Roland electric piano

Roland electric piano DEFAULT

Roland Keyboards & MIDI

About Keyboards & MIDI

Traditionally tickling the ivories meant sitting on a piano bench and playing a large instrument with 88 keys. While acoustic pianos remain popular their digital counterparts have become some of the most widely-used instrument in today's high-tech music community. Not only are they musical instruments they’re compact workstations capable of performing an entire repertoire of digital music tasks.

A standard keyboard is designed with 88 keys. 61-key and 76-key models are available but their range is slightly more limited than full-sized keyboards. Some synthesizers and MIDI controllers have key counts as low as 25. Because they're used mainly in digital sound applications MIDI's and synthesizers don't require such a wide range of keys. A keyboards ability to emulate the sound and feel of an acoustic piano is called touch sensitivity. If a musician strikes the keys with little pressure the keyboard produces a soft quieter sound. Conversely if they strike the keys with force the sound will be louder and harder. Weighed keys function in much the same way. Weighted keys offer the most resistance and the closest match to keys found on a regular piano. Non-weighted and synth keys are one in the same: they move freely and allow for fast fingering.

Led by accomplished brands like Williams Yamaha Casio Kawai Roland Suzuki and Akai keyboards have established themselves as vital instruments for learning and performance and are accompanied by a wide variety of accessories and teaching tools. Piano method bookslessons and survival kits are all great resources for beginning keyboard players. If a musician is more advanced they may want to explore synthesizers and MIDI controllers - these keyboards have more options and features than regular digital pianos and open up a whole new world of digital playing possibilities.



To simply say that Roland Corporation was established in 1972 is to ignore one of the most compelling stories in the realm of digital pianos. Ikutaro Kakehashi started down the path to Roland Corporation at the age of 16, when he began repairing watches and clocks in postwar Japan. However, his enthusiasm for music meant that his business soon evolved into the repair of radios. At the age of 20, Kakehashi contracted tuberculosis. After three years in the hospital, he was selected for the trial of a new drug, streptomycin, and within a year he was out of the hospital.

In 1954, Kakehashi opened Kakehashi Musen (Kakehashi Radio). Once again, his interest in music intervened, this time leading to his development of a prototype electric organ. In 1960, Kakehashi Radio evolved into Ace Electronic Industries. The FR1 Rhythm Ace became a standard offering of the Hammond Organ Company, and Ace Electronic Industries flourished. Guitar amplifiers, effects units, and more rhythm machines were developed, but as a result of various business-equity involvements, Ace was inadvertently acquired by a company with no interest in musical products, and Kakehashi left in March 1972. One month later, he established Roland Corporation. The first Roland product, not surprisingly, was a rhythm box.

In 1973, Roland introduced its first all-electronic combo piano, the EP-10, followed in 1974 by the EP-30, the world’s first electronic piano with a touch-sensitive keyboard. Japan’s first genuinely digital pianos for home use were released by Roland in 1975 as part of the early HP series. Next came Roland’s portable EP-09 electronic piano in 1980, and the debut of the wood-finish HP-60 and HP-70 compact pianos in 1981. In 1983, Roland released the HP-300 and HP-400, the very first digital pianos with MIDI.

When introduced in 1986, the RD-1000 stage piano was Roland’s first entry in what would become the digital piano category. Today, Roland offers more than two dozen models of digital piano covering every facet of the category: slab, vertical, grand, ensemble, and stage instruments.

Of particular interest to those looking for educational features is Roland’s HPi model, which includes a substantial suite of educational capabilities supported by an LCD screen mounted on a music desk. The new LX models add traditional-looking vertical pianos to the line. Roland offers one of the widest selections of digital pianos in the industry. The chart of “Digital Piano Specifications and Prices” will give you a clear breakdown of the various models and features.

The Roland V-Piano is the first digital piano to rely entirely on physical modeling as its tonal source. Physical modeling breaks down the sound of a piano note into discrete elements that can be represented by mathematical equations, and creates the tone in real time based on a complex series of calculations. There are no acoustic piano samples. For more information about physical modeling, please see, elsewhere in this issue, “Digital Basics, Part 1: Imitating the Acoustic Piano” and “My Other Piano Is a Computer: An Introduction to Software Pianos.”

The HP models are the core of Roland’s offerings in home digital pianos; the latest models, including the new GP607 Digital Grand, share the company’s hallmark SuperNATURAL® piano sound engine, premium Progressive Hammer Action with Escapement, and built-in Bluetooth wireless capability, and differ from each other primarily in the specifications of their audio systems and cabinet-types.

Digital Piano: Prices and Specifications

Click any Model link for an expanded list of specifications for that model.
Prices in blue italics indicate Minimum Advertised Price (MAP). Other prices are our estimates based on normal retail margins.
For more information on MAP and retail pricing, see our article on Buying a Digital Piano.
For explanation of features and specifications shown, please see the Key to Specifications and Prices.

ModelForm Slab, Vertical, GrandEnsembleFinish See finish codesEst. Street Price*VoicesRhythms / StylesPolyphonyPedals H = half-pedaling supportSpeakers / WattsRecording MIDI Tracks / Digital Audio (DA)BluetoothVocal SupportEducational FeaturesProduct Page
RD-88SBk1,2993000+128/2561 (3) H2 / 12 DA NoYesNoExternal Website Link
RD-2000SBk2,6791100+200UL/1281 (3) H0 / 0 1 / DA NoNoNoExternal Website Link
GO:PIANO88SBk39941281 2 / 20YesNoYesExternal Website Link
FP-30XSEBk/Wt79956212561 (3) H2 / 22 3 / DA YesNoYesExternal Website Link
FP-60XSEBk/Wt1,149358212561 (3) H2 / 26 3 / DA YesYesYesExternal Website Link
FP-90XSEBk/Wt2,29936221UL/2561 (3) H4 / 60 3 / DA YesYesYesExternal Website Link
FRP-1VBk64915961 H2 / 12YesNoYesExternal Website Link
DP-603VEBk2,79931921UL/3843 H2 / 24 3 / DA YesNoYesExternal Website Link
DP-603VEEP/WtP3,29931921UL/3843 H2 / 24 3 / DA YesNoYesExternal Website Link
HP-702VEO/R/ES/Wt2,46932421UL/3843 H2 / 28 3 / DA YesNoYesExternal Website Link
HP-704VEO/R/ES/Wt3,19932421UL/3843 H4 / 60 3 / DA YesNoYesExternal Website Link
HP-704VEEP3,79932421UL/3843 H4 / 60 3 / DA YesNoYesExternal Website Link
LX-705VEO/R/ES3,79932421UL/2563 H4 / 60 3 / DA YesNoYesExternal Website Link
LX-705VEEP4,44932421UL/2563 H4 / 60 3 / DA YesNoYesExternal Website Link
LX-706VER/ES4,69932421UL/2563 H6 / 74 3 / DA YesNoYesExternal Website Link
LX-706VEEP5,49932421UL/2563 H6 / 74 3 / DA YesNoYesExternal Website Link
LX-708VEES6,39932421UL/2563 H8 / 74 3 / DA YesNoYesExternal Website Link
LX-708VEEP7,09932421UL/2563 H8 / 74 3 / DA YesNoYesExternal Website Link
LX-708VEWtP7,29932421UL/2563 H8 / 74 3 / DA YesNoYesExternal Website Link
F-140RVEBk/Wt1,389316721283 H2 / 24 1 / DA YesNoYesExternal Website Link
F-701VEBk/Wt/O1,399324212563 H2 / 24 3 / DA YesNoYesExternal Website Link
RP-102VEBk999318211283 H2 / 12YesNoYesExternal Website Link
RP-501RVEBk/Wt/R1,629316721283 H2 / 24 1 / DA YesNoYesExternal Website Link
RP-701VEBk/Wt/R/O1,599324212563 H2 / 24 3 / DA YesNoYesExternal Website Link
GP-607 (Mini Grand)GEEP6,19931921UL/3843 H5 / 70 3 / DA YesNoYesExternal Website Link
GP-607 (Mini Grand)GEWtP6,39931921UL/3843 H5 / 70 3 / DA YesNoYesExternal Website Link
GP-609 (Grand Piano)GEEP10,49931921UL/3843 H7 / 74 3 / DA YesNoYesExternal Website Link
GP-609 (Grand Piano)GEWtP10,79931921UL/3843 H7 / 74 3 / DA YesNoYesExternal Website Link
Back To List >
Model Webpage
Estimated Price
Sound Source
Key Release
Sustain Resonance
String Resonance
Rhythms / Styles
Total Watts
Triple Sensor
Wood Keys
Ivory Texture
Vocal Support
Educational Features
External Memory
USB To Computer
USB Digital Audio
Recording Tracks
W x D x H (inches)
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Roland Digital Pianos

For nearly 300 years, the piano has enriched our lives with its expressive sounds, becoming an integral part of our music culture. Roland has been at the forefront of piano innovation since the release of our first all-electronic piano in 1973. Schmitt Music piano stores offer a variety of Roland instruments including their V-Piano Grand models, Premium Upright digitals, and Upright models – all featuring Roland’s SuperNATURAL sound engine. Click here to learn more about Roland digital pianos.


