Introduction

The anticipated Roland FP-30 portable 88-note digital piano is finally being reviewed by Merriam Pianos own Stu Harrison. The FP-30 digital piano is the perfect piano for players who don’t have the space or budget for a full-sized instrument.

The FP-30 is ideal for boasts a huge number of modern features normally found on high-end digital instruments that allow the pianist to broaden their musical experience. The acclaimed sound quality, SuperNATURAL Piano Sound Engine, Bluetooth® wireless support and popular music apps, are only a few points we are reviewing for the Roland FP-30 in the thousand-and-under category of digitals.

Stu Harrison is going to showcase and demo some of the stellar features that make this piano unique and how it stacks up against a Kawai ES110 or Yamaha P-125 in the same price range. Watch our video review and find out if the FP30 digital piano is right for you.

The Roland FP-30 Digital Piano Review – Video Transcription

Discussing The PHA-4 Key Action

Roland PHA-4 Piano Action

As piano players, how it connects to us as an instrument has so much to do with our sense of its mechanism and how we physically communicate with the instrument. So, we’re going to get started. Here we go. The action on Roland digitals have always been one of their strong suits. I’ve been playing Roland for many, many years, both personally and professionally, and I know them as generally having quiet keyboard action, and something that always hues pretty close to that of a real piano.

The instrument that I gig with right now, full-time, is the RD-2000 Stage Piano, and I’ve played FP-50s in professional settings and on-stage performances – so I know it well, and makes it easy to compare the FP-30, something I’ve played it plenty of times in the showroom. I’ve also used it a few times on a couple of sort of impromptu recording sessions. So, I’ve spent many, many, many hours behind this instrument.

One of the things that I notice between playing a Roland generally versus, say, a Kawai, generally, digital piano, is that I do find the Roland action to be a little more forgiving. And this has both good implications and maybe for some people bad implications. It’s forgiving, because I am able to be a little less accurate with it.

So, when I’m playing in, let’s say, a non-classical setting, like, I’m playing in a pop setting or I’m playing in a jazz setting, I find that I can focus a little less on my fingers and on what I’m doing, and the Roland just intuitively feels like it’s following me a little bit better, and quite frankly the number of wrong notes just sort of seems to somehow reduce itself.

The 88-note PHA-4 standard keyboard is what I’d describe as a very forgiving action. They’ve designed it that way. I don’t think Roland is per se going after the hardcore acoustic classical piano market so much as Kawai is trying to intercept that customer. I think they fully realize that the majority of people who are purchasing and considering Roland digital pianos are definitely musicians, but perhaps not a classical pianist first and foremost.

It’s probably more of a contemporary musician, or a new student perhaps who is looking at these instruments. So, first of all, the texture of the keys is nice. This is something that Roland does, probably at a lower price range than most others. They equip it with ivory feel keys, giving it even more of an authentic piano touch.

It’s nice and comfortable for the fingers. And no matter how quietly or how loudly you press the key, the range of dynamic output is well-controlled. So, whether you’re really banging on it or playing quietly, it really does give you a very nice almost slightly compressed dynamic output to it.

The physical feel of the key is definitely different than the Yamaha or Kawai as well. When you’re playing the Roland, one of the things you do notice is that the key tends to hit the bottom of the keybed with a bit more of a thud than the Yamaha or the Kawai. Now, again, in some settings that’s actually something that… The tactile sensation is pretty satisfying, to know that you’re really connecting well with the key, and it’s not something that’s feeling mushy or inaccurate.

So, there’s definitely a rhyme and a reason for why they’ve designed the hammer action keyboard that way. Now, the other thing that this does have, I believe, because I am feeling it a little bit, is this does feel like there’s a bit of escapement on it. And the other thing that I notice is the keys compared to, say, an FP-90 or an FP-60, that just the key action overall is a little bit looser.

