Roland’s FP series has always been a trend-setting series of pianos. For portable, all-in-one units, the FP’s have consistently delivered the best actions, durable constructions, and reliable sound production for an affordable price tag. The FP series are used world-wide as both professional stage pianos and home use instruments. The FP-60 and FP-90 are the top to models in the lineup as of 2019, and the comparisons between them are frequent and sometimes less than conclusive. Stu Harrison and Merriam Pianos sit down to discuss the similarities and differences between these wonderful portable pianos.
Roland FP-60-BK vs Roland FP-90 Digital Piano Comparison – Video Transcription
Hi, everybody. And welcome back to Merriam Pianos. My name is Stu Harrison. And in this video, we’re gonna be comparing the Roland FP-90 digital piano – the flagship piano of the line – and the Roland FP-60 digital piano, both all-in-one 88 weighted notes digitals. We’re gonna be covering the sound quality and tone, the piano’s speaker systems, the piano action, both the critical features and, of course, what the main competitors are. I love both of these instruments, and have used both in professional settings. Somethings on stage as a part of a band, sometimes without ANY sound reinforcement whatsoever in smaller venues like the 120 Diner. It legit has enough power to do so. By the end of the video/article, hopefully, you’re going to love them as well. So, let’s get started.
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Comparing Piano Tones and Engines
All right, so let’s get into the sound. We’ve got the Roland FP-90 in white, we’ve got the Roland FP-60 in black. We’re gonna talk about how the piano sound compares, we’re gonna talk about how the e-piano, the electric piano stuff, compares as well as some of the other ones. And also, because these two have onboard speaker systems onboard, we’re also gonna make some comments about how the onboard tone production comes off, rather than sending through an amp or listening to it on headphones.
Let’s get into the piano sound. The big difference between the FP-60 and the FP-90 is in fact it’s piano engine. On the FP-90, it’s using full modeling, which means you’ve got unlimited polyphony and the piano tone is being generated in real time with a computer algorithm which sounds very fancy because, quite frankly, it is. Up until a few years ago, this was not technology that you could even put on something that was lightweight and relatively inexpensive like this because the computing power wasn’t available. You have to have something fast enough to essentially run a short, you know, lines of code that will tell the computer how to generate the sound based on how you’ve played the note and whether there are other notes that are also playing at the same time. It’s a fairly complex thing.
So, on the FP-90, as was at first with the V-piano, you’ve got modeling technology; you’ve got computer-generated real-time tone. Now, that is only for the acoustic grand piano sound, all the other ones are still sample-based. On the FP-60 digital piano, which uses the latest SuperNATURAL piano sound engine, (Roland’s flagship sound engine), that is a more conventional sampling engine that obviously applies some modeling and some synthesis on top of that. So, the difference in sound creation process between the two is probably the biggest difference in terms of, you know, comparing patches. And so, I’m just gonna play a couple of quick chords on each back and forth, and low, mid, high range. So, hopefully, you can start to hear some of the differences in how it’s processing the overtones, how it’s processing the sustain. The more you listen, the more you can actually hear a difference. That’s not to say that you’re necessarily gonna prefer this, but it does expose itself as a difference.
So, there’s a quick sample where you’re hearing both…or all three, low, mid, and high. One other thing that I was trying out just to see if I could really start to pick up on a difference in how its processing the piano sound, is I was playing intervals back and forth at exactly the same time. And on some of them, you actually start to hear a bit of a chorus effect which tells me that the harmonics that this is producing are totally different than the harmonics that that is producing. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have any kind of a phase going on that was that obvious, which is kind of cool. I mean, for people who are super piano nerds like myself, that’s kind of cool. Some of them are completely perfect, and then some of them, you start to hear just a bit of a phase. There’s one for sure. You can hear one there too. So, just these little clues that it’s a completely different set of…circuitry’s different set of algorithms and programming that are generating that piano sound.
Moving on to the electric piano sound, this is where the differences are going to start to diminish a little bit because to my ear, pretty much, you’ve got an identical set of samples on both of these instruments. The wav forms are virtually identical. And the organ and synth sounds as well, you’re gonna notice a complete parallel sound bank on both.
And then the rest of the general midi bank and a large range of additional sounds specifically from Roland are the same between the two pianos. So, one is left wondering whether the only meaningful technical difference between these two is in fact the acoustic piano engine and the speaker system (there is the mic difference of course, but that may only be meaningful to a small number of users)
On paper, the sound system should be a big, big difference in terms of the sound you’re getting out in person, if you’re not using any sort of an amplifier. And both have tweeters that face towards the player, so all of the lovely detailed piano sounds reach your ear. And at first, I was a tad surprised and even disappointed in the FP-90 because when I set the volumes to exactly the same on these two, the FP-60 actually seemed to produce more sound. And in some context, I actually preferred the clarity, even though it was a little bit trebly, the clarity out of what was coming out of the FP-60. I’m going, “What the heck is going on with the FP-90?”
Well, here is a little trick that I realized that you, kind of, need to use to get the full power of the FP-90 because, remember, you’re talking about an amplifier power that’s like twice as much as what’s in the FP-60. So, we should be getting more powerful sound. For whatever reason, the FP-90’s equalizer has a substantially bigger effect over the dynamic range than what the FP-60 seems to. So, if I’ve got the EQ set at 50% over here and I pump up the volume, and I do the same thing over here, the FP-60 is actually producing more sound to the player than the FP-90 is. However, you move the EQs up on the FP-90, and all of a sudden, it’s like you’ve flicked on the hyperdrive and that’s where all of the extra wattage comes out. And then there’s no comparison, the FP-90 does not distort at full volume, full EQ, and like it’s this big, rich base that you’re getting. Whereas if you do the same thing on the FP-60, the speakers start to break up, it’s almost unplayable at max volume with max volume EQ. That’s where the other big difference comes out.
So, in terms of tone, you’ve got the acoustic piano engine difference and you’ve got the speaker difference. But to get the full power of the speaker, remember you need to be able to push the EQs up pretty well all the way, and that’s where you’re gonna take advantage of the near, I think it’s about 60 watts that the FP-90 has onboard versus under 30 on the FP-60. Generally speaking though, both give you with a wide dynamic range to play with.
Okay. So, that finishes off sound, now let’s move on to the action. But before we do, here’s a quick summary of the differences between the FP-60 and the FP-90
Comparing the PHA-50 to the PHA-4 Actions
Talking about the action, these two instruments are completely different beasts. They both have ivory feel and a triple sensor, and they don’t feel like 1000% different from one another, but it’s different enough that if you’ve got the budget for both and you’re tossing back and forth between the two, you do not wanna make a decision if you can until you’ve played both; you might have a strong preference for either. The difference on the FP-60 is you have the PHA-4 action, (which stands for Progressive Hammer Action with Escapement – 4th generation) which is the same action as you’re gonna find in a lot of the other Roland product like the F-140, the FP-30, the FP-10. This is an action that Roland has been refining and developing, and has enjoyed a lot of success in the industry for, I think, close to 10 years.
The FP-90 digital piano on the other hand is using the PHA-50, which is a fairly new design for Roland, and could be argued is their best attempt to date to deliver an authentic grand piano touch in a portable unit. This is an action that you’re gonna find on their DP-603, the FP-90, the RD-2000 is using this action as well. And it uses a wