Casio CTK-4000 : Bring Home The Music
My primary purpose was to amuse myself hammering out the first few bars of popular tunes, possibly connect the keyboard to a computer and tinker around with the masses of music making software that is available; again for amusement.
As a kid I have owned a Casio PT-20, a Casio SA-20 , a Casio MA-120 and tinkered around with waves of mini-keyboards from Casio, Roland & Yamaha keyboards. Needless to say, the keyboards from Casio proved to be completely useless (Brilliant PT-20 but micro-keys are impossible to play by anyone who has attained puberty, the SA-20 produces an annoying typewriter-click sound every-time you press a button on the control panel & the MA-120 has sounds that are completely unnatural). The SA-20 annoyed the hell out of folks at my school when I connected it up to the PA system at a school function and proceeded to emit loud 1930’s typewriter sounds in my efforts at selecting the tone and setting the volume level.
All in all, I dismissed Casio as a possible manufacturer of serious musical instruments. In fact, later on when I wanted to buy a 4/5 octave keyboard for home use, not one person would recommend me any Casio product. It seemed that Yamaha was the only company manufacturing usable musical instruments for amateurs. Roland was for semi/professionals and Korg, Alesis, Fatar etc. were only for the professionals (most of the high end keyboards cost as much as a Tata Nano and go up-to the price of a Honda Civic).
Resigning myself to purchasing a Yamaha, I started scouring the Indian market and was disheartened at the price tags the Yamaha’s sported. The base model PSR E-213 sported a price tag for Rs. 12,500/- while the usable PSR-I425 went upto Rs. 22,000/- Way over the budget I had allocated. These cost considerably less in USA but by virtue of being large and unwieldy electronic equipment, I could not ask my brother to carry-in one for me on his next visit.
On an off-chance, I wandered into a small music shop (Musical Mart, Shop No. 72, Swapnalok Complex, S.D. Road, Secunderabad) and spotted the Casio CTK-810IN which I had spotted at a few malls (Rs. 12,500/- & powered off to prevent tinkering). The dealer informed me that I could have the CTK-810IN for about 11.5K. This was quite close to the budget I had set (Rs. 10K) so I quizzed him about this model and others. He mentioned the newly launched CTK series which were not yet available widely in the country. The specs and pricing were superb. Starting at CTK-2000 (Rs. 6.5K) the range encompassed CTK-3000 (Rs. 8K), CTK-4000 (Rs. 10.5K) & CTK-5000 (Rs. 14.5K). All models featured 5 octaves and General MIDI (GM) compatibility, USB MIDI Connectivity and no handicapping features.
The gradation of the product line is simple. The CTK-2000 features 400 tones & 150 rhythms along with reverb/chorus. The CTK-3000 features an additional Pitch Wheel. The CTK-4000 doesnot feature a Pitch wheel but has much improved sound (AHL) and arpeggiator. The CTK-5000 adds a pitch wheel and SD Card reader to the CTK-4000. The newly added CTK-2100 adds sampling function to CTK-2000, while the new WK-210 is essentially a 76 key version of the CTK-4000.
Based on the fact that I could never figure out the pitch wheel (even today, I draw the pitch curves in MIDI recording software) and would probably limit myself to Piano style playing, I chose to go for the budget friendly CTK-4000. That said, the CTK-5000 is an excellent deal over comparable Yamaha models which cost almost twice as much.
The CTK-4000 features:
- 61 standard size keys (5 octaves) : starting at C2 for most instruments, C1 for low pitch instruments and C3 for high pitch instruments
- Velocity sensitivity aka Touch response : off, two types. Please note velocity sensitivity is the speed with which you hit the keys, not the pressure with which you hit the keys.
- 48 note polyphony (24 note for dual-layer tones like Strings Piano)
- 570 preset tones
- 5 user tones (up-to 10 second sampling from audio-in port)
- 180 preset rhythms. Tempo range 30 – 255 BPM. Rhtyhm variations – Intro, Type-A, Type-B, End, Fill-in for Type-A & B.
