Recently by an amazing stroke of luck I found an opportunity to tinker around with the Yamaha PSR I425 (nearest international mode: PSR-E413) and it’s nearest equivalent, the Casio CTK 5000. While feature-wise they are quite similar, a quick comparison revealed that there are quite a few differences in the products, some glaring while others subtle.
- Both the keyboards have a lot of focus on the Indian market and hence feature Indian tones and styles. While the Yamaha has a greater selection of Indian tones (more percussion instruments), the Casio features a good selection of tones from Indian, Chinese and Arabic music.
- IMHO, the the quality of Indian tones on the Casio is slightly higher (the Harmonium-2 on the Casio sounds way better than the Harmonium-3 on the Yamaha) but most string instruments (Sitar, Tanpura) sound terrible and not at all like what I have heard from the real instruments.
I must also make an important announcement here: Once upon a time, the Sitar tone on keyboards imitated the rubber-band guitars we used to make ourselves. These days the Sitar tone is very very life-like and since our expectations have risen automatically too, we always compare it with ‘What it could be’ instead of ‘What it was’. By this benchmark, the tones on both the keyboards indeed sound quite good and are only a few steps away from fooling the listener.
- Both keyboards feature Touch sensitivity, Arpeggio, Harmonize, Pitch-bend, Transpose, Tuning, Dual-sound, Split, Registration memory and Song recording. Both keyboards feature Headphone-out, Sustain Pedal-in and USB connectivity. Both keyboards are 5 octaves and support the entire General MIDI (GM) sound set and many more (nearly 500 tones). Most tones are quite similar in name as well as sound. The selection of styles (rhythms) on both keyboards is quite good and very live-band like. There is a healthy selection of Demo/Learning songs and a ‘Music Guide’ which automatically selects the style, tone, effects and tempo of a popular song (from a list).
- Both keyboards feature One-Touch Setting (OTS). Based on the style you select, the keyboard automatically selects the Primary tone, The layered tone, Reverb/Chorus settings. To activate OTS, on the Yamaha you must select a style and then select ‘000’ as the tone. On the Casio, you must select the style and press the ‘Style’ button for 2 seconds.
- Both keyboards also seem to use similar power adapters and have similar back-lit buttons. The plastic keys have similar feel and respond dully to nimble fingers. Even the pitch-bend wheel on both keyboards looks weakly constructed and the modulation wheel is missing from both. Both keyboards feature Blue back-lit LCD displays and have Rubber buttons. Is this a case of OEM manufacturing and Brand customization?
- IMHO, the tones on the Casio are better in a few departments while in others, the Yamaha wins hands-down. The best Piano sound on the Casio closely resembles the heavy grand-piano sound that I like, while the sound on the Yamaha is lighter – lacking in depth and sounding cheap/flighty. This is evident if you play the intro-bars of Yanni’s One Man’s Dream. If played with a gentle touch, the Casio sounds mellow while the Yamaha sounds bright. The selection of Strings on the Casio is quite good too, and have good depth (not in the same class as a Korg though) while the Yamaha strings sound a little synthetic but it’s collection of Pads is mind-blowing.
- The Yamaha features 2 knobs to alter the sounds and this is completely absent from the Casio. This gives the sound on the Yamaha a unique face-lift. User’s can set parameters such as Filter/Cutoff, Reverb/Chorus, Attack/Release to modify the sound in unique ways. Pianos can be muted, Strings can have slow onsets and plucked sounds like Guitars can stretch infinitely. Amazing!
- The Casio features greater polyphony than the Yamaha and this could be a tie-breaker to those who like to layer sounds (dual sound) which themselves are internally layered. This will be very noticeable by those who use a computer to create their score and playback using the sound engine of the keyboard. The actual number of tones on the Casio is also higher than the Yamaha. In fact, the Yamaha fill’s it’s tone bank with sound effects such as Birds, Telephones and Helicopters. Come on, helicopter sound across 61 keys? 1 is enough!
- While the Casio has an incredible selection of Harmonize & Arpeggios (90 in all), the selection of arps on the Yamaha beats the Casio hands down. The arps on the Yamaha are thoughtful, rhythmic and make for great accompaniment. The arpeggios on the Casio still sound like their MT-70 keyboard (produced in 1985).
- The Casio features Full Range Chord feature, where the user needs to play the keyboard using chord fingering (common for Indian harmonium players) and the keyboard will automatically select the appropriate chord. If the Yamaha features it, then I couldn’t find it.
- The Yamaha features a very easy to use jog-dial to select sounds, while the Casio requires punching of buttons. The Yamaha features ‘Performance Assistance Technology’ (P.A.T.) which is missing from the Casio.
- Casio features up-to 32 Registration Memory (store keyboard settings like Tone, Style, Tempo, Layers and recall at the touch of a button). The Yamaha on the other hand only features 16 Registration Memory. The Casio requires batteries to retain the Registration Memory settings upon power-off while the Yamaha seems to store them in some kind of Non-Volatile RAM (NVRAM). The Yamaha settings are retained between complete power cycles; Nice! Resetting the Casio settings is easier – just remove the batteries!
