Casio Privia PX-160 Review – Digital Piano

Casio isn’t the first name that comes to mind when we think of pianos–even digital pianos. The Japanese brand that first became known for its calculators is mostly synonymous in the music world with one world: keyboards. Most musicians recognize Casio as the brand name that is usually attached to those old toyish synthetic keyboards you find when exploring the “music section” of a thrift store. Throughout the 1980’s Casio ruled the market in cheap home electronic keyboards for musicians and families alike.

When Casio introduced its Privia line in the early 2000’s it shattered this “Casiotone” image and entered into the world of affordable digital pianos, instantly positioning itself as a viable competitor to well respected digital piano brands like Yamaha.

Today we will be looking at one of the newest and most popular models in Casio’s Privia line: the Casio Privia PX-160. This instrument is a mid-ranged portable digital piano. Overall the Casio Privia PX-160 is an incredibly fun machine at an affordable price. It has a few key-features that make it a great contender for your keyboard of choice in its price range–in this review we will discuss these features in depth alongside a discussion of some of the negative aspects of the Casio Privia PX-160, namely playability issues. This is a solid digital piano for the price, but it does have some flaws that need to be addressed.

Towards the end of this article we will take a look how the Casio Privia PX-160 stacks up against the Yamaha P115 88-Key Weighted Digital Action Piano, another digital piano we have reviewed on this site that stands as its biggest competitor. Casio and Yamaha have been in competition since they both launched their keyboard lines in the early 80s. At a similar price point with similar builds and sounds it’s worth discussing these digital pianos side by side before making a purchase.

Let’s dive in to the Casio Privia PX-160.

SIZE AND PORTABILITY OF THE CASIO PRIVIA PX-160

Aside from price point one of the main attractions of buying a digital piano rather than an acoustic are its size and portability. Portability is an absolute necessity for the gigging musicians and is also great if you live in a smaller space or move around a lot.

The Casio Privia PX-160 is a full sized piano in terms of key-size and sound. However, it features a slim design and beautiful black matte finish that give it an understated, attractively minimal look when placed any domestic situation.

The Casio Privia PX-160 weighs 24.5 pounds. It is heavy enough to feel substantial but light enough to carry under one arm to a show. With a (necessary for gigs) added stand the Casio Privia PX-160 can be a bit heavy to carry in one trip. However, it is no worse than any of its direct competitors. The Casio Privia PX-160 is about the size and weight you would expect from a mid-level digital Piano. In our opinion it’s sleek, minimalist design places it a aesthetically a cut above other digital pianos in this price range

It should be noted that Austin Bazaar offers a price-friendly bundle for the Casio Privia PX-160 that includes a stand. The stand that comes with the Casio Privia PX-160 is very heavy and meant to replicate the look of a standard upright piano. If you are a gigging musician this stand is not a good option–it is heavy and the opposite of portable. We highly recommend buying a cheaper (and, to some, better looking) “x-style” stand instead. The Casio ARDX Double X Keyboard Stand is a great, affordable option.

FEEL OF THE KEYS ON THE CASIO PRIVIA PX-160

The keys on the Casio Privia PX-160 are in some ways a small miracle for a digital piano in this price range for a few reasons. They also aren’t without their flaws, one of which could be a deal breaker for some players.

The Casio Privia PX-160 features  a simulated ivory finish on the white keys and ebony on the black, which is more than can be said about other similarly priced keyboards, which are often designed with standard white and black plastic. These simulated finishes are a pleasure to touch and really give the player a the feeling that they are playing a classic grand piano. The simulated ebony and ivory also help the players hands to stay on the keys when becoming moist during intense playing sessions. The finish is simply a wonder in design and texture, leaving the player guessing at how it was engineered.

These keys are weighted and scaled using “hammer action” technology–this means that the Casio Privia PX-160 truly feels like the pianos it wishes to emulate. This feature very impressive at this price point. One of the most impressive aspects of the weighting on the Casio Privia PX-160 is that it features hammers like a true grand piano to achieve the weighted feel–most keyboards in this price range use cheaply made springs for this effect. The lower keys have a slower “bounce” to them while the higher keys respond quickly to the touch, just like an analogue piano.

