Best Casio Keyboards For Beginners Under $169 USD
Updated: Aug 17, 2020
For the last 40 years since 1980, Casio has been producing many wallet-friendly consumer keyboards that are accessible by those who are more budget-sensitive. Currently, Casio has quite a number of affordable keyboards in their lineup and someone with limited knowledge in these keyboards will get lost in the marketing hype and the technical specs. In this article, I will be going through with you the currently available entry-level Casio keyboards and I will tell you which Casio keyboard is the best for beginners in early 2020.
Casio SA Series Mini Keyboards
The cheapest beginner Casio Keyboard available would be the Casio SA series mini keyboards which sells for about $50 USD. To find out more about this series of mini keyboards, you can watch a thorough video review on my YouTube channel.
Casio SA-46 (32 Keys)
Casio SA-47 (32 Keys)
Casio SA-76 (44 Mini Keys)
Casio SA-77 (44 Mini Keys)
Casio SA-78 (44 Mini Keys)
The keyboards in the SA series are not touch-sensitive and they also come with 100 tones, 50 rhythms, 8 polyphony of notes and 2 small speakers and can run on both batteries and DC power adapter. There is no arranger style accompaniment with the built-in rhythms on these keyboards.
To be honest with you, these are really basic keyboards and I will classify them more as premium musical toys rather than a serious musical instrument. If you want to dip your toes into learning to play the keyboard, the SA series keyboards should be the absolute minimum you should get. One thing for sure, these keyboards are way better built and definitely sounds better than the China brand keyboards at the same price.
Casio CTK Series Keyboards
Next up, we have the Casio CTK series keyboards released in 2017. Consisting of the CTK-1500 series, the CTK-2500 series, and the CTK-3500 series keyboards. You will find variations of these model designations depending on the market you are in.
The differences between the CTK-1500 and the CTK-1550 is really marginal. The CTK-1550 is being deprecated in most markets and so I will not be talking much about it.
The Casio CTK-2550 is priced at $109 USD and has 61 full-size keys. Unfortunately, these keys are not touch-sensitive and will not respond to how hard you press. You do get 400 tones, 100 rhythms with automatic accompaniment to play along with, and there are also 50 dance music patterns for you to try your hand at arranging musical loops and apply effects like a DJ.
The CTK-2550 comes with a lesson function which I find irrelevant these days as there are mobile apps and YouTube tutorials that can teach you how to play the keyboard and piano way better than the built-in lessons on these keyboards. Instead of these built-in lessons you are better off using these keyboards with Casio’s own Chordana app.
Just like a real acoustic piano, you can attach a sustain pedal to the CTK-2550. You can also plug in headphones as well as power the keyboard with double A batteries as well as a power adapter. You get built-in speakers but don't expect too much from these low powered speakers though. There is also no USB MIDI connection in the CTK-2500 so you won't be able to use it to communicate with your computer.
The top of the line Casio CTK keyboard is the CTK-3500 which is currently selling at $139 USD. The Casio CTK-3500 is very similar to the CTK-2550 except that the 61 keys are touch-sensitive. You also get a pitch bend wheel and there is a USB MIDI connector for the keyboard to communicate with a computer so you can use it with your favorite DAW such as FL Studio.
Other than that you get pretty much the same 400 tones, 100 rhythms, and 50 DJ patterns just like in CTK-2550. You can also attach a sustain pedal as well as headphones to the CTK-3500 and you can use it on batteries or with a power adapter. I do personally wish the build quality of the CTK series keyboards can be more solid though. It is not bad but it just doesn't feel like it is a premium priced keyboard.
If you would like lighted keys for whatever reasons, the LK-265 is a version of the CTK-3500 with lighted keys feature built into it. With fast internet speeds these days, I have never found lighted key systems to be a good way to learn. I personally wouldn't pay more for the LK-265 over the CTK-3500 just for the lighted keys feature.
Casio CT-S Series
To commemorate their 40th anniversary of making keyboards, Casio launched a new line of entry level consumer keyboards and bring nostalgia back by reviving their CasioTone brand with the new CT-S keyboards, which I have reviewed extensively in this video.
