Casio PX-5S Privia Pro Digital Stage Piano Review
Something is happening at Casio. After the manufacturer re-entered the synthesizer market some time ago and the digital piano repertoire is constantly being expanded and renewed, the stage piano area is now on the list of the multi-group. At this year’s Musikmesse the Casio PX-5S stage piano was presented to the public for the first time and we had one of the current models to test in the studio. The following test should show whether it is worth taking a closer look.
Some Casio digital pianos have been around for some time as portable versions that can also be used for one or the other live performance. But the presentation and the housing of the PX150 / PX350 was aimed more at the home area. The PX-5S presents itself differently, which can definitely score points in terms of weight and is already appealing when you lift it for the first time due to the low weight of 11 kg. In terms of color, Casio is breaking new ground and the well-known black is giving way to the much more modern-looking white with blue accents on the user interface. Only the lower part of the stage piano case is still black.
The user interface is clear and neatly structured. The right side houses the USB-to-device interface, the buttons for calling up the stage settings, and for operating the menu. Directly to the left is the LC display, which can display a maximum of four lines and is definitely too small for a device of this type. Further to the left are the sound area, the effects, and the buttons for the internal song player. The end of the user interface is marked by a pair of faders and knobs as well as pitch bend and modulation wheels. I will come back to the six faders and knobs in particular later.
Casio PX-5S Privia Pro overwiew
With the PRIVIA Pro PX-5S comes the complete key equipment for stage and studio. With 370 tones in AiR quality, the hex layer sounds, the synthesizer engine, four master keyboard zones, freely configurable knobs and sliders, an arpeggiator, and a phrase sequencer with four tracks, the PX-5S is a sonorous stage piano and a powerful one Master keyboard.
- new multi-dimensional AiR sound generation
- 256-part polyphony (max.)
- 4 master keyboard zones
- scaled hammer mechanism II
- tri-sensor keyboard
- synthetic ebony and ivory texture
- high-resolution velocity
- key-off velocity
- envelope response pedal (assignable)
- 370 tones
- new vintage Electric pianos
- Synthesizer engine
- Lid simulation
- String resonance
- Damper resonance
- Hammer response
- Audio recording function
- Reverb (Hall)
- 4 DSP (with new amp simulation)
- Master effects: 4-band EQ + compressor
- Stage Settings (100)
- Phrase Sequencer
- Battery operation possible
- 4 rotary controllers
- 6 multifunctional slider
- pitch bend wheel
- modulation wheel
- tuning Fine-tuning
- Octave shift Backlit
- Headphone connection (2x)
- Pedal connection (2x)
- USB interface (storage medium)
- USB interface (PC)
- audio input
- Line-In (L / Mono, R)
- Line-Out (L / Mono, R)
- MIDI (In, Out)
- General MIDI Level 1 Standard
- LC display with background lighting
- Weight 11.1 kg
- including the power adapter, SP-3 pedal
- lots of sounds
- Phrases Player
- expandable ease of use
- lots of plastic on the case, controls
Connections & processing
On the output side, the Casio PX-5S has a stereo jack output (2x 6.3 mm), while external signals find their way into the stage piano either via stereo mini-jack or via the 6.3 mm jack connections. Two headphone connections, two pedals, USB-to-host, and MIDI In / Out complete the rear of the PX-5S. Unfortunately, Casio has omitted the internal power supply in its current model. However, the PX-5S can optionally also be operated with eight AA batteries. Not bad, because the stage piano is also interesting for mobile artists and walking acts.
The PX-5S can be connected to the computer via the USB interface and the free editor software can be used to program the stage piano because the small LC display is really no fun.
The workmanship of the PX-5S is, unfortunately, the only average because in addition to the housing all controls are made entirely of plastic, so that there is, of course, a qualitative difference to devices in the higher price range. And the PX-5S is not intended for the living room, but for the stage and it needs more than a little plastic. Unfortunately, you won’t look for really heavy knobs or faders on the PX-5S. Casio uses inexpensive plastic for many of its products and prefers to supply its keyboards and digital pianos with more sounds and functions. But as I said, Casio wants to get on stage with the PX-5S and a little more value should be placed on the processing quality.
USB interface placed directly on the user interface
If Casio wants to catch up with competitors from Roland, Yamaha, or Korg with the PX-5S, the stage piano must above all be convincing in terms of sound. Casio already offers a very wide range of sounds in its digital pianos, so that shouldn’t be a problem with the current model, right? The PX-5S has a total of around 340 presets and 220 user sounds under the hood and these are spread across all conceivable categories. From pianos to organs, guitars, basses, and a large number of synthesizer sounds, everything is represented. Especially the last mentioned can convince immediately when stepping through the presets.
