Casio have for many years been producing keyboards for what perhaps might best be described as the home entertainment market. However, with the advent of the Privia PX 330 this has clearly changed. The Privia is a full scale piano keyboard with an excellent weighted key action that also offers good dynamics and we were able to play with a light or heavy touch (and in between!) and in each case the instrument gave a good response. We weren’t however entirely happy with the ‘on board’ sound system, as we felt it didn’t necessarily bring out the best in the PX 330, so we conducted the whole test using an SR Jam 90 acoustic combo.

The panel sounds are very simple and straightforward with the usual array of grand modern, classic grand, electric, organ and the ubiquitous strings. But it is with the General Midi set of sounds that the PX 330 really comes alive. Add one of the options into the mix and you immediately release colour, depth and width into the sound with some extraordinary results – electric piano 2 sounds very much like an old Yamaha DX! Another particularly impressive voice was that of the ‘Rock Piano’. Needless to say, the PX 330 comes with its own rhythm section, where as always, the latin beats are the most evocative with some other less up tempo selections mixed in for good measure. But being Casio, there are plenty of other electronically driven devices that this sonic station has to offer. There is an option of putting strings with piano without the need to layer. But if you wish to layer sounds and adjust volumes this option is still available.

Although the PX 330 does have a keyboard split (the string bass sound being very good), there is a full range option, allowing the player to use the full keyboard as a piano. Other useful extensions to the modus operandi include a USB and an SD card port, together with a midi in/out and left/right outputs and inputs. However, the ‘string section’ was rather implausible. Neither were we completely convinced by the rather relaxed rotary on the Hammond sound. On the plus side, the vibe sound carried an excellent timbral impression and within the electric piano soundbox there was a very believable Wurli. (DG) For more go to www.casio.com

New to the Nord fold for 2010 is the extraordinarily lightweight (18kg) Nord Piano, an 88 key stage piano with weighted hammer action. Needless to say, the build quality follows the normal Nord high standards and the piano can be used with the new Nord piano pedal that provides the functionality of all three pedals found on an acoustic grand piano. The standard panel to the top of the instrument provides a well designed user interface, which allows the player to store settings for later use or alternatively to use the sounds and effects as they go along. Velocity response can be adjusted as can key transposition. There is also the Nord Resonance Ready pianos feature that can be activated from the panel, creating a wonderfully realistic acoustic vibe to the Nord sound. Although the piano comes equipped with its own sound set of acoustic and electric pianos and harpischords, other piano sounds are available as free downloads from Nord’s website. If you wish, you can even discard all the loaded sounds (not that you’d want to!) and replace them with a downloaded set. The Piano also comes with an effects bank, which includes tremolo, auto-wah, a phaser, a flanger and a lush chorus. And there’s even a choice of various speaker models and if you’re into extreme sounds, a Drive knob for powerful Tube amplifier distortion. Currently the market is awash with good stage pianos and it will be interesting to see how the Nord Piano squares up to the competition – particularly the new Korg SV1. For more go to www.soundtec.co.uk

Many will probably remember the Minimoog synthesisers with equal amounts of affection and frustration! The latest incarnation from Moog music and their Little Phatty family is the Little Phatty Stage 11, which like it’s predecessors, the Stage and the Tribute Edition puts the performer in control of a 100 per cent analogue signal path, two ultra stable voltage controllers, a voltage controlled filter and other features like CV and KB gate inputs, a full MIDI controller and an external audio input. There are however some new features on the Little Phatty Stage 11, which include MIDI over USB, an arpeggiator and a MIDI clock sync. The former allows the player flexibility to run a laptop/softsynth setup, or to connect the Little Phatty directly to a computer running Editor/Librarian.

The arpeggiator is a great new performance feature with a myriad applications, which can also be sync’d to the MIDI clock, allowing the player to synchronise the LFO and arpeggiator rate to the tempo of your MIDI sequencer, drum machine or software, offering perfectly timed modulations to go with your rhythm tracks and the arpeggiator.
 
