Privia PX-130 continues Casio tradition of bringing in the Grand for well under a grand
(ShackMan | Posted 2011-07-12)
Before I start my review, I'd like to give a notice to Casio's public relations and shipping department. Not only did they offer both pianos in the first place, but they were shipped and at my door within about 48 hours. Now THAT is some impressive service. Of course, I dug into both the CTK-6000 and the PX-130 right away. Who can resist some new toys to play with? This is my review for the PX-130.
Now, I'd reviewed the PX-830 before, and I'd had some difficulty with using the 'Function' button and remembering all of the various actions I could use with it. I had actually suggested that Casio include a quick reference guide at one point in the review, but Casio simply set up a much simpler and more cohesive system in the PX-130. I think I found it a much easier and more fun board to play simply because I didn't feel like every bit of it was somehow tied to the 'Function' button. They also managed to throw in some great tones and the ability to handle a triple-pedal system and understand half-pedaling. Again, Casio takes a giant leap ahead of every other keyboard at their price point ($500 for the board and $600 for the bundle) and steps up the game, ever the leaders for the man who wants to make his every dollar count.
To be concise, I was thoroughly impressed with this interface, and particularly happy for the fact that the “Operation Tone,” as the Casio manual calls it (the tone that sounds whenever you use the function button and press one of the keys to change a setting), can be turned off. It's just fine for home use, very unobtrusive and quiet, meant for just the user to hear (It wouldn't surprise me to find out that Casio even researched that). But one hardly wants all the beeps and bips going off through a PA system. The fact that it can be turned off makes this just as much a stage and gigging piano as an at-home piano, because, well, the sounds...
...are absolutely crazy at this price point. Much like the PX-3 and the WK-7500 managed to bring the experiences of high-end stage pianos and workstations to a price point of less than half of their competitors, so does the PX-130 bring the sound of the major digital grand pianos to a man with lesser pocket size. I really dug both of the main piano sounds (Classic and Modern) for a very ambient and room-filling tone; neither one ever felt thin or dead even at the very ends of the keyboard. I felt just as comfortable playing Billy Joel's “Root Beer Rag” on the forward-sounding and lively Modern tone as I felt playing one of Beethoven's Eccosaise's on the more sensitive and dynamic Classic tone. I especially dug the slightly heavier feel that made the piano feel much more like a real grand to me (where the keys are ivory or ivorite), especially for a piano in this price range. If I'm going to be really overly picky, I'd say that they could have put the strike point a little higher to give it a bit of a quicker action.
The Electric Piano (Wurlitzer/Rhodes) was rather impressive and fun to play, and the Jazz Organ, even after my experience with the Nord Stage 2 and the Numa Organ (endorsed by Joey DeFrancesco), is still fun to play (In case you missed it, that was actually a pretty big compliment). Both tones, however, absolutely begged for a “drive” or “distortion” setting to add just a little more character and grit. They weren't bad patches though. In fact, the only ones that didn't jazz me were the Harpsichord sound, and the String sound. Casio string patches often feel somewhat synth-y to me for some reason, almost as though there are some brassy mids blaring through in the 400-600 Hertz range. They tend to feel more pushed than lush, although the Strings 2 patch didn't feel as much that way. I should add that, having played the PX-3, Casio is well on the right track to better sounding strings as several of the patches on there can attest. They aren't as good as Yamaha or Roland yet, but, keep in mind, O Consumer, ye be spending a few Benjamins more for that sound.
The effects section has the standard chorus and reverb, both pleasant and not overpowering. The addition of numbered keys (0-9) makes the metronome (And while I'm mentioning the metronome, I wish there was a setting to put it into 7/4), tuning, MIDI, and several other functions plenty easy to use. Reading through the manual, one of the features I hadn't read about but that I absolutely went nuts for was the temperament setting, and I'm not talking about just adjusting 'A' away from 440Hz. I'm talking about one of 16 completely different temperament settings, including, but not limited to Equal (default), Pure Major, Pure Minor, Pythagorean (the original tuning), Kirnberger, Werckmeister, Mean-Tone, Rast, Bayati, Hijaz, Saba, Dashti, Chahargah, Segah, Gurjari Todi, Chandrakauns, and Charukeshi. This is literally enough to play music from most any part of the world, and plenty to play with for the budding or professional keyboard player who wants to explore. I've never seen a feature like this on any other keyboard, ever, but now that I have it I absolutely WISH others would include it! Each of these tunings are customizable to be based off of any of the 12 chromatic pitches (e.g. Pure A Major, Equal Temp. from F#, Mean-Tone in D). Simply one of the coolest features I've ever seen on a keyboard, hands down. (For those who don't know what those tunings are the Wikipedia articles are very informative on the topic.) There were a few times I would have appreciated a modulation wheel to put the last bit of icing on the cake and add just a little bit more functionality, but those were few and far between and mostly occurred when I was in MIDI mode.
Additional features I did appreciate having included the ability to adjust the volume of layered instruments, changing the octave of each side of the split keyboard when in Duet mode, and being able to split the triple pedal so that the pedals on either side act as dampers for either player, while the middle adjusts dampers for both sides, also while in Duet mode. I can easily love its light weight (well under 25 pounds), and small frame (easy to store in your average closet), as well as its classy, sleek, black and gray look. The included music stand is sturdy and fit snugly into the top of the keyboard. All in all, it was a solid setup.
Last but not least, I attempted to address some problems I've read about on various forums with using the PX-130 as a MIDI Controller, particularly with various versions of Windows 7 and Pro-Tools when connecting over USB-based MIDI. In these (very rare) cases, the user would find that his computer had recognized the PX-130, but ProTools had not. Honestly, I couldn't find a way to replicate them with Windows 7 or any other operating system. I was able to get ProTools, Cubase, Finale, Logic, and Cakewalk Sonar to recognize it without any trouble on Windows XP, Vista, and 7 (32-bit and 64-bit versions). I don't own a Macintosh, but I haven't heard of any problems with that as of yet. I believe the problem to be more of an issue with ProTools than with the actual keyboard, especially due to their (until recently) very strict hardware compatibility, which may have created issues for users who were using older versions of ProTools. I received the following comment from Mike Martin, General Manager of Marketing at Casio: " The PX-130 and all Casio products have a “Class Compliant” USB MIDI Interface. This means that they work on Windows, Mac’s and even and iPad without the need for drivers. This is true Plug n’ Play." That was exactly what the absolute majority of users like myself have experienced with the PX-130 and Casio keyboards across the spectrum.
The PX-130 is a full package, apart from some minor complaints about string sounds and the lack of a modulation wheel, and worth well more than its $500 price tag, as I've said a dozen times before, and I'm sure I'll say a dozen times again the more I write about Casio musical instruments. They never cease to impress me with solid tone, ease-of-use, and a great feel that brings simplicity and savings to a much bigger playing experience. A fantastic product.
James Rushin is a bassist, keyboardist, writer, and composer living and working in the Greater Pittsburgh area. He has performed with Selmer artist Tim Price, Curtis Johnson, guitarists Ken Karsh and Joe Negri. His compositions have been featured in and around Pittsburgh, at West Virginia University and Valley Forge Christian College. He is currently performing with recording artist Ben Shannon and singer/songwriters Tim Ruff, and Nathan Zoob (who is still in the process of getting a website - Music to come soon!).
Got questions? Comments? James can be reached as ShackMan in the Music Gear Review forums, or you may e-mail him at James.Rushin@MusicGearReview.com.