One of the biggest overall drawbacks on the Casio Privia PX-160 is also related to its keys. We must go in depth here because this is the Casio Privia PX-160’s one major flaw: The keys on this digital piano can make very loud, unintended, plastic sounding “clicks” when pressed; this will get worse over time as the keys are used more and more.

This “clicking” has been an issue with Casio keyboards since their inception in the late 80s. It probably has something to do with Casio keeping the build quality cheap so that their keyboards stay in an affordable price range. Some players can look past this flaw, as it usually can’t be heard when playing at high volumes, in a band setting, or while wearing headphones. However, there is one setting in which these “clicks” can be a deal breaking downside: recording.

If you plan to use the Casio Privia PX-160 to record high fidelity audio then you need to be aware that its issues with key clicking could seriously impact your results. The high pitched clicking sounds emitted by some keys will be picked up by a microphone and destroy the clarity of your recordings.

To mitigate this downside we recommend recording d.i. (direct in) with the Casio Privia PX-160; if you record straight from the piano to your audio interface, circumventing the microphone, the “clicking” sounds will not be picked up. The clicking is not a result of this digital piano’s sound quality, but rather the material of the keys hitting against the piano’s body.

SOUND QUALITY OF THE CASIO PRIVIA PX-160

Sound quality is one of the Casio Privia PX-160’s strongest features. This digital piano sounds amazing for its price range, and honestly just great in general. The detailed grand piano samples on this thing could go head to head with those of much more expensive digital models.

What truly makes the Casio Privia PX-160 competitive as a mid-ranged digital piano is the amazing instrument sounds other than the concert grand (what Casio refers to as “tones”) offered on this machine. We will cover the Casio Privia PX-160’s various lush tones later in this review. First let’s take a look at the main sound players look for when buying a digital piano: the grand piano.

Casio uses what it calls it’s “AiR” (Acoustic and Intelligent Resonator) system to achieve the real-life grand piano sound on the Casio Privia PX-160. An in depth technical description of the AiR system can be found on Casio’s website, but basically all you need to know is that the Casio Privia PX-160 is getting its sounds sampled directly from a 9-foot concert grand piano and it sounds amazing! The samples have been recorded at 4 dynamic levels, so you can hit the keys with varying force and the samples respond accordingly. This digital piano sounds full-bodied and dynamic, just like the real thing.

The source of these grand piano samples is ambiguous, which is both a blessing and a curse for the Casio Privia PX-160 depending on the player’s preference. While most digital pianos specify which grand piano they are getting their sound from Casio leaves it’s sound source a mystery. This is probably because, unlike other digital piano makers, Casio does not build acoustic pianos so it cannot record samples from its own name brand model. This can be a cool feature in its own way–there are no preconceived notions about the Casio Privia PX-160’s sound so the player is able to ascribe their own interpretation.

We understand that some buyers like to know in advance exactly what to expect, especially if they have lots of experience with the sounds of concert grand pianos; the ambiguity of Casio’s sample source can be frustrating. We can only assure you that the Casio PRivia PX-160 sounds incredible and true to life.

BUILT IN SPEAKERS ON THE CASIO PRIVIA PX-160

The speakers on this piano sound clear and can get very loud. They are a vast improvement over the sound of the Casio Privia PX-160’s predecessor, the P-150 because the sound is intentionally directed at both the player and audience. The speakers on the back side of the piano have been ported so their sound is still cleanly projected when the piano is placed against a wall–this is ideal for a home recording situation.  

This piano features a whopping 8 speakers and each speaker is 8-watts. When combined they can make a powerful sound that can be heard over the other instruments in a live jazz or classical group setting. You can always plug in external speakers if you need the piano do be louder for certain situations, like a rock concert.

Overall the built in speaker setup is more than ideal on the Casio Privia PX-160.

HEADPHONE OPTIONS ON THE CASIO PRIVIA PX-160

The Casio Privia PX-160 has not one, but two headphone outputs. They are the traditional 3.55 mm build so you won’t need an adapter. Having two headphone outputs is awesome when you want to practice duets with a partner or just share what you’ve been working on with someone  in a situation where you can’t make tons of noise.

