look along with making the piano sturdier within that proprietary black stand. The next reason someone may want this piano is because of its very attractive elegant two-tone satin royalSo why would someone want to buy a Casio PX560 over another new digital piano under $2000? There are really a number of reasons why a person would want this unique instrument, but first and foremost is because of its lightweight 26 lb weight and small compact dimensions of 52" x 11.5" x 5.8." It's easy to carry and keep in small spaces and can also be placed on an optional Casio furniture style stand to give it a more traditional look along with making the piano sturdier within that proprietary black stand. The next reason someone may want this piano is because of its very attractive elegant two-tone satin royal blue color with black trim. Actually I am somewhat kidding about the blue color being important, but in a way I am being serious. This is definitely one of the coolest looking high quality pro type digital pianos in a lower price range that I have ever seen. The lines, the design detail, the buttons, and the color screen make this piano very classy but yet very contemporary all at the same time. Casio did an outstanding job in designing the PX560 cabinet and I like it a lot. Even if you don;t play very well it makes you look like you do...and if you do play well and you want to play out somewhere, it makes you look even cooler and like you might actually know what you are doing...and that's always a good thing for people to think:). Easy to carry, easy to operate, and great looking which can be important in making that buying decision. However when you add on everything this instrument is capable of doing, the PX560 becomes a real monster in terms of running over just about every other portable digital piano in its path as far as a complete package in a lower price range under $1500. I will say that there are other digital pianos where you may be able to get even better acoustic piano sounds, better electric piano sounds, better instrument sounds, more authentic accompaniment arrangements, better special effects, better pedaling realism, a bigger fuller internal speaker system, and a more realistic piano key action as there are some experienced players who are very "picky" about key actions. However, you would probably need to spend a lot more money to get something better or give up many of the PX560 features to focus on just a few things that may be more to your liking.

Casio PX560 Digital Piano Review - I have played all of the new portable digital pianos under $1500 and I would absolutely pick the new Casio PX560 at $1199US internet price as my favorite because I am the type of player who likes to make and create a variety of music and music styles and the PX560 lets me do this easily and quickly and I really enjoy playing it. You can call this instrument many things including a home keyboard, a home digital piano, a pro digital piano, a pro keyboard, a stage piano, a studio recording music creation instrument, a synthesizer, a music workstation, a special effects machine, a fun machine, a one-man-band, or you can just call it a serious digital piano that does other stuff. However the PX560 may or may not be the perfect or right digital piano for you, so you need to do your research and homework to be as sure as possible that it will allow you to achieve your musical goals and satisfy your musical needs in your price range. Yamaha, Kawai, Roland, Korg, Kurzweil, and a few other brands make some nice digital piano product but none of those companies have anything close to what the PX560 can do...and if you add a good pair of powered speakers (approx $300 or less) to the PX560, then it sounds even more amazing and impressive. I definitely enjoy playing other brands and models of portable digital pianos but in this price range I am pretty sold on all that the PX560 can do for me...which is a lot:). Do yourself a favor, before you make any buying decision at all, please contact me and I can give you some personal advice.

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1 comment:

  1. Hace you ever Play the Celviano Hybrid series? What do you think about that? It really sounds like a really hybrid piano (Avant Grand for example) ir it feel more like the conventional High end digital pianos (Lx Roland and Clp Yamaha)?