Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Casio LK300TV Review

[Regular readers may want to skip this post, as it’s a review of a keyboard. I’m writing this because I couldn’t find a single, good in-depth review when I was looking to buy so to the regular readers, see you tomorrow!]

Ok, to begin with I should state that I’m not a professional piano player, or even close to it. I bought the LK300 to learn, so what you’re going to get here is a layman’s review of this keyboard.

First of all, I have to say that the LK300 was a lot bigger and more impressive looking than I imagined. It also feels ‘expensive’ and high quality. While obviously, the keys aren’t hammer-action or anything, they feel good and have just the right amount of resistance.

Above all, it sounds good. The piano sounds sound like a real piano. I mean, obviously, if you stood this keyboard next to a Steinway grand and played them both, it would probably sound like crap…but if you played this next to a recording of a real grand piano, there’s not much difference (at least to my untrained ears).

The other feature I love is the touch-sensitive keys. Basically, stroke a key lightly, you get a quiet sound, hit it with some force, and you get a much stronger note. This is very neat feature, because without it, your playing will sound flat an unexpressive…no matter how good you are.

The main thing I want to focus on, however, is the reason I chose this keyboard over so many others, and that’s the teaching features.

Plug the keyboard into a TV, and not only do the keys light up to show you how to play the song, but the screen also shows the correct fingering as well. The three-step system works amazingly well, and leads you to playing some songs right out of the box.

The first step lessons let you focus on timing. It doesn’t matter if you miss the right key, the correct tone plays anyway. The second step, which I found particularly useful, makes the keyboard wait for you while you find the correct note. This helps you build up your speed and accuracy together.

This works by the key you should be hitting lights up, and the next key (or keys) you need to hit flash, with the flash getting faster as it gets closer to the time to push it. It’s sounds clunky on paper, but works incredibly well in practice.

Step three is full speed with full accompaniment. By this time, you should be able to play the song anyway, and just use the lights to see where you go wrong.

Then, you can redo all three steps with ‘scoring’ enabled. Basically, the keyboard judges your accuracy and timing and gives you a score at the end out of 100. It seems like a bit of a gimmick, but it does help you get that feeling of accomplishment.

Another nice feature with the lessons is that there’s a good range of songs at different difficulty levels. Anyone should be able to play “Twinkle, twinkle little star” or “Oh Christmas Tree”, right out of the box…but songs like “The Entertainer”, “Canon” and “Maple Leaf Rag” are tough enough for intermediate players.

One thing I’m not sure whether to rate as a good or bad thing is that you can only use one hand at a time with the lessons. Right or left, but not both. This is a good thing because everything I’ve read about learning to play the piano is that you should focus on your right hand for a good long while before even attempting anything with your left. On the other hand, it would be nice to try.

Unfortunately there are some downsides to the lessons.

When you’re playing in ‘scoring’ mode, if you miss the timing by a little, the keyboard doesn’t play the actual tone, it plays a muted, xylophone-sounding note to let you know you’ve missed it. This should be a feature, but it’s incredibly off-putting and you have to be absolutely spot-on to get the right tone.

This wouldn’t be so bad if you didn’t have to be so spot-on. It feels like you have to be a machine to get it 100% right. Trust me, this isn’t sour grapes because I couldn’t get it right…I had difficulty getting it perfectly right on something as simple as “Twinkle twinkle little star”.

Basically, no-one plays a piece of music exactly the same way twice. We’re talking nano-seconds here. It’s not a huge problem, but there should be an option to turn it off.

One of the other things I loved is the ability to download midi files off the internet (which are everywhere), and upload them to your keyboard via USB cable or through as SD card. This means that you have an unlimited number of lessons and always have something new to learn.

However, there are a few downsides to this as well.

First of all, if you want to learn a song, the left hand and right hand pieces have to be on particular channels in the midi file, and the software to do this isn’t included. There are free midi sequencers available on the internet, but it would be nice to see a simple one bundled with the keyboard.

Secondly, there’s no USB cable included. Luckily, the cable you need is exactly the same as a USB printer cable, so if you have a computer and USB printer (which is pretty much everyone), you can just ‘borrow’ your printer’s cable.

The last downside to this is that the keyboards memory gets erased every time you unplug it, if you don’t have batteries installed. Because my keyboard (although not all versions of this model) came bundled with an AC adaptor, I didn’t buy batteries…so I can download all the songs I want…but they’re gone the second I turn off the keyboard.

Of course, if you forego the USB route all together, and go for an SD card (which are cheap, but also not bundled), you dodge this all together. Obviously, the same if you buy batteries.

Conclusion

This is a great keyboard and well worth the $200 price point. It’s great for beginners (such as myself), but with the sound quality, touch sensitive keys and other great features, it’s still good as a practice instrument for intermediate players. It’s obviously not a keyboard designed for performance, but if you’re performing, you’re probably more suited to a $5000 Korg Synth than $200 keyboard.

The pros far outweigh the cons, and most of the problems I have with this keyboard tend to be ones of inconvenience rather than a major fault. Sure, I’d like to see a USB cable or SD card bundled with it, but I can buy those cheaply from somewhere like newegg.com anyway.

Sound Quality : 4/5
Awesome piano sounds, and a good range of others. Obviously not as good as a professional performance keyboard, but well below that price range.