Some players have complained about the sound quality out of the headphone outputs, noting crackling. While this may be the case with their specific models–headphone jacks are often prone to come loose over time–we have not noticed anything. This could be a cause for concern though, as using headphones is essential to practicing if you live in an apartment or with roommates.

If you do end up using this feature often make sure to invest in a good pair of headphones! The sound quality on any digital piano really shines through headphones, but only if you have high quality ones. Earbuds often sound tiny and cause damage to your ears when worn over long periods of time; we recommend over the ear headphones with a good bass response so you can really hear those low keys rumble.

INSTRUMENT SOUNDS/“TONES” OF THE CASIO PRIVIA PX-160

The Casio Privia PX-160 features 18 built-in instrument sounds, or “tones”. Since its inception Casio has been known for its awesome synthetic keyboard sounds or “tones” as they call them and the tones available on the Casio Privia PX-160 are no exception.

Famous artists like Beach House and M83 have long mined 80s Casiotone sounds to give their songs a nostalgic tint. The Casio Privia PX-160 takes the atmosphere of these classic Casio tones and give them a contemporary shimmer. Although not usually the focal point of a digital piano, these bonus synthetic instrument sounds are quite possibly our favorite aspect of this entire instrument.

Concert

A fantastic sounding sampled concert grand piano, discussed in detail in the “sound quality” section above.

Modern

The Modern grand piano sound on the Casio Privia PX-160 is a bit brighter than the concert, but still based around similarly realistic grand piano samples. This sound has a longer reverb trail and would probably stand out more in a band setting. We think it sounds good but isn’t much different than the out of the box concert sound.

Classic

This sound is also very similar to the Concert setting, although a bit more dry and brittle–less “live” sounding. It seems that Casio turned down the digital reverb for this setting. The classic piano sound would be ideal for practicing as it doesn’t cover up or gloss over the players mistakes. The transparency of the sound makes it hard to hide the discrepancies in your playing, but this can be ideal in certain situations.

Mellow

This tone could be great for a melodic piano lead on a down-tempo electronic track. It is much more subdued and electronic sounding that the piano sounds we’ve discussed up to this point. Warm and subtle.

Bright

The Bright piano sound is loud and a bit harsh–in an upfront demanding to be listened to sort of way. This would be a great piano sound for a classic rock and roll band, especially if the pianist is playing lots of leads.

Elec Piano 1

This is where the Casio Privia PX-160 diverts from the real-life sampled sound and starts delving more into keyboard tones. The standard electronic piano sound, or Elec Piano 1, sounds to our ears like the product of synthesis, and bears a lot of resemblance to the initial piano setting on the Casiotone keyboards of yore. This is an emulation of a classic 80s sound that has been used on tons of recordings over the years–from 80s pop to retrofuturistic pop songs across the radio today.

Elec Piano 2

Very similar to the tone discussed above but brighter and better for electrifying lead runs.

FM E. Piano

The FM E. Piano tone is a synthesized electric piano tone made through a process called FM synthesis. This style of synthesis and was very popular in the 80s and early 90s. Again, this tone is great for an 80s throwback sound, but could have some versatile uses in a contemporary context.

60’s E Piano: The 60’s E Piano setting has an electrictrified rock and roll piano sound, the sort of thing that could be found on an early Rolling Stones or Beatles record. It isn’t the most fleshed out sound on here but can be fun to play around with.

Vibraphone

The Vibraphone sound on the Casio Privia PX-160 sounds synthesized or “fake” but not in a bad way. As we noted in our review for the Yamaha P115, vibraphone is one of the most difficult sounds to emulate through synthesis. As if in recognition of this, Casio has made the Vibraphone tone here more of its own cool synthesizer sound–all sparkling, ringing notes and long reverbs–than attempting to perfectly emulate the real thing.

Harpsichord

Also notoriously hard to emulate digitally, the Harpsichord tone on the Casio Privia PX-160 is actually pretty amazing. It sounds similar to the real thing, or at least similar to a higher end digital midi-replication of a Harpsichord, like the one used on popular digital composer Oneohtrix Point Never’s Age Of album.

