Casio Privia PX-160 Digital Piano
By Phil O'Keefe |
Casio Privia PX-160 Digital Piano
Powerful, portable piano powerhouse... for your house?
by Phil O'Keefe
I'm old enough to remember a time when a lot of people had an acoustic piano in their living room. A piano is great to have around the house, and can serve as a home's musical centerpiece - a place for people to gather around to share and entertain each other with music. But acoustic pianos have their issues, starting with the need for regular maintenance and tuning, which turns off a lot of people. Digital pianos don't have those same maintenance requirements…not to mention they're a lot more portable and have modern features that make them better-suited to recording. Then there's the price - Casio's latest offering in the affordable digital piano market, the PX-160 is significantly less expensive than your typical acoustic piano. Let's take one for a spin and see what else it has to offer.
- The Casio Privia PX-160 digital piano is an update to their earlier and very popular Privia PX-150. It's available in two colors - black or champagne gold.
- The PX-160 is very compact for a weighted-action 88 key digital piano, measuring 52 1/16" W x 11 9/16 D x 5 9/16" H and weighing in at a surprisingly portable 24.5 pounds.
- Maximum polyphony is 128 notes, so you're not likely to "run out" of polyphony.
- The PX-160 utilizes Casio's 88-note, Tri-Sensor Scaled Hammer-Action II keyboard. It offers four different levels of velocity sensitivity and touch response (including off) to accommodate those with lighter or heavier-handed playing styles.
- The Casio Privia PX-160 is a delight to play. With fully-weighted keys, the "feel" is much more reminiscent of a real acoustic piano than a synth action or semi-weighted keyboard. Another nice touch is that the key surfaces are textured to simulate the tactile feel of real ebony and ivory. It's subtle, but it feels more natural than slick, untextured plastic keys.
- Two onboard 8W x 8W amplifiers power two 12 cm onboard rear-ported speakers. These are easily audible from the playing position - especially if you have the PX-160 sitting in front of a wall so you hear any reflections as well. It also projects well to an audience if you're positioned directly in front of them.
- There are also openings in the front of the unit too, which helps you hear what you're playing. The speaker configuration is much better than on competing digital pianos with downward-firing speakers.
- I have to admit I was surprised by the sound levels the PX-160 can attain - there should be plenty of volume available to satisfy all but the most volume-obsessed home users, and there's even enough on tap to be able to use the Privia PX-160 for smaller, more intimate gigs.
- A basic damper pedal is included with the PX-160, along with a music stand that inserts into a slot on the top of the unit.
- The rear of the Casio Privia PX-160 houses most of its connectors: power jack for the included external "line lump" style power adapter, stereo 1/4" Line Output jacks for connecting to a PA or keyboard amp, and a 1/4" jack for the included damper pedal.
- There's also a rear panel-mounted USB 2.0 Type-B port that is compatible with Mac (OS X 10.3.9 or later) and Windows (Vista 32-bit, Win 7 or later 32- and 64-bit) computers and is class compliant, so you don't need to install any additional drivers.
- An optional stand gives the PX-160 more of a traditional upright piano vibe. To enhance the acoustic piano-like expressiveness, the optional SP-33 pedal bar can be used with the stand to give the Privia PX-160 not only a damper pedal, but soft and sostenuto pedals too. You can even use the two "outside" pedals as dual dampers when playing in Duet mode.
- A damper pedal noise function recreates the metallic sound that an acoustic piano makes when you "lift" the dampers off the strings with the pedal. This is "on" by default but can be turned off. It's subtle, but adds to the realism of the Privia PX-160's sound.
- There are a total of 18 different sounds (Casio calls them "Tones") built into the Casio Privia PX-160. The list includes Concert, Modern, Classic, Mellow and Bright Grand Pianos, Electric Piano 1 and 2, FM E. Piano, 60's E. Piano, Harpsichord, Vibraphone, Strings 1 and 2, Pipe Organ, Jazz Organ, Elec. Organ 1 and 2 and Bass (lower).
- The controls are very simple, and consist of eight buttons and a single rotary volume control mounted on the top panel.
- How you select Tones depends on which sound you want to use. There are dedicated buttons for selecting the Concert and Modern Grand sounds, as well as Elec. Piano 1. You select the remaining 15 tones by pressing and holding the Function button, and then pressing the note that corresponds with one of the Tone names (listed on the PX-160's case directly above the keyboard). By default the PX-160 makes a slight beep to let you know you've successfully selected a new Tone, but that can be turned off if you want. Either way, selecting Tones is fast, and easier than it sounds.
- The Privia PX-160's built-in effects can augment the internal sounds. There are four different Reverb types (Room, Small Hall, Large Hall and Stadium), three Chorus settings (Light, Medium and Deep) and a Flanger.
