Casio CDP-S350 Review: A Hybrid Packed With Features

Casio CDP-S350 Review

It wasn’t that long ago that learning the piano meant investing quite a lot of money, alongside the obvious time and effort.

Thankfully, affordable digital pianos have been improving in quality over the past decade, and there is now a great selection of excellent budget-friendly options that can carry you a far in the world of music.

Casio is one of the big names in the digital piano space, and we previously covered their new slim form factor digital pianos, the PX-S1000 and the PX-S3000. We liked these models and considered them worthy additions to the prestigious Privia line.

However, we also covered the Casio CDP-S100, which although similar, is not a part of the Privia series. Instead, it targets the more affordable end of the market just like all the other CDP-S keyboards.

The CDP-S100 managed to make it onto our list of top sub-$500 digital pianos. This goes to show that it has its merits despite its cost and compromises.

Much like the PX-S3000, the CDP-S350 takes its less fully-featured counterpart, the CDP-S100, and adds on some extra bells and whistles to make it a more complete package.

In fact, I’d describe the CDP-S350 as a digital piano/arranger keyboard hybrid. You get a good selection of sounds alongside a wide selection of rhythms and accompaniment features.

Of course, if you’re interested in the CDP-S350, you should know that you’re not getting the best of the best. Hence, we’re here to help you make an informed decision.

With that out of the way, let’s find out if the CDP-S350 is a good value buy.

Casio CDP-S350 Specs

  • 88 fully weighted (hammer action) keys
  • Touch Sensitivity (3 types, Off)
  • 64-note polyphony
  • 700 Preset Tones, 200 Rhythms
  • Effects: Reverb, Chorus
  • 152 Preset Songs
  • Modes: Layer, Split and Duet
  • 200 Rhythms, Arpeggiator, Auto Harmonize, Pitch Bend Wheel
  • Metronome, Transpose, Octave Shift, Fine Tuning, 17 Preset Temperaments
  • Speakers: 13 x 7 cm (oval) x 2 (Output: 8W + 8W)
  • Connections: USB Flash Drive port: Type A, USB to Host port: USB type B,, Headphone output (1/8″), Audio In mini jack (1/8″), Damper/Assignable 1/4″ jack, Pedal Unit jack (proprietary)
  • W x D x H: 52” x 9” x 4” (132.1 x 22.9 x 10.2 cm)
  • 24 lbs (10.9 kg)
  • Release Date: January 2019
  • Full specs can be found on Casio’s official site here

Below you can check the availability and current price of the Casio CDP-S350 in your region:

US: ( What Retailer to Buy From )
Guitar Center

Design

Casio CDP-S350 keyboard

The CDP-S doesn’t go with the futuristic, minimalist design of the PX-S series, with little to no clutter and touch-based controls. Instead, it opts for a more traditional keyboard design with knobs and buttons.

However, it still manages to feel modern and sleek, and I really do like the direction Casio took here. The slim factor is done well, and just by looking at the CDP-S350, you can tell that it is smaller than most of its contemporaries.

 

To put things into perspective, the CDP-S350 has the dimensions of 52″ (W) x 9″ (D) x 4″ (H) – 132.2 cm x 23.2 cm x 9.9 cm, which is particularly impressive in terms of the width. This is achieved through Casio’s new slim hammer-action key designs, which we’ll dive into the corresponding section.

The CDP-S350 is also fairly lightweight, clocking in at 24 lbs (10.9 kg) (remember, these are weighted keys, so it’s natural to expect a little more bulk). It’s clear to see that portability was one of the design focuses.

Casio CDP-S350 side view

This is further exemplified by the CDP-S350’s ability to be powered off 6 AA batteries. While we didn’t manage to test it through to the limit, its younger brother, the CDP-S100, managed to clock in an impressive 10 hours from a fresh batch of batteries.

While I wouldn’t like carrying this around all the time, it’s nice to know that this isn’t a back-breaker like most of the other weighted digital pianos out there.

The chassis itself uses a standard matte black finish, made out of plastic. This means fingerprints are not as big of an issue as you’d get from typical glossy finishes. The materials used also feel sturdy, so there’s no flex or noises when you apply force.