Top Technologies, No-Compromise Performance
Roland HP-507 digital pianoOn digital upright piano models, like the HP504, Roland’s latest technologies bring superior piano performance to an attractive and affordable instrument for your home. The SuperNATURAL Piano sound engine has been enhanced with a Dynamic Harmonic feature for fortissimo playing, while the new PHA-4 Premium Keyboard with Escapement and Ivory Feel includes the latest touch-sensing technology to fully explore SuperNATURAL Piano’s rich tonal variations and natural dynamics. Individual Note Voicing lets you tailor the sound of each note to your taste, and you can now enjoy the unique sound field of an acoustic piano during your private practice sessions, thanks to the innovative Headphones 3D Ambience effect. And with Roland’s great iOS piano apps, it’s easy to use your favorite Apple mobile devices with the HP504 to enhance your learning and have more fun with the piano.


Since 1972, Roland has worked to create the ultimate piano experience, and our new LX pianos are among the most exciting yet. We wanted to build a luxurious upright piano for the connoisseur, with the rich sound and graceful appearance of an acoustic, along with a multitude of advantages only possible with a digital piano. The LX-17 is powered by the latest version of our acclaimed SuperNATURAL Piano Modeling technology, along with a unique keyboard that blends wood and molded materials for great feel and durability. The LX-17 connects via Bluetooth technology to your smartphone or tablet so you can hear your music-making apps or online piano lessons through the piano’s powerful eight-speaker sound system. And even though it’s compact, the classically-styled LX-17 is our tallest upright piano and it’ll definitely make a big impact in your home especially with a choice of finishes including polished ebony and polished white.


The Total-Immersion, Authentic Grand Piano Experience
With its groundbreaking approach to grand-piano modeling, and incredibly realistic sound, touch, and response, Roland’s V-Piano has earned many international awards and accolades since its debut in 2009. It has become the #1 choice for many of the most discerning pianists on the planet. So how does the V-Piano evolve? Introducing the V-Piano Grand! Built into an elegant grand-piano cabinet, and with a unique, multi-channel sound system that reacts naturally and intelligently to your performance, this exquisite instrument blurs the line between digital and acoustic worlds. Stepping up from the previous generation, the V-Piano Grand’s sound generator has been further refined, and new piano models have been added to the onboard library. Welcome to a new world of performance, sophistication, and musical innovation.

Contact a Schmitt Music Piano Specialist to schedule your Roland piano showing, or visit your Schmitt Music piano store today.

Learn more about Roland’s SuperNATURAL Piano sound engine:

Roland RP-102 - Unboxing \u0026 Cover (River Flows in You - Yiruma) cover by Elizabeth Sinambela - VLOG#1

After researching more than 80 digital console pianos and testing nine with a panel of professionals and amateurs, we think the Yamaha Arius YDP-181 is the best digital console piano for a student who doesn’t want an acoustic piano because of space or budget considerations. Its action has a good feel, the piano sounds are excellent, the control panel is well laid out and easy to navigate, and it comes with a bench. It’s an excellent choice for a beginning or intermediate student and should ease the transition to an acoustic instrument as they progress.

The Yamaha YDP-181 was the top pick for half of our testers. The action feels like a grand piano, is easy to play, and allows for a significant amount of nuance. Our testers liked the default Grand Piano 1 sound, which closely resembles that of an acoustic piano. Clearly marked control selectors let you easily adjust tone, reverb, and other special effects and make it simple to record a piece for playback or practice. The finish looks nice, although it comes in only a dark-brown rosewood that might not be to everyone’s taste.

The Roland RP501R was a firm runner-up choice among our panelists. Its sound is good, if a bit more muted than our top pick, and the onboard amplifier and speakers successfully envelop the player in sound. The added page-turn support for Bluetooth is an excellent bonus if you have music loaded onto a tablet. The feel of the simulated mechanical action might, however, be distracting for some players, so it’s good to try one in store if possible.

The action and key feel of the Korg LP-380 isn’t as good a representation of an acoustic piano as the Yamaha or Roland, but if you don’t want to spend over $1,000 it is still a good choice for beginners. The sounds are decent, and it plays pretty well, though not as well as our top picks.

Why you should trust us

Tester Liz Kinnon sits on a piano bench between the two pianos, with a hand on each, testing the keys.

I’ve been playing musical instruments since 1982. I have a bachelor of music with an audio production focus from Ithaca College and a master of music in keyboard collaborative arts from the University of Southern California. For the past 20 years, I have been a professional music director and performer in styles ranging from classical and opera in concert halls to pop and rock on the Sunset Strip. And for 10 years I taught at a private Los Angeles high school and music directed their productions.

The testers we brought in for this guide were a combination of professionals and students:

  • Liz Kinnon is a pianist/arranger/composer/educator based in Los Angeles. She has performed with artists such as Dizzy Gillespie and Andy Williams, was an orchestrator on Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain, and has been on the jazz faculty at the Colburn School of Performing Arts in Los Angeles since 2009. In 2007, she released a solo CD titled Ms. Behavin’. She was also Ryan Gosling’s teacher for his role in La La Land.
  • Phil Metzler is a producer and multi-instrumentalist member of the LA-based indie rock band Just Off Turner, which has released five albums. He also teaches piano privately in Los Angeles.
  • Rita Davis gave us the student point of view. She has been playing piano in her living room on and off for a few decades. She continues to take lessons and plays with friends for the joy of it.

Who this is for

If someone in the household is showing an interest in the piano and wants to begin taking lessons, a digital piano is a great option. The biggest benefit over an acoustic piano is that regular tuning and maintenance is unnecessary. Acoustic pianos should be tuned at least once a year (most manufacturers recommend two times per year; this will likely be necessary if you live somewhere with big seasonal changes in humidity), and more affordable older pianos sometimes need work done to the hammer mechanisms, keys, or in the worst scenarios, the soundboard. Digital pianos are almost always smaller than an acoustic piano, even a spinet, and they are significantly lighter. It’s possible to move them around with a second person and without the need for a furniture dolly.

Another major benefit of digital pianos is the ability to play and practice without disturbing the rest of the house (or the neighbors). The volume can be controlled, and headphone outputs—usually two—defeat the built-in speakers when you’re plugged in.

Some more traditionally minded teachers, however, feel that digital pianos aren’t the best choice for serious study (in their opinion, the simulated piano action, along with the fact that you can control the volume with a knob, can make it more difficult for a student to develop proper touch), so you may want to check with your instructor before purchasing.

While these full-featured digital pianos may seem expensive, they are much less expensive than quality entry-level acoustic pianos; and while used acoustics may be cheaper up front, repair and maintenance costs will likely make up the difference in most cases. All things considered, a good digital makes a compelling first piano, and might be the only piano that someone with limited space needs.

How we picked and tested

The author, a young man, reads a manual as tester Liz Kinnon plays the Roland, sitting to his right.