- Other functions are handled similarly to selecting Tones, with the various parameters listed directly above the keyboard. Alternatively, you can use the + and - keys to move through the selected function's options.
- There are two 1/8" headphone jacks mounted on the left side of the front panel. Plugging into either one of the jacks automatically turns off the internal speakers so you can practice silently without disturbing anyone else.
- The keyboard can be split, and you can also layer any two Tones of your choice. Additionally, a Lesson Function can split the keyboard into two equal regions, each with the same note range, so that students and teachers can sit side by side while demonstrating and learning parts.
- The only exception to the layering function is the (upright) Bass Tone, which is always assigned as a keyboard split to the lowest region of the keyboard, up to F# below Middle C. Whatever sound was selected prior to selecting the Bass Tone automatically remains assigned to the remainder of the keyboard.
- There are 60 pre-recorded songs built into an onboard player. You can practice along with these songs, and even turn off the left or right hand parts independently so you can work on them separately if you'd like.
- A built-in flash memory recorder can record up to ten User Songs. There are two tracks, so you can record the left and right hand parts separately. The recorder has a capacity of approximately 5,000 notes.
- User Song data can be offloaded or loaded into the Privia PX-160's memory from your computer over USB. There is approximately 90KB available per song, for a total of 900KB for the ten User Songs.
- The rear panel connectors are all mounted directly to inner printed circuit boards and are not hard-mounted to the external case, which made me a bit concerned because they flex a bit, so I worried that they might be an area prone to damage if you're connecting and disconnecting the cables a lot. However, Casio assures me that they just don't get any returns or warranty claims based on this, and I was also unable to find any reports or complaints about the jacks online so it appears to be a non-issue. If you're still worried about it, there's a three-year warranty on the Privia PX-160, which should allay your fears.
- There are no pitch bend or modulation wheels, which limits the PX-160's utility as a master keyboard controller.
- Accessing and editing some of the onboard Functions require the use of keys directly below the front-panel speakers, and so there are no names printed on the front panel for those Functions - you'll need to refer to the manual. Fortunately these keys are used for the Functions you're less likely to change a lot, such as Metronome Volume, MIDI Send Channel, Local Control On/Off, Damper noise On/Off… the main exception to that is probably the Transpose function, but even then I suspect some people will use that function more than others will.
Casio packed a very impressive sound engine and a great-feeling keyboard into a surprisingly light package with the Privia PX-160. WIth the optional stand and pedal, the Privia PX-160 transforms itself from a lightweight and very portable piano powerhouse to a digital piano that will look right at home in your house.
Several features make the Casio Privia PX-160 very learning- and lesson-friendly for neophyte players and teachers alike - thanks to the ability to split the keyboard into two equal regions, the option to record what you play so you can review your playing, the ability to record and work on the left and right hand parts separately or together, the built-in metronome, and the dual headphone jacks.
Concerns are very few, especially at this price. The lack of pitch and modulation control wheels makes it less useful as a live performance MIDI or studio DAW controller, but they're certainly not needed for the Privia PX-160's primary purpose as a digital piano. Then again it could work well as a stage piano, and it certainly could be used as a weighted-action DAW controller as long as you have other means of entering controller data. It would also be perfect as a digital piano for home or dorm use.
The somewhat wobbly output jacks will be a concern for some too, but my testing and online research tells me that's probably unfounded and that despite a bit of wiggle, they're reliable.
While there are relatively few onboard sounds compared to some keyboards, what's included sounds very good. I particularly like the Concert Grand, Harpsichord, 60's E. Piano and Jazz Organ. Like the Electric Piano Tones, the Strings have been updated since the PX-150 and sound very good too; they layer very well with the various piano Tones. Add a bit of reverb and all of the onboard Tones are all very convincing and pleasant to play with, and there's certainly much more variety on hand than what you'd get from an electric or acoustic piano.
Coupled with a comfortable and expressive weighted keyboard that you don't have to have professionally tuned multiple times a year and a surprisingly full-sounding onboard speaker system, the PX-160 is a highly attractive alternative to an acoustic piano, as well as an excellent choice for those who need a good sounding, lightweight weighted-action 88 key digital piano at an affordable price. -HC-
Have questions or comments about the Casio Privia PX-160? Then click right here to join the discussion in the Keys, Synths and Samplers forum right here on Harmony Central!
Casio Privia PX-160 Digital Piano ($799.99 MSRP, $499.00 "street"), optional Casio CS-67 stand ($99.00 "street"), optional Casio 3-pedal bar for use with CS-67 stand ($74.99 "street" - the stand and pedal bar can be purchased together for $150 "street")
Casio's product web page
Casio Privia PX-160 Manual (PDF file)
You can purchase the Casio PX-160 digital piano from:
Casio Privia PX-160 Overview
Selecting Sounds, Layering and Splitting The Keyboard
Using The 2 Track Recorder
Using The Duet Mode
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.