Casio CDP-S350 rhythm controls

The build quality is also seen with the controls. The CDP-S350 features physical buttons and knobs, and they all feel solidly built. The buttons have a tactile feel to them, and they’re spaced apart enough such that it never feels cramped.

I also want to give props to Casio for including an encoder wheel for navigation. Considering the massive preset libraries included with any arranger keyboard, encoder knobs are ideal for sifting through sounds efficiently. There’s a tactile click at each step, and navigation was just really easy to get used to.

The CDP-S350 also comes with a backlit display, which is a little on the small side, but it does the job. I’d even say that all you really need is on-display at all times.

For example, if you’ve activated a specific effect, a small but noticeable image appears on the left of the display. The user interface design makes use of what little space is available very well.

Casio CDP-S350 pitch bend wheel

The pitch bend wheel has a bit of a lighter feel to it than most others, but it is flexible, and I do like using it with lead or guitar patches. For reference, if you’ve used any Roland control sticks before, this has a similar feel.

As someone who likes dedicated controls, I very much prefer the CDP-S350 over the CDP-S100 and its button-key combos. I didn’t even need to go through the manual to understand how things work, so intuitiveness is another plus.

Thanks to the CDP-S350’s heritage, you can also use Casio’s Chordana Play app to control it. This requires a smart device running Android or iOS, and gives you an alternative way of controlling the CDP-S350.

While I don’t consider this necessary, options are always welcome.

I was very satisfied with the design of the CDP-S350. If anything, this is a very good example of using limited space to its fullest. The CDP-S350 might be small, but it packs all it needs into its small frame.

Keyboard

The PX-S and CDP-S series was the first appearance of Casio’s new key action, which was designed from the ground up to be used in slim form factor keyboards.

This is a significant departure from Casio’s usual Tri Sensor Hammer Action found on the Privia digital pianos.

On the CDP-S350, the keys used are different from the PX-S line, but they do share a similar feel.

Casio CDP-S vs PX-S key vs PX action

The distinctive feature of these keys, which isn’t obvious at first glance, is that the keys have a shorter pivot length, allowing the overall width of the keyboard to be reduced, thus achieving the compact form factor.

Yellow content box –

The keys themselves are two sensor actions, and the major difference that sets these apart from the superior PX-S line is the lack of software-based keypress tracking, which means these keys are slightly less accurate at tracking repeated keypresses.

Thankfully, this difference really just theoretical. In practice, you’ll barely notice any problems.

The keys also have a nice sense of touch to them. While they are made purely out of plastic, the keys have a synthetic ivory and ebony surface, giving them a nice, textured feel that gives some grip whilst playing.

Graded Hammer Action

The CDP-S350 also features graded keys, which means they are heavier at the lower registers compared to the higher keys. This emulates how a real piano feels like, and does add to the realism factor.

This doesn’t mean the keys are perfect though, and the shorter pivot length means you might find it harder to play the keys at their upper points. This will be more of an issue if you tend to play into the keys.

Overall, the keys are lighter than you’d expect from fully weighted keys, though they are a decent enough approximation of the real deal.

There is also a difference between the amount of pressure needed to push down on the black and white keys, which might take some getting used to.

These are minor gripes that people used to real acoustic pianos, or more premium digital pianos might dislike, so they’re worth noting.

Casio CDP-S350 keyboard

However, I didn’t have too much trouble during my playtest. Once I got used to how the keys feel, I found them very enjoyable to play, and their lighter nature meant I could also make non-piano sounds feel natural too.

While I do like the keys, I will say that there are better key actions out there, such as Roland’s PHA-4 Standard action, which is featured on the similarly priced FP-10.

The inconsistency between the white and black keys might also be a deal-breaker to some, so I highly recommend testing this out to see if it fits your needs.

Casio CDP-S350 logo

As it stands though, this isn’t just a digital piano. It has a ton of accompaniment features, so I don’t mind sacrificing a bit of realism for playability.