- Auto-Accompaniments aka Chords : Fingered Chords 1 & 2, Casio Chord, Full Range Chord
- 3 user rhythms (up-to 10 second sampling from audio-in port)
- Rhythm editor allowing customization of preset rhythms (upto 10 rhythms)
- Metronome function (0, 2 – 6 beats per measure)
- Built-in 152 songs
- Sophisticated training programs using built-in songs
- Note recording : 5 songs, upto 6 tracks each, upto 12,000 notes (combined storage).
Outstanding features generally not found at keyboards in this price range:
- Split function : divide the keyboard into 2 zones, anywhere. Supports octave shift (1 octave) of each zone.
- Layer function : layer 2 sounds for a rich effect. Layer effects on only right-side zone if split function is active. If using Dual-layer tones, up-to 4 instruments sounds are produced simultaneously.
- Adjustable Reverb (10 levels), Chorus (5 levels), Key Transpose (12 notes), Octave shift (2 octaves) Pitch tuning (approx 100 cents), preset scales (16 scales)
- Auto-Harmonize function : 12 types, adds additional notes to your playback, active only if auto-accompaniments are active.
- 90 Arpeggiator Patterns : Up, Down, U/A Type A, U/D Type B, Random. Arpeggio Hold function.
- 305 Music Presets : Based on popular songs, the tone(s), rhythms, tempo and other settings are available as presets on the keyboard. Just select the preset and start playing. Songs include Careless Whispers, How Deep Is Your Love, Killing Me Softly
- One-Touch Rhythm Presets : Upon selection of a rhythm, activate Rhythm preset to automatically select the suitable tempo and tone. Very useful if you are moving from Trance (140 bpm) to Slow Jazz (80 bpm) and don’t feel like hammering the tempo button 60 times or pressing multiple keys to change the tone from Synth to Sax.
- Full Range Chord : In this mode the keyboard recognizes and plays the chords if any 3 keys are pressed anywhere on the keyboard. Selecting chords is not limited to the Left-zone of the keyboards anymore. Very useful for Harmonium players of India who typically play melody using chorded formation.
- Indian tones (15) & rhythms (7 types)
- Jack for sustain / start-stop pedal
- Sampling function for tones/rhythms
- Light weight : 4.6 Kgs
- Full MIDI IN/Out over USB : Driverless installation on Windows XP+ & Mac OSX.
- No permanent memory for songs : Since this keyboard lacks a SD-Card storage option, songs & samples that you record remain in the memory only as long as the keyboard is powered on or batteries are installed.
- No song/sample export : There is no direct way to export the songs/samples stored on the keyboard as files. While song data can be exported as MIDI data to the computer, sample have to be re-recored on the PC to recreate the tones in the absence of the keyboard.
- Headphone Out but no Line-Out. This becomes a serious issue if you want to record the keyboard sounds and monitor it too.
- Ant sensitivity : The rubber used in the keyboard seems to be a delicacy for Indian red-ants and it was only by chance that I discovered this in time and saved my keyboard from being devoured by the critters.
- Power adapter is not supplied : Requires 9V power adapter which Casio makes you buy for an additional Rs. 750/- You can of course buy a compatible non-Casio adapter for Rs. 350/- and be happy.
- Fragility : The keyboard is entirely made up of plastic, hence will develop cracks if you drop it. While internal construction seems solid (yes! I opened mine), heavy-handed users have reported that some of the physical keys started squeaking or gone out of alignment on the keyboard. Please note that this keyboard does not feature Hammer Action and is not intended for playback in Fortissimo style. If you are the type who destroys a TVSE Gold keyboard in 3 months, then stay away from this keyboard.
Overall, I am very impressed with this keyboard and the value for money it delivers. If you are an amateur or need a keyboard for your kid, I recommend that you check out the Casio CTK Series at a music store/electronics mall nearest you.
Check out a few audio samples generated by the keyboard:
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Casio CTK-4000 in action (German language, High quality):