Casio just released the Casiotone CT-S1000V, a keyboard with vocal synthesis features that allows it to sing anything you want. Even though it has a ton of cool features and is one of the first vocal synthesis keyboards, I’m still quite disappointed in how it sounds.
Vocal synthesis used to be quite bad (think ‘Microsoft Sam’ or ‘Speak & Spell’), but has improved greatly throughout the years. It’s gotten so good that everyone in the office that I tested failed to differentiate a real voice from an AI-generated computer voice. On the music side of things, products like Vocaloid and Synthesizer V have been on the forefront of virtual singers that sound realistic. In fact, Yamaha released the Vocaloid Keytar in Japan a few years ago that allows you to play lyrics just like the Casiotone CT-S1000V.
The Casio keyboard sings lyrics from its built-in phrase-bank, as well as anything you type in the iOS or Android app. You can pre-program in the rhythm in ‘phrase mode’ and the keyboard will loop that phrase in the specified rhythm, and you can play chords like this too! This could be useful as a backing track when performing live. ‘Note mode’ allows you to play a single word or syllable on each keypress. It does it in a clever way and knows when you’re playing it polyphonically (more than one note) or one note at a time. This mode is more interesting to me, as you have control over both the notes and the rhythm of the words.
The sound of the voice is highly customisable too. There are 22 different vocalist types, ranging from choirs to animal sounds. They also apparently have a feature that lets you input your own voice ‘waveform’ into the keyboard, allowing you to play your own voice, but have not shown a demo of that yet.
Apart from the voice features, it seems like a pretty solid keyboard. In classic Casio fashion, it has 800 different playable sounds and 243 built-in rhythms that can help with accompaniment. It also has a sampling feature that allows you to record audio and play it back as drums or melodies. I would say that this keyboard is best used in a live setting, due to the sheer flexibility of the device.
I do have my gripes about the Casiotone CT-S1000V though. It’s Bluetooth-compatible, but only for the MIDI function. The lyric app function requires you to connect your device to the keyboard via USB for some reason. I haven’t tried it out yet, but needing to use a cable for the standout feature of the device seems a little annoying. Additionally, the voice feature straight up just doesn’t sound good. I personally think vocal synthesis is the future of music, but this keyboard sounds like it’s too far in the past. It hearkens to the Daft Punk era of vocoders which was 25 years ago. The concept of this keyboard is really cool, but I think a company like Yamaha would do a better job if they made a global version of the Vocaloid keyboard.
This 61-key Casiotone CT-S1000V keyboard can be pre-ordered in the US for USD 449.99 (~RM 1,883) and has a retail price of USD 680.00 (~RM 2,846) which is quite expensive for a keyboard. In fact, Casio’s own CT-S100 can be found on Lazada for RM589. It doesn’t seem to be available in Malaysia just yet, but you can check the product page yourself in case they add it soon.
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