With a 37 note 3 Octave (C to C) keyboard and an octave button to give an effective range of 7 octaves, along with a phenomenal 32 live performance presets, together with a six source, four destination modulation section which opens up possibilities that were never available on the earlier models – the Little Phatty is a powerhouse of a player.

Added to which, you can now re-calibrate the pitch wheel, oscillators and note range yourself with the built in calibration system – this stylish 21st century Moog no longer has to go back to base! For all these various soundscape options, a Moog is still a Moog. But the Little Phatty11 has certainly brought an added extra dimension to the electronic sonic palette and the world of synthesised sound.

 Go to www.moogmusic.com

The keys are weighted—heavier in the lower registers and lighter in the upper notes—just like an acoustic piano. And, the P155 sounds like a real piano. The natural-sounding four-layer piano sample is a breakthrough at this price range. Depending on how hard a note is struck, one of four recordings will play, offering an unprecedented level of dynamic range and tonal expression for a digital piano. A new Damper Resonance effect emulates the real harmonic overtones of each individual note, taking acoustic realism to the next level.

"The P Series has established itself as the best-selling line of slab pianos," says Dane Madsen, Digital Piano marketing manager, Yamaha Keyboard Division. "The P155 raises the bar for the entire category with more amplification, more sample layers on the piano voice and more polyphony. And the USB song storage means that you can easily record and share more of your music than ever before."

Computer-compatible features include a songwriting tool for jotting down quick piano recordings and quickly importing them into a computer via USB input, which makes it a snap to transfer song files to a PC or Mac. It also works in the reverse: play any Standard MIDI file using the P155's incredible piano voices.

Because it takes up so little space, the P155 is ideal for customers who live in apartments. When it's time to turn up the volume, the P155 relies on built-in speakers powered by a high-efficiency stereo amplifier, but it can also be connected to an external amplifier through 1/4-in. line-level outputs with variable volume control. If volume is an issue, just plug in headphones.

The P155 features easy-to-set split and layer modes, 128-note polyphony, along with 50 built-in songs of standard piano repertoire, recorded with the right and left hands on separate tracks. The two-track song recorder is ideal for capturing ideas or reviewing performances.

The P155, which replaces the P140, will be available in three colors—Black with Mahogany trim, Silver with Cherry trim, and Black with Ebony trim.

The Mark IV Series Disklaviers offer everything that has made their predecessors so highly prized, plus a raft of new features such as an improved, graphical user interface and vastly larger internal music storage, as well as new entertainment functions and touch-screen ease of use.

The seven models in the Mark IV line replace current Disklavier models DGC1A and above. All of them feature new, open-ended software-based architecture that will facilitate future upgrades and expansions, enhancing the versatility of Mark IVs for years to come. For the first time on any Disklavier, they also include built-in, high-capacity hard drives for easy, high-volume storage of MIDI song files, CD-audio and personal digital images. In comparison, while a Mark III Disklavier's system of flash memory drives hold the equivalent of 16 floppy disks, the Mark IV's hard drive holds roughly the equivalent of 80,000 floppy disks! This figure illustrates the quantum leap in step-up features found on the Mark IV. Extra memory will come in handy to store hundreds of audio CDs internally.

"The Disklavier line has always been about innovation and improvement, and the Mark IV Series is the next logical step in that heritage," says Dane Madsen, Disklavier marketing manager of Yamaha Piano Division. "More than ever, it is a complete system for home entertainment and enjoyment, while it remains a top-notch musical instrument for the most demanding connoisseur."

"With Mark IV's many new features and hardware improvements, Yamaha did not need to re-invent the wheel, but rather, build the musical equivalent of jet engines!" product manager Cameron Shearer says when comparing the specs of the new Mark IV to those of the previous Mark III models.

While previous Disklavier models have included a remote control, the Mark IV series takes that feature well beyond the next level: all Mark IV models include the Pocket Remote Controller (PRC-100), a wireless remote with dedicated buttons and a full-color LCD touch screen. In addition to the PRC, several models also feature the Tablet Remote Controller (TRC-100), a 10.4-inch, portable, color, touch-screen control panel.

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