CASIO SA-65 small keyboard with interesting lo-fi wavetable sounds, LCD display & lovely demos

This is the top of the line model of the Casio SA series. While the sound set corresponds quite much to the Casio SA-1, the  rhythm set and song bank resemble more the Casio SA-35. Great is that it has in opposite to its predecessors 37 midsize keys, and an LCD which indicates besides some parameters the note position of currently played notes on the note lines graphically.

This instrument was later re- released as Casio SA-67 (with silver control panel and blue display frame).

main features:



All sounds of this instrument sound cleaner and less harsh than with Casio SA-1. I am not sure if the output DAC bit resolution is increased by external discrete components (demultiplexer?) or if it is just better filtered. Like other SA series keyboards, also the SA-65 has a 30 pin CPU of the "OKI M6387" family, but this one has additionally an LCD controller IC on the back of the PCB. Unlike other SA keyboards, pressed buttons play no noises here (likely because the LCD gives visual feedback instead) and thus don't disturb live performance anymore. Unfortunately the user interface has a small design flaw: the volume or tempo buttons always switch the control panel into volume or tempo entry mode (the mode is indicated by an arrow on the LCD), in which no preset sound or rhythm can be selected anymore (despite the cipher buttons can not be used for volume/ tempo entry anyway),  thus you have to switch it back by pressing the "tone" or "pattern" button again each time you select a sound or rhythm after changing volume or tempo. This is no severe problem since you can access these buttons with one hand together with the cipher buttons, but it still disturbs some live play tricks. (Like with other SA series keyboards you can e.g. hold notes and switch the preset sound or volume, which then only affects new played notes while the old note keeps playing on its initial sound until you release the key. Also the pattern speed of ringing mandolins etc. still changes the known way with the volume setting.) The volume can not be set much lower than average room loudness. There is also no sound output jack despite the PCB has empty solder holes for it; the similarly sized Casio SA-35 still had one.

The preset sound set resembles very much the 100 ToneBank of Casio SA-1 (see there), but by the longer keyboard you can play 5 additional lower notes here. There are only few differences; e.g. the "metal guitar" and "metal lead" play a different chord. Also the split points of split sounds are different (to fit to the longer keyboard), and the pitch of some non- melodic sounds is different. A bit annoying is that the "sample percussion" (sort of gong with orchestral hit) plays here only on a fixed pitch, while on SA-1 many pitches (narrower than normal tone scale) were distributed over the keyboard. But in comparison to my Casio PA-31, most sounds on the SA-65 play a bit more sonorous, more open and clearer, while the PA-31 sounds more pale and muffled. Generally I like most of the SA-65 timbres better.

The rhythm set resembles much the Casio SA-35, but has a few additional rhythms. Unfortunately the accompaniments are still fixed- key and thus badly suited for melody play, but they can be inspiring for tekkno- like things. The new pattern "cheer" is a squarewave(?) organ fanfare loop (like from a historical videogame) while "accident" is a synth loop with ambulance siren and photo camera clicks.
The LCD shows 5 parameter values {volume, tempo, sound no., rhythm no., song no.} one at a time; an arrow indicates the parameter name. When you play notes, the LCD shows black dots on their note lines, which can be useful to learn which keys belong to which note pitches. When only flats (white keys) are pressed, it displays their note dots simultaneously, while with sharps (black keys) it cycles through them alternatingly with about 2Hz by the lack of separate "b" and "#" symbols for the individual notes. It can only show black dots (like full notes) and not different note characters. During rhythm or demos a metronome with flashing notes and a walking dot row is displayed.

The instrument has a song bank of 10 wonderful orchestrated polyphonic demo melodies:

  1. Ode to Joy
  2. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  3. Santa Lucia
  4. Yankee Doodle
  5. Minuet (J.S. Bach)
  6. On the Bridge of Avignon
  7. Silent Night
  8. Aura Lee
  9. Skaters Waltz
  10. Little Brown Jug
They can be played separately or repeated in a sequence. With the "melody off" button the demo songs can be started with main voice muted to play to their accompaniment. Unfortunately this button does not take effect while the music is playing, thus you can not switch back and forward to simply mute the main voice, improvise a few bars and continue with the original melody track like on most other keyboards with this feature.

A new case variant of this instrument was apparently released as Casio SA-75 (different silver metallic case, same features, seen on eBay.) The case design of Casio SA-65 was blatantly imitated in the Jin Xin Toys JX-20165 and (less extreme) the Elecking - My Party Piano.

 removal of these screws voids warranty...    
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