Every singer-songwriter needs a keyboard even if their main instrument is a guitar or something else.
The new Casiotone CT-S500 is an affordable choice that is loaded with more options than most musicians will even use. It has 61 touch-responsive keys, a 6-track sequencer, 800 different sounds, 243 rhythm patterns, MIDI capability, Bluetooth, a pitch bender wheel, and onboard effects. The sound choices are created by the AiX Sound Source on the CT-S500. It features most of the sounds you would expect in an electric keyboard but also embraces Casio’s own popular sounds like their VZ, VL, and CZ series of keyboards.
The built-in rhythm sections go far beyond simple drum beats and include global instruments, acoustic drums, horns, bass lines, and drum machine patterns. These are great when you’re working on an original song you’re writing and just need a beat to help drive it.
For convenience, the CT-S500 has built-in speakers but for the best sound, I would recommend sending your stereo output to an amplifier or PA system. The keyboard has an input for a sustain and expression pedal in the back plus a headphone output, audio input, and two USB outputs connections.
The controls on top of the CT-S500 are very user-friendly and easy to navigate even for me a novice keyboard player. The LED screen for the AiX section is right in the center of the keyboard and easy to edit and make your selections. You can also edit your DSP effects off to the left of the keyboard controls next to the master Volume knob. Power can be supplied by included AC adapter or by 6 x AA batteries. The Casiotone CT-S500 will also interface with the Casio Music Space App to further expand its sounds.
Key Features: The CT-S500 is a 61-key keyboard with a pitch bending wheel, 800 sounds, 243 rhythm patterns, MIDI, Bluetooth, and a 6-track sequencer.
Build Quality: This is a sturdy keyboard with a carrying handle and strap buttons underneath. It weighs in at 10.36 lbs. and will provide years of service if cared for as an instrument should be.
Sound and Tone: Truthfully there are probably more tones and rhythms than most will use, but there are some that will be played all the time. Besides the presets you can also create your own sounds and further expand the CT-S500 palette.
Hardware: Touch responsive keys feel great and the control knobs and LED screen function as they should. I would add a gig bag or case if you’re going to take this to songwriting sessions or gigs.
Pros: It would be difficult to find a more feature-loaded and easy-to-use keyboard than the Casiotone CT-S500 for the price. Casio has taken some of their best options from other keyboards and loaded them into this one.
Cons: You might need to read the manual to edit the DSP sounds and the AiX tones.
Verdict: If you need a keyboard that will do everything, but you’re on a budget the Casiotone CT-S500 is the keyboard for you. For songwriting, jamming, or just finding melodies you can’t beat the $379 price point for a keyboard with this many usable features.