Oct 16

INTRODUCING THE CASIO PRIVIA PX-3


Casio are a company that are currently celebrating their 30th Anniversary and for me were best known for their home keyboards. In my opinion, they have always been great value for money quite often providing some very innovative ideas but keeping everything sensibly priced. For many musicians, thinking about them from a professional gigging point of view, I think it would be fair to say that they would not be a name near the top of their list when thinking about buying a synth or piano. Today however the world is a different place and if you have read some of my recent reviews you will find that especially where keybeds and keyboard action are concerned, even the companies that we love and trust do not necessarily provide us with a good keybed that is a pleasure to play but they still charge us an arm and a leg for the product. If it does have a great keyboard with touch-sensitive hammer action full size keys with after-touch then the chances are the weight of carrying around may put you off.

Casio now have a stage piano with a keybed – the Casio Privia PX-3 Digital Stage Piano that on paper sounds like it is exactly what we are looking for with an incredible weight of only 23.8 lbs. which is a fantastic 10.8 kilos just right to carry about under one arm. I have tried a few lighter-weight keyboards recently and unfortunately they don’t quite hit the spot with their very plastic-like feel so I thought I would play a selection of some different types of music on one and see what it really feels like and how it compares with the competition.

KEYBOARD ACTION ON THE PX-3


OK let’s get straight to it, forget the sound for a minute and concentrate on what this keybed is all about. Firstly Casio tell us it has – “Ivory touch, matt finish keys that compliments the patented Casio Tri-Sensor Hammer Action which provides the PX-3 with exceptional feel and response and it has 128 note polyphony with the keyboard ‘scaled’ so that the key’s resistance very gradually increases as you move down to the lower notes just as they would on a real piano”. It does seem to be based on their popular new Casio PX330 Privia portable piano, but this new Casio PX3 Stage Piano does not have internal speakers and also incorporates the new “ivory feel” keyboard that you can find on their flagship Casio Celviano models. Well the idea of having ivory feel keys on a low priced pro digital piano sounds great to me – so here goes.

Well I am really impressed with the feel of this and very surprised at just how good it is for this weight of keyboard and price. Strangely it doesn’t feel like a lightweight keyboard, as there is sufficient weight in the keys. It seems that it also has a quality about it that doesn’t make your hands feel so tired after playing it for a few hours as other keyboards with hammer action do. The ivory keys also meant that my hands did not slip so much with their matt coating responding in a similar way to real piano keys. Unlike some keyboards it also doesn’t spring back at you but provides a constant evenness as the keys return to assist with your performance. It far out-classes the Yamaha MOX keybed that I tried recently and I have to say it is much better than Korg’s RX-3 keyboard used on their SV-1 stage piano, M3 and Kronos Synth.

There is a small amount of play in the Black keys but unless you actually get hold of one and wiggle it, you don’t actually notice this and it did not affect my playing in anyway. I still love the feel and the ivory keys on my Roland G8 but this instrument is just not portable, so putting the weight and cost issues to one side for a minute and I know it is unfair to do so but how do these two keybeds compare? I have to say it isn’t as good as my Roland and I personally feel that the action on my G8 is excellent and takes a lot of beating in both senses of the word. I am sure there are others that are better out there, but for me I haven’t found one yet. I think it is therefore fair to say that the Casio PX-3 is probably has the best keyboard action available for this cost and weight.

SIZE, LOOKS AND CONTROLS


This keyboard was launched at Summer Namm 2010 as a limited edition model and had such a huge customer demand that Casio decided to re-launch it into full production. Taking it of its box, it is just so light and its size is 132.2 (W) × 28.6 (D) × 13.5 (H) cm makes it very portable, especially with a depth of only just over 11 inches so you can easily get your arms around it. There is a little bit more height compared with other keyboards and I think this was a very good design decision because it assists with the portability and the stability of the keyboard as you pound the keys. The downside to this, having only an 11 inch depth with the keys taking up a depth of approximately 7 inches, means that this only leaves about a 4inch depth for the controls.

The first omission is a data wheel and I think this is far better than up and down buttons. They could have easily had a symmetrical layout by having a data wheel the same size as the Volume wheel on the opposite side. There are 32 buttons spread out across two feet of the central part of the keyboard, 15 to the left of the small LCD and 17 to the right. For some of the tasks, you need to press one button while holding another. For others, you just hold one down a couple of seconds to display an alternative function. For me, I found that I kept referring back to the manual thinking “what was it I did last time?”. I suppose with lots of use , I would remember to be fair.

Going from left to right, you have the zone selection and zone edit buttons, two assignable buttons, Master Control/Card Player button, four parameter buttons A,B,C and D, the LCD, tone / registration, function, up and down arrows, layer split, reverb, chorus buttons, USB device mode / store button. Lastly you have 8 category buttons for quick selection for Piano, Electric Pianos 1, Electric Pianos 2, Clavi / Vibes, Organ, Strings / Ensemble, Guitar / Bass and Others / GM. Within these selections there you will see the following number of patches: Piano =16, Electric Pianos 1 = 12, Electric Pianos 2 = 8, Clavi / Vibes = 8, Organ = 16, Strings / Ensemble = 16, Guitar / Bass = 10, Others = 20 and 128 GM sounds plus10 Drum Kits.

Designed for Live use the PX-3’s controller features allow you to control four Zones with the aid of selection buttons so you can layer two tones for the lower (your left hand) and two for the upper (your right hand). In addition there is also an internal / external selector switch which allows you to route one or all of the zones to either the internal tone generator of the keyboard or external MIDI device such as a Computer or sound module. The zone edit button is there to edit the parameters of each zone for example pitch and volume.

SOUNDS ON THE CASIO PX-3

For the Piano sounds, I do like what Casio have done here with the use of four stereo AIFF samples for each note layering the velocities. This is integrated with Casio’s famous linear morphing system and the tonal variations they have produced work very well with the keyboard action and the experience is very smooth and believable. I quite like the Mono Piano and although I have not tested it, I would think it would cut quite well in a band situation. There are some lovely electric pianos included and I quite like the variations of Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzers which would cover most situations. There are also FM pianos, Electric Grands and Pianos with effects such as the ‘Tremelo60’s EP’ or the ‘Phaser EP’. In both the acoustic and electric piano banks you will find some of the patches have strings or pads already added. This was useful but I found that the string sound was not to my taste and sounded a little harsh and the Pads were too choral for my liking but we all like different things and you may find that these suit your style of music or taste; but they were certainly not bad sounds.

Moving on to the Clav/Vibes selection of sounds, I thought that these were all Ok but I did not hear anything special or a Clav with real bite to it. The Vibraphone and Marimba were however quite pleasing and fun to play. The Organ section was quite similar, with the usual assortment of organ types:- Jazz, Rock, Perc, Drawbar, Electric, 70’s, Overdrive, Tremelo, Church and Chapel. I think I would play around and edit the DSP effects on some of these to enhance a bit but they are certainly a good starting point and you could use one of the assignable buttons for Rotary speed. The Strings /Ensemble section has 20 sounds which include Stereo, Warm, Slow, Ensemble and Synth Strings, a violin, Synth – Voice and Voice Pads. Synth, Polysynth, Atmosphere, Fantasy and New Age Pads. I preferred the Synth Pads the best and found that they had a contrasting warmth against the harshness of the string sounds supplied.

The Guitar and Bass sounds were a mixed bag. There are only ten sounds and nothing stands out too much. The bass with a combined Ride cymbal is a good idea giving that ‘jazzy’ feel but I really did not like the distorted guitar sound which was so bad it really should not have been included. The Jazz and Clean Guitar are better. Lastly there is the selection for ‘Other’ and ‘GM’sounds. The ‘Other’sounds are really surprising with Moog and Oberheim type sounds which include a Stereo Brass patch, A Brass section, three Syn-Brass patches, Square , Saw, Pulse and Sine leads, Alto, Tenor and Breathy Sax patches, a Clarinet, Flute and Trumpet. After the GM sounds are ten drum kits for you to create your Drum Tracks or Percussion parts with. The sounds are tight and punchy and the keyboard action assists with the input of your patterns.

EDITING ZONE PARAMETERS



If some of the patches are not to your liking, you can edit the zone parameters. To the top left of the keyboard are two charts to explain these and common parameters. I must say that I ignored this information to start with when I first started playing the PX-3, but when you come to do some editing it is useful because you only have a small LCD to work with. The job is a bit fiddly with quite a bit of button pushes as you have to enter the ‘Master Control’ and then hold down the ‘Zone Edit’ button until the ‘Zone Menu’ (which has eight pages) appears. These eight pages are for Mixer, Midi, DSP, Synth, Effect and Controller for you to adjust things like Pan, Octave Shift, Attack, Filter and Reverb Send. Have a look at the Chart for full details. Again because of the small LCD you do have to get used to the abbreviations used like CrsTu means Coarse Tune.