To sum up the CDP-S350’s keys, there are some sacrifices made to make the keyboard slimmer, but I personally consider them all acceptable compromises. The keys work fine for me, but you might need some time to get used to them.

Sound

When it comes to budget keyboards, the sound library is what gets hit hard. Large sample libraries require quite a bit of resources, and aren’t exactly cost effective to implement when the end product is meant to be affordable.

The CDP-S350 uses what Casio dubs a Dynamic Stereo Sound Engine, which they claim delivers 4 times the sample size fidelity of their prior sound engines.

musical instruments

This is the same engine used in the CDP-S100, and as our review pointed out, the sounds are perfectly usable, especially the standout piano tones which are clean and excellent for practice. However, the non-piano sounds did lag behind in terms of quality.

Considering the CDP-S350 includes accompaniment and arrangement features, it’s only natural that it expands on the limited 10 sounds on the CDP-S100. In contrast, the CDP-S350 has 700 instrument tones, which makes it a very versatile instrument.

  • The sounds on the CDP-S350 include:
  • Grand pianos
  • Electric pianos
  • Harpsichords and vibraphones
  • Guitars and bass
  • Organs
  • Ethnic and world instruments
  • String, brass and wind instruments
  • Synth pads, leads and basses
  • Drumkits
  • Sound effects

Let’s focus on the piano sounds first. They are well-sampled, and overall sound excellent. I believe the same piano sound is used on the PX-S1000, though with fewer velocity layers (which is an understandable sacrifice for budget keyboards).

For practice purposes, the key thing to have are clean, clear sounds, and the CDP-S350’s main piano sound delivers.

The other sounds are hit or miss. I expected most of them to be stripped straight from Casio’s budget CT-X line of arrangers, but most of what I heard sounded like they were of a higher quality (probably showcasing the better fidelity offered by the revised sound engine).

While I wouldn’t use these in full track mixes, they sound alright, especially when used alongside accompaniment features.


Rhythms

Speaking of the accompaniment features, let’s cover the 200 included rhythms.

Rhythms are likely familiar to anyone who used budget keyboards before. While the uninitiated might just consider these drum tracks to play along to, their strength really shows when used alongside the accompaniment features.

one man band performance

The rhythms themselves cover a good number of genres, ranging from acoustic styles such as rock and samba, all the way to electronic beats and some less commonly seen rhythms.

The beats and rhythms aren’t particularly impressive, but they are a lot better than those found on budget keyboards such as the recently released Casiotone line.

Unlike said budget keyboards, the rhythms here sound a lot cleaner, and I’ll attribute that to the upgraded sound engine with higher sample fidelity.

The neat thing about rhythms is how they can fit to your tempo, and also have tailored basslines that fit to the chords you play. We’ll discuss this further when we come to the Accompaniment subsection under Features.


Effects

The CDP-S350 comes with 2 built-in effects, a Reverb and a Chorus.

sound settings

The Reverb has 10 algorithms, and you have the option to turn it off as well. The algorithms mainly differ in their size parameter, going from a small room reverb to large spacious halls at the max.

While you can’t modify specific parameters, they all sound clean and neutral. I generally just stick with the initial settings, as things can get messy at higher levels.

Chorus also comes in 4 different types, along with the OFF option. You get intensities ranging from subtle stereo widening to detuned flanging at the highest point. This effect is best used with sounds like the electric pianos or jazz guitars.

The effects aren’t anything special, but it’s nice to have options that add some versatility.


Polyphony

Casio CDP-S350 Polyphony

What is Polyphony?
Polyphony is the number of notes a digital piano can produce at the same time.

Most of the contemporary digital pianos are equipped with 64, 128, 192 or 256-note polyphony.

You may wonder how it is possible to have 32, 64, or even 128 notes playing at the same time, if there are only 88 keys and we never play them all at once.

First of all, many of today’s digital pianos use stereo samples, which sometimes require two or even more notes for each key played.

Furthermore, using the sustain pedal, sound effects (Reverb, Chorus), dual-mode (layering), and even the metronome ticking sound takes up additional notes of polyphony.

