Mar 30, 2016

REVIEW - Casio AP460 Digital Piano - RECOMMENDED - The latest Celviano model with impressive piano playing features

UPDATED REVIEW - May 1, 2017 - Casio AP460 Celviano Digital Piano - RECOMMENDED - The Casio AP460 model has been out for a little while but it is still considered to be Casio's most popular furniture model for 2017 and it competes very well with all the major brands and does some cool things that other brands and models just cannot do. Casio has been in the digital piano business for a very long time (over 30 years) and has three lines of digital pianos. One of those lines is called Privia and is widely available in the US on the internet, the next line up is Celviano which has limited availability in the US on the internet and at local piano stores, and the 3rd line of digital pianos is called Grand Hybrid selling for well over $3000US which are only available in local piano stores. The Celviano series of digital pianos has been out for many years and the 4 newest models are called AP260, AP460, AP650, and AP700.

The AP460 ($1499US internet discount price) is very popular because it has Casio's best piano graded weighted key action and piano sound chip technology under $3000 which is quite impressive without having too much of the "bells & whistles" as some people call it. I recommend the Casio AP460 digital piano as a "Best Buy" for a lower priced home furniture cabinet piano including a padded matching height adjustable bench for under $1500. This piano comes in an attractive home furniture style cabinet with matching height adjustable bench and weighs just 90 lbs and the cabinet is fairly compact with measurements of 54" wide x 17" deep including sliding metal key cover and full sheet music rack. If you look closely at the pictures in this review, you'll notice that the cabinet has front support legs which is normally found on much higher priced digital pianos. Most digital pianos in this price range are just "pedestal style" with no legs. Not only do the front legs offer more support and stability to the piano, but they add a touch of class and elegance to the design of the cabinet in my opinion. There are two colors to choose from including an attractive satin black or medium brown walnut. The cabinet design also offers a full size privacy panel on the back so that it looks as much like a piano as possible in this price range. The AP460 is using Casio's latest upgraded digital technology which, in my opinion, exceeds any other digital piano in this lower price range under $2000 for what it offers in a furniture cabinet piano. I have played this piano many times and was quite impressed with its realistic moisture absorbing synthetic ivory/ebony keytops (similar to real ivory & ebony on the old acoustic grand & upright pianos), and graded piano hammer key action response. Although there are certainly other piano brands and models that I like and recommend, in this price range they have a difficult time competing with the AP460 for a number of reasons.

A big advancement not offered on other digital pianos in this price range is the 256-note polyphony piano sound processing technology. Even the respected Yamaha Avant Grand digital grand piano selling for approx $15,000 has a maximum 256-note polyphony technology which makes Casio's achievement pretty special in my opinion at only $1499. More polyphony note processing power helps to keep notes from electronically dropping out when playing difficult & musically complex passages along with layering 2 sounds together and using the damper sustain pedal. However, when the polyphony gets near 200-notes of processing power in the major digital piano brands, that is normally more than enough to suit nearly all skill levels of pianists when playing solo piano music. Also, like many name brand digital pianos including Yamaha, Kawai, and Roland, the AP460 offers the "half-damper" sustain feature with pedal resonance effect which helps recreate the real acoustic piano pedaling  damper/sustain sound for more intermediate to advanced piano music. For those students and recreational players who are at the beginner skill level, they will have something to grow into and not need to trade out of this piano for a long time, if ever.

As for the actual grand piano sound reproduction and key action, the AP460 is impressive and upgraded in noticeable ways over its competition, such as Yamaha in this price range. Although no digital piano that I know of actually sounds exactly like a real acoustic grand piano (I play real acoustic grand pianos and know what I'm talking about), the AP460 may give you the impression that you are playing a real acoustic piano more than other brands and models do in this price range...and that's what really counts. The key action has 3 electronic sensors under each key (tri-sensor key action) for better recognition of key repetition and this is important as your progress in your piano playing ability or are already a good player. The dynamic range of volume & tonal change (color and expression) when playing the keys is also very impressive and noticeably wider than Yamaha or Korg and allows for a greater range of musical expression which is always important, especially if you are taking lessons from a good teacher or you are at a higher playing skill level. The sonic quality of the Casio's new stereo piano sound is really good across the entire keyboard and something which can be enjoyed no matter what type of music you play. Also, from what I have been told, the piano sound in the AP460 is sampled from a real Steinway acoustic grand piano and you can't get much better than that!

Piano pedaling is also an important aspect of any good piano and the Casio AP460 is no exception. The pedaling offers half-damper control for variable sustain amount and duration of time. The piano pedaling also triggers damper resonance which is when the dampers in a real piano are off the strings and there is natural resonation of the strings occurring along with the note that is played. Casio has recreated this experience in the Celviano AP460 and it certainly is nice to have for those that are used to a real piano. The middle sostenuto pedal and left soft pedal also work like a real piano and give people the added benefit of reproducing the functionality of those pedals as well, although the right damper sustain pedal is the primary pedal used more than 90% of the time for most recreational piano players.

