Review: Is the Casio CT-S1 better than its predecessors?
Updated: Aug 18, 2021
The Casiotone CT-S200 & CT-S300 released 2 years ago were extremely well received as they were super-portable, came in cheerful colors, and evoked a sense of nostalgia with the Generation-X. However, the existing Casiotones have a couple of weaknesses. The different models were also configured in a way that didn’t quite align with what the market really wanted. Casio came up with the brand new Casio CT-S1 which was just recently released, to address the needs and wants of the users.
The Casio CT-S1 is extremely portable even more so than the existing Casiotones, which are already very portable. It has a built-in carrying handle, 2 mounting points which are included at the bottom so that you can attach a standard guitar strap and carry your keyboard anywhere like a guitar making it playable as a keytar.
The CT-S1 is compact and lightweight as it weighs just four and a half kilograms or 9.9lbs. It can be battery operated, requiring 6AA batteries if you are not near an electrical outlet.
It has the usual class-compliant USB MIDI functionality with the option of plugging a wireless Bluetooth dongle into the USB port.
With the dongle, you can wirelessly connect via MIDI to your mobile DAW or stream backing tracks via Bluetooth to your keyboard speakers. Apart from that, you also have the option to use the auxiliary audio-in port if you do not have the optional Bluetooth device.
The CT-S1 can perform voice canceling on both the Bluetooth and auxiliary audio tracks for you to play or sing along with. Comparing to the Yamaha PSR-E373 fabric speaker covers the CT-S1 has a premium design feel to it. This does a great job in softening the hard plastic look of the CT-S1. The fabric also seems resistant to pet fur, which is not something I can say about my Yamaha PSR-E373. There is a strip of felt where the keys meet the chassis preventing dust from getting into the CT-S1
The Casio & Casiotone logos embossed into the plastic, which really shows the attention to detail by Casio to ensure the CT-S1 will look just as good 10 years down the road. The Casio CT-S1 is available in 3 colors - Black, White, and Red.
Notable Features of the CT-S1
The CT-S1 has a metronome and a mini headphone jack that doubles as an audio output for you to connect to more powerful amplifiers. There is a transpose & octave shift function, 17 scale tunings including many popular oriental tunings, and a port for you to connect an external pedal.
You can use the pedal to turn on and off the metronome in addition to controlling the usual sustain, soft, and sostenuto needed for piano playing. It is notable that you can configure which voice layer the pedal controls. Especially important when playing a piano tone layered with strings, where you want to sustain the piano sound but not the strings section. The CT-S1 also comes with a
in-built note sustain function where you can even configure how long you want the notes to sustain for occasions where you do not want to carry the pedal with you
As a scratchpad for your musical ideas, the CT-S1 has a ridiculously simple-to-use single track, single song recorder. It also has a reasonably powerful pair of amplifiers that drives two 13 cm speakers. Even with the volume cranked to its maximum, the sound output is clear, well defined, and free from any perceptible distortion
Standard Features of the CT-S1
The Casio CT-S1 is a 61 full-size touch-sensitive keys piano with 4 different velocity curves for you to choose from depending on your playing style. It does not come with weighted hammer action keys, but a light semi-weighted action, similar to the Yamaha NP32, Korg B2N & Alesis Recital keyboards. The keys also have matte key-tops which are lightly textured.
There will not be any issues with quick repeated notes which was a plus point as notes can be played repeatedly without having to totally lift my fingers off the keys. The keys are noticeably quieter than those found on current Casio keyboards in a similar price range.
Key Actions of the CT-S1
The Casio CT-S1 emphasizes quality over quantity, instead of the 400 voices found on the existing Casiotones, the CT-S1 contains 61 tones using Casio’s new AiX sound engine. The 28 most used tones can be quickly selected via the panel. This addresses one of the major complaints on existing Casiotone CT-S200 & CT-S300, where there wasn’t a way to change tones quickly.
The 28-panel tones are grouped into 7 categories. They are Piano, Electric Piano 1, Electric Piano 2, Organ, Keyboard, Synth & Others. You get 4 variations in each category, namely a Standard voice, an Advanced voice, a Modern voice, and a Vintage voice.
For the standard button variation, you get the best of Casio’s staple AiX sounds such as these. (Stage Piano, Stage Electric Piano, Digital Electric Piano, Jazz Organ, Synth Brass & Strings) Advanced voices are special patches with velocity switched samples, DSP effects, and articulations. (Piano Pad, Phaser Electric Piano, AMP 60’s E.Piano, Velocity Organ, Wah Clavinet, Magni Synth Pad, Guitar Pad) In the Modern voice category, you will find the tones used in many contemporary music. (Dynamic Piano, Dyno E. Piano, Galaxia E. Piano, Rock Organ, Clavi, Synth Strings, and Vibraphone) Finally, in the Vintage category, you can find more instrument voices popular in music prior to the 80s. (Classic Grand, Electric Grand, Tremolo 60’s Elec. Piano, Pipe Organ, Saw Lead, Symphonic Brass)
These tones are focused on keyboard tones which is quite a deviation from the existing Casiotones, which are arranger keyboards. All of the 61 tones, including the remaining 33 voices can be selected by holding down the Tone Variation button and pressing a corresponding key.
These voices can be layered, a feature the current Casiotones don’t have. The volume mix can also be adjusted. With 64 notes of polyphony, you are unlikely to experience note dropouts, as there isn’t a rhythm accompaniment feature on the CT-S1 to rob you of your precious note polyphony
The CT-S1 does not have the rhythm accompaniments on the existing Casiotones.
Instead, Casio decided to remind you of their heritage by including 11 classic tones from their VL pocket synthesizer, CT-101 Casiotone, CZ & VL-1 synthesizers from the 1980s.
There are 24 configurable reverbs which allow you to shape your sounds but the chorus, delay & DSP effects are hard-wired into most of the tones and cannot be configured or turned off.
You can also apply 10 preset equalizer settings configured for jazz, rock, classical, and dance music. There is also a “Surround” sound feature which can be turned on or off with a convenient panel button. This surround feature does not apply when you are using headphones.
With the Casio CT-S1, you can store the registrations that you painstaking configured on it. On a macro level, the CT-S1 inherits the “My Setup” feature from the existing Casiotones. This feature stores the unique way you like your keyboard to be set up every time you switch it on. In addition, you get 7 tone memory slots which store your setup after editing your tone, layering your sound, and balancing your volume mix.
Sound Quality of the CT-S1
Compared to the existing Casiotones, the CT-S1 feels noticeably more premium. The keys and buttons have a nice tactile feel. The volume knob has a good amount of resistance and buttons with little LED lights for volume control.
The chassis has no flex, especially at the bottom of the keys where the edge is.
Casio has reinforced the chassis where it matters without adding much to the weight. The judicious use of textures also makes the hard plastic feel less cold and cheap. While the keyboard comes with a music rest, it feels mismatched as it feels like it was plucked out from a common parts bin and put together in this package. The music rest also does not give you the confidence to place heavier songbooks on it.
Build Quality of the CT-S1
The Casio CT-S1 is really a huge improvement from its predecessors with its unique functions and well-thought design to keep it slick and portable.
I hope that this review of the Casio CT-S1 has been useful for you. Do check out the links provided in this article for the latest updates and prices of the Casio CT-S1. If this keyboard is not for you, do look at the other articles in this blog to find your ideal instrument.