Our goal was to recommend a digital piano that closely represents an acoustic piano in touch and sound and makes the transition for a student from digital to acoustic an easy one. In order to find options that best emulated a traditional piano playing experience, we first applied some required parameters:

  • 88 keys is an absolute must. It’s the accepted standard for modern acoustic pianos.
  • Three pedals is another norm. On the right is the sustain, or damper, pedal. It is found on every keyboard that has a pedal, and is used to allow the note to ring or sustain. On an acoustic piano, the pedal lifts the felt dampers off the strings, hence the name. The left pedal is the soft, or una corda, pedal. It quiets the overall sound of a note and changes its timbre. The pedal shifts the piano’s hammers to the side so that they strike only one of the three strings assigned to a note. The sostenuto pedal is in the middle. It is similar to the sustain pedal in that it allows notes to continue to ring, but only for those keys that are depressed as the pedal is engaged. (On most uprights the middle pedal is not a sostenuto and acts more closely to the soft pedal.)
  • Weighted action simulates the feel and responsiveness of depressing a key on an acoustic piano. Synthesizer keys have a spring-loaded response known as “synth action”; a semi-weighted action, is a synth action with a weight added and is not very similar to a piano’s feel. Hammer action is the closest representation of acoustic piano action you’ll find on a digital instrument. A good hammer action allows for subtle nuance in how the hammer strikes the strings—compared to a poorly executed one, its like the difference between a light switch and a light dimmer, but instead of light the player is varying intensity and tone. The better the action, the easier it is to highlight, or voice, notes selectively within chords.
  • An accurate piano sound is the second important way a digital keyboard can emulate a piano. Having additional sounds—such as electric piano, strings, or brass—is an added bonus. But if the piano sound doesn’t sound like a piano, it won’t be an immersive playing experience.
  • Speakers are necessary for any digital instrument to produce sound because the sound is created electronically. We required that the digital pianos have built-in speakers so an extra, external amplifier isn’t necessary.
  • An attached stand completes the ensemble, but more important, it keeps the keyboard solid and secure. Separate stands, while convenient if mobility is necessary, can be wobbly. When the stand is designed for the keyboard console and the two bolt together, there is no question it’s stable. They’re also generally more aesthetically pleasing.

We searched through company websites for currently available models and looked at online reviews from consumers and independent review websites to come up with a list of 89 models. We set the price limit of $2,000, which brought the number down to 64. Higher than $2,000, the differences in quality become more minute and it’s possible to find upright or spinet acoustic pianos in very good condition. After removing models without three pedals and trying samples at local Los Angeles music stores, our initial list of 89 models was narrowed down to nine digital pianos. All of them have headphone jacks that defeat the internal speakers when used. All can be connected to a computer, and some have Bluetooth connectivity.

Once the pianos were delivered and assembled, we brought in our panelists individually to try them out and offer their opinions on each model.

Our pick: Yamaha Arius YDP-181

The Yamaha YDP-181, a slim 88-key electric piano in an entirely dark wood finish and three classic metallic pedals.

Of all the pianos we tested, the Yamaha Arius YDP-181 felt most like an acoustic piano. The keyboard action is firm and responsive, and the pedals have nice sensitivity. The default Grand Piano 1 sound is good with a sparkly high end; and the panel controls are clearly marked and easy to navigate. The speakers don’t envelop you in sound as much as some others we tested, and it comes in only a dark rosewood finish, but it’s the one piano I constantly go back to and would enjoy playing all day.

The YDP-181 has Yamaha’s Graded Hammer action, one of the company’s midrange quality actions. To emulate the feel on an acoustic grand piano, the key weight and response varies throughout the keyboard range. Lower-range keys have a heavier touch that gets lighter as you move up into the higher octaves. This replicates the difference in hammer weights on an acoustic grand piano, where the hammers are heavier in the bass and lighter in the treble.

Action affects playability, but—especially for experienced players—it is a personal choice. For both Liz Kinnon and I, the YDP-181 hit the sweet spot. It felt good to our fingers, and I found it to be the most enjoyable to play at length. Phil Metzler thought it played well, but it was a little stiff for his taste, while Rita Davis found the action to be too quick and didn’t have the weight she desired. But overall, it was the easiest to control chord voicing—manipulating the relative volumes of notes within chords—of any piano we tested, meaning a student can grow into understanding the nuance of touch and develop this skill as his or her musicianship blossoms.

A video comparison of our three picks using the middle section of Rachmaninoff’s Prelude Op. 3 No. 2 in C-sharp minor.

The pedal sensitivity is impressive as well. The damper allows for half pedaling. On an acoustic piano it is possible to depress the right pedal so the dampers just lightly touch the strings and slightly alter the tone of the notes rather than creating a full sustain. When half pedaling was first introduced into digital pianos, the effect was pretty much on or off depending on your foot pedal position. With more recent pianos there are finer gradations of effect. The YDP-181 achieves this beautifully. The damper resonance is also adjustable. Turning this effect on adds the sounds that occur when the damper pedal is depressed on a piano and the dampers are released from the strings. It’s a nice touch, and allows for more advanced techniques as a student advances.

There are 14 sounds on the Yamaha YDP-181, including grand pianos, electric pianos, harpsichords, a vibraphone, organs, strings, a choir, and a guitar. Some of the samples, including the default Grand Piano 1, were created with Yamaha’s proprietary sampling system called AWM (Advanced Wave Memory) Dynamic Stereo Sampling. Multiple samples were recorded at various velocities, and those samples are played back depending on how quickly the keys are played. The Grand Piano 1 sound is comprised of newly recorded samples from a full-size concert grand piano. The result is an authentic-sounding instrument. While the piano sounds are great, some of the other sounds leave something to be desired, in particular the choir and strings. But since the primary purpose of the keyboard is to emulate a piano, we can accept the less-than-authentic chorus of ooohh’s.

1: Control buttons on the YDP-181, on a horizontal panel just above the keyboard. From left: volume control, a Demo button, Transpose button, Record, Stop, and Play/Pause, and buttons to select songs and files. The display has lights for USB connectivity, indicating presets and functions, and a tempo light.

The YDP-181 controls are well laid out, and selected buttons are clearly illuminated. Photo: Rozette Rago

2: Moving to the right on the control panel, there are also metronome controls, a numerical tempo display, and 14 visible voice presets, from strings to harpsichord to choir.

The YDP-181 controls are well laid out, and selected buttons are clearly illuminated. Photo: Rozette Rago

3: Further right on the control panel: four buttons control Brilliance, Reverb, Effect, and Touch, with lights displaying their currently selected setting. A fifth button says "Damper res."

The YDP-181 controls are well laid out, and selected buttons are clearly illuminated. Photo: Rozette Rago

4: A close-up of the pedals. There are three, all with metallic finish, slightly smaller than is traditional but spaced conventionally.

The YDP-181 controls are well laid out, and selected buttons are clearly illuminated. Photo: Rozette Rago

The control panel layout is clear and easy to use. There are voice select buttons for each instrument so you don’t have to scroll through multiple instruments stored on one button. You can also press two at a time to combine the sounds. The sound buttons—for brilliance (brightness), reverb, and effects—have the options listed above them, and the selected option has a light illuminated next to it so there’s no confusion as to what is on. There is built-in data storage for recording songs. Songs can be recorded in two parts and saved to an external USB drive.

Under the console is a pair of In and Out MIDI connections for a MIDI device or interface to connect to your computer. The two headphone jacks are on the left end, under the key bed. There is also a three-way speaker toggle that turns the internal speakers off, on, or on as long as headphones are not connected. There is a headphone hanger next to the jacks to store your headphones, but there isn’t much clearance if they have a thick headband.

A bench is included, although it doesn’t have any storage for music books. Some reviews have mentioned that it’s thinner than they would like, but none of our testers had an issue. It certainly is not wide enough for more than one person. Also included is a music collection of piano pieces, 50 Greats for the Piano.

The Yamaha Arius YDP-181 comes with a three-year limited warranty. This covers parts and labor for any repairs that are necessary due to defective parts or malfunctions. If Yamaha decides the unit needs to be replaced, you will be responsible for any initial shipping charges if the piano must be shipped for warranty service. Yamaha will pay for return shipping in the United States.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Both Metzler and Davis had slight reservations about the sound of the piano. Metzler said it sounded a little anemic, and Davis thought the sound felt flat by comparison with an acoustic piano, but not enough to deter them from playing. Neither Kinnon nor I had the same experience. We both felt the piano sounded elegant and accurately captured the acoustic piano-playing experience.

When purchasing a console piano, you’re not just buying an instrument. You’re also getting a piece of furniture. The Yamaha Arius YDP-181 is available in only a dark rosewood finish. The build quality of the piano is great, but if a dark brown doesn’t fit the decor of your room, this might be a dealbreaker for you.

Runner-up: Roland RP501R

An electric piano almost identical to the Yamaha, the Roland differs in having a small full-width opening under its keyboard and above the kick guard through which cords could be fed.

The Roland RP501R is another great choice for a developing musician. The action is pretty good, with some minor issues, and the damper pedal has Progressive Damper Action, Roland’s name for its half pedaling response that is similar to the Yamaha’s. The piano sound was decent; Davis especially liked it, but it isn’t as realistic as the Yamaha’s. Some of the features are comparable—recording capabilities, dual headphone jacks with a hook—but the Roland has a slew of others that solidifies its place as our runner-up.

