Casio SK-5 review

Casio SK5

Casio SK5

The Casio SK serie started with the SK-1 (one of the best selling toy keyboard of the period) and the target was a the consumer market.
The little sampler was technically far from the professional counterpart like Emu or Akai, it was just a toy with a tiny memory of few seconds and no memory retain.
Soon after the SK1 the SK5 followed.
The sK5 was an upgraded version of the SK1 with more sampling time, the capability to sample 4 sounds and to retain the sound in memory even with the power swithed off (if the keyboard run on batteries).
The sampling specifics were the same as the SK1 (8bit- 9,38KHz) quite low even for the time, and apart from didattic use by children, the sk seemed at that time just a toy.

The cheap prices of second hads SK and the “Anti Theory” of Reed Ghazala made the fame of the little sk grow.
The interesting circuit bending capabilities of this instruments made them popular between the circuit bending community as a “must have” together with the  “Speak & Spell”.

The Antitheory statement , by Reed Ghazala, is that you don’t have to know anything about electronics to do circuitbending.
A circuitbend is like an energy flow thru shortcircuits…
A circuit is not designed to have shortcircuits , so you have to “think different” !

The SK5 is now a well known and is now considered  a “real instrument” , not just a toy, after many more or less inportant, famous or trendy artists used it.
Just to name a few…Autechre, Bjork, Portished, Nine Inch Nails , Blur, Aphex Twin, but the list is long…

The heart of the instrument is a 8 bit sampler with a very lo-fi sound and 4 voice poly.
It can samples 4 sounds and play them together with the rubber pads or with the keyboard.
The performance can be registered with the onboard sequencer, with no quantization (you cannot correct the timing).
Every sample can be edited with the “envelope shapes” that adds crescendo, sustain, vibratos etc., can be looped or reversed .
The sample memory can retain the samples if the keyboard has batteries.
There is also the possibility to choose a “long sample” time (it occupies 2 samples slots) to sample a loop for example.

The strenght of this keyboard is without any doubt the sound, because the samples are totally mangled and they sound really different , like pixelated…
This is really great for lo-fi sounds.
The second point is that the SK 5 is an easy instrument to circuit bend and the mods add a great variety of  “tools” to shape new sounds with the twist of a knob or a simple switch, a variation not known, an aleatoric change, that’s why Ghazala called his mods projects “aleatrons”.


  1. ellaguru said

    lunga vita agli sk1 e sk5!
    io so che l’sk1 puoi “midizzarlo”, ci sono sparsi sul net vari articoli per farlo. è così pure per l’sk5?
    a presto!

  2. synthvibrations said

    Certo , E’ possibile midizzare sia SK5 che SK8, guarda il link “Highly Liquid” sul mio blogroll.

  3. Muzyka said

    casio is casio, one of the best keyboards brands hehe

  4. skylar said

    check out this dude use an sk5 to sample a crowd live:

  5. […] Similar to SK1.Saves memory when turned off. holds four samples (4 small or two “long” samples 1.4 sec x2 max time) can reverse, loop, and tune samples four pads for playing samples four additional pads with built in samples (hi/lo conga, Lion, Laser gun) 490 step sequencer 8 PCM presets: piano, vibraphone, dog, surf, trumpet, pipe organ, chorus, flute 10 auto rhythms: rock 1/2, disco 1/2, 16 beat, march, bossa nova, samba, slow rock, waltz 32 mini key six envelopes. Probably the most important instrument in the Telefunken Digitale 101 arsenal. (Image from Synth Vibrations) […]

  6. TonyColeby said

    This was my first ever keyboard, purchased from Argos in 1988. Hifi sampling it wasn’t but my what fun! It handled the percussion to my ‘band’ at the time which was handy a I only had two friends and neither of those could play drums…

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