I’m not sure whether that’s by design or whether it’s just simply because for, you know, under a thousand dollars it’s hard to get perfection every single time, but it does have a bit of a looser feel. So between, say, an ES-110, the Kawai, and this one, if I was to be doing anything that required some precision, and particularly anything if I was going to be doing some solo piano work, think I might default to the Kawai, whereas if I was going to be playing in a band setting or an ensemble, or something where the absolute precision wasn’t going to be quite as particular, the Roland would be a strong consideration for me.

So, that’s the PHA-4 Action – generally a great piano experience. So, now let’s get into this pianos sound engine. Roland really prizes itself, and it should, on its ability to create really quite authentic, realistic tone and rich sound across a huge instrument rage. The FP 30 boasts Roland’s renowned supernatural piano sound engine, that is the same programming found throughout the FP line and in some of their HP series and other high-end instruments.

I mean, they do everything from virtual accordions to organs to pianos to drum patterns, and their rich piano sound has definitely continued to improve over the years. I mean, I think one of the biggest Roland products that I’ve ever used was actually the Fantom-X8, which was this huge monstrous workstation, and that was back in the mid-2000s, and at that time, the piano tone on it was absolutely fantastic.

The Sound Engine / Tone Generator

Roland Sound Engine

The piano had lots of color, lots of dynamism to it, and it’s something that I still think that the Roland FP-series delivers very, very well. I think the range of color that it gives, so I’m talking about specifically the shape of the sound as it changes from playing softly to playing loudly, is probably not quite as dynamically broad as what I might get on the Kawai ES-110, but nonetheless is an impressive sound and a responsive tone.

However, there are times in which you just want a really nice, consistent, easy-to-mix tone through a board or through a set of headphones. Specifically, if you’re talking to a sound engineer and you’re looking at the Roland curve, what tends to be intentionally omitted there is a lot of mid-range sort of thickness to the sound. You get it through the onboard speakers, as well as the headphones output.

So, this is designed to cut through a lot of noise quite easily. It’s designed to be clear in your ear, but what you might feel a little bit is a lack of warmth. And so, this really comes down to personal preference. I have virtually an equal amount of people who sit down in front of a Roland FP-30 digital piano and the ES-110, and they’ll, you know, fifty people will say, “Oh, the Roland sounds more authentic,” and fifty people will say, “Oh, the Kawai or Casio feels more authentic.” But bottom line the FP30 has a powerful amplifier, delivering a meaningful wattage for its size and price.

So, of course these are all very subjective things, but I do think for tone production, those two, although they are different, they focus on different things, really are the strongest offerings within this price range. Now, that’s the acoustic piano we’ve talked about. There’s of course a number of different acoustic pianos that you can play on here. They’ve got several options. In terms of specs, the polyphony on this tone engine is 128, and that’s consistent across all the piano tones as well as the reasonably wide selection of other sounds like the organ, pads, strings, harpsichord, and electric piano sounds.

And I should also mention that this is being recorded actually through a couple of condenser mics on the floor. One of the things that is a little bit annoying about this model, and it’s not going to apply to some people, it may apply to others, is there’s not an independent audio out.

So, in other words, the only way to get a line out of this, is to take it out of the headphone jack, which automatically defeats the local stereo speakers. So, you either have it plugged in and you can’t hear it, or you don’t have it plugged in and you can hear it. And, of course, I need to hear it so that you and I can, you know, have this little FP-30 chat. And so, we can’t have it directly plugged in. So, we’re actually using an external microphone to plug it in.

Besides that, no effects, no EQ, no reverb. It’s just what you’re getting straight out of the instrument. So, beyond the acoustic piano you’ve got some really great electric piano sounds. It’s got a nice decent crunch to it. And, of course, there’s a whole other set of different sounds that fall into the ‘Other’ category which you can access through that, but we’re going to lead right into one of the things that Roland really kind of helped to pioneer in the industry, which is the integration with other digital products like an iPad or an Android tablet using Bluetooth wireless connectivity.