Strings 1

This is where the Casio Privia PX-160 really outshines other keyboards in its class. Casio claims to have upgraded their Strings setting for this digital piano and it shows. While most mid-level digital pianos have cheap, fake sounding string sections the Casio Privia PX-160’s string really soar, sounding like a full live string ensemble is playing along in your living room or practice space. With the option to add the strings alongside the already great Concert grand piano sound, the Casio Privia PX-160 will have you sounding like a mini-orchestra in no time! This amazing string sound alone almost warrants the price of this piano.

Strings 2

The second Strings tone has a more synthetic sound, but this isn’t a bad thing. This setting sounds more like an ambient string pad on a digital synthesizer. It sounds warm and enveloping. While not the greatest for leads, this is a tone you can get lost in. Perfect for recording Brian Eno inspired ambient compositions.

Pipe Organ

The organ settings on the Casio Privia PX-160 all sound synthetic, but in that cool Casiotone sort of way that we mentioned in the Vibraphone section. The Pipe Organ tone will place you smack dab in the middle of a digital church. It would make a great sound to layer alongside the Strings 2 setting in an ambient or minimalist composition.

Jazz Organ

The Jazz Organ is exactly what it says: a standard Organ sound that would be awesome for Jazz. Because of the synthetic edge, this sound would be perfect for a lead player in a Jazz band.

Elec. Organ 1

This is the classic rock and roll electric organ sound distilled into a small digital piano. This sound is perfect for emulating sounds of late 60s rock bands like The Doors. Instant Woodstock.

Elec. Organ 2

Very similar to the Elec. Organ 1 sound but more mellow, with the low end pushed up to the foreground.

Bass

The Bass tone on the Casio Privia PX-160 is odd. It sounds something like a stand up acoustic bass but also sort of like an electric rock bass. It’s an interesting, unconventional sound, and one worth exploring for the more avant-garde and electronically minded musicians out there.

The Casio Privia PX-160 also has the ability to layer two of these tones at once for even more sonic possibilities! The piano also give you the option to split the keys into two section and two sounds: bass and treble.

The one drawback to the tone settings on this digital piano is that they aren’t instantly accessible through their own dedicated buttons. In order to select a tone beyond the standard piano sounds you must hold down the function button and then press the piano key that corresponds to the tone you would like to hear. This can be a major flaw when playing live, as instantaneous transitions are sometimes necessary.

Overall we absolutely love Casio’s tones and think that the ability to produce these sounds is one of the greatest strengths of the Casio Privia PX-160.

BUILT IN EFFECTS ON THE CASIO PRIVIA PX-160

This digital piano comes with a handful of built in effects. They are individually somewhat standard sounding, but overall a welcome addition. The Casio Privia PX-160 boasts one effect, chorus, that usually is not included with digital pianos at this price point.

Reverb

The Casio Privia PX-160’s built in reverb settings will make your notes resonate for longer but they don’t have much of a characteristic tone of their own. Higher end reverb units usually color the sound in different ways but Casio’s digital reverb is very transparent, which can be a benefit in its own right. The reverb effects on the Casio Privia PX-160’s are subtle, good for adding a little resonance and room in your playing.

The Casio Privia PX-160 comes with 4 built in reverbs: Room, Small Hall, Large Hall, and Stadium. The reverbs are ordered in terms how long they will help your notes to resonate for.

Chorus

A chorus effect is usually not included on digital pianos. Casio describes its chorus effect as “adding more breadth to your notes”–chorus bassically duplicates your note and modulates the pitch ever so slightly to give it a bigger sound. In true Casio fashion, it is a sound that was very popular during the 80s. We think it’s inclusion here is awesome for musicians wanting to emulate 80s pop sounds.

Rhythms and Accompaniment

Some built in rhythms and piano songs are provided to play along with. These include keyboard standards like “bossanova” or “waltz” alongside newer rhythmic features. The accompaniment setting can be very inspiring when practicing solo piano and trying to write your own leads. They don’t go beyond the average presets you would expect from a mid level digital piano but, nonetheless, they are a fun and welcome addition when practicing alone.

