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November 29, 2008 | Reviewer: Stu Hosking

For the manufacturers of portable digital pianos,  it can be a bit of a balancing act … keeping the keyboard light enough to be moved around while still performing the duties of a piano authentically. The people at Casio seem to achieve this juggling act admirably. For example, Casio’s new CDP-200R is only 12 kgs but still manages to provide an impressive scaled weighted action. This scaled piano action means that the keyboard feels more like a real piano. The high notes have a lighter touch to them than the lower notes and will make piano players feel at home straight away.

This model has the new Casio AHL sound source, which is in many of the new Casio models. Importantly for a digital piano, this unit has an improved piano sound source with multiple elements so the sample sources heard when playing softly, differ from the sound when the keyboard is played strongly. This makes a huge difference in reproducing a realistic piano. It is a feature often seen in high end keyboards and great to find in this reasonably priced Casio.

Beyond the basic requirements of a digital piano is where this keyboard really takes off. Casio has managed to squeeze many of the powerful features of their new CTK range into this keyboard (see review in Spring issue).  On board USB general MIDI is a big plus. Utilising the full range of sounds on the Casio via your favourite PC/MAC music program couldn’t be easier.  While we’re on the back panel, the usual sustain pedal jack is there (and a pedal is included) and there is an audio input for sampling. That’s right … 10 seconds worth in fact, so this is REAL usable sampling space for drum beats or any other source like your  iPod or voice. There is also a Microphone input along with a mic volume control on the front panel so you can sing along as you play with your voice mixed in with the keyboard through the on-board speakers, which project a big full sound for such a slimline keyboard.

There are so many features in this keyboard that at first glance it could be a little overwhelming, but the registrations allow you to change between settings really quickly and if you are gigging, that’s a must-have . The registrations store the sounds you have selected including split/layers along with all the rhythm settings and you can have 32 of them set up ready to go. More memory is available by saving your data to an SD card. The keyboard can use cards up to 2GB and can save all your registrations, samples, user  scales and rhythms along with songs from the on board 5 song, 6 track recorder.

An SD card slot on a digital piano may seem a little out of place but with all the editable features on this unit, it’s essential. Scales for eastern music can be user made and saved to the card alongside user rhythms made by changing the accompaniment settings and sounds. The SD card also allows for playback standard MIDI files, opening up a huge library of songs, which alongside those you can create on the internal song recorder, is a great performance feature. For those that aren’t yet out performing, there is the new “step up” lesson system provided. This feature takes you step by step through one of the 100 built-in songs using the ‘listen, watch, then play’ routine. The large LCD features a full keyboard layout plus music staves and fingering chart to make the lessons as easy as possible.

All up, this is a great keyboard.  It’s difficult to see it as just a digital piano, although it does a great job at being just that. The weighted keyboard feels great and not sluggish like some, and the dual element stereo piano sound performs really well. This alone justifies the unassuming price tag.  But there is so much more to this keyboard with loads of performance features like sampling, microphone input, midi file playback and editable accompaniments. You can even play your iPod through the keyboard’s speaker system. Then there are a bunch of songwriting and learning or practicing functions like the song recorder, step up lesson system and USB computer connectivity, making for a very well rounded keyboard that is equally at home on the stage, or in the lounge room.

So for a family looking for a good learning piano for their kids before investing in an acoustic piano,  this is a great unit. It will allow the kids to delve deeper into music itself than just the scales and chords their teacher gives them. For performing musicians who need portability, great sounds and a bunch of features on a budget this also fits the bill. A true All-rounder.

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