Connectivity, Accessories, and Bluetooth

Roland Piano Partner App

It’s very, very easy to connect with Bluetooth, and Roland has a set of popular music apps that you can download for free off the App Store or the Google Play Store. And I’ve got one called Roland Piano Partner, and what this allows me to do, is instead of having to fiddle with the buttons on the menu, it actually allows me to select the sounds that I’m playing right off an easy-access screen.

So, if we’re looking to play the Grand Piano, it’s right there. Or if I want non-piano sounds I can play a synth bell, or strings, which is like a harp. So, integrating an iPad into this instrument turns what might’ve been a bit of a restrictive interface into a very easy-to-use, easy-to-understand, easy-to-connect digital interface that you can use within a device you already have.

So many of us already own smartphones or iPad or Android devices, so it’s important to know that this isn’t just working with tablets. You can actually connect smartphones to the piano via Bluetooth as well – the FP30 is fully wireless ready. So, you don’t need a big device. You can even use this with a relatively small device. On top of that, the FP-30 has the usual suite of other, let’s call it, like, fundamental basic features, such as transpose, you can split the keyboard. Roland also allows you to connect with other popular apps such as GarageBand, piaScore, Sheet Music Direct, Metronome, and many other sheet music apps.

You can turn on dual/split mode which allows you to blend two sounds together at once, and also a nice feature, you have the ability to actually play midi files (referred to as SMF files sometimes), MP3 or WAV tracks off of a USB-key. So, people who use this for some live performance, or even as a practice tool, you can connect USB memory stick in there and have sort of an audio backing track and you can play along with it, which is also pretty cool that Roland offers USB support. There’s an onboard SMF recorder as well that allows you to make quick playback tracks / internal songs for yourself. The FP30 also offers Twin Piano mode which is ideal for lessons, letting student and teacher play side by side in the same octave ranges. It also has some basic on-board recording functions that provide a very convenient way to review your own playing, and overall just provides an expanded musical experience.

The FP-30 is very light – as we’ve mentioned – this bring very easy mobility with the instrument. And just like the ES-110, it’s in the 30-pound range, so whether you are taking this to a gig or whether you are, you know, at home and you just need to save on a little bit of square footage, that part also works very well.

The FP-30 comes in a slab-format like we’re seeing right here, and comes with a high-quality damper pedal, which will give you your basic sustain pedal function. It’s a beautiful lightweight body that’s easy to transport and provides easy mobility. But you can also get it with the optional matching stand called the KSC-70 and three-pedal unit, called the KPD-70, and Roland offers all of those, I believe, for 200 dollars a piece. So, for an extra 400 or 300, depends on what country you’re in, you’re able to add that. To keep it on the less-expensive side, you can always use a standard keyboard stand like an X-stand or z-stand. Please keep in mind that to use the KDP-70 pedal board, you’ll NEED to purchase the KSC-70 stand, it cannot be used on its own.

Just obviously contact your local retailer. They will give you the pricing on what it costs to add the stand and add the pedal, but for people who really like the price range, this is a nice way to get a Roland product in your house even looking like sort of a permanent digital piano for just over a thousand dollars. So, here’s the Roland FP-30. Thank you so much for watching.

Again, here’s an instrument that is quite ideal for people who are either just starting out, wanting to keep the price point low. I’d say it also works really well for professional musicians that this compared to another one of the other two, you know, Yamaha P-125 or ES-110, for whatever reason. You don’t need a reason other than it’s your own preference. You like just a slightly crisper, slightly sharper tone overall.

It isn’t too warm and it cuts through really nicely. I think that’s where the FP-30 digital piano really shines. A nice, clear, crisp tone. Very forgiving action, and generally an all-round versatile instrument for a very attractive price point. So, thank you so much for watching.

Again, my name is Stu Harrison, and this is Merriam pianos.