APPLYING EFFECTS TO A TONE ON THE PX-3

The PX-3 has four types of Reverb and four types of chorus and there are dedicated buttons for on and off operations so that you don’t have to go through lots of menus. However, you do to change the types but it is very straight forward. You just hold down the Reverb or Chorus button until the screen shows the ‘Type’ and then use the up and down arrow keys. Once you have decided press the Reverb or Chorus button again.

For other effects, you can select from the 64 DSP effects but you have to make these changes in the same way as editing Zone Parameters. These assortment of DSP effects are categorised under nine main headings:- Dynamics FX, Reflection, Phaser, Chorus/Flanger, Phaser/Chorus/Flanger Combination, Pan/Tremelo FX, Rotary FX, Wah FX and Distortion FX. These 64 DSP effects are also editable and what is great is that they are available simultaneously on 2 tones. A global EQ with sweepable frequency on each of the four bands gives you the necessary adjustment to shape your sound to different rooms. The manual clearly lists all of the effects and gives explanation as to what each effect algorithm does.

REGISTRATIONS

The PX-3 has something called Registrations (8 banks x 8 sets) which provide 64 locations to store everything relating to a patch and its setup: layer and split off/on, split point, Chorus or Reverb off/on, Chorus or Reverb type, Zone Information and Parameters, Common Parameters, Touch Response, Pedal assign, Temperament, Stretch Tuning, Acoustic Resonance off/on and Half-Pedal effect. These are ideal setups for ‘Live’ Playing and are very similar to favourites or set-lists on other keyboards.

CONNECTING EVERYTHING UP ON THE CASIO PX-3

The Power-on button is located with two headphone mini-jack sockets on the left side of the keyboard rather than on the back. I still like what Korg do and that is to have the headphone sockets at the front but this is the next best thing. Around the back and nicely labelled on top of the keyboard for easy connection are four standard Left and Right jack sockets for Audio In and Audio Out. You then have the mains connection which is a long way from the switch. Two pedal sockets ( one for a damper pedal and the other for a soft/sostenuto pedal), MIDI IN and OUT and a USB connection which lets you back up your data and can also be used to transmit MIDI.

There’s also a SD Card Slot to playback MIDI files to play back sequences to internal sounds or external devices and transmit SysEx. There is also a facility to connect an optional 3-pedal unit (SP-32) to a connection found on the bottom of the keyboard. This will provide a similar setup to what is found on an acoustic piano. The SP-32 Pedal supports half-pedal operation. The Casio PX-3 comes complete with a mains PSU, a slot-in wide Music Stand and a Sustain Switch pedal and this makes it even more value for money.

CONCLUSION

What a great Piano, very portable, very light, fantastic keyboard hammer action, some great sounds all at a very low price. It even supports half-pedalling with an optional three-pedal unit. OK so as I have pointed out in this review, it is not perfect and some things are sadly not as you would like them but you know if they were the price would be higher. The interface, controls and layout could be better but I feel that Casio have made a fantastic start in achieving what a keyboard player needs today. If they can now retain the keyboard, action and weight and concentrate their efforts on the other areas then they will seriously win the market over. To a large extent they are already doing it with this model. Purchasing something similar from other manufactures would cost almost double the price of a PX-3.

I think playing this live would be a joy with some really great on board sounds and great action and if you connected a MIDI sound module to it, then you would have the best of all worlds. If you use it in the home studio then you really do have a great hammer-action controller. I don’t think you could buy a better value Digital Stage Piano. It is a fantastic achievement to provide such a realistic 88 note Hammer action keyboard with a weight of a mere 10.8kg.

2 Responses

  1. Ger Farell Says:

    Hi, I would be very grateful if you could help, I’m pretty bad at tech stuff and finding my way around. Is it possible to e.g. On a Piano/strings layered patch with the strings louder than one would like, is it possible to lower the level and save it to the same spot and how is this done? I can’t quite sort it out from the manual, must be doing something wrong. Many thanks.

  2. tonylongmusic Says:

    Ger,

    You need to look at the manual from page E28 on editing Zone Parameters on the Casio Privia PX3. This shows that Zone Parameter A is for Volume. Page E-29 tells you how to change the Zone Parameters on the Casio Privia PX3. Once done you need to backup your changes as per page E-40.

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