If you’re looking for your first digital keyboard and a virtual teacher that’s available 24/7, then the LK-280 model from Casio will certainly be the best choice to make.
Launched in 2011, this 61-key digital piano from the Japanese manufacturer has basically everything you need to start learning piano and music, from Lighted Keys to the integrated Step-Up Lesson System, and ships for the extremely competitive price of $199.
Casio hadn’t been around for a while after its boom in the 80’s with pro synthesizers, but when it chose to come back, the company created a wide line-up of excellent products that forced competitors such as Yamaha to batten down the hatches and reply with better and better keyboards. This “war” between the two giants is certainly a good thing for the customers, who can count on improved products on a periodic basis.
Below, please take a look at our table below to compare the Casio LK-280 against other great keyboards available on the market:
|Casio PX-S1100||192-note polyphony; 18 built-in tones|
|Yamaha P-45||64 Note Polyphony|
|Yamaha NP12||Uses Six AA Batteries|
|Yamaha P-515||40 Voices, 18 Drum/FX Kits, 480 XG Voices|
|Yamaha NP32||Graded Soft Touch (GST) Keyboard|
|Casio CDP-S350||700 built-in tones|
|Korg LP-380 U||Now features USB Audio/MIDI|
|Yamaha DGX 670||601 Voices, 29 Drums, SFX Kits|
And now, let’s take a look at the main features on this great keyboard from Casio.
Digging into the Casio LK-280
The LK-280 box includes:
- Casio LK-280 61-key digital keyboard
- 9.5V AC adaptor (also works with 6x D-size batteries)
- Music stand
- 2x Music books
- User manual
As you can see, the keyboard ships with no sustain pedal, so you will have to buy it separately starting from $10 (for a footswitch-style pedal) up to $30 (for a piano-style pedal). At least Casio added the AC adaptor to the product’s standard equipment, while competitors’ models (such as Yamaha’s EZ-220, which has no included sustain pedal either) ship with no AC adaptor at all.
The LK-280 features a lightweight, silver chassis with two big slots that are integrated with two-2.5W speakers. A large display is located in the middle of the chassis and provides you with all of the most important details needed both in between playing sessions, as well as during your learning/jam session.
Unfortunately, the lack of a backlit display can make it difficult to navigate through the several keyboard options: using the Casio LK-280 in a darkened room may be problematic without a lamp nearby.
Along with the display, in the front side we find the power switch and volume knob, the Song/Rhythm section, the Step-Up Lesson section, and several buttons to control the built-in Recorder, the Metronome, the Sing Along mode, the Tone/Rhythm/Song Bank sections (which can be used via the numeric keypad) and all the remaining standard features.
On the rear side, we find a SD-card slot, a USB-to-host port, a Sustain jack, a Microphone input with its volume knob, an additional audio input, a Phones/Output and the power jack.
Lastly, before we move onto our next section, please take a look at some of the best selling digital keyboards online, and compare their specs and features to the LK-280:
|1) Yamaha P-45|
|2) Casio PX-360|
|3) Alesis Recital Pro|
|4) Casio CDP-S350|
|5) Casio PXS-1100|
PLAY A SONG, OR SING ALONG WITH IT
Despite being a 4-year old keyboard, the LK-280 is still one of the best beginner digital pianos available thanks to its Lighted Keys section and the multi-use display. While the former is a feature that highlights the keys that are being pressed (although it should be noted that some users have encountered issues with the LK-280’s keys not lighting up as initially intended), the latter shows the exact notation, fingering and notes that are being played. This really helps facilitate the learning curve and the comprehension of a song.
You can also turn on the integrated metronome and speed up or slow down the track.
Combining these features with Casio’s Step-Up Lesson System, it’s easy to understand why we are calling the LK-280 a “virtual teacher”: in fact, this mode allows students to play along one of the 50 included practice songs, divide it into smaller phrases, mute the main section, see the exact highlighted keys, the notation and fingering, and then repeat the process until the phrase is mastered.