For example, when you depress the sustain pedal, the earliest played notes continue to sound while you’re adding new ones and the piano needs more memory to keep all the notes sounding.

Another example of polyphony consumption is when you’re playing along with a song playback (can also be your own recorded performance) or auto-accompaniment.

In this case, the piano will need polyphony not only for the notes you’re playing but also for the backing track.

When you reach the polyphony cap, the piano starts to drop the earliest played notes to free up memory for new notes, which in turn affects the quality and fullness of the sound.

You’ll rarely need all 192 or 256 voices of polyphony at once, but there are cases when you can reach 64 or even 128 note limits, especially if you like to layer several sounds and create multi-track recordings.

It’s desirable to have at least 64 notes of polyphony.

The CDP-S350’s maximum polyphony is 64 notes, though this drops to 32 notes for some tones.

64 notes quite low of a polyphony count, though it is expected from budget keyboards. In comparison, keyboards like the Korg B2 offer up 120-note polyphony, which makes it less likely for sounds to cut off.

Thankfully, it seems like Casio programmed the voice usage well. I didn’t hear any abrupt cutoffs even whilst using the accompaniment features such as rhythms and bass accompaniment, which was quite surprising.


Speakers

The CDP-S350 comes with a pair of 8W speakers. In comparison, digital pianos like the Roland FP-10 and the Yamaha P-45 use 6W speakers.

Casio CDP-S350 speakers

Of course, speaker wattage isn’t an accurate measure of how loud or clear a keyboard sounds, and it’s also worth remembering that the CDP-S350 has a slim form factor too, meaning the speakers need to work with reduced real estate too.

However, the back-firing speakers sound powerful, and you can also get a good amount of volume from them without distorting. While some might consider the sounds slightly muffled, I’m still quite impressed with Casio’s engineering.

Features

We described the CDP-S350 as a digital piano/arranger hybrid in the introduction, and that’s due to the included accompaniment features.

Let’s look into the features included with the CDP-S350.


Modes

The CDP-S350 comes with 3 modes, Layer, Split and Duet Play.

These are the quintessential modes for most keyboards, and they’re both equally valuable for practice purposes.

Layer mode allows you to play two sounds simultaneously and is a standard feature on most keyboards and digital pianos regardless of the price range.

Dual Mode layering

The common combo is the ballad-style keys, which overlays a piano sound with a string ensemble patch, giving a lush, sustained sound.

Of course, you can always try layering different sounds, especially since you have 700 tones to work with.

The Split mode is also included, and its most common use case is to have a bass sound on the left, and a key-based sound on the right.

Playing walking bass with your left hand is a nice technique to have if you intend to enter stage performances, so it’s always a nice inclusion to have.

Split Mode

Finally, Duet Play mode splits the keyboards into two equal halves, each having the same octave range. This is a nice way of having a teacher sit alongside the student, and facilitates a good way of demonstrating how to play.

These 3 modes are pretty much all you’d need from a keyboard.

Duet Play mode


Accompaniment

Now, let’s discuss the accompaniment features of the CDP-S350.

Casio’s entry-level keyboards have included accompaniment features since the early days, and many keyboard courses have been based around the modes common to arrangement keyboards.

Accompaniment features take rhythms past being simple backing tracks. Using this mode splits the keyboard into two halves, like Split mode, but the left hand controls the built-in chord recognition software.

Casio CDP-S350 keys

The internal software then controls the accompaniment, which can be simply described as a ‘one-man-band’ approach to performing.

Depending on the chosen rhythm, different instruments will play programmed patterns based on the chords you define with your left hand.

You can also add to the accompaniment with your right hand, as it’s free to play whichever sound you choose.

For example, if you’re going with an electronic drum loop, you can assign a synth lead to your right hand, and play solos to the beat.

Casio CDP-S350 rhythm controls

Constant rhythm can get repetitive, so this is where the buttons on the front panel come into play. You can trigger fills, variations, and even outros with the corresponding controls, which can make your songs flow more organically.

The CDP-S350 has all you’d need from an arranger keyboard. If you’re looking for digital piano that also includes robust arranger capabilities, it’s well worth considering the CDP-S350.