A highlight of the PX-5S is certainly the HEX sounds, which layer up to six different sounds and can therefore sound big and fat. With such layers, you always have to keep an eye on the maximum polyphony with other devices, but since this is a strong 256 voices with the PX-5S, you really don’t have to worry about that with the Casio. The editing options for the HEX sounds are also very good. The Edit button takes you to the menu pages that reveal many parameters of the respective sound and thus offer access to LFOs, envelopes, waveforms, etc. Almost no direct competitor of the casino offers that either.
The standard sounds such as piano, e-piano, and strings can also convince with the PX-5S. The acoustic piano offers a very assertive sound, which should not be underestimated, especially with a stage piano, because this often has to be able to assert itself in the dense band arrangement. The same applies to the electric pianos, which are available in different variations such as Rhodes, Wurlitzer, or FM piano. With that, a lot can be covered stylistically. Very well. It continues with a variety of different strings, wind instruments, and guitar/bass sounds, all of which are of good quality. The organ sounds are qualitatively somewhat poorer, they have a very static sound and often seem far too unemotional. Many of the sounds turned out to be very thin. Overall, the quality of the sounds is really good.
The sound repertoire of the Casio PX-5S is really successful and the manufacturer does not need to hide from the big top dogs. The operation is also successful, but it definitely suffers from the too-small display. Casio should definitely make improvements in future models.
The six faders and four knobs already mentioned give you direct access to a wide variety of parameters. These can be programmed completely freely and so, in addition to effect settings, you can, for example, manage filter runs. Programming is quite difficult due to the small display, but luckily it can also be done using editor software. Once you have programmed all the desired functions, however, it becomes difficult again, because after calling up a setting you initially have no way of seeing which parameter has been programmed where. This is only shown in the display after you have operated the fader or rotary control. Under certain circumstances, it can already be too late, because the faders and knobs do not adopt the current value after switching the sound. If you then press an element, the parameter automatically jumps to the value at which the fader is currently. So the idea behind it and the possibilities that arise from it are very good, but the whole thing can definitely be improved.
Master keyboard and stage settings
The Casio PX-5S can also be used as a master keyboard in a larger setup due to the maximum possible four zones. Each zone of the four zones can send out MIDI data to external devices and more complex setups with MIDI commands such as program change, bank select, transpose, etc. can also be managed. You can save everything together in one of the 100 stage settings. In addition to the keyboard layout, all other parameters such as sounds, effects, pan, or volume settings are also saved here. These master keyboard functions are otherwise only known from higher-quality devices, making the PX-5S much more than a simple stage piano.
When it comes to the effects department of the PX-5S, Casio has done nothing wrong, so that instead of the otherwise usual reverb and chorus section, the PX-5S is initially divided into master, system, and DSP. The master section affects the overall sound of the Casio via a compressor and equalizer, while the system section offers the three parallel effects reverb, delay, and chorus. The DSP effects are a collection of other effects such as phaser, flanger, pitch shifter, or ring modulator. Overall, the quality of the effects is very convincing. The division into the three areas allows you to create very good effect combinations. Something I missed was an amp simulation that could certainly have been used well.
The keyboard of the Casio PX-5S is the “Tri-Sensor Hammer Mechanik II” with 88 keys known from the Casio digital pianos. This is scaled so that the lower keyboard areas require more effort than the higher ones. Overall, the keyboard is easy to play and offers decent dynamics, so that even the smallest gradations can be clearly audible when touching. The weighting is successful for a stage piano so that you can not only play the piano, but also organ or synthesizer sounds. The surface of the keys is coated with a synthetic substance that is a little roughened and thus ensures a good grip.
The PX-5S can also be used as a song player via the USB interface. So you can use audio files (WAV) as play-along and play them live. The stage piano also has an arpeggiator and around 1,000 phrases on board. The arpeggiator brings all the sounds of the PX-5S to life with 100 ready-made presets and largely ensures the often very successful sounds of the stage settings. The phrases offer quite complex loops as well as one-shot samples that can be fired at the push of a button. Your own game can be recorded and saved as an audio file. This is not stored internally, but directly on an inserted USB memory stick. In addition, the PX-5S also offers a 16-track MIDI sequencer. All around, many possibilities that the PX-5S offers here.
With the PX-5S, Casio is bringing a very well-equipped stage piano onto the market, which is particularly impressive with its numerous sounds, many functions, arpeggiator, and phrase player. The previous top dogs do not offer that many possibilities and should be careful from now on. Casio will certainly not stop at the PX-5S and will soon be launching more stage pianos. The entry went wonderfully and should shake up the market a bit.