Ease of Use : 5/5
If you can use a TV remote, you can work out this keyboard, especially using the display on the TV

Price Point : 5/5
Any less, you get a much worse keyboard, if you want better, you’re going to pay a lot more.

Accessories : 4/5
Mine came with an AC adaptor and a Microphone. Another nice thing was printed music for every song in the keyboard. A USB cable would have been nice, as well as an SD card.

Overall 4.5/5

A great beginner’s/intermediate keyboard.



***EDIT***

Ok, people, I hate that I have to say this but I'm getting a ridiculous amount of email and comments from people asking me for tech support.


DO NOT EMAIL OR POST ANY MORE COMMENTS ASKING QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS KEYBOARD.


The truth is that 99.9% of the emails I receive about this keyboard are asking questions that are CLEARLY covered in the LK300TV manual or on Casio's website, and over half the emails I receive are downright rude. (Manners 101, guys, when you're asking a complete stranger for free help, it pays to say please and thank you, not a terse couple of lines demanding information.)

Any future emails or comments asking for help will be ignored.

Thank you.

19 comments:

Professor Howdy said...

Hello!
Very good posting.
Thank you - Have a good day!!!

Jim said...

HI, I actually got here searching for reviews of the casio lk300tv which I wanted to get for my 9yr old son who is very musically talented to learn (and of course have fun with). I'm glad you took the time to write the review. One thing that wasn't clear on the manual I found on the casio site was if you can easily save the songs you record to SD card or your PC (MIDI files). I figure anyone who would create some songs of their own would want to save them. Have you tried saving created songs like that ? Thanks!

Mike said...

You're absolutely right, there are NO REVIEWS FOR THIS ANYWHERE!! I definitely appreciate yours. It was very thorough and answered all of my questions. Thanks so much

freda said...

does the casio lk 300tv come with a modulator? We bought this 2nd hand.

Jill said...

Great Write Up!
Thanks so much for the review - 9yo daughter was fawning over the lower end version of this at target last week and am considering one for an xmas gift. I had about 12 years of lessons as a kid and don't want a low end one, and really don't have space for a spinet or such, so I think THIS one might suit us both...

Gracious Granny said...

Hello! I, too, got here by searching for a review of the Casio LK300. What a delight to find not only a comprehensive and well thought out review but one that is intelligent and well written. You've answered all my questions thus far. Hope I can find you if I need more questions answered after I purchase mine. Thanks again, you helped me make a decision to buy.

Charles said...

Great Review! Answers key question for any keyboard with lighted keys: can you use the lighted keys only with limited built-in songs, or with infinite variety of midi files available elsewhere. Thanks for answering that and including details for how to get it to work. Very few people pursue such detail in reviews. This seems to be the only keyboard model currently available that lets lighted keys work with midi files with some minor editing. I'm going to get one of these for myself.

Anonymous said...

Hi we were looking at this keyboard, today. The shop; selling it did not know much about it.
We were wondering it says that you can store up to 1000 songs on the sd card. If you do that how do you go through the list on the sd card to find the song you want, are they Numbered? does it take long
Thanks Anita also transplanted from England.

Paulius said...

The songs you store on your SD card are saved by filename, so you can either 'flip through' them alphabetically, or once you know which number the song you want is under, just punch it in on the keypad

Anonymous said...

Hi

there is a program called midi illustrator, that converts piano midi songs into 2 hands songs, so you will be able to play right or left hand, check the web and the info, I am not very good explaining things hehe, hope it helps

Ish said...

First of all, thanks so much for the review and all the info. I am very new at this; I tried using Jazz Sequencer to play around with the .mid file and change the channel setting to #4 but it just doesnt seem to wanna work. Everytime I put my card in the keyboard it says "Error No File". I am wondering if you or anyone can help with this. Much appreciated. Cheers

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot!!!
Great posting! All my questions are answered now.
The LK300TV is a beautifull invention, but the Casio website and user manual should explain some things a little bit more in detail, if you ask me...

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Hi and thank you so much for your detail review. I am an adult wanting to learn how to play a piano, and I been reading and looking at the Casio Privia models at first, mostly the Px-320. But it doesn't really teaches you how to play like the LK-300 with lighted keys. This has help made my decision alot. I will be searching for some good deals now for the LK-300 this Thanksgiving and Christmas.Thank you, Sompasong S.

ausirick said...

Thanks for the review!I have purchased LK-300Tv I have not pluged in yet. My problem is that I'm left handed, what should I do before learning

Anonymous said...

I wonder if you have considered a Yamaha before buying a Casio. And if so, what was the deciding factor in getting a casio?

roopesh said...

HI THERE I recently bought the lk 300 i managed to download midi files from the net and its does get sent to the keyboard and it plays. my problem is that when i try to load it on my sd card its says ERR FILE and i have formattted the card. how can i load songs onto my card.
roopesh

sardin99_99 said...

actually you can learn the songs with both hands you just have to push the two buttons at the same time. I had mine for a while and it's pretty amazing im selling it right now though because i am moving.

sardin99_99 said...

Actuall you can learn songs with two hands you just have to press the two buttons at the same time. I have owned mine for several years and it is amazing. Unfortunatly I have to sell it though because i am moving.

Eric D said...

"Error no file"
Those trying to play .SMF or .MID files from SD card need to convert them to Casio's own format.
http://music.casio.com/e/smf/