- The Yamaha features a power-on button which seems to do a physical cut-off while the Casio only has a soft-button for a logical power-off. I prefer the Yamaha approach but then chances are that the button will break over a long period of time. Maybe never.
The million dollar question is “Which one should you buy?“.
Unfortunately I cannot bill you a million dollars because I do not have a straight-forward answer.
Casio’s of the world get bashed very badly for being toy-like. Casio’s previous penchant for making toys does not help. The new keyboards by Casio are quite good but the previous ones were horrible. Yamaha enjoys a brand-favoritism like Apple does with it’s iPod. Clearly there are better MP3 players out there but most users head straight for the Apple offering and recommend others to do the same.
The Casio CTK 5000 is priced at Rs. 12,000/- while the Yamaha PSR I425 is priced at Rs. 17,500/-. Quite a big difference in amount for what seem like subtle differences in features. The core of the instrument is similar across both the brands and unique refinements exist in both brands. So I suggest you do what I recommended a friend to do: hear it, play it, tinker with it. Only buy from a shop which allows a trial.
In the end, it’s you who has to wear the shoe – so it must fit on your feet.
- Side by Side Comparison of Casio CTK-5000 & Yamaha PSR-I425
- Quick Comparison of Casio WK-7500, CTK-7000, WK-6500 and CTK-6000
Casio CTK 5000 in action (German language, High quality):
Yamaha PSR E413 in action (German language)
Latest Casio Keyboards
- Casio CTK7500: [amazonproduct=B004KJPVYW]
- Casio CTK7000: [amazonproduct=B004KJQQZ0]
- Casio CTK6500: [amazonproduct=B004KJWQXQ]
- Casio CTK6000: [amazonproduct=B004KJPTCG]
- Casio CTK5000: [amazonproduct=B001FSJC28]
Latest Yamaha Keyboards
- Yamaha PSR-E423: [amazonproduct=B003JMEUD4]
- Yamaha PSR-E333: [amazonproduct=B004WV29Q6]
- Yamaha PSR-S910: [amazonproduct=B00305AG42]
- Yamaha PSR-S710: [amazonproduct=B002ZJ505O]
- Yamaha PSR-S550B: [amazonproduct=B001QVHW2Q]
Here is an excellent comparison of the keyboards by an avid reader and owner of both keyboards – Dear Roy:
Pros of CTK 5000 :
1) Economical (Rs. 11500)
2) Quality of control keys better (not REEDs)
3) Attractive looking
4) VERY GOOD GRAND PIANO TONE.
5) Easy to understand function/ easy to initialize (good for new learner)
6) Registration capacity is higher.
7) FULL RANGE CHORD.
8) Reset is very easy.
9) Basic Tonal quality is good compared to old or lower level CASIO model (thanks to AHL sound source)
Cons of CTK 5000 :
1) Other tones are not upto the mark (specially GUITARs/ ORGANs/ SAXs)
2) Very monotonous Arpegio (almost useless for solo play)
3) Setting advanced function is tedious (like changing Touch Response or Arpegio or Arpegio Hold). Without using registration very difficult to use during playing.
4) Touch response is OK but not as expressive as Yamaha.
5) Playing Sax or Guitar using Touch Response does not give the authentic feeling.
6) Less support in terms of Software/ MIDI files or extra setting from CASIO itself or from the CASIO user forum.
7) All standard .ckf downloaded files can not be loaded into the keyboard with the native CASIO software. (MAY BE SOME OTHER WAY OR OPTION IS AVAILABLE BUT I COULD NOT FIND. PLEASE HELP)
BUT AS YOU HAVE ALREADY MENTIONED THIS IS GOOD FOR THE BEGINNER AT THE AVAILABLE PRICE LEVEL.
Pros of E423 :
1. Very good tonal quality for variety of Instruments (SAXs/ GUITARs/ ORGANs)
2. Really impressive range of Arpegio
3. Touch Response is really Expressive.
4. Accompaniment section and settings are good.
5. Control Knobs are useful (But limited, do not offer vast variation)
6. Software/ Midi and Style file support are good (both from YAMAHA and USER Forum. But Be careful as YAMAHA service is not free).
7. Easy keys for Touch Response/ Arpegio ON-OFF.
9. In-Built Flash ROM.
Cons of E423 :
1. Really poor quality control key compared to CTK5000.
2. Could not understand how to reset the keyboard at a single key press.
3. Display is smaller compared to CTK 5000 but can show the required info.
4. There is no direct key for FULL RANGE CHORD accompaniment. You have to fiddle with SPLIT setting.
5. Registration Capacity is lower.
6. Computer connectivity is complex compared to CTK5000.
7. I am not happy with the Power Adapter. Casio adapter is very smart and I got three types of power connecting cords with the Casio adapter.
8. CTK-5000 is a kind of Buy and Play type. It is Buy-Understand-Play type.
9. Only Sustain pedal can be fitted (as per Manual. Don’t know if other alternatives can be accomodated)
10. No direct SAMPLING can be done. You need to connect to Computer and scope of storing the sampled sound is very very limited compared to CTK5000.