If the 50 included songs are not enough, you can count on the SD-card slot that allows you to play basically any MIDI file, or rather record your own songs thanks to the built-in 6-track recorder. Up to 5 songs can be recorded directly on your LK-280, while the SD-card allows you to store thousands of tunes thanks to the up-to-32GB SDHC support.
All these features are good for students, but if you want to spend a nice evening with your friends you can even turn on the Karaoke mode, put your favorite MIDI files in the SD-card and connect a microphone in the Mic input on the rear side. It’s really incredible that a $199 keyboard like this can offer such a wide variety of features, and that’s why the Casio LK-280 is still considered one of the best pieces of entertainment (and genuinely a strong teaching tool, as well) for its price range.
PERFORM LIKE A PRO
Another incredible feature of Casio LK-280 is the 61-key, touch response, piano-style keyboard, which offers the same feelings of a true digital piano despite the obvious lack of a real weighted hammer-action keybed, thanks to the two sensitivity levels which offer a soft response if playing softly and a louder sound if playing with more dynamics.
Combined to the AHL Sound Engine’s piano sampling and the 48-note polyphony, the LK-280 sounds just as nice as the other products from Casio, especially the stereo piano sampling and the organ patch. There’s even a One-Touch button, which allows for quickly changing from Piano to Organ preset, a very good feature for church musicians.
The AHL Sound Engine includes 600 different sounds, 180 rhythms/patterns and a built-in DSP that adds several effects to the mix, like Reverb and Chorus. The Song Bank counts a total of 152 tracks, including the 50 practice songs. There is also an Arpeggiator with 90 different patterns and an Auto-Harmonizer.
These are all features that you can usually find in much more expensive products, so it’s great that Casio chose to put them inside the LK-280 to create the definitive entry-level keyboard. It should also be noted that this is a keyboard that can be played on-the-go without connecting the AC adaptor—just make sure you have some batteries on hand!
LK-280 vs LK-165 and CTK-4200
Compared with other best-sellers, the Casio LK-280 definitively wins the match thanks to all the great features it can offer to a particularly wide ranging audience. From rookies to people that simply enjoy playing for fun, the LK-280 will be certainly the best choice if you don’t want to exceed you’re a budget that balloons past $200.
Even the other products in this range, such as the $169 Casio LK-165 or the $189 Casio CTK-4200, can’t quite beat the LK-280 despite their lower retail prices. While the three models share the same AHL Sound Engine, the LK-165 only offers 400 sounds (against the 600 voices of LK-280 and CTK-4200) and 150 rhythms (180 for both models).
The Casio LK-280 is also the only keyboard to offer both USB and SD-card slot, while the other two products feature only the USB port. Despite the presence of a Mic input in the LK-165 (absent from CTK-4200), if you want to use the keyboard as a Karaoke machine, you would not be able to add any MIDI file because of the lack of a SD-card slot.
Moreover, if you’re interested in the Key-Light System, you won’t find it on the CTK-4200. At all. Keep in mind, too, that this feature can be turned off anytime in both LK-165 and LK-280.
So, the LK-280 is definitively the best Casio choice to make, but what about other competitors’ products?
If we look at a similar product like the Yamaha EZ-220, the Casio LK-280 is arguably still more preferable (although the EZ-220 is about $40 or so cheaper, so do keep that in mind if budget is an issue).
The EZ-220 features a 61-key organ-style keyboard and offers only a 32-note polyphony (against Casio’s 48-note), 392 sounds and 100 rhythms. As we said before, there is no AC adapter either, so the savings it’s not worth the trouble.
If you’re looking for a cheap but complete solution to learn the piano and music, stop searching and buy the Casio LK-280 to get the best entry-level keyboard on the market. 61-key piano-like keyboard with Lighted Keys, 600 sounds and 180 rhythms, Step-Up Lesson System, SD-card slot and Karaoke mode are only a few of the many great features included in this $199 entry-level masterpiece from Casio.
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