The Casio company has its worldwide headquarters in Tokyo, Japan (left pic) and has been producing digital pianos for over 30 years. They also produce keyboards, pro synthesizers, as well as being famous for calculators, advanced digital cameras, sports & consumer watches, advanced digital technology for communication devices, and some very impressive new digital computer technology. Casio produces their own computer chips and proprietary micro technology and is able to do it at a fraction of the cost of some of it's biggest competitors and that is why Casio tends to have lower prices. Some people equate lower prices with lower quality and think you need to spend a lot more money (over $2000) to get something really good. However, in my opinion, this latest model Casio AP460 is very impressive for its lower price and easily competes with the other popular digital piano brands including Yamaha, Roland, and Kawai for features, cabinet construction & style, and overall piano playing experience realism.

Another impressive feature to me is the fact that Casio has included "wav file" audio recording in this model. What that means is that you can record yourself as an audio recording (CD quality) and save it to a USB flashdrive in the piano. Then you can take that recording in the flashdrive and plug it into your computer and email that song to your friends and relatives to let them hear it on their computer just as you played it! Beyond that, you can import that music into computer music programs for music education, composing, song arranging, etc for further musical interaction and even turn the wav file recording into an MP3 to play as an iTune on your iPad or iPod. The other major brands such as Roland, Kawai, or Yamaha does not have this feature in this price range. Another recording feature that is very useful and I use it in my teaching studio, is the ability to record right and left hand playing independently on 2 separate MIDI recording tracks and then play back both hands simultaneously. This feature is very helpful in allowing piano students to practice and record one hand and then play that recording back while they play the other hand "live" along with the recording. It's like having your teacher there playing along with you to give you help in understanding your rhythm and timing better and it's also more fun to practice this way. You can also save this recording and other song recordings you have done to a USB flashdrive for storage so you can come back later and work on and play along with those pieces again.

One interesting & innovative feature I like is a new piano lid audio projection system (see pic on left). Simply put, you can physically open the top lid on the AP460 into an open position like a little grand piano would do so the sound is projected towards you for a more realistic listening & playing experience. No other digital piano brand has this special open lid feature under $3000. The internal 40 watt 4-speaker sound system is heard more like a baby grand would be with an open and angled lid and no other digital piano has this useful function. The overall sound on this model can be quite loud and big so there is no need to attach external speakers in my opinion and the volume will easily fill up a big room. As I said, I have not seen this sound projection system before in any regular digital piano and although in essence it seems like a simple thing to do, this interactive cabinet gives the player more piano sound depth than some other digital pianos and can make the piano more exciting to play.

Other AP460 features include all kinds of powerful sound generation technology with piano string and damper pedal resonance, string harmonics, longer pedal decay sustain time than in previous Casio models which is important for longer legato notes, and a wide range of piano sound dynamics (as I mentioned earlier) for lots of tonal color in your playing as compared to some other digital pianos under $1500. There are 18 very nice instrument sounds including a variety of acoustic grand piano tones, electric pianos, authentic harpsichord, jazz and church organs, impressive symphonic strings, etc, split & layering of tones, key touch sensitivity adjustments to personalize your playing, duet keyboard function allowing for two people to play at the same time for practicing the same song at the same time, and other useful features including two stereo headphone jacks for two pairs of headphones for private practice, stereo 1/4" audio outputs for connection to an external sound system (not many pianos have this feature in this price range), and a control panel positioned above the keyboard for easier access to buttons as opposed to being put on the left side of the keyboard like other digital pianos.

Another interesting feature Casio has created is their new reverb settings call Hall Simulation which gives the stereo acoustic grand piano sound a more spacious effect such as you would hear in a large concert hall or church where there is natural echo that occurs when playing an instrument. It's a very good sounding feature and adds to the sonic presence of the acoustic piano sounds and makes the piano more enjoyable to play depending on the kind of music you are playing. I have heard these kinds of effects before in other higher priced digital instruments and they can add to the realism of piano playing, but these effects are not always necessary especially with pop, jazz, or other types of non-classical or traditional piano music. However, overall the big hall simulation effects are noticeable and much more dramatic than are found in the digital pianos offered in this price range by Yamaha, Kawai, or Roland.