The action on the RP501R has a somewhat firm feel that is satisfying and easy to play. Davis found it so comfortable that she said she would play on it every day. Kinnon liked the control she had over the chord voicing, but didn’t like the slight vibration she felt when she pressed the key into the keybed. This is Roland’s emulation of the escapement mechanism in a grand piano. When a key is played on an acoustic piano, a felt-covered hammer strikes the string to cause it to vibrate and produce sound. The escapement mechanism is what allows for the hammer to immediately fall away from the string, even if the key stays depressed, so the string can continue to vibrate. Modern grand pianos have double escapement, which resets the hammer after the key is only partially lifted. This lets the note be repeated quickly without the hammer needing to fully reset to its rest position. On an acoustic grand piano the moment of escapement can be felt if you slowly depress the key, but when playing normally it falls into the natural motion of the key and isn’t distracting. Roland’s simulated escapement can be a little distracting, especially when playing gently, but not enough to take away from the overall playing experience.

The Roland pieno's control panel is smaller than the others: it has about 12 buttons in total.

The RP501R’s control panel isn’t quite as intuitive as that on the YDP-181, but it still manages to offer a good amount of options. Photo: Rozette Rago

The Roland's three metallic pedals.

The RP501R’s control panel isn’t quite as intuitive as that on the YDP-181, but it still manages to offer a good amount of options. Photo: Rozette Rago

Roland’s SuperNatural Piano sound technology and speakers do a good job filling the room with sound, but overall this piano doesn’t sound as natural as the Yamaha YDP-181. There are plenty of additional sounds to choose from. There are more than 300 sounds available, as well as 72 rhythm accompaniment styles, including pop, jazz, blues, Latin, and disco. These are a great way for a student to practice rhythmic timing or improvisation, or just have fun. Some panelists accidentally hit the start button while playing, but there is a panel lock option that disables all buttons except the volume to avoid this from happening.

Where the Roland does shine over the Yamaha is in its connectivity. Instead of using MIDI ports to connect to an external interface that then connects to your computer, the RP501R has an internal interface with a USB out that can plug directly into your computer. And an audio player can be connected through the input jack so you can play along with your favorite music.

If you use a music score display app on your device and connect to the RP501R, you can connect via Bluetooth and assign one of the keyboard pedals to turn pages (I recommend the middle pedal, assigned by default as a sostenuto pedal, since it has more limited use in everyday playing). There are products available that do this well already, but to have it integrated into the keyboard is fantastic. Roland also has a free app, Piano Partner 2, for both iOS and Android that can control the keyboard’s functions, display music, and help develop music skills with an interactive game.

Roland has a five-year parts and two-year labor warranty, but you must pay to ship the keyboard in its packaging to Roland for repair.

The RP501R is available in contemporary black, contemporary rosewood, and white. It comes with a matching bench that has storage space for music books.

Budget pick: Korg LP-380

The Korg is even more minimal than the other picks. It's also dark wood, but has no visible branding and no separate music stand piece, instead using its key cover for both functions.

For around $700 cheaper than our Yamaha pick, the Korg LP-380 is a decent starter piano. For a more experienced player, it isn’t as good a choice as the Yamaha or the Roland due to its limitations in action and sound. It is easier to fit into a small space, however, since at 13.82 inches, it is not as physically deep as either the Yamaha (20.25 inches) or the Roland (16.69 inches), so it can be kept more out of the way.

Korg’s RH3 action is spongier than both the Yamaha and Roland actions and a bit harder to control. Since it doesn’t have as fine-grained sensitivity as the Yamaha or Roland it takes considerably more effort to control chord voicings precisely. And half pedaling isn’t as smooth as it is on the Yamaha, though that’s only noticeable with a slow release of the pedal.

A close-up of the control panel on the Korg. There is a volume knob, Transpose, Touch, Brilliance, Reverb and Chorus buttons, a Function button, and 10 voice option buttons.

The LP-380 control panel is a bit more basic than our other picks, and the pedal assembly is plasticky. Photo: Rozette Rago

The Korg's pedal assembly: three metallic pedals with a plastic footrest underneath.

The LP-380 control panel is a bit more basic than our other picks, and the pedal assembly is plasticky. Photo: Rozette Rago

The LP-380 comes with 30 internal sounds that are grouped three to a button on the control panel. The default piano sound is very good as are a couple of the electric keyboard sounds. Turning the volume up too high can cause some distortion in the internal speakers. There is a line out jack to connect to an amplifier or powered speakers.

The biggest flaw of the Korg is the design of its cover. In the open position, the cover becomes the music desk, but there are two problems. It doesn’t lean back quite far enough, so the music rests in a slightly forward position in comparison to the Yamaha, the Roland, and most acoustic pianos. This limits your ability to illuminate your music from above, and for Davis, the music was set at a slightly lower position than she is accustomed to, which made it less comfortable. There is also a lip to keep your music book from closing or sliding forward, but it’s too high and makes turning pages difficult, especially if you’re trying to do it quickly.

The Korg LP-380 is available in black, white, red, a rosewood grain finish, or black with red side panels and a red cover.

What to look forward to

Our update to this guide was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Once we’re able to receive product samples for testing and bring together a group of experts to audition them, we will prepare an update. Pianos we hope to include (depending on product availability after production returns to normal) include the Kawai KDP110, Yamaha YDP-164, Yamaha P-515, Roland FP-60, and Korg C1 Air.

The competition

At the top of Metzler’s list was the Kawai CE220. It felt and sounded exactly how he wanted, and he was inspired to play the instrument. For the rest of us, the action was a little stiff and we prefered the sounds of the less expensive Yamaha and Roland.

The Kawai CN27 wasn’t as easy to play as our picks. The action was a bit stiff and the controls were hard to navigate.

The Korg LP-180 has the same music desk design we dislike in our budget pick, and it feels less piano-like. The three-pedal controller has the tendency to move around a bit on a hardwood floor and needs to be secured with tape or museum gel to stay in place.

The Kurzweil MP-10 was the only gloss-finished piano brought in for testing, and overall was well-liked by our panel. The piano sound is great, and some of the extra sounds are fantastic, but selecting the sounds or making any changes requires a reference chart. And the action doesn’t allow for the fine control achievable by the Yamaha or Roland.

The Roland FP-30’s action was okay and had a consistent feel across the entire keyboard, but none of our panelists liked the sounds.

Everything about the Yamaha Arius YDP-163 was okay but not great. The piano sounds were muddy, the action wasn’t as responsive as the YDP-181’s, and the controls were difficult to use.

Some other models we considered on paper but didn’t hold up when we tried them in music stores.

The Casio CGP-700 has a great default grand piano sound and a nice color touchscreen display, but the action wasn’t impressive, the stand feels wobbly and it comes with only one pedal. A three-pedal option is available, but for an extra $75.

We tried the Williams Overture 2 and Symphony Grand at multiple Guitar Centers, and every sample had something wrong with one or two keys, which doesn’t give a good indication of overall quality and bodes ill for longevity.

About your guide

John Higgins

Electric piano roland

Boston’s Source for Roland Digital Pianos

At M. Steinert & Sons we embrace innovation and creativity. Which is why we are proud to represent Roland, the world leader in the design, manufacture, and distribution of high-quality digital pianos. Roland pianos feature advanced sound and action technologies that replicate the sound and feel of an acoustic piano, without requiring as much space, and at a lower cost. If your goal is to own the best digital piano – then you’ll want to own a Roland.

Why buy Roland at M. Steinert & Sons?

  1. Trade-in.   Many pianists start digital – then go acoustic.  At Steinert – you can get full value for your Roland digital piano purchased at M. Steinert & Sons towards one of our fine acoustic pianos.  June 2020:  See our new Trade-Up Policy with Lifetime trade-up to Steinway.
  2. Inventory. We have a huge selection of Roland digitals from the largest grands to the smaller portable pianos.  We often have prior-year close-outs and rental returns available at each location.  Complete the form below to request stock status on a given model/location.
  3. Expertise.  We started offering Roland digital in the 1980s- and have accumulated knowledge on the features/benefits of each size and series.

Schedule an appointment to visit with one of our piano consultants in Boston or Newton to discover what makes Roland the digital piano of choice.

Roland RP102 Digital Piano All Playing, No Talking!

Best Roland Digital Pianos & Keyboards: The Definitive Guide

Roland Digital Pianos & Keyboards

Roland is easily one of the most recognizable names in the music business.

Their name alone is enough to inspire confidence in the sound and build quality of a keyboard, which is no small feat considering their expansive product range.

Since Roland has products geared towards users at every price point, you might feel a bit overwhelmed by the amount of options you have.

What’s the difference between a synthesizer and a workstation? What’s the difference between the many key actions? What’s SuperNATURAL?

Have no fear. This article will give you an overview of the best Roland digital pianos while also giving some insight into the workings of Roland’s many keyboard-based instruments, including: digital pianos, arranger keyboards, stage keyboards, synthesizers, and workstations.

Note that we’ll be skipping over Roland’s products in the pro-audio category and their guitar/bass products under their BOSS brand.

While these products are also well received throughout the industry, this article will focus on keyboards and digital pianos.

About Roland

  • Founded: 1972
  • Headquarters: Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, Japan
  • Number of Employees: 3,060
  • Products: Digital Pianos, Synthesizers, Electronic Drums, Organs, Pro Recording & Production Equipment, Guitar/Bass Equipment

Roland, founded in 1972, might seem young compared to other industry giants like Yamaha, but they’ve definitely had their fair share of successes, which have catapulted them to stardom.

Roland’s timeless nature stems from their huge legion of iconic instruments, most of which are easily recognizable in hit songs through the years, even today.

Roland Jupiter 8

Roland Jupiter 8

While Yamaha’s DX7 controlled the realm of digital synthesis in pop music, Roland’s Jupiter 8 and Juno-60 were go-to synthesizers for lush pads and leads.

Michael Jackson’s Thriller was a masterpiece, and the producer, Quincy Jones, used the Jupiter 8 for the rolling bassline and synth brass sounds.

While the Linn Drum has become the de facto standard for drum machines with its acoustic-like drum sounds, Roland’s TR-808 and TR-909 remain relevant to this day.

Iconic moments include Marvin Gaye (in 1982’s Sexual Healing), Kayne West (in his 2008’s 808s and Heartbreak album), and Taylor Swift (using Max Martin’s original TR-808 in 2014’s chart topper Blank Space).

Roland TR-808

Roland TR-808

Finally, Roland’s been at the forefront of digital piano technology since the early 80s.

Beginning with their RD-series, they have attempted to charge into the digital piano market, relying on innovation and experience to gain a foothold. After nearly 30 years of dominance, I’d say they’ve succeeded.

Many features we take for granted today, such as pressure sensitivity, MIDI, and modeling, were pioneered by Roland in their early years.

The secret to Roland’s success is their focus on innovation, polish, and playability.

Roland’s CEO, Jun-ichi Miki, states, “Our mission at Roland is to bring the thrill and excitement of creative experiences to imaginative people all over the world.” It’s hard to argue with their results.

The 3D video tour below (drag your mouse to get a 360° view) will walk you through all the ranges of musical instruments that Roland have been creating and improving over the years.

As someone who loves following the world of music technology, I can’t help but appreciate what Roland has done.

With SuperNATURAL, Roland didn’t just make a modeling engine to tick a checkbox.

It’s one of the rare piano modeling technologies that trusts you as the user with the cockpit controls. With their JD-Xi synthesizer, Roland brought polyphonic analog synthesis back to the mainstream.

With their FA-series workstation keyboards, Roland made workstations less intimidating to the player who just wanted good sounds without the scariness of having to design them.

In 2021, Roland partnered with Pianote, a popular online piano platform, which uses technology and video lessons to teach you how to play this marvelous instrument. So if you live in the US or Canada and own a Roland piano, you can get 3 months of Pianote lessons for free!

I could go on and on about how Roland shaped the industry, but that’s not why we’re here. Instead, let’s jump to the important details of Roland’s technologies and products.

Roland Product Line-up

Roland makes a huge variety of products, so covering them individually would take way too long.

We’ve separated the different keyboards into specific categories based on their feature set and intended use. We’ll then give our quick takes on the corresponding series and products, providing links to detailed reviews whenever available. That said, let’s jump in.

Portable Keyboards

Portable keyboards are aimed at piano-playing novices. These keyboards, as the name implies, feature key-beds with less than 88-keys and use the basic synth-action keys without many bells and whistles.

Don’t expect too much in terms of build quality either, as you’ll be dealing with pure lightweight plastic (which could be a blessing in disguise if you’re constantly on the move).

While these keyboards are a little lacking in terms of design, they make up for it in features.

These keyboards usually come with a huge amount of sounds, though they are passable at best. Also, it’s hard to argue with the low price tag, often going for around $100-$300.

If you know someone who’s unsure if music will be a long-term passion, they’re probably in the market for a portable keyboard.


Instrument Type: Portable Keyboard

User Level: Beginner

Price Range: $300-$400


  • Roland GO:PIANO88
  • Roland GO:PIANO
  • Roland GO:KEYS

The GO:Series is a relatively new addition to Roland’s product lineup, focusing on packing playability and as many features as possible into a compact package.

The GO:Piano is basic in terms of bells and whistles, but it includes an impressive sound engine for the price.

It is arguably the best low-cost beginner keyboard out there if you’re looking for piano sounds. An 88-key variant is also available for a slight bit more cost.

The GO:Keys, on the other hand, feels like a unique instrument.

The GO:Keys is all about performances and allows you to build up a song from scratch using the loop functionality, adding elements in one at a time to create lush, studio-ready arrangements.

It also does this in a beginner-friendly fashion, so even non-musicians can enjoy it.

This is very different to how Yamaha and Casio do their portable arranger keyboards, and it’s welcome to see Roland’s innovative spirit at this price point.

E-X Series

Instrument Type: Portable Arranger Keyboard

User Level: Beginner

Price Range: $250-$300


  • Roland E-X20
  • Roland E-X30

The E-X Series keyboards are arranger models, but this market has always been dominated by Yamaha (with their affordable PSR range) and Casio (with their CTK-series).

Roland’s E-X20 didn’t exactly turn heads when it was released, doing little to separate itself from the pack.

However, the recent release of the E-X30 might just be the break-out hit Roland was looking for.

While we’ve yet to get our hands on the newcomer, many publications are giving it glowing reviews, citing an improved sound engine as a massive plus over the competition.

Standard arranger features aside, the deal maker here is the piano sounds, which sound quite realistic considering the price point.

Portable Digital Pianos

If you’re serious about learning to play the piano, you NEED to have some semblance of realism. This means you’re looking for good keys and sound quality.

If you’re budget-conscious, this means you’ll be looking into portable digital pianos. These are sometimes referred to as slab digital pianos due to the way they look.

They don’t feature the furniture-style cabinets you’d find on full-fledged digital pianos, but they do include fully weighted hammer action keys, an upgrade from keyboards and more preferable for serious practice.


Instrument type: Portable Digital Piano

User Level: Beginner to Advanced

Price Range: $500-$2,000


  • Roland FP-10
  • Roland FP-30X
  • Roland FP-60X
  • Roland FP-90X

The FP-series is one of Roland’s best-selling product lines, and it’s not hard to see why.

All FP-series digital pianos (except the flagship FP-90X) feature the PHA-4 Standard key action and the SuperNATURAL sound engine, essentially making them the complete package when it comes to piano playing.

It is important to note that you’re getting a no-frills experience here, as well as a limited selection of sounds, though they are of a significantly higher quality than those on the GO:series above.

Fun fact! The FP-90 (predecessor of the FP-90X) received the 2017 Red Dot Design award for an excellent control scheme, which is futuristic and intuitive.

This beat out 5,500 entries in its category, which was no small feat. The same design was recreated with the FP-60X, with slight differences to achieve a lower price point.

Console Digital Pianos

While portable digital pianos focus on delivering a compact yet complete experience, console digital pianos feature large furniture-style cabinets that look similar to real acoustic uprights and grands.

The larger cabinets on high-end models aren’t just for show either, for they incorporate multi-speaker sound systems that deliver a more accurate soundscape during play.

Naturally, this comes at the cost of portability, but I’d say the trade-off is more than acceptable since you’re getting better sound quality, even on the cheaper models.

If you know for certain that you’ll be practicing in the comfort of your own home, a console digital piano might be right for you.

RP- and F-Series

Instrument Type: Console/Home Digital Piano

User Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Price Range: $1,000-$1,600


  • Roland RP102
  • Roland RP701
  • Roland F701

The RP- and F-Series console digital pianos are very similar, differing only in design. While the RP-Series features a traditional cabinet, the F-series uses a modern slim design popularized by Casio.

Feature-wise, these digital pianos are similar to the FP-series discussed earlier, featuring the PHA-4 Standard key action and the SuperNATURAL Piano Sound engine.

