Review: The Best Beginner Keyboards from Casio. CT-S400 and LK-S450
Updated: Jun 5
The Casiotone CT-S400 and the LK-S450 both come with 61 full-size touch-sensitive keys and 4 velocity curves you can choose from depending on your playing style. The keys are synth-action keys that have a semi-weighted feel to them, which is great for playing piano & electric piano tones.
Both keyboards have white keys that are lightly textured and the black keys have a matte finish, better than those glossy plastic keys found on competing keyboards. With the matte keys, it allows your finger to stay planted on the keys even extended playing.
There is some key noise if you press the keys without turning the keyboard but are not audible once you start playing at moderate volume. Comparing it to the CT-S1, these keys are not as high quality.
The main difference in the keys of the CT-S400 and the LK-S450 is the key-lighting system. The keys on the LK-S450 light up to guide you on the notes you need to play when you are using the lesson feature or when you play MIDI files on the keyboard. Up to 10 keys can be lighted up at the same time and can be toggled on or off when needed.
Both the CT-S400 & LK-S450 come with identical 600 tones powered by Casio’s new AiX sound chip found on the CT-X keyboards making these Casiotones sound much better than the CT-S100, 200 & 300 which uses the older AHL sound chip.
These 600 tones are grouped into 14 categories making it easier to select voices compared to previous Casiotones. They can be layered or split so that you can easily balance the volume mix of the voices, a feature not available on earlier Casiotones. To thicken up these tones, Casio gives you 20 reverb, 10 chorus effects & 10 master EQ settings. One downside is that most tones come with factory-programmed DSP effects with no way to switch off the DSP or to vary the amount of effect applied.
Both these keyboards support a sustain pedal at the same time there is a convenient configurable panel sustain button if you want to sustain your notes without a pedal. The sustain pedal can be used with specific voice layers, which is very useful when you layer piano & strings but only want sustained notes on the piano tone.
Casio included 100 arpeggiator patterns useful for those playing Electronic Dance Music or tricky piano arpeggio. They also included 12 Auto-Harmonies which are really useful for thickening up melodies with little effort.
Even though with all these fantastic features, it is ironic that the more expensive CT-S400 & LK-S450 gets only 48 notes of polyphony whereas the cheaper CT-S1 without all these bells and whistles gets 64 notes of polyphony.
The difference you get on the CT-S400 is a useful pitch blend wheel, which unfortunately is unavailable on the more expensive LK-S450
Unlike the Casio CT-S1, both the CT-S400 & LK-S450 are arranger keyboards. They come with 195 rhythms and accompaniment patterns. These accompaniment rhythms are useful for solo playing, for singing along, or for sketching out music arrangements.
The rhythms are grouped into 15 categories for quick recall which is a massive improvement from previous Casiotones. If none of the 195 rhythms are suitable for you, these keyboards give you the ability to load up to 10 more user-created rhythms, which you can easily find online. Each rhythm comes with 2 variations, 2 rhythm fills 1 intro, and 1 ending.
The only issue with the rhythms is that they are not as well programmed as the competition. The transitions between rhythm variations and rhythm fills are not as smooth. The accompaniments are not bad by any means, just that the competition does it better. However, Casio makes up for this by having every imaginable chord detection mode which the competition sorely lacks.
These new keyboards also correct a critical flaw found in the previous Casiotones. In the previous Casiotones, when in accompaniment mode, you cannot play a chord without triggering the rhythm which was a problem for beginners who takes online keyboard courses and were not ready to play with a beat.
In addition to an audio-in jack & USB MIDI port, you can purchase an optional wireless MIDI & audio Bluetooth adaptor.
It would be nice if these wireless features to built into the keyboard but that would raise the cost of the keyboard and not everyone would need these features.
These keyboards can be powered via an electrical outlet or AA batteries.
The LK-S450 comes with a microphone input as well as reverb & chorus effects you can apply to your voice for you to sing along with.
They have a recessed carrying handle and 2 mounting points which are included at the bottom so that you can attach a standard guitar strap. This makes carrying them around easy and convenient and at the same time making it playable as a keytar. Comparing them to the huge cut-out handles on previous Casiotones, the grips are not as comfortable. Also, the CT-S400 & LK-S450 come with a functional but rather uninspiring and drab wireframe music rest.
Both the CT-S400 & LK-S450 have a large, bright, legible, and context-aware backlit LCD screen. Depending on the mode you are in, the functions below the screen change dynamically to best suit your situation. One unique function is that when you are on the HOME screen, each of the 5 buttons can be user-configured to trigger different functions according to your needs.
The CT-S400 & LK-S450 now comes with a 6 track recorder with the capacity to save up to 5 songs. Although, frankly, multi-track song recording is best accomplished via MIDI with free software such as Garage Band or Cakewalk on your iPad or computer. Casio has a Chordana app for you to learn songs using MIDI but honestly any 3rd party music learning apps do a much better job.
Unlike previous Casiotones where we could only save a single measly user registration, the CT-S400 can now save up to 32 user registrations. However, the more expensive LK-S450 sacrifices this feature, in exchange for a lesson mode
Speaker and Build Quality
The CT-S400 & LK-S450 have the same 13 by 6 cm speakers and a pair of 2.5 watts amplifiers as the CT-S1 and they are very good. With 5 watts of amplification, the volume won’t be very loud but the sound is clean, clear and distortion free even when the volume is pushed to the max.
In addition, Casio cleverly created 2 perforated cutouts below the keyboard for the sound output so you get a bigger stereo effect with the surround button activated.
While everything is made of plastic, the textured panels on the keyboards give a premium feel to it.
Just like the previous Casiotones, Casio is again forcing us to choose between having nice cheerful colours or having features we want. If you want a Casiotone in the much nicer red or white colour, you cannot have the arranger accompaniment rhythm features. If you don’t need ultra-portability, Casio has another keyboard which is up to $100 cheaper than the CT-S400 & LK-S450, has the same tones, rhythms, features and functionality as well as the ability to save 32 registrations without sacrificing the lesson mode.
I hope that this review of the The Casiotone CT-S400 and the LK-S450 has been useful for you. Do check out the links provided in this article for the latest updates and prices of the the CT-S400 and the LK-S450 If this keyboard is not for you, do look at the other articles in this blog to find your ideal instrument.