HANDS-ON [Click image for larger version.]
1. The pitch wheel is a welcome addition to an
affordable digital piano. You can’t play a harmonica
2. This is your drummer. It does intros, fills, and
synchro endings that make musical sense.
3. Auto-accompaniment and harmonization are
musical and clever. For example, the salsa
arrangement has horns, bass, piano montuno,
4. Pick your sounds here: pianos, EPs, organs, vibes,
strings, basses, guitars, and lots of General MIDI
5. This button triggers storage and computer
6. Hold down the Tone/Registration button and you
get Auto Harmonize. Imagine between two and six
extra fingers thickening every chord you play.
7. There’s a lot more going on here than meets the
eye: altered tunings, temperaments, brilliance,
acoustic resonance, and duet mode for starters. It
helps to read the manual.
8. Sequencer is effortless and accurate. You can save
ideas, songs, and arrangements, then port them to
your music software for further development.
Pro-quality piano sound and feel. Only
25 pounds. Respectable auto-accompaniment.
Seamless USB and SD card
storage. Irresistible bells and whistles
for the price.
Some of the non-piano, General MIDI
patches are weak. Button labeling is
difficult to read in low light.
$799.99 list/approx. $700 street,
NEED TO KNOW
How are the piano sounds? Better
than you’d have any reason to believe
at 25 pounds and $700. They sound
even better through an amp or P.A.
Is the main piano sound better than
the PX-320? It has four velocity layers
instead of three, and uses three
times the sample memory. More
importantly, your ears will hear the
What about other sounds? There’s
a professional array of EPs, B-3s with
simple but convincing Leslie effects,
robust basses, punchy drums, and the
whole GM sound set, though a few
GM sounds (e.g. Nylon Guitar, Bandoneon)
are subpar. But the non-Western
selection goes way beyond
shakuhachi: There’s erhu, sarangi, oud,
ney, and a dozen more Chinese and
Does the auto-accompaniment
sound like a band? Not quite — it
sounds like smart auto-accompaniment,
but it’s fun. Familiar grooves are augmented
by loads of world styles, plus
16 different tunings. An hour with this
machine is like a two-credit non-western
My first thought when I heard that Casio
was redesigning their wonderful Privia PX-
320 [reviewed June ’08] was, “I hope they
don’t screw it up.” In the PX-320, they’d created
a $700 keyboard that felt and sounded
pretty much like a piano and a hundred other
instruments, weighed only 25 pounds, and
was crazy fun to play.
Far from screwing it up, they’ve released
a successor that’s great in nearly every way. I
predict that in the next two years, musicians
will do the following with Casio’s new
PX-330: Use it as a main axe on a world tour.
Score a low-budget film with it. Take it on a
cruise ship gig. Record it on a hit single you’ll
hear on iTunes. Play it in piano bars in New
York, London, Rio, and Mumbai.
It’s got performance features no other
weighted digital piano at this price can
boast: a pitch wheel, 16-track sequencer,
auto-harmonization and rhythm accompaniment,
and a mic input you can route through
the internal speakers. On the PX-320, those
speakers pointed up at the ceiling; on the
PX-330, they fire at the performer and the
audience, as they should.
What’s going to make Privia a household
name is that it sounds and feels like a
grand piano. In fact, you don’t really hear
how strong the main piano sound is until
you run it through something bigger than
the built-in speakers. Don’t get me wrong —
they’re terrific, but eight watts is still only
eight watts. Within 20 minutes of getting
the PX-330 into my studio, I’d played it
through my Tannoy and TOA speakers,
plus the Barbetta and Gallien-Krueger
amps I use for gigs, and I can confidently
assert that the piano sound rivals many
digital stage pianos regardless of weight or
price. In fact, it may work against Casio
that their product is so light and affordable,
because some consumers expect “pro”
keyboards to cost and weigh more — but
having read this review, you’ll know better.
LOOK AND FEEL
Multi-purpose buttons are still clustered
around a small display, but instead of three
numerals, you now get a 32 x 96-character
backlit LCD that really helps you navigate
the sounds and options.
The graded, hammer-action keyboard
feels sluggish if you play with the sound off,
but absolutely sure-fingered and natural
when you turn it on. It powers up at the
medium touch sensitivity setting, but I
backed it off to a lighter touch, and it
danced. Like a real piano, higher keys are
lighter than lower ones. Where the PX-320
had a double sensor on each key, Casio
has now added a third that lets you re-trigger
each note without the key fully returning
to rest position. Ever struggle with
playing rapid-fire, repeating notes on your
controller? You won’t on the PX-330.
It’s definitely a pianist’s axe; the keys
feel so much like the real thing that they
won’t benefit someone who lacks basic
technique. But if you’ve got even simple
piano skills, you’re going to love this action.
Smooth acceleration from piano to fortissimo
gets the most out of the 250 built-in
instruments (Casio calls them tones). The
keyboard invites you to get funky on electric
piano and B-3-style organ sounds, yet
still lets you be expressive with horns,
winds, basses, and the myriad of synths.
But the pianos are what really glow.
It seems like every digital piano has its
Specially Named Process for delivering the
goods. Casio’s “Linear Morphing System”
seems to create very smooth and natural
velocity transitions among the gobs of samples
that they use in the piano sound. At
the end of the day, the PX-330 delivers the
acoustic piano from top to bottom.
If you listen as closely and critically as
you might to a high-end piano sample
library (e.g., Synthogy Ivory or EastWest
Quantum Leap Pianos), you can begin to
pick up subtle anomalies. There’s a slightly
gated-sounding cutoff on the very ends of
the tails of sustained notes. Also, a few
notes in the high mids seem to decay
faster than the others. Will either of these
bother you in the course of actual playing?
Probably not. Will you even notice it in a
live setting, or in a recorded mix? Never.
In fact, I played the PX-330 for a twohour
gig in a 300-seat theater and was not
aware of the audio quirks I’d unearthed in
the studio. The only problem I had was
accessing tones, as the labeling was hard to
see on a dark stage. I used glow tape to
mark important buttons. Also, the gig came
up so quickly that I didn’t set up registrations
to give me fast access to sounds and proper
splits — a capability the PX-330 does have. It
was tricky to scroll through the nine EPs and
13 organs to get to the ones I wanted. An
hour spent on organization would have
solved that, and let me split bass patches
with keyboard sounds up top.
Here’s a plus: To store registrations,
rhythms, and songs you’ve created, you
plug a USB cable into your Mac or Windows
PC, and the PX-330 shows up like a
hard drive. It’s a little more complex than
drag-and-drop — you must rename files that
you port from computer to Privia, for
instance — but it works. You can shuttle
your whole show back and forth in seconds,
or upload Standard MIDI files created on
your computer to the PX-330’s sequencer
to accompany yourself on a solo gig.
You can gig, write, record, lift it with two
fingers, and maybe even pay for it in cash.
Even if acoustic piano was the only sound
the Privia PX-330 made, it would be my nobrainer
pick for a digital piano under a
thousand bucks. (Casio sells the PX-130, a
scaled-down model with the same piano
sound, for $599.99 list/approx. $500
street.) The PX-330 offers so much for so
little that we’re awarding it a Key Buy for