A personal upside I like about these over their FP-counterparts is the sliding cover, a godsend if you play in a dusty environment.

Obviously, you also get a 3-pedal setup with these digital pianos. With the FP-series, that would be a separate purchase.

HP- and DP-Series

Instrument Type: Console/Home Digital Piano

User Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Price Range: $1,800-$2,500


  • Roland HP-601
  • Roland HP-603/HP-603A
  • Roland DP-603 (same as the HP-603 but with a different cabinet design)
  • Roland HP-605
  • Roland HP-702
  • Roland HP-704

If realism is what you’re after, then the HP- and DP-series’ high-end design and speakers will be for you.

These cabinet-style digital pianos are significant upgrades over the RP- and F-Series discussed above, featuring the more advanced version of the SuperNATURAL sound engine (Piano Modeling) and the PHA-50 premium keyboard action (except for the HP-702).

The biggest upgrade here is the design. These look entirely premium with their wood-style chassis and stand, and the speaker system takes full advantage of this extra density to provide a richer low-end to your playing.

Higher-end models like the HP-704 even feature a quad-speaker setup.


Instrument Type: Console/Home Digital Piano (Premium)

User Level: Advanced

Price Range: $2,500-$5,000


  • Roland LX-7
  • Roland LX-17
  • Roland LX-705
  • Roland LX-706
  • Roland LX-708

This is currently the best console digital piano Roland offers, featuring the PureAcoustic Piano Modeling technology that seeks to recreate the magical sound of a Steinway without relying on samples.

This involves purely modeled sounds, as opposed to SuperNATURAL’s hybrid approach.

The LX-series also features the Hybrid Grand Keyboard, a variation of the PHA-50 keyboard that increases the key and pivot length.

Add an 8-speaker set up and Roland’s Acoustic Projection System to the mix and you’ve got something that sounds impressively authentic.

Just like the FP-90, the LX700 series was even awarded the 2019 Red Dot Product Design Award and the 2019 iF Design Award, a testament to their success in merging a beautiful chassis with great sound replication.

This was even more impressive than the 2017 victory, as there were 12000 other competitors in the same category!

Kiyola Series

Instrument Type: Designer Console/Home Digital Piano

User Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Price Range: $4,000-5,000


Roland’s Kiyola series adopts the furniture-style design ethos of console digital pianos and takes it to the limit. These pianos are luxury products made in Japan in partnership with Japanese furniture designer Karimoku.

They are designed to look good in just about any room, rocking a handcrafted wood cabinet that looks stylish yet modern.

Even the chairs and pedals are designed to be as ergonomic as possible, the mark of a great furniture designer at work.

The looks aren’t the only great aspect of the Kiyola series. This series uses the excellent PHA-50 key action and SuperNATURAL Piano Modeling, giving you a great experience in terms of both visual and auditory stimulation.

GP-Grand Series

Instrument Type: Digital Grand Piano

User Level: Advanced

Price Range: $5,000 – $12,000


  • Roland GP-607 (Mini-size)
  • Roland GP-609 (Full-size)

While the LX-series is the peak of Roland’s sound engineering technology at the time of writing.

Roland’s GP-series covers their uncompromising side, recreating the classic grand piano style chassis in its entirety, but replacing the strings with specially designed speaker cabinets that utilize the chassis to deliver a powerful soundscape.

Pianos are reproduced using SuperNATURAL Piano Modeling and allow for infinite polyphony, thanks to the purely modeled sounds.

The PHA-50 keyboard also gives you the premium quality keys Roland is known for.

Stage Pianos

While portable digital pianos seem fine for stage performance, you can do so much more. For the gigging musician, stage pianos are the answer.

They cut out onboard speakers but add a ton of extra features and controls to the mix, giving the stage performer the ability to prep sounds both before performances and on the fly, mid-performance.

Stage pianos also come with robust preset management and a collection of onboard effects, allowing performers to switch sounds as necessary without much hassle.

Know that stage pianos aren’t the same as workstation keyboards, which we’ll cover in a second. These are far simpler and often opt for ease-of-use over detailed editing functions.


Instrument Type: Stage Piano

User Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Price Range: $2000-$3000


Roland’s RD-series was where they first experimented with modeling technology, and the same brand still exists today in the form of the RD-2000.

The RD-2000 is a great digital piano in general, featuring the PHA-50 key action as well as two sound generation engines, the V-Piano and SuperNATURAL hybrid tech.

So the RD-2000 sounds and feels good, but what truly sets the RD-2000 apart is its controls.

There are knobs, buttons, and faders spread across the front panel, allowing quick modifications and sound mixing without menu diving.

This is a huge draw for performers, letting them take advantage of 1,000+ onboard sounds.

V-Combo Series

Instrument Type: Performance Keyboard

User Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Price Range: $1,000 – $1,500


  • Roland VR-09
  • Roland VR-700 (discontinued)
  • Roland VR-730

While most of us are content with the included organ and synth sounds available on most digital pianos, organists will always lament the lack of the iconic tone bar controls found on the classic Vox Continental and Farfisa organs, with their distinctive rotary speaker sound.

Roland’s VR-series, more commonly known as the V-Combo series, is Roland’s portable performance stage keyboard that comes with waterfall-style keys and aftertouch, making it a very expressive instrument that excels at non-piano sounds.

The hands-on control scheme means you have knobs and buttons, and even tone bars galore, giving you direct access to on-the-fly parameter changes.

Synthesizers & Synthesizer Workstations

Synthesizers were what propelled Roland to greatness back in the 1980s, and they’ve returned to form since the mixed bag that was the Roland Gaia-SH.

Synthesizers are a special kind of instrument that relies on electronics like oscillators and filters to produce otherworldly sounds you’d never hear from an acoustic instrument.

For electronic music producers and sound designers, a good synth is an immensely useful tool that can’t be replaced easily.

Synthesizers don’t come with weighted keys. Instead, they use the synth action keys we’ve discussed earlier, focusing on playability rather than realism.

While the learning curve takes some getting used to, knowing how to synthesize sounds is a useful skill that many performers can’t live without.


Instrument type: Portable Digital Piano

User Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Price Range: $500-$2,000


  • Roland JD-Xi
  • Roland JD-XA

The Roland Gaia-SH was poorly received for its lackluster digital synth engine, and Roland felt like it was losing its touch with what synth enthusiasts wanted. Thankfully they returned to form with the JD-series.

The JD-series incorporates Roland’s innovative spirit into the stagnant synth industry.

Companies like Korg and Dave Smith Instruments were looking to bring back pure analog synths (with the Minilogue and the Prophet), whereas companies like Yamaha and Elektron embraced the power and flexibility of digital simulation.

Roland’s idea with the JD-Xi and the following JD-XA was to mix their tried-and-true digital sounds with an analog part.

The end result is a versatile instrument that nails analog and artificial warmth, and the addition of a built-in vocoder unit makes the JD-series extremely fun regardless of how you’re using it.


Instrument Type: Synthesizer

User Level: Beginner to Advanced

Price Range: $700-$1,000


  • Roland JUNO-DS61
  • Roland JUNO-DS76
  • Roland JUNO-DS88

The Juno synthesizers were some of Roland’s best work back in the day, with the classic Juno-60 being coveted to this day for its rich saw wave and dual-mode chorus.

The modern-day Juno-DS series takes a more hybridized approach to synthesis, having more in common with the Fantom FA-series workstations (discussed later) than the analog synthesizer of days past.

The Juno-DS works great as a performance keyboard though and is a popular stage keyboard among gigging musicians due to its flexibility.

The synthesizer features here are entirely digital (as this was released before the synth rebirth around 2015), but the modulation features are reminiscent of the way classic synthesizers work.

Like the JD-series, the Juno-DS keyboards include an onboard vocoder as well and come with a lot more sounds and instruments, giving them a ton of sonic variety.

Arranger and Music Workstations

Workstations have slowly become the weapon of choice for stage performers in recent years.

While workstations were designed specifically for studio use, having huge bulky bodies that aren’t easy to transport, their power and sonic capabilities meant stage performers could do just about everything from a single board.

If you really want to make full-fledged arrangements, a workstation can help (though computer-based digital audio workstations are now the norm).

These powerful instruments contain everything you need, from sequencers, mixing tools, creative FX, audio recording, to even manipulation tools.

The same flexibility is a huge deal when performing, as you can tailor sounds to your exact specifications as per the needs of the band or song.

Roland, along with Korg and Yamaha, are arguably the top 3 manufacturers when it comes to modern-day workstations.