As a side note, the CDP-S350 can also be considered as an upgrade to budget-level arranger keyboards (some of which are included in our sub-$300 keyboard article).

The important thing that Casio has (and Yamaha’s cheaper options generally lack), is the ‘finger on bass’ mode, which is a necessity for intermediate level keyboard courses and above.


Arpeggiator

Arpeggiators aren’t something I’d consider necessary, but they’re still nice to have, especially on keyboards that feature guitar and synthesizer sounds.

With an arpeggiator, you can trigger repetitive patterns by holding down chords or key combinations.

Casio CDP-S350 buttons

The CDP-S350 comes with 100 arpeggiator patterns, and some exotic styles are also included. I personally didn’t find these patterns too useful, but as usual, extra options for versatility is nice.

I’ll also cover the auto-harmonize mode here, since it’s an extension to the arpeggiator functions.

Basically, with auto-harmonize active, as you play a note with your right hand, it adds notes corresponding to the current chord to ‘add melodic depth’.


Functions

The main functions on the CDP-S350 include the following:

  • Transposing. This allows you to change the played key. Transpositions can be changed from -12 to +12 semitones in increments of 1 semitone.
  • Master Tuning. The central tuning of the keyboard can be changed in steps of 0.2 Hz, from 415.5 to 465.9Hz. The default pitch is the standard 440.0Hz for Middle A.
  • Metronome. Pressing the metronome button activates the in-built metronome. Tempo, time signature and volume of metronome sound can be changed.
  • Setup Registration. Choosing presets and setting up chord modes and rhythms each time is inconvenient, so the CDP-S350 allows you to save up to 4 presets per sound bank. This is a basic preset management feature, but it allows live performances to have further added variations.

Song Recording and Playback

Casio CDP-S350 front keys

If you want to record your songs or playing, you can record up to 6 user-made songs, each consisting of up to 6 tracks.

The recorder is quite fully-fledged, but it does support overdubbing (adding new recorded parts to an already recorded song). The recording features also include individual track muting and copying.

As you’d expect, the recording functions also record the rhythms and accompaniments that you control throughout the performance.

MIDI song recorder

Generally, if you really want to record, you’ll probably be using a dedicated DAW on your PC. However, for beginners, this is a good way of getting started.

The songs you record can be transferred over to a PC through a USB stick.

There are also 10 slots (153-162) for user songs that you can transfer to the instrument from a flash drive.

The remaining 152 songs can are built-in, and can be used for practice purposes if you’re so inclined. Each hand part can be muted so that you can play it live along with the playback of the other hand part.

Connectivity

Casio CDP-S350 back view

As a budget digital piano, the CDP-S350 has basic connectivity options, though they are mainly based around using the CDP-S350 at home.

There are a few omissions that make it a less ideal keyboard for performances, but we’ll walk you through a few workarounds.

The first connection is the USB stick port, where you can connect your USB drives to transfer or backup songs. This works all USB drives without much issue.

Next, there’s the USB Type B port, which allows you to connect the CDP-S350 to your smart devices (to use with the Chordana Play app) or to your PC, allowing you to use the CDP-S350 as a MIDI controller, integrating it into your DAW workflow.

Casio CDP-S350 connectors ports

Next, the damper pedal jack is a necessity, as it’s where you’d connect your sustain pedals to the CDP-S350. As you might expect, it’s hard to practice piano parts without having a sustain pedal.

Do note that the CDP-S350 supports half pedaling, so getting a pedal with half damper capabilities might very well be worth it.

You then have the dedicated pedal unit jack, where you can connect Casio-specific triple pedal setups, such as the Casio SP-34, which adds a sostenuto and soft pedal to allow you further flexibility during play.

The 1/4″ headphone/output jack is where you’ll connect your headphones, allowing you to practice without using the speakers. Since the CDP-S350 lacks dedicated output jacks, this is the port that connects the CDP-S350 to external amplifiers.

