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
Rich
July 16, 2013 @ 5:06 pm
I have a CT-403, and I love it.
Mint condition, and even have the original manual and bill of sale.
Haven't recorded with it yet, but its coming!
samuel kirkland
August 3, 2012 @ 7:28 am
I have a CT-403, with 25 sound settings, unlike the 14 on the 401. It has 2 organ & harpsichord settings, muted guitar, chimes (very beautiful), music box, xylophone, cosmic tone, trumpet, synth brass (also beautiful), guitar, muted guitar, mandolin,
and harmonica (great with fuzz/distortion).
These SYNTHS make exceptionally warm, beautiful sounds, especially when run through some nice, real spring reverb or analogue delay.
The only thing I wish it has was a full VCA envelope....
Albert
August 2, 2012 @ 7:00 am
A fine vintage piece indeed. It's double fun if used with external sound effects like fuzz, chorus or distortion of any kind and then though a powerful PA system. I have a spare one that is in full working order, one or two knobs may be missing, if anyone is interested they can mail me (hope this remark doesn't get me thrown out).
Bruno
July 4, 2012 @ 2:08 pm
hi, I just bought one 2 month ago and i love it, but recently it has start making a frying noise that ussually stops after turning it off and on again. i´ve send it to service but they cant find the problem because it is irregular and we could not find the service manual. does anyone have it? Sara, i saw that you were looking for it too, did you find it? thnx! great site!
Kenneth
January 28, 2012 @ 7:18 pm
I just bought one off eBay, and WOW. This thing has so much warmth and character! Not only does it sound a feel amazing, it actually inspires me to create music when I play it. I can actually hear melodies forming in my mind while playing, and you know you have something very special when that starts happening. I will be hanging onto this, and if you have one you ought to do the same. A real piece of magic, this one.
 
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  • Check Prices on eBay
  • The link above will take you to a 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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