Instrument Type: Music Workstation

User Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Price Range: $1,300-$1,800


  • Roland FA-06
  • Roland FA-07
  • Roland FA-08

The FA-series is Roland’s mid-range workstation line.

Straight out of the box, you get 2,000+ sounds to shape to your whim, powered by the SuperNATURAL sound engine and ripped straight from the rack-mount INTEGRA-7 sound module.

The control-scheme is what makes the FA-series a top choice among performers, thanks to its hands-on nature.

The color screen is also high-resolution and informative, a rarity at this price point. Roland aimed to take the ‘work’ out of ‘workstation’ without sacrificing much in terms of power. I’d say this strikes the right balance.

For music production purposes, you’ve got a 16-track sequencer and a 16-tone studio set feature, making this good for both stage and studio use.

Fantom Series (2019)

Instrument Type: Music Workstation

User Level: Advanced

Price Range: $3,000-$4,000


  • Fantom-6
  • Fantom-7
  • Fantom-8

The Fantom series has been dormant for the past decade, but it used to be a solid contender with the other flagship, no-compromise workstations.

The same field has been dominated by Korg’s Kronos and Yamaha’s Montage (previously Motif) series for the longest time, and Roland has seemingly diverted their resources towards more performance focused keyboards (to great effect!).

It was quite surprising that Roland announced 3 new models in the range, and they’re clearly aimed at dethroning the current kings.

We haven’t had a chance to test it out yet, but it seems to be focused on delivering a streamlined yet in-depth experience, with an emphasis on workflow.

That’s actually great. I find myself preferring smooth, usable experiences over compromising power, and that’s why I tend to prefer the Korg Krome over the Kronos, the MODX over the Montage, and so on.

Expandability also seems to be a focus, as Roland promises expandable sound palettes via downloadable content, and you can even utilize your own sound library with the sample pad matrix.

Something that I’m definitely looking forward to is the true analog filter, something practically unheard of in workstation keyboards.

The ability to merge analogue warmth with detailed sample libraries will definitely get the creative juices rolling.


Instrument Type: Arranger Keyboard

User Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Price Range: $700-$1,350


While the FA-series competes directly with the industry standard Korg Krome EX and Yamaha MODX, the BK-series takes a different approach, aiming squarely at the one-man-band market.

This might feel out of place in the same category as the FA-series, but a 16-track sequencer with all the essential effects and mixing tools makes this a far cry from the more limited E-X-Series keyboards discussed in the early portable keyboard section.

The BK-Series strength lies in its sound quality. While the sounds aren’t terrific, they’re miles better than the functional-only sounds you find on arranger keyboards, making this BK-series worthy of consideration for people wanting to perform solo.


Instrument Type: Arranger Keyboard

User Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Price Range: $1,000-$1,500


While the E-X series focuses on the beginners, the E-A7 takes the arranger formula and mixes it with workstation and sampler features, making an arranger/workstation hybrid with a unique niche.

Coming with 1,500 tones and a huge variety of backing styles, the E-A7 allows you to perform full-sounding tracks without the need for bandmates.

The dual screen setup also means a lot more info can be shown, giving you full control over your sounds and the backing tracks individually.

The unique part of the E-A7 is the expandability factor, hence the ‘E’ in the name. You can add in your own samples through software or download further sounds from Roland’s Axial online repository.

Roland Sound Generation

Musicians have always been trying to emulate real sounds with digital equipment, and pianos were always the holy grail of sound generation.

Digital pianos require a ton of space allocated to sample memory to achieve realism, which wasn’t possible back in the days when 12MB of memory was considered precious.

Roland Sound Generation

While other companies struggled to find the magical balance between compression and quality, Roland took another approach.

That’s how modeling came into play. Instead of capturing audio snapshots of different playing intensities for each key, Roland added a hybrid synthesized element into the mix.

While the end results were anything but realistic, the mindset would eventually achieve greatness after a few iterations.

V-Piano Pure Modeling Piano Engine

In 2009, Roland released a digital piano dubbed the V-Piano, which was the first physically-modeled digital piano ever released.

Depending on whom you ask, this was either a revolution or a ‘why bother’ moment. Regardless of your stance on modeled pianos, I think it’s hard to deny how good these sound, especially considering the engine’s age.

Roland V-Piano Stage

Roland V-Piano

We won’t go into too much detail regarding the V-Piano engine in this article, since it’s only available on the RD-2000 stage piano.

No samples are used at all in the generation of the piano sound. Everything is synthesized instead. This does have a special perk though – an unlimited polyphony count.

Sadly, the negative perception meant that the V-Piano engine was never adopted wholesale.

Thankfully, the underappreciated innovations of the V-Piano model were incorporated into the next entry in this list.

SuperNATURAL Sound Engine

SuperNATURAL made its first appearance in 2008, appearing in the Fantom-G workstations of the time.

A more prominent appearance was in 2011’s Jupiter-80, a performance multi-instrument that focused on synth sounds.

Roland SuperNATURAL technology

SuperNATURAL takes a hybrid approach to sound generation, using a partially-synthesized sound layered with samples to capture both the flexibility of artificial tones with the natural feel of recorded sounds.

The benefits were twofold. On one hand, you get the nuanced detail you’d expect from typical studio-sampled keyboards (that many argue can’t be recreated using pure modeling).

On the other hand, people who complain about unrealistic modeling get placated!

In all seriousness, the SuperNATURAL sound engine is great. The fact that samples are incorporated means it isn’t limited to just piano sounds. It covers everything from electric pianos, to synthesizers, to drums!

The true magic comes from the modeling side of things.

V-Piano gave you a ton of variables to tweak to your liking. Want to close the lid 3/4s of the way down? Want to reduce the string tension while retaining the pitch? Practically everything was possible.

SuperNATURAL gives you a nearly identical amount of customization when it comes to the pianos and electric pianos via the Piano Designer.

Musical Intruments

It also gives you options tailored to other sounds, such as the filter frequency on synthesizers, glide on flute sounds, and so on.

The most notable aspect of SuperNATURAL modeling is how it’s implemented. Instead of trying to model every single aspect of the instrument, SuperNATURAL focuses on your playing.

For example, while playing a brass ensemble part, SuperNATURAL tracks your playing dynamics via keyboard sensors. It switches between velocity layers, EQ curves, and sample types (staccato or legato etc.) on the fly.

If you’re intimidated by all the technical jargon, you don’t need to worry. All this tracking and modulation happens behind the scenes and simply helps to bridge the gap between the static nature of samples and the natural dynamics of an acoustic instrument.

Roland advertises SuperNATURAL as being ‘transparent,’ and that’s an apt description.

There’s a lot of engineering that goes into both the software and hardware, resulting in a sound engine that feels natural to play.

That’s basically what the SuperNATURAL sound engine entails. Depending on the keyboard or digital piano you’re getting, there might be differences in terms of how much you’re getting.

One thing is for certain – Roland’s SuperNATURAL engine is good and is still in use today (after several iterations), 11 years after its release.

While we will focus on the SuperNATURAL piano variants, it’s worth noting that SuperNATURAL comes in a few other varieties, such as SuperNATURAL E. Piano, SuperNATURAL Synth, SuperNATURAL Drums, and so on.

These are sometimes included in higher-end workstations and synthesizers, like the RD-2000 and the FA-08, and you can identify them via the many editable parameters.

SuperNATURAL Piano Sound (Entry-Level Variant)

A variant of the SuperNATURAL sound engine discussed above is featured on Roland’s entry-level digital pianos, such as the FP-30X, RP-102, F701, RP701, etc.

This also uses the hybrid approach, though it definitely isn’t as detailed in terms of tracking.

This version of the SuperNATURAL engine is more basic and relies more on the classic multi-sample playback system to reproduce piano sounds.

Roland SuperNATURAL Piano Sound

The main downgrade from the higher-end SuperNATURAL implementations are the reliance on PCM-sample playback for non-piano sounds, resulting in a less natural sound.

However, you’re buying an entry-level digital piano for practice, so it’s not that big of a deal.

It should also be noted that more recent versions of the SuperNATURAL Piano Sound are upgraded from the older models.

The model in the RD-2000 is much improved over the first models on the early HP3xx series (HP-302, HP-305, HP-307).

SuperNATURAL Piano Modeling (High-End Variant)

Roland gave piano modeling its second wind with SuperNATURAL Piano Modeling, a variation of the sound engine dedicated to piano tones that cuts out the sample aspect entirely..