Looking at the specs of the three CasioTone models, the Casio CT-S100, the CT-S200 and the CT-S300, it does seem like the CasioTones CT-S series are just repackaged CTK keyboards. Just like the Casio CTK keyboards, the CT-S200 and CT-S300 comes with 61 full-size keys, 48 notes of polyphony, 400 tones, but with just 77 built-in auto accompaniment rhythms rather than the 100 rhythms found in the CTK series. While the songs in the CT-S series seems to have been lifted straight out from the CTK series, Casio did tweak the speakers a little bit on the CT-S. The CT-S does sound better than a CTK but it is a pity the CasioTones do not inherit the Casio’s excellent AIX sound engine. The functionality of the LCD screen on the CT-S is also significantly improved.
Overall, the build quality is better than the CTK series and the integrated carrying handle that doubles up as a music stand holder is also innovative.
The CT-S100 is selling for $99 USD and is really targeted at price sensitive developing markets. More affluent markets get the CT-S200 which is selling for $120 USD and comes in red, black and white colour options. The CT-S300 sells for $150 USD and is basically the CT-S200 with an added pitch bend wheel and touch-sensitive keys. All the three CasioTone models comes with built-in speakers and can be powered via batteries or a power adapter. It is, however, a pity that Casio didn't take advantage of the opportunity to make these ultra-portable keyboards USB powered.
These keyboards, especially the CT-S300 with touch-sensitive keys, make for a very decent beginner keyboard and an entry level MIDI controller via the USB MIDI port, which can also be used to connect to Casio's Chordana mobile app. In addition, you also get the usual headphones and sustain pedal inputs in the CT-S200 and CT-S300. The initial supply of these CasioTones were very limited in the United States but have improved significantly since the launch.
Similarly, if are looking for the option for lighted keys, the LK-S250, selling for $170 USD, which I reviewed in this video is the version of the CT-S300 with a key lighting system. You do lose the pitch bend wheel, but you still get the touch-sensitive keys. As an added bonus, the LK-S250 gets a microphone input jack for you to sing along with.
Casio CT-X Series
The feather in Casio’s cap though has got to be their CT-X range of keyboards released in 2018. The sound engine found in their Casio CT-X keyboards clearly shows what Casio is capable of.
The best beginner keyboard from Casio is without a doubt the CT-X700. At just $179 USD, the CT-X is jam packed with value. The CT-X700 comes with 61 touch-sensitive keys, 600 tones, 195 accompaniment rhythms, an arpeggiator, more than 20 effects you can apply to the sounds, a six track song recorder, and 32 user preset slots for you to store your own personalized settings. You can also load more user rhythms if the built-in 195 rhythms isn't enough for you. The 600 built-in tones can also be layered as dual voice layers and you are also able to split two voices across the keyboard as well. The CT-X700 comes with speakers which are adequately amplified as well. As for inputs, you get the usual headphones, a sustain pedal connection, as well as a USB MIDI connection for connecting to a computer and using it with your favorite DAW like FL Studios, Ableton, Reason or even Cubase. The CT-X700 can be powered by either batteries or a power adapter.
However, what I feel is a tad disappointing for the value for money of the Casio CT-X700 is that you are not able to adjust the volume mix when layering voices. Moreover, the build quality on the CT-X700 I believe can also be cranked up just one notch higher. The build quality isn't bad, but it wouldn't make you go wow. At just $179 USD, the CT-X700 is without a doubt the best value beginner keyboard from Casio in early 2020. Any beginner who purchases this keyboard will definitely be able to use it for quite a few years before having a need to upgrade to something better.
I hope my thoughts and my experience on these Casio keyboards will help you make an informed purchase. If you are interested in getting one of these keyboards yourself, do check out the links provided in this article to find the latest prices and information about these keyboards.
To look for the best keyboard or piano for you, do feel free to read the other articles in this blog to find the instrument that suits your needs.