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Review: Why This is a Great Keyboard (88-keys) for Beginners!

Updated: Jan 28

Review:

Casio CDP-S160

$899.99 USD

The Casio CDP-S160 is the latest entry-level 88-key keyboard to check all the boxes to be the perfect starter digital piano for beginner students. I am amazed that this established manufacturer managed to keep the price affordable while incorporating every feature any beginner will need for a few years. I will be making an in-depth review of the features and functionality of the CDP-S160 to help you make an informed purchase.



Key Actions

The CDP-S160 is just like a traditional acoustic piano, this keyboard comes with 88 full-size hammer action keys.

The keys are progressively weighted, which means the action feels heavier on the lower register and gets lighter as you move up to the higher register.


Full-size, graded hammer action keys are essential for any music student to transition to a traditional acoustic piano in the future. The keys on this keyboard are not as heavy as competing brands and that makes it suitable for beginners who have not developed sufficient finger strength to press hard enough on the keys. This is not a keyboard for an advanced classical pianist who whips out a set of gram weights to measure the touch response of every key.

With 4 levels of touch sensitivity, an absolute beginner can start off by switching off the velocity response during their 1st few weeks with the keyboard and gradually increase the touch response as he acquires greater finger strength and control.

The key surface does a fantastic job of replicating the materials used in traditional grand pianos. The lightly textured matte black keys on this digital piano replicate the ebony hardwood used on old pianos and the cream-colored fine grain finish of the white keys simulates animal ivory used on traditional pianos.

This is very good for beginners who get sweaty fingertips when they get nervous. These textured surfaces help keep their fingers planted.


If you prefer a keyboard with a heavier key action check it out here.



Sound Quality

The CDP-S160 is a very affordably priced digital piano, it comes with 10 tones instead of the hundreds offered by significantly more expensive alternatives. You get 3 different types of acoustic piano tones suitable for classical, jazz, and pop music. There are also 3 iconic electric pianos & a jazz organ often used in pop.

For the more adventurous music beginner, there is a harpsichord & pipe organ tone for Baroque-era music. To thicken up the sound, you get a couple of configurable reverb and chorus effects.


You can layer two voices but not split voices across this keyboard. The string voice on this keyboard is great for layering with other instruments. While the volume mix of the voice layers cannot be adjusted, it is doubtful that beginners would need this feature. To keep the price affordable for beginner students, you do not get fancy string and damper resonance which gobble up polyphony.


As such, the 64 note polyphony is more than sufficient to learn on for a few years. A pair of monitor speakers driven by a 16 watts amplifier are cleverly designed to fire both towards and away the player to create a bigger sound space.

At this affordable price, these speakers are not going to win any awards but they are adequate for practice purposes. You are better off with a pair of good headphones.


If you prefer a keyboard with a higher polyphony, check it out here. I have recommendations for headphones for you to take a look at. You can also check out my beginner piano app as well as some beginners video courses and course materials available for you. At the same time, you check out this free 25 Piano lesson as well.



Design and User Interface

The CDP-S160 takes design from takes design cues from the very popular 61-key CT-S1 keyboard. The matte red chassis is lightly textured and is made with good quality plastic with no discernible flex on the case.

If red is just a bit too hot for you, it is also available in black.


It is great that this keyboard favours function over form. Every function and every instrument name is printed on the chassis. This means you never have to refer to the manual to configure any feature unlike the competition where you will always need to constantly refer to the manual in order to change voices or set various parameters. It would been better if there was a LCD on on this keyboard but it is not a deal-breaker for most.


If you prefer a keyboard with a LCD Screen check it out here.


The CDP-S160 is also the world’s slimmest and most compact digital piano with 88 full size keys. It easily takes up less than half the footprint and weighs the least compared to its competitors.

When used with easily available AA batteries you can carry this keyboard with you anywhere. There is a power adaptor included if you prefer to use an electrical socket.

While this full-size keyboard is extremely portable, if you do not intend to move it around, you can get a beautiful wooden furniture stand to go with it. There is a basic sustain pedal included in the box, but advanced musicians who need soft, sostenuto and half-pedalling can get an optional triple pedal.

For reviewing your performance, this keyboard comes with a basic but extremely easy to use quick song recorder. You can use many free mobile apps if you want to do more advanced multi-track music production.

If you do not need portability, check out another keyboard recommendation here which is better than this but sacrifices portability.



Notable Features

In addition to a 3.5mm headphone jack, this keyboard also comes with a class compliant USB MIDI port.

This allows you to connect this keyboard to your laptop or mobile devices and use it with music learning apps.


Here I have recommendations for speakers, headphones, microphones, and other connectivity devices which you might be looking for.


An easy to use metronome is available to help you keep time when practicing.


During music lessons with my students, the Duet mode splits the keyboard sound into two identical parts so teachers can demonstrate to students while they replicates what was played.

You can also check out my beginner piano app as well as some beginners video courses and course materials available for you. At the same time, you check out this free 25 Piano lesson as well.



Conclusion

This is a perfect keyboard for absolute beginners who do not want to spend too much as you do not know how long your interest or enthusiasm will last. It is manufactured by an established brand, has every feature a beginner will need for a few years.


This keyboard is also extremely compact and portable but advanced classical pianists or performing professional musicians should look elsewhere as it does not have advanced features.


I hope you found my review of the Casio CDP-S160 useful. Do check out the links provided in this article for the latest and most updated information and prices of Casio CDP-S160. Do also take a look at my other articles to find the best and most suited instrument for your personal need. Also, check out my Piano App and beginner keyboard course available for you

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