May 27, 2016

REVIEW - Casio AP650 Digital Piano - Recommended

UPDATED REVIEW - August 1, 2017 - Casio AP650 Celviano digital piano - Recommended - As most people know, Casio produces some fine electronic products that millions of people use all over the world. Casio is also known for designing and building quality lower priced (under $2000) keyboards & digital pianos for over 30 years and thousands of families use them every day. The Celviano pianos consist of four models and one of the most popular is called the AP650 ($1899US internet discount price) and is now my top pick for overall "best bang for the buck" under $2000 price in a furniture cabinet digital piano. This is because the AP650 offers so much more in terms of a satisfying piano playing experience combined with more useful "fun and educational features" than any other brand or model under $2000 in a traditional furniture style cabinet, based on my playing experience with it...and I have played it many times. The AP650 is available only in one color finish which is an attractive textured satin black. The AP650 also comes with an upgraded height-adjustable padded bench which is quite nice considering the other digital piano companies include only standard height benches in this price range.


The AP650 ($1899US 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 impressive along with having all of the "bells & whistles" that many people enjoy using. I really like the extra technology features because they can help with the learning/education process and really are fun to use...but I will talk about that later. This model weighs in at 110lbs and the cabinet measures approx 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. 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 and hides all the cables in back. The AP650 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 AP650 for a number of reasons.

A big advancement not offered on many 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 $1899. 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 AP650 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 AP650 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 AP650 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 AP650 is sampled from a real Steinway acoustic grand piano and you can't get much better than that, although don't expect the AP650 to actually sound like a Steinway grand piano...that would be wishful thinking:).

Piano pedaling is also an important aspect of any good piano and the Casio AP650 is no exception. The pedaling offers continuous detection 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 AP650 and it certainly is impressive to hear, especially for those who 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 as I mentioned earlier, 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 $3000) to get something really good. However, in my opinion, this latest model Casio AP650 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 and playback 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 and then play it back in full CD quality sound. You can also 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 file on your computer to play as an iTune on your iPad or iPod. The other major brands such as Roland, Kawai, or Yamaha do 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 AP650 into an open, propped up 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 60 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. In fact, the main speakers in this piano are larger than any of the other Celviano models as well as compared to the other brands in this price range. As I said, I have not seen this sound projection system before in any regular digital piano and although it would seem like a simple thing to do but Casio is the only one doing it. This interactive cabinet gives the player more piano sound depth than some other digital pianos and can make the piano more exciting to play. The AP650 also has a lot of connectivity to external devices thanks to having built in 1/4" audio outputs, 1/4" audio inputs, USB direct output, and USB flashdrive input for recording, storing, and playing General MIDI and audio files. A General MIDI song recording and playback involves using up to 16 separate tracks on the AP650 enabling you to record up to 16 separate instruments (one at a time) and playing them back at any simultaneously. This allows a person to create their own full band or orchestra song and save it to a USB flashdrive and later be played back on the AP650 or played back in your computer. You can also download load thousands of songs on the internet in the 16-track General MIDI format to playback your favorite songs at any tempo and then play piano along with those songs. It's a great way of learning songs as well as just having fun playing and/or singing along. 
The AP650 does not have WiFi or Bluetooth connectivity which would have been a nice feature, but I guess you cannot have it all...but I would have liked to see Bluetooth connectivity just to make things easier in connecting laptops, tablets, etc. Maybe on future models?:). But in the meantime you can connect to a tablet or computer with a USB cable and/or audio cable depending on what you want to do musically with an external device.

