Casio CT-401

Casio CT-401 Image

The Casiotone 401 is a Preset synthesizer and was the first from Casio to offer an auto-accompaniment section that continued to feature on later models. There are 14 Preset sounds including: Organ Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Trumpet, Violin, Cello, Piano, Harpsichord, Celeste, Accordion, Electric Piano, Frog, and Funny. Those last two are basically synthesizer-type sounds, but Casio obviously had fun with the naming of those. In addition to the Preset sounds, there is a built-in Drum/Rhythm section with 16 Presets such as Rock, Bossanova, Waltz, March, Samba, and Mambo styles.

As you may have already guessed from the repeated use of the word, "Preset," none of these sounds or rhythms are programmable; but what do you expect from a calculator company breaking into the electronic instrument business? Like a lot of Japanese instrument manufacturers of the time, Casio was targeting the home keyboard/organ market. But as it turns out, the CT-401 has some very cool features and the sounds are actually quite nice as well, such that it made for a great keyboard for hobbyists that even seasoned musicians could find fun and interesting.

The CT-401 actually looks pretty professional, for its time. The case uses mostly plastic and metal but has a faux-wood look (any wood used is actually compressed particle board). The 49-keys are full sized. And the switches and rocker-switches have that organ-style that was so prevalent among compact keyboards at this time. A large built-in speaker is all you need to hear yourself playing with CT-401. However, there is a mono 1/4-inch output on the back, as well as an external audio input (to feed some external audio to its speaker). There are also a headphone jack and three foot-switch / sustain jacks. There was even a rugged road case available.

You can select one Preset sound at a time and although there are no effects or programming options, there are four switches to turn on Vibrato, Vibrato Delay, Sustain and Hold. You can choose one of the Preset Rhythm patterns for some groovy drum percussion to play along with - the drum sounds themselves were pretty standard for the time and are reminiscent of the Roland CR-machines. It also has a Fill-In button to trigger drum fills, and a tempo adjustment knob.

The CT-401's "Casio Auto Chord" section is the highlight of this instrument. It can be used like a normal chord-memory feature, where holding down one of the left-hand keys will play a chord that you have stored to its memory. The Auto Chord function can play in a staccato or continuous sustained mode. Or it can be switched to "Fingered" mode in which the chord has a rhythm to it as well as a sort of walking-bass line. The Auto Chord section can be synchronized to the Rhythm section as well. Although it's not a truly split keyboard, with these features you could play a lively rhythm part with just one finger on your left hand, and solo along with it on the right hand. Along with the Drum/Rhythm Presets, you could really be a one-man band!

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12 Visitor comments
December 21, 2011 @ 6:21 pm
This was my first "synth" (although even at the time I didn't consider it one.) Some OK sounds. IMO the rhythm & accompaniement is the weak point of this. I hated the Frog and Funny sounds but the others were all fairly decent. There were a couple of sounds that repreated. One was celesta which had a slow repeat of a second or two. The other was faster like eighth notes or something but nothing on the voice list is ringing a bell. Maybe it was a different setting on celesta. You could build up some interesting Eno-type loop things with the slow celesta.
August 18, 2011 @ 3:34 am
I own a ct 401 but unfortunately it's broken and new I have to find its service manual to fix it!! can someone help me to find it?
thanks a lot,
June 28, 2011 @ 4:30 pm
this was my first keyboard (just after a mini órgão Hering,that is) many years ago. Some warm sound that so many sh*tload liers hell-softsynths just try to emulate,plus drum patterns that remind a bit the Roland CRs as mentioned.oh and the frog and funny sounds of course. by that time,i never knew well the powerful Rolands and Korgs etc,though knowing the 401 limits, I had a lot of fun with mine as a kid, until my house was robbed around the 90's and it was gone. Nice to say that at least this machine has some vintage feel, and nice to see it reviewed here now.
June 23, 2011 @ 10:13 pm
I agree with zero good cheap synth with vintage look and sound. If you want control go for one of the JX roland synths from the 80's (buy the controller with it). THEN go find one of these things 'cause they CHEAP! They are well built and programmed. I just get the biggest kick from turning this on and messing around with it. I'm the guy that made the demo video that someone has kindly linked up to the VSE. (With my whole hearted blessing of course. Tis an honor!) Go buy this synth if you like lofi stuff, it's GREAT for that!
June 3, 2011 @ 12:46 am
Anouk I wouldn't pay more than $150 USD for a Casio 401, 403, 405 or the 701 which is basically like the others except that it has 61 keys and a couple other nice features. I own a 701 and a 403 and can vouch for them unconditionally. They are a sort of guilty pleasure for me! Nice analog vintage drum beats too and a very simple to use layout. I do like the sounds, very dated yes but not at all cheap sounds! Oh, and the looks of these little beauties are priceless! If you have a hard time finding one you might also enjoy the sounds of a Roland JX-3p or a Roland Saturn for around $300 USD.
VSE Rating

It’s Good

User Rating

Rated 3.1 (112 Votes)

  • Check Price
  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - 8 notes (12 notes with auto-chord polyphony)
  • Oscillators - 2
  • Waveforms - multi-pulse square wave tones
  • Modulation - Vibrato, Vibrato Delay
  • Filter - None
  • Envelope - Sustain, Hold
  • Effects - None
  • Arpeg/Seq - Chord memory / Auto Accompaniment
  • Keyboard - 49 keys
  • Memory - 14 preset sounds: organ, flute, oboe, clarinet, trumpet, violin, cello, piano, harpsichord, celesta, accordion, electric piano, funny, frog
    16 preset rhythms: rock, slow rock1, swing, bossanova, march1, waltz, rhumba, habanera | rock'n'roll, slow waltz, shuffle, samba, march2, rock waltz, beguine, mambo
  • Control - x3 Foot Switch jacks
  • Date Produced - 1981
  • Resources & Credits
  • Original images via Email from ManMade and from Ebay.

    Reviewed May 2011.

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