Casio Celebrates its 30th Anniversary!
(ShackMan | Posted 2010-01-31)
Thirty years ago, Casio, a company lauded for their
technological innovations in consumer electronics such as the first electric compact calculator and computerized timepieces, announced it would enter the electronic musical
instruments business. Casio commemorated the 30th Anniversary of Casio Musical Products during Winter NAMM in Anaheim this month with a showcase that featured vintage products throughout the years as well as its current award-winning lineup, like the Privia line, some models of which I have tried.
As a Casio user, I can attest to the quality and durability of the CTK series keyboard I've owned for more than 15 years. Casio takes pride in providing digital pianos to young students or professionals running a studio on a budget, and there isn't much competition for them in that market, particularly in terms of price-for-product shopping. Casio knows their consumer base, and they continue to gear their instruments toward the focus group with great success.
Features like "Duet Mode" allow two people, perhaps student and teacher or soloist and accompanist, to play in the same range on two different ends of the piano, effectively splitting it into two keyboards. Personal favorites of mine are the 128-note polyphony and Layering featured on all Casio pianos. That means that up to 128-notes can be sounding before the piano will start to cut any others off. "But," you might say, "there are only 88 keys on a piano. How can that be helpful?" And the reason for that is that when the damper pedal is raised notes will continue to fade as others are pressed down; 128-note polyphony allows for continuous sound which fades into nothing like a real piano would, because the piano's processor can track each individual harmonic as it dies away. You might not think it makes much difference, but the brain is surprisingly apt at noticing every last ringing note and registering varying degrees of acoustic quality, a fact that has always made it tough for digital piano makers to make a true-sounding piano.
Conversely, one thing that I haven't always been a fan of in Casio pianos is its limited range of dynamic layers: only 4. While this doesn't mean that it only recognizes 4 degrees of loudness/softness (even MIDI can do more than four), it is a bit low when compared to Korg or Roland (who also make more expensive instruments, in Casio's defense). Still, it's the biggest thing I'd like to see Casio expanding and improving in the near future, and my only major complaint with the line of instruments, which have come a long way over the past 30 years.
It was in 1980 that Casio released the Casiotone (CT-201) electronic keyboard, designed to provide consumers with a simple and fun way to learn and play music without any special training or rigorous practice. The objective of the Casiotone was not to create a keyboard with the typical electronic sound but rather with tones that reproduced the sounds of the piano, organ and guitar. The Casiotone was well-received in Japan as the economic growth at the time created a culture defined by spiritual pursuits, one of which was music.
The CT-201 featured 49 full-size keys and was the world’s first digital sound bank instrument with 29 preset tones. Soon after, Casio introduced one of the first ultra-portable keyboards, the M10, a battery operated instrument featuring 31 mini-keys with 4 different tones. As the 1980’s went on, Casio made many strides in the musical instrument business. In 1986, Casio introduced the CZ-1, the company’s most advanced synthesizer. The CZ featured a 61-note keyboard, 8 track sequencer and backlit display. That same year, Casio welcomed the AZ-1, a 41-note velocity and aftertouch sensitive performance MIDI controller. Featuring two wheels, assignable switchers and sliders, the AZ-1 was the most powerful MIDI controller available. The AZ-1 made many appearances on the stage for musician Thomas Dolby and musical groups Miami Sound Machine and The Human League. The FZ-1, the world’s first 16 bit sampler featured up to 2MB of sample memory and sampling rates of 36kHz. The revolutionary 8-voice polyphonic sampler has been used by musical groups 2 Live Crew, Dee Lite and Kitaro.
In 2003, Casio’s Privia PX-100 revolutionized the digital piano category by creating a
slim and stylish portable and remarkably affordable instrument with an 88-key weighted
action. Since its inception, the Privia line has evolved and continues to provide users with
an authentic piano sound and feel with an elegant design.
“For the last 30 years, Casio has created musical instruments to educate and entertain
consumers,” says Mike Martin, director of marketing, Electronic Musical Instruments
Division. “We are thrilled to have touched the lives of so many enthusiasts throughout
their musical careers and strive to uphold the quality that has become synonymous with
Casio musical products.” Casio has recently won various "Product of the Year" awards for its keyboards, including the 2003/2004 German Music Retailer Association's "Product of the year award for the PX-100, Consumer Digest's "Best Buy" award for the PX-320 and Keyboard Magazine's "Key Buy" award for its successor, the PX-330.
Casio America, Inc. still markets calculators, keyboards, digital cameras, mobile presentation devices, disc title and label printers, watches, cash registers and other consumer electronic products. Casio has strived to realize its corporate creed of “creativity and contribution” through the introduction of innovative and imaginative products. For more information, visit www.casiousa.com.