USB, MIDI, AND RECORDING CAPABILITIES OF THE CASIO PRIVIA PX-160

This digital piano features a USB output so it’s easy to plug into any recording interface and start making compositions on the computer. One of the best features of this USB out is the addition of MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) syncing options. This allows you to take the awesome tones from the Casio Privia PX-160 and sequence them on a computer, organizing MIDI notes in a digital piano role. This is ideal for composing or organizing your creative musical thoughts.

USER GUIDE FOR THE CASIO PRIVIA PX-160

Casio’s user guides are often intuitive. Like the sleek, streamlined design of this piano, the user guide is simple and easy to use. The Casio Privia PX-160 doesn’t boast a ton of complex features and is easy to navigate so the user guide follows suite.

WHO IS THE CASIO PRIVIA PX-160 MEANT FOR?

The Casio Privia PX-160 is clearly a mid-ranged digital piano, aimed a people who want a solid, reliable machine to use at home and for gigs. It might not be ideal for the concert pianist but it will get the job done for most players. For beginning players who want the feel of a real acoustic piano without the hefty price tag would be wise to start here–the Casio Privia PX-160 is a perfect practice piano when training for a concert grand.

We would like to note that the Casio Privia PX-160 is especially suited for electronic musicians and electroacoustic composers. Because of its wide range unique of digital tones the Casio Privia PX-160 would make an interesting tool for the electronic keyboard or digital synth explorer.  

PRICE POINT OF THE CASIO PRIVIA PX-160

The Casio Privia PX-160 has a competitive price point because it is largely cheaper than most of the other digital pianos in its mid-level class. This is what has made the Casio Privia PX-160 a top seller on Amazon. It is a go to entry point for people looking to upgrade to an amazing sounding, mostly reliable mid-level digital piano.

CASIO PRIVIA PX-160 VS. YAMAHA P115 88-KEY WEIGHTED ACTION DIGITAL PIANO

As promised, here is our comparison of the Casio Privia PX-160 with one of its biggest competitors, the Yamaha P115 88-Key Weighted Action Digital Piano. It will also double as a “pros and cons” summary of our final thoughts on the Casio Privia PX-160.

Size and portability

Both pianos weigh about the same and are equally portable, especially if you buy a folding “x-shaped” stand. We believe that the Casio Privia PX-160 is sleeker and generally more aesthetically pleasing.

Feel of the keys

This is a tough comparison. Both pianos have good action and key response for their price range. The realistic faux ivory finish on the Casio beats the Yamaha’s plastic keys by a long shot. However, the sticking, clicking keys on the Casio Privia PX-160 could be a complete deal breaker for some. The Yamaha P115 88-Key Weighted Action Digital Piano wins this round.

Sound quality

This is a toss up as both pianos sound fantastic but subjectively very different. The Yamaha has a very distinctive “Yamaha grand piano” sound whereas the Casio Privia PX-160’s sound is a little more open for interpretation. This one comes down to personal preference.

Instrument sounds

The Casio Privia PX-160 is the winner hear. Both pianos feature sounds that are digitally synthesized, however on settings where the Yamaha sounds “fake” the Casio sounds unique and inspiring. The string setting on the Casio Privia PX-160 is truly a highlight.

Price point

The Casio Privia PX-160 is about one-hundred dollars cheaper than the Yamaha P115. The Yamaha has a more reliable reputation and a sturdier build, but if you are looking for cheap, Casio is the way to go.

Ultimately both are fantastic options for a mid-level digital piano. It really comes down to style and preference: if you enjoy a more electronic, experimental, or digital feel go with the Casio PX-160 – if you need a reliable machine to play solo classical piano recitals the Yamaha P115 is your choice.

CONCLUSION

The Casio Privia PX-160 is a unique and well priced digital piano with a few clear flaws that may be deal breakers for some professional players. If you are already a fan of Casio’s digital keyboards then this is a good buy for the price. We strongly recommend it for players who are first starting out that want a near real-life grand piano experience and digital keyboard aficionados who love to find interesting, inspiring new sounds.