If you’re looking for an affordable, highly portable 88-note digital piano with weighted keys, tons of sound and features like auto accompaniment, the new Casio CDP S350 compact digital piano makes a compelling case.
Casio always has a big presence in the entry-level digital piano market, and the CDP S350 is sure to be no exception.
Let’s dive into this review right away by starting with some background information.
Casio CDP S350 – Digital Piano Background
In a lot of ways, the CDP S350 replaces Casio’s massively popular Privia PX-160. It would actually be hard to overstate the impact that the PX-160 had on the digital piano market as a whole. The PX-160 caught the big 3 of Roland, Kawai and Yamaha off guard and really raised the bar for the category.
The price point simply hadn’t seen anything of this caliber up to that point, particularly with regards to the action as it features a triple sensor, and still had the right number of keys with 88.
Casio CDP S350: An Upgrade to the Casio PX-160
The CDP S350 is essentially a rethink of the PX-160, with many added sounds and some extra features, though a slight downgrade in the action due to the increased level of portability the S350 offers (including the AA battery power option allowing you to ditch your cabled power supply)
With that preamble out of the way, let’s get into the sound.
Digital Piano Sound – Speaker System, Built-In Sounds, Effects
16 Watt Dual Speaker System
The CDP S350 is equipped with a pair of 8-watt speakers for a 16-watt speaker system. The treble does start to distort if you max the volume out, with the sweet spot being anywhere from 1/4 to 3/4 total volume.
Considering the price, this is totally fine, especially when you consider how portable this thing is given the option to operate it with batteries.
700 Built-In Sounds
Of course, one of the biggest sound-related specs that jumps out is the whopping 700 onboard sounds. These aren’t all just general MIDI 2 sounds – many of these sounds are pretty high quality and navigating them is fairly straightforward with the easy-to-read backlit LCD display.
In terms of categories, there are grand piano sounds, upright pianos, electric piano, organ, strings, choir, synths, brass, woodwinds, world sounds and many more.
You can register your own presets for easy recall which is helpful because some professional players might use the S-350 as an inexpensive part of a larger rig, especially given its solid piano sounds, synthesizer sounds and action.
Effects – Reverb, Chorus, Pitch-bend Wheel
There’s also a handful of editable effects such as reverb and chorus, so you do have an additional layer of control over the sound, as well as a pitch-bend wheel for some tactile control.
We wouldn’t call the effects array extensive here by any means, but again, for the price point, we’re happy to have anything here.
One potentially limiting factor here is that the maximum polyphony is only 64 notes. We suspect it’s quite light in this regard because the patches themselves are using up quite a bit of signal-processing bandwidth.
Depending on what you plan on using the S350 for, the low polyphony count could be a total deal breaker. For others, it won’t matter, but it definitely needs to be considered.
As a whole, the sound engine is very impressive for the price. The acoustic piano sound is solid, and the sheer breadth of sonic variety is very impressive.
Casio Digital Piano Action
Scaled Hammer Action Keyboard
Casio has introduced a new action here – the Scaled Hammer Action Keyboard – and it’s different from the action used in the PX-160. They appear to have downgraded away from the triple sensor back to a dual sensor due to the fact that they had to shorten the key stick length to accommodate the S350’s small frame.
That said, there are a lot of commonalities and the hammer action keys used in the PX-160. One such feature is the exaggerated textures they use on the keys. This texture feels a little different from what other manufacturers use, which is not inherently a good or a bad thing, it just takes some getting used to.
Key Weighting – Comparisons and Playing Response
The action feels a little bit lighter than say a comparable Roland, for example, as their PHA-4 action definitely feels heavier than this. It does however feel fairly similar in weighting to Yamaha’s GHS action, though it’s nice that there is a texture here that’s entirely lacking on the GHS.
The response is solid, as is the repetition speed. A beginner is going to have no issues with this action, and the weighting is such that it should appeal to a wide audience.
Keyboard Action Wrap-Up
To summarize our thoughts on this action; it’s a shame they downgraded back to a dual sensor as you can tell this action is a little bit less accurate from a dynamic output standpoint.
If action is your absolute top priority, you may be better served spending a little bit more money and looking elsewhere. That said, it’s a totally serviceable action, and sits somewhere in the middle of the class.
Additional Features & Connectivity
A really fun part of this instrument is the arranger features including auto-accompaniment and accompaniment rhythms. Simply press the button, and you fire up your choice of rhythm, plus a bass that will follow your playing with your left hand below a certain split point controlling your playing.
Functions – MIDI Recorder and Playback
Staples like duet mode, metronome and transpose are covered as well. There’s also a MIDI recorder function that lets you record and playback up to 6 tracks, which is very impressive. All in all, the feature set is very strong, even for a professional who needs a very affordable and compact instrument for performing. In fact, it might even be too many features for a total beginner focused on piano lessons, so keep that in mind.
Sustain Pedals & Keyboard Stand
The S350 comes with a basic footswitch sustain pedal, but we would recommend upgrading that to something a little bit more substantial that better resembles and behaves like a genuine damper pedal. You can also opt for the SP-34 3-pedal unit as well if you’d like Sostenuto and Soft pedals.
Casio also makes a compatible keyboard stand, though most keyboard stands will do the trick here.
Connectivity Ports – Audio In/Out & USB
Unfortunately, the S350 doesn’t have discreet stereo audio outputs, but it does have a headphone jack, so with an adapter, you can use this as your line out if you need to get to an amplifier.
Other connectivity includes an audio input, as well as class-compliant USB ports (types A and B). This is how you can connect to the Chordana Play for Piano app for iOS and Android, which we would absolutely recommend doing if you end up choosing the S350.
The Casio CDP S350 is a versatile instrument that really packs a strong punch for the price point. While it may not have one single feature that would be considered class-leading (aside from portability perhaps) it has the strongest combination of features for the price point.
Considering the cost, Casio really has done an excellent job here again, and the CDP S350 is definitely a worthy successor to the PX-160.