With regard to new features, Casio has included a new music library that consists of 10 fully orchestrated classical songs which you can play along with using the piano sounds live along with the song. The 10 songs are in an audio wav format (recorded from live orchestra) and sounds exactly like a real recording of the instruments as you would have in a regular CD. The new songs are independent in their sounds and format (the piano itself does not have these sounds) but you can interact with them by playing along. The 10 songs are standard classical music and although they are extremely enjoyable to play along with and do sound good, you would need to be able to read music (or play by ear) and play along at the song skill level so that you could interact with the music properly. You can slow down the songs, mute either right or left hand playback sound for live playalong and do a few other things with the orchestra accompaniment for learning. But there are other ways to do this (iPad apps, etc) that may offer a variety of music in multiple music categories. The Casio Celviano Orchestral Music Library is impressive to hear and fun to play along with, but there are only 10 songs as I mentioned earlier so there is that limitation. But the other brands don't have anything like this feature in their pianos and so I must give Casio credit for including it in the AP460, and at the very least these 10 songs will make you sound so good that if you don't know how to read music, you may be motivated to learn...and that's a good thing!

As for connectivity to external devices, the AP460 can connect directly with an iPad or laptop computer using its high speed class compliant USB MIDI connection which allows for instant connection with external computer devices without the need of downloading drivers or having to convert a MIDI signal to USB. Since kids are growing up in the "iPad world" I recommend to all piano students that they utilize the exciting Apps available for tablets (and iPad in particular) to enhance their playing and practice experience which will make them better students and better musicians overall. Besides that, it's super cool to do this and when you've experienced the interaction of the Casio AP460 with an iPad (or Android) and what it can musically and educationally do for you and your family, you'll be amazed at all the possibilities!

Casio PX850 digital piano The Casio AP460 is impressive for what it does at its price and offers people a fairly realistic acoustic piano playing experience in an affordable low price range. I have known Casio of Japan to be very good musical instrument company for over 30 years and they have produced some good digital pianos in the past, but they have finally come out with a winner in this price range for a furniture cabinet piano. Also, judging from the significantly improved quality of Casio's lower priced Privia series pianos including the PX160, PX360, and PX760, and PX860, I am fairly confident that the reliability of these pianos will be good, especially given the fact Casio has a long 3 year parts & labor factory warranty on their new models.

It is important to note that the AP460 piano does not have built-in drum rhythms, automatic chords, music styles, hundreds of instrument sounds, multi-track General MIDI recording & composing or other fun features that can be useful to some people (such as is on the Casio AP650), but it was not designed to be that way. The AP460 is a satisfying instrument for its priceand has many useful and fun features that can handle a variety of playing skill levels. If you want some additional interactive features you can easily connect to an iPad and experience some very cool interactive piano technology which both adults and children will enjoy. This digital piano has a big, bold piano sound which can replace a regular upright piano along with enough digital features to make the learning and piano playing experience fun and gratifying for most people seeking a quality instrument in a low price range. Speaking of low prices, in the distant past I would have also recommended that people consider buying a good used acoustic or digital piano at a lower price instead of a new one. However, the new digital pianos out now like the Casio AP460 are so improved and relatively inexpensive that it makes buying a used acoustic or digital piano almost a non-issue in my opinion, and I play & own acoustic pianos in my studio. Plus, you take a risk when you buy a used piano because it comes "as is" and you get no factory warranty so you take a big risk that it will work properly, and stay in tune properly if it's an acoustic piano (yearly tunings can easily cost $100 or more depending where you live). So these days, generally speaking, used digital or acoustic pianos would not be a good option unless you know exactly what you're getting and the price is very low.

People I know of who have purchased and received their Casio AP460 really like it and they tell me it exceeds their expectations for its price, and it's always good for me to hear right from the people who own them. Also, this model has a complete 5 year parts & labor factory warranty with in-home service which is unheard of in this price range and shows that Casio is confident in their product's reliability over a long period of time. Most of the digital piano brands only offer 1-3 years for labor warranty and usually no more than 3 years parts. So the Celviano is way ahead of the curve in that way. However for some people, the Casio brand may not have the prestigious piano name of a Yamaha or Kawai because those companies make highly respected acoustic pianos which professionals and piano teachers play, But name itself seldom tells the real story and that is certainly true in this case. So don't let the Casio name fool you into thinking this piano is not worthy of your consideration because in my opinion the AP460 is the "real deal:)." When it comes to cutting edge digital electronics and reliability, Casio deserves respect and at the end of the day it's all about you and your family experiencing the joy of playing music on a good piano. So no matter what you decide to purchase, do your research and make sure it's a good piano at a good value and contact me with your questions BEFORE you make any purchase anywhere..

If you want more info on new digital pianos and LOWER PRICES than internet discounts, please email me at tim@azpianowholesale.com or call direct at 602-571-1864.

* I recommend eMedia educational software. If you decide to make a purchase after clicking on link below, I have arranged a big discount for you direct with eMedia for their educational software and that discount price is displayed through this link only! I want to see everyone learn to play and enjoy piano!

1 comment:

  1. So if I care most about realistic key action, should I go with this or the Kawai CE220?

    ReplyDelete