Casio has an excellent reputation for beginner keyboard pianos and continues to offer excellent value for money.
One of the things that makes Casio so good for the beginner market is that they always push the limits of what’s possible on a tight budget.
Continuing that trend, Casio has released the CDP-S160, a successor to the popular CDP-S150.
The newer model comes with a higher price tag, so we will find out if it’s worth the extra money and who it suits most in this review.
Our verdict on the Casio CDP-S160
The Casio CDP-S160 is a great buy and worth every penny. However, we have one major issue, and it’s that it’s almost identical to the previous CDP-S150, yet it’s over $100 more expensive. Ultimately, it makes little difference to new buyers, but we have to point it out.
In any circumstances, a full-size keyboard piano with scaled hammer-action keys for under $500 is always worth considering. The CDP-S160 features a newly enhanced grand piano tone, which accounts for some of the price hike, and it sounds and feels great for the money.
Like the previous CDP-S150, there are 10 voices in total, with a max polyphony of 64-notes. Sometimes we’d complain about such a low max polyphony, but the reality is it shouldn’t be a problem for beginners at all.
The built-in voices include most of the usual suspects, including acoustic/electric pianos, strings, organs, and harpsichord.
Although the sound quality of the older model was already well above average for a beginner keyboard, we’d have loved to see a more significant upgrade to the sound engine for the CDP-S160.
We didn’t get a complete overhaul, but we did get an enhanced grand piano tone, which is the flagship voice anyway.
The newly-enhanced grand piano tone has the same core character as the original, but it has improved bass and a richness that wasn’t present before. It’s not a complete transformation, but it’s better, which means it’s still one of the best under $500.
The quality of a grand piano tone might matter less to a complete beginner than a pro, but the sound must be good enough to help beginners develop dynamics and expression in their playing. In our opinion, the CDP-S160 does that well enough.
The other voices are pretty good with nothing extraordinary, which is what’s to be expected in a cheap keyboard piano.
We don’t feel it’s enough to justify a higher score, even with the enhanced grand piano tone.
The Casio CDP-S160 comes with the same speaker system found in the CDP-S150. As far as we can tell, nothing has changed. The built-in speakers are the same size, 4.7″, and are powered by dual 8 W amplifiers.
In listening to the CDP-160S, there is no noticeable difference in sound quality from the speakers. If there is any difference, it likely comes from the fact that the grand piano tone has been improved.
The same slight issue remains regarding the position of the speakers, which perhaps isn’t the best. But, we understand that it’s designed to allow the CDP-S160 to be as slim as possible, which brings its own benefits.
We had a bit of a more complicated decision scoring the keyboard feel than we expected. It features the same keyboard and scaled hammer-action keys as the previous model, so it gets the same score.
However, we did consider a slightly lower score because the price increase has brought no improvement to the feel.
In the end, we decided that would be unfair, as we wouldn’t complain about the quality of this keyboard action under $500 under any other circumstances.
It’s still an excellent starting point for beginners who aren’t used to weighted keys. Also, being a scaled hammer-action keyboard provides a more authentic piano experience, which means players have to work a little harder for the lower (heavier) notes.
At this price, it’s hard to fault.
Casio’s CDP-S160 is a keyboard piano for beginners, and as such, it doesn’t come with an extensive feature set. Although, we are glad to see the focus on the sound and feel rather than additional features.
It comes with the same keyboard modes found in most keyboard pianos, Layer and Duet modes.
Layer Mode lets you combine two sounds to create a new voice. Given that there are only 10 voices to choose from, there aren’t too many combinations to explore. But, it’s a lot of fun for beginners, and some combinations can lead to exploring new playing styles.
Duet Mode is important if you have a piano teacher or practice partner. It creates two identical zones with the same pitch range for both players.
The built-in effects are limited to Reverb and Chorus, which isn’t overly impressive, but it’s pretty standard in this keyboard class.
Typically on any beginner keyboard piano, you’d get around four types of Reverb and one Chorus. The CDP-S160 provides 10 types of Reverb and four types of chorus.
Casio Music Space app
With the Casio CDP-S160, you’ll get access to the Casio Music Space app. It features everything from interactive lessons to enhanced/remote control over keyboard features such as recording and audio playback.
We stress the importance of using a metronome all the time, but it’s vital for beginners. It’s essential to develop a sense of rhythm and timing that doesn’t become too mechanical, but it all starts with a metronome.
We would have liked to see some improvement to the built-in recorder, too, but it’s the same as the previous model. Again, that’s not exactly a complaint, and it’s not less than you should expect for the money.
The CDP-S160 has a one-song, max 2500 notes, built-in recorder. Ideal for capturing ideas or studying practice sessions.
There are only two onboard demo songs, but you’ll get access to more through Casio’s piano apps.
Despite the increased price and our disappointment that there weren’t more significant improvements, we still consider the CDP-S160 as one of the best beginner keyboard pianos under $500.
The simple but intuitive layout makes it easy to use, even for absolute beginners. The slim and lightweight design is perfect for kids who like to practice around the house or bring the keyboard to the family room to show off what they have learned.
It’s also ideal for parents who want an instrument that can be easily put away when not in use.
We want to point out that the CDP-S160 isn’t just for kids. It’s an ideal first keyboard piano for beginners of any age. Being a budget instrument doesn’t mean it has to be toy-like, and the CDP-S160 is a great example.
The build quality is as expected. We are talking about one of the slimmest and lightest keyboard pianos on the market, so it will never be built like a tank.
There are a few options that feel more solid and might be less prone to damage by over-enthusiastic kids. But, those options are bulkier and not quite as portable or nice-looking.
At just over 23 lbs, it’s as well-built as it could be.
The Casio CDP-S160 comes with a single 1/8″ audio input and 1/8″ headphone output. If we were being a little bit fussy, we’d say it would have been nice to see an additional headphone output for use with Duet Mode.
It also features USB (Type B), a 1/4″ damper pedal input, and a 6-pin pedal connection for an optional three-pedal setup.
SP-3 damper pedal included.
Compared to other keyboard pianos
Given that so many worthy beginner keyboard pianos are available, it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t give you a few more suggestions. Here are some of our favorites.
Casio CDP-S160 vs. Roland Go:Piano88
If you want a more fully-featured option, and don’t mind sacrificing hammer-action keys, the Go:Piano88 is an excellent choice. It’s a lot of fun for beginners.
Casio CDP-S160 vs. Alesis Recital Pro
The Recital Pro is outstanding value for money. It doesn’t feel as authentic as the CDP-S160, but it will save you a bit of money and still do a great job.
Casio CDP-S160 vs. Alesis Prestige
Despite the enhanced grand piano tone, the Alesis Prestige probably still beats the CDP-S160 on sound. It would be a good idea to test both and see which you think feels more comfortable.
Who is the Casio CDP-S160 best suited for?
It suits beginners of any age, particularly those who need a lightweight/portable keyboard piano.
- Scaled hammer-action keys.
- Enhanced grand piano tone.
- Built-in recorder.
- Casio apps.
- Outstanding value for money.
- Ideal for beginners.
- Limited voices.
- Only one headphone output.