Finally, you have a 1/8″ Audio In jack, which is used if you want to connect your smartphone or music players to the CDP-S350. This, in turn, let’s you practice to backing tracks.

Accessories

The CDP-S350 comes with the following accessories:

  • Owner’s Manual
  • SP-3 Damper Pedal (no half-pedalling support)
  • AC Adaptor
  • Music Stand

These are the basics you need to start playing, though we’ve included a few recommended purchases down below.


Headphones

Casio CDP-S350 Headphones

Headphones come in very handy when you want to practice in private, focusing solely on your playing and not disturbing others nearby.

Moreover, a good pair of headphones will provide a clearer and more detailed sound compared to the onboard speakers.

Check out this guide to learn how to choose the best-sounding headphones for your keyboard.


Sustain Pedal

The SP-3 pedal that comes with the CDP-S350 is a basic, box-shaped sustain pedal, which isn’t the most intuitive design.

It works out for practice purposes, but it lacks the half-pedalling functionality that makes playing piano sounds more expressive.

Casio SP-3 pedal

The included SP-3 pedal

If you’re in the market for a good, pedal-shaped damper pedal, we recommend the Korg DS-1H, which is solidly built, and includes half-pedaling support.

Of course, you can also use the triple-pedal setup, the Casio SP-34, but I consider that an overly specific and expensive purchase. Though, if you do want to buy that, you will get half-pedaling support.

Casio SP34 pedal unit

Casio SP34


Keyboard Stand

Casio has the matching CS-68P keyboard stand as a separate purchase option. However, the slim form factor of the CDP-S350 means you can fit it nicely to nearly any X- or Z-stand on the market.

Summary

Casio CDP-S350 Review

Pros
  • Slim and portable
  • Excellent control scheme
  • Wide selection of tones
  • Good weighted keys for the price
  • Well sampled piano sounds
  • Fully-fledged accompaniment features
Cons
  • Not all sounds are winners
  • Keys might feel unnatural to acoustic piano players

As you’ve probably gathered from the review, I’m quite happy with the CDP-S350. Casio crammed a lot into the CDP-S350, and I really liked my time testing this out.

I found my experience going from the CDP-S100 to the CDP-S350 to be practically identical to my time migrating from the PX-S1000 to the PX-S3000.

Casio took a good keyboard, and added in their tried-and-true accompaniment features to take the instrument a step further.

It shouldn’t work as well as it does, but Casio makes it work. Arranger keyboards generally need a lot of controls, involving a lot of buttons spread on a cluttered interface.

Considering the CDP-S350 is marketed as slim, that adds another hurdle to user interface design, and I’m very impressed with the direction Casio took.

You might remember me referring to the CDP-S350 as a ‘digital piano/arranger hybrid‘. While not all of the included sounds are impressive, the ones you’ll be using most often, such as the pianos, are given special attention.

You don’t necessarily get the best of both worlds, but you do get an instrument that’s a competent all-rounder.

In terms of price, I believe the CDP-S350 is well worth the cost. Weighted keys and arranger features for around $500 is not bad, though your needs are worth considering. If all you need is a digital piano without all the extra bells and whistles, you can get by with something else like the CDP-S100, or any digital piano included on our sub-$500 roundup.

To sum it up, I love how Casio designed the CDP-S350, and it’s a good example of designing controls with limited space. However, I’ll also admit that there are better options.

Bear in mind, in the same price bracket, you can get the Roland FP-10, which sounds, and feels excellent. Casio had some big shoes to fill here, so I can see why they went for a more unique design direction.

In conclusion, if what you’re looking for is a great arranger keyboard, the CDP-S350 needs to go on your list. Most budget arrangers suffer from common pitfalls, such as unweighted keys, bad sounds, or tinny speakers.

Casio sidesteps all of these with the CDP-S350 and delivers a really competent hybrid arranger keyboard that is well worth looking into, especially with its affordable price tag.

Below you can check the availability and current price of the Casio CDP-S350 in your region:

US: ( What Retailer to Buy From )
Guitar Center

2 Comments

  1. Avatar Michel May 19, 2020
  2. Avatar Jose May 26, 2020

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