It’s worth remembering that SuperNATURAL wasn’t dedicated to pianos when it was introduced. It was made for synth sounds.

This version of SuperNATURAL takes V-Piano inspiration a step further and attempts to recreate piano sounds with digital signal processing (DSP) technology.

This variation on the SuperNATURAL formula makes an appearance on Roland’s higher-end instruments, like their HP-series, LX- and GP-series.

Roland SuperNATURAL seamless tone transition

Roland doesn’t advertise the modeling variant of SuperNATURAL too much, but as a rule of thumb, if you see the words SuperNATURAL Piano Modeling, it’s probably entirely synthesized.

In terms of sound authenticity, these are a clear step up from the lower-end hybrid SuperNATURAL engine, providing more detail and organic elements in the sound.

That said, SuperNATURAL Piano Modeling is neither better nor worse than the SuperNATURAL Piano Sound. It’s just different. One uses modeling while the other is based upon samples.

I’ve talked to people who actually preferred the sample-based engine, claiming that SuperNATURAL Piano Modeling sounds synthetic and unnatural. So, it’s a matter of taste really.

At the same time, there’s no denying that the fully-modeled engine gives you more options for tweaking the sound as well as greater expressiveness, which is hard to achieve using only samples.

While modeling technology hasn’t enjoyed the best reputation, this paved the way for the latest pure modeling technology found in one of Roland’s latest pianos.

PureAcoustic Piano Modeling

Featured exclusively on Roland’s LX 700 series, PureAcoustic Piano Modeling is Roland’s latest attempt at pure modeling without any samples.

This comes nearly 10 years after the V-Piano model, released in 2009, and incorporates advancements made in technology throughout the years.

Roland Pure Acoustic Modeling

What makes PureAcoustic Piano Modeling so special? Unlike V-Piano and SuperNATURAL, PureAcoustic uses two processors, one for an American piano and the other for a European one.

One can hear the Steinway influence from sound demos and it’s a surprisingly good emulation of the real thing.

While I’ve always liked the V-Piano for what it does well, I can’t deny how good PureAcoustic Piano Modeling sounds.

If I had a single complaint about V-Piano, it would be the note decay. Real pianos have a resonant decay that is hard to replicate without samples (and some piano modeling engines supplement their synthesized sounds with sampled decays just to sidestep the issue).

Imagine my surprise that the LX-708 nails this perfectly!

The LX700-series also simulates the room aspect of samples. Since real sounds are recorded in a real space, there will be a bit of natural reverb embedded into the sample.

Roland LX708 speakers

8-speaker setup on the LX708

With V-Piano, the reverb was mainly done through typical reverb algorithms, so nothing too special.

Here the embedded reverb is also sampled, which is mind-boggling when you consider the complexities that come with simulating reverb on a per-key basis.

The beautiful sounds also take inspiration from SuperNATURAL, tracking your keypresses with many sensors to ensure that the digital strings react as a real piano would.

The end results are very realistic, and I can’t wait for these models to go into the more affordable digital pianos from Roland.

Piano Designer

Roland is definitely one of the kings when it comes to piano modeling, but what sets them apart is their willingness to give you the controls to change things as you please.

In this section, we’ll focus on the SuperNATURAL Piano Designer, as it is the most prolific.

Roland Piano Designer

In general, Piano Designer allows you to modify these following parameters of your piano:

  • Lid
  • Key-Off Noise
  • Hammer Noise
  • Duplex Scale
  • Full Scale String Resonance
  • Damper Resonance
  • Key Off Resonance
  • Cabinet Resonance
  • Soundboard Type
  • Damper Noise
  • Single Note Tuning
  • Single Note Volume
  • Single Note Character

However, you won’t find these exact options on all Roland’s instruments. Depending on the model, you can get fewer or more tweakable parameters (usually more expensive digital pianos will give you more options).

Also, you can find similar software solutions from other digital piano manufacturers as well. Yamaha has Piano Room and Kawai has Virtual Technician, Casio has Acoustic Simulator.

Personally, I don’t find myself diving deep into the Piano Designer often. Unless I’m playing a dark rock song, I rarely change anything at all (and even then, I’m just lowering the Lid parameter to get a ‘far-back’ sound).

However, if you’re interested in fine-tuning your sound to perfection, the Piano Designer is amazingly detailed and is generally not too hard to use.

Roland Keyboard Actions

Apart from the sound engines, a digital piano is only as good as the included key action. It doesn’t matter how good a piano sounds if the keys feel bad. Normally, the best key actions feel similar to those found on actual pianos.

It might be important to note that Roland doesn’t focus heavily on delivering a realistic piano playing experience. Instead, the focus is on playability.

After all, digital pianos come with more than just acoustic piano tones, and the hefty keys found on actual pianos would be quite difficult to use for organ and synth playing.

Synth Action/Semi-Weighted

These keys are featured on Roland’s instruments that don’t focus on realistic feel, like the E- and BK-series.

This key action doesn’t even have a specific name, but it’s similar enough that we can cover them all in a single category.

Synth Action

Synth-action keys completely forgo weight and feel springy and fast. Synthesizer players favor these keys, especially for lead parts.

Semi-weighted keys are also considered synth-action, but there’s a bit of resistance on the action that tries to emulate the feel of a real piano (though not very well).

These keys are favored by organ players and electric piano players alike due to added expressivity.

Ivory Feel-G

A somewhat outdated, fully-weighted key action, now succeeded by the PHA-4 Standard action, these keys are still featured on the 88-key JUNO-DS variants, but it’s nothing too special.

These keys feel good enough on the workstation keyboard, featuring accurate velocity detection and return speed. Even so, they lack the graded effect and modern triple sensors.

Roland Keyboard Actions

PHA-4 Standard

This is the key action featured on Roland’s entry-level and intermediate-level digital pianos, such as the instruments in the FP-series (aside from the FP-90X), RP-series, etc.

The PHA in the name stands for Progressive Hammer Action, which attempts to emulate the graded feel of real pianos.

Roland PHA-4 Standard key action

On an actual piano, the lower notes are heavier and harder to press, whereas the upper keys are lighter. The PHA key actions simulate this feel by using variable weights and tends to do a good job in general.

Despite being on the lower-end of Roland’s key action selection, the PHA-4 Standard action feels surprisingly good and is arguably the best entry-level hammer action on the market.

The keytops feature synthetic ivory and a matte finish to prevent slippage, and triple sensors ensure that keypresses are detected accurately, even on rapid repetitions.


The PHA-50 action has succeeded the previous PHA-4 Premium and PHA-4 Concert key actions used in high-end Roland instruments.

This is a significant upgrade over the PHA-4 Standard action and incorporates a hybrid material construction featuring real wood to make it feel even more realistic.

Roland PHA-50 key action

PHA-50 Hybrid Wood/Plastic Keyboard

The PHA-50 action also uses triple sensors and they are tuned to be even more reactive to velocity, making the overall playing experience a lot more enjoyable.

Many keyboardists love the PHA-50 action and I’m also a fan. While it leans towards being lighter than I prefer, it still feels great and versatile, covering just about any kind of sound you can imagine.

Hybrid Grand Keyboard

This is a variation on the previously discussed PHA-50, featured exclusively on the LX700 series digital pianos.

The main differences are longer keys and, as a result, longer key pivot lengths. This reduces fatigue and makes playing the keys a lot more enjoyable across extended periods of time.

Roland PHA-50 vs Hybrid Grand keyboard

The Hybrid Grand action also incorporates a stabilizing pin, making vertical key movement smoother and quieter.

In terms of actual feel, I’d say the Hybrid Grand action feels close to the real deal, having the heft and depth you’d expect from a real grand piano (which is what the LX700 series is trying to recreate).


Roland’s huge product line means there’s something for everyone.

I’ve worked with session keyboardists who love their FA workstations to death, and I’ve also seen many musicians in training who love the FP-series for its price to value ratio.

That’s not even mentioning how many drummers utilize Roland’s V-Drums modules and how a ton of guitarists (myself included) use Roland’s BOSS pedals all the time.

Roland really knows how to make instruments that sound and feel good to use, and there’s no doubt they’ve got a lot more in the works.

The recent Fantom (2019) release shows that Roland isn’t sitting on their laurels. They are actively looking to expand their product line with even more great instruments.

If you’ve ever owned or used Roland digital pianos or keyboards in the past, feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.

We’d love to hear about your likes and dislikes of Roland’s products, as there’s only so much my own opinions can contribute. Discussions benefit everyone, so we look forward to hearing from you!

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