Casio has never fully belonged to any one culture. It has solidified its reputation as a go-to source for authentic vintage-style digital timepieces and calculators. However, its pervasive keyboards remind people of simpler times when drum loops and orchestral instrument emulations were more crude and obvious.
The CT-potential S1000V as a vocal synthesis device suggests that Casio may soon make substantial inroads into the realm of professional music technology.
Casio has made bold claims about the CT-S1000V, such that it “redefines the concept of a keyboard and how it is played” and that it enables “new creative possibilities and freedom of musical expression.”
The vocal synthesis engine, which Casio claims was developed “using machine learning to statistically model singing voices,” is the device’s most eye-catching feature.
Using that metric, the CT-S1000V appears to be Casio’s sincere attempt to find a place in the arsenals of music producers and rethink what a keyboard in this class is capable of. For instance, the manual is 355 pages in length.
What’s more, it hasn’t lost a single bit of the “Casio-ness” that makes it so special. The CT-S1000V is a classic Casio keyboard in every sense of the word. Ignoring the built-in speakers is a huge missed opportunity.
It features cringeworthy demo versions of songs. There’s even a setting for “Orchestral Hit.” The essential percussion sounds you’ve only ever heard on a keyboard are included as well.
Because of its capabilities, evaluating the CT-S1000V just in the context of a professional music setting would be unfair. However, evaluating it solely in terms of its accessibility for young or entry-level players would also be unwise.
Casio’s aspirations for the CT-S1000V are evident in the design of its user interface. For some voices that require extensive manipulation of players and parameters, an LED labeled “Advanced” is provided.
The CT-gauges S1000V’s and other gear are housed on its left side. More than 200 percussion rhythm patterns are included, and dozens more can be imported from the user’s USB drive. It also features two user-sampled voices.
When in chord mode, the lower part of the keyboard may be used to play rhythmic patterns, allowing you to easily and quickly compose rhythmic chord progressions in a wide range of musical genres.
Those who have never experienced the joy of moving to a steady beat and a series of chords will benefit greatly from this introduction. Voices sound acceptable, and the CT-velocity-sensitive S1000V’s keyboard provides a satisfying playing experience.
The default settings may seem unchangeable at first, but the basic envelope control and small effects bank actually allow for a great deal of customization. Any of the three available knobs can be set to control the pan, modulation, or gain for a certain frequency range.
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It’s possible to alter the default behavior of the five key buttons located just beneath the display (and yes, that can include triggering the demo song).
The CT-S1000V comes with a Bluetooth USB adaptor that allows it to sync through MIDI with external devices and accept incoming audio wirelessly, allowing it to function as a Bluetooth speaker when paired with a compatible device.
Moreover, it facilitates the quick, wireless sampling of incoming audio, which may then be mapped chromatically over the keyboard for melodic playback or assigned sound by sound to a bank of up to 16 keys.
There isn’t much room for tweaking samples; you can truncate them automatically for speedy responses, but that’s about all you can do.
Having less room for user-generated samples to be stored is disappointing, but it is evocative of instruments like the Casio SK-1, sometimes called the “cheapest sampler ever” since its samples were lost when the device was turned off, which gave its limited sampling capacity a scarcity value.
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Plus, it gave performers the opportunity to boast, “that bit was completely done on a cheap little Casio!” Perhaps there’s an opportunity for Casio to incorporate a down-sampling option, à la Roland’s SP-404, to recreate the charming lo-fi sound of the early samplers.
The Acoustic Intelligent eXpression (AiX) vocal synthesis engine of the CT-S1000V is state-of-the-art. Players have a ton of options for adjusting the vocoder’s performance and articulation, such as syllable speed, envelope, word rhythm distribution, gender, age, and more. Think of Daft Punk’s Doin’ It Right (2013) for an example of the kind of lush, snappy vocoder sounds you can easily achieve here.
Controls for modulation depth and timing, portamento, low-pass filtering, and more are available for each of the 23 different vocalist styles. These styles range from synthetic choirs to vintage vocoders and Microsoft Sam-style sounds.
A variety of function selections can be assigned to the lower part of the keyboard for use in improvising live performances. Use this to do things like swap the order of words in a phrase, repeat an action repeatedly, or repeat just one word in a loop.
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It’s difficult to imagine wanting more from a playable voice synthesizer, with the obvious exception of live vocal processing through a vocoder. Sound-wise, the CT-S1000V may compete with established leaders like the Korg MicroKorg.
Casio’s Lyrics Creator software for smartphones includes a bunch of generic factory settings for lyrics, but it also allows users to input their own lyrics with their own rhythm allocations.
We wish we could do this using the keyboard’s built-in interface, or at least via Bluetooth, but since that isn’t the case, we’ll have to settle for using a wire to link the keyboard to our preferred device.
The CT-S1000V is a great example of how Casio is able to span both the professional and consumer markets. It’s affordable considering how easily it would fit into a classroom, church, or even the corner of a professional recording studio.
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Such generalizability is impressive. A new producer may find inspiration in hearing a person sing the phrases they’ve programmed in, or in hearing their own voice sampled across a keyboard. However, seasoned musicians will still be able to listen to a song’s final mix and comment, “Oh, and the vocals for that song were all done on a Casio.”
- AiX-driven vocal synthesis engine with multiple parameters and 23 ‘vocalists’
- Capacity to input user lyrics via an app
- 800 instrument sounds plus slots for 2 user-sampled sounds
- 243 built-in rhythms plus slots for 50 user rhythms
- Voice layering and keyboard splitting options
- Wireless MIDI and audio integration
- Audio line in/headphones socket
- Expression pedal and secondary pedal inputs