- Below are some of the important highlights of the AP650: 

  • USB class compliant core MIDI high speed direct connection to iPad or laptop computer to utilize some outstanding piano education & notation apps now available for tablets.
  • 360 drum rhythm patterns for timing and rhythm training
  • 250 nice instruments for use with song creation, arranging, composing, and playing just for fun (most digital pianos under $2000 offer approx 10-25 instruments.
  • wav file audio recording so you can make live recordings of your playing (useful in converting to MP3 files for MP3 players or to attach to emails for sending to friends and relatives).
  • Plugging a microphone into the piano to record live vocals while you're singing & playing at the same time or separately and then saving it all to a USB flashdrive in a .wav audio file
  • General MIDI 16-track instrument playback for use with Alfred, Faber, and other piano teaching methods. For important info about General MIDI lesson song accompaniments & lesson practice, I recommend you go to the following link: General MIDI & digital pianos
  • General MIDI 16-track instrument recording for song creation, arranging, composing, etc. up to 16 instruments played back simultaneously
  • Arranger style chord system with 360 music styles for full accompaniment on your left hand. This allows for integration of a live band or orchestral backup while playing "chord style" using a variety of music accompaniments in the piano including Jazz, Classical, Latin, Country, Rock, Oldies, Waltz, Big Band, Blues, Folk, Contemporary, World Music from other countries, and many other music genres. This feature helps with allowing you to integrate rhythmic music styles into your playing to make your playing music even more enjoyable.
  • LCD user display screen directly in front of you for easy to read control panel information.
  • 86 "Jam Session" chord progression loops for learning song improv. This unique feature allows the player to learn how to "jam and improvise" with built in chord progressions with 86 recognizable "song loops" that make learning to play "by ear" fun and enjoyable. Ear training is a great way to play piano and helps with understanding music.
  • Layering & splitting any two sounds anywhere on the keyboard.
  • Duet "4-hand play" for two people playing on the piano simultaneously.
  • Grand piano "stretch tuning" function to give a more realistic grand piano sound based on the way piano tuners tune grand pianos.
  • Transpose and modulate to any key up & down half-steps while playing the piano.
  • Variable reverb, brightness, key sensitivity, octave shift, song & accompaniment volume.
  • Panel control button lock to protect your settings for inadvertent button pressing along with auto power shut off function.
  • Connectivity: Stereo 1/4" audio outputs, stereo audio inputs to run your iPad or computer volume back through the piano, MIDI in & out ports to connect with MIDI sound modules, other keyboards, and other MIDI devices, Dual 1/4" headphone jacks.
  • Console type furniture cabinet with full control button panel and sliding key cover for panel and keyboard protection

  • Although some people may not care about these interactive features of the AP650, I personally find that they make the piano playing experience more enjoyable and educational when used in the proper way. They also help piano students learn more quickly when it comes to understanding rhythm & timing along with being able to record and improvise. If you choose not to use all the extra on-board features and you just play the piano sound by itself, you have a selection of 10 different acoustic piano sounds and can play any kind of music with them such as classical, jazz, rock, church, etc. So just playing traditional piano on the AP650 is quite enjoyable and if that's all it did it would still be a great buy compared to other brands & models in this price range based on my playing experience with it. It's my belief that just because a digital piano has many built-n features and buttons on the piano does not mean the piano cannot stand on its own as an instrument for people who mainly want to play piano. In its price range it really does an excellent job as an instrument for just playing piano and then perhaps you can later use some of the extra features which can make your music even more enjoyable than it already is.

    Piano Maestro
    Speaking of extra features, when it comes to interactive music education technology these days, there is nothing more exciting than connecting an iPad (or Android tablet) to a digital piano and the Casio AP650 is no exception. Although there are a couple of digital piano brands out now with WiFi and/or one or two Bluetooth capabilities for connecting devices, those capabilities are somewhat limited but they still can be nice to have. However, the fact is that most good tablet apps right now don't work with WiFi connectivity on digital pianos and Bluetooth music related apps are still very limited. Most good apps that I use in my music studio work best when the iPad/Android is directly connected to the digital piano by way of a USB/MIDI interface cable. The Casio AP650 really does work great in this way and has an industry "plug & play" feature which allows the music apps to work seamlessly on Casio digital pianos including hearing all of the cool music on the apps come through the Casio internal speaker system with audio input or through stereo headphones. One of my favorite piano teaching USB/MIDI apps is called "Piano Maestro." This is a visually stimulating, fully interactive piano lesson app that helps even the most basic beginners learn how to understand and play piano in a number of exciting ways. There are many other piano/music teaching apps which are available which I recommend as well. So when it comes to piano and music educational opportunities, the Casio AP650 connected to any iPad (or to Android or computer) is another impressive feature of what the Casio AP650 can do.

    Whether you and/or family members are taking piano lessons, just playing recreationally, or you play at a higher skill level, I believe you will enjoy the Casio AP650 digital piano very much and the Casio company also offers a very long 5 year parts & labor warranty making this warranty far longer than most companies in this price range especially as compared to the normal 3 year (or less) warranties. I do recommend you research other brands & models in a variety of price ranges (I have many reviews on this blog which can be helpful) before you make your final buying decision because making music is what it's all about along with having fun doing it:)...there are few things better than that! For me personally, playing piano is my "relaxation therapy" and a way for me to express myself that is very satisfying. So make sure you give yourself, your spouse, and/or your children the opportunity to have that same experience and you'll be very glad you did.  Do your research and homework and be sure you contact me before you purchase anything, anywhere, and I can give you some helpful advice.

    AP700
    I normally like to include alternative piano models so that people can consider other options in the higher price ranges. One such piano option that I recommend is the impressive newer Casio Celviano AP700 digital piano. The new piano sound samples in this model include the Steinway 9' concert grand piano, the 9' Bosendorfer grand piano, and the 9' Bechstein grand piano. I especially enjoy playing the authentic Bosendorfer grand piano sound sample from Vienna, Austria concert pianos in the AP700, which is a beautiful piano tone. The AP700 is for people who don't think they want or need all the "bells & whistles" features of the AP650 but want to instead focus on getting a fuller piano playing experience and are willing to spend a bit more money to do that. The discount selling price of the AP700 is $2499 in piano stores and is definitely worth consideration because of its features, price, and it's cabinet design & style. There is also a special unadvertised direct factory discount price available for a limited time on this model that I can tell you about if you contact me. Go to the following link to read my review of the AP700 before making any buying decision: Casio Celviano AP700 Review

    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.

    4 comments:

    1. I recently also saw a model known as AP700. It seems to be some mix of the new Hybrid pianos GP300/400/500 and a regular APxxx piano in as much that it also contains these three sounds: the Berlin Grand, the Hamburg Grand and the Vienna Grand, but without the hybrid action.
      It's a few hundred bucks more expensive than the AP650.
      Did you by any chance play the 700 as well? And if so: are those few hundred bucks worth it?

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    2. Great review, Tim! I've been looking at the AP650 and actually spoke with your son Erik the other day.
      I need to correct a mistake, though...
      According to the Casio website the warranty on the AP650 is only ONE year parts and labor and you have to send your instrument to a service center (they have many all over the US) to get service.
      http://www.casio.com/support/warranties/electronic-musical-instruments-warranties

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    3. Richard, it is a 1 year in-shop warranty for "keyboards" that you are looking at and not the PX or AP digital piano line of products. The digital pianos have a standard 1 year warranty but on the box of a new AP650 you will find info to register the piano on the Casio product registration web site for a free extended warranty. That warranty is a total of 5 years parts & labor with in-home service. You may verify this warranty if you wish with Casio US corporate headquarters piano division In Dover, NJ. If you have further questions then please email us directly...thank you.

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      1. You're absolutely right! Received my AP650 today, superhappy with it and indeed... 5 year warranty!
        I was pleasantly surprised to find a song book with scores of all built-in songs with the piano.
        Build-quality of the instrument is impressive. Very well-packed by Casio. Took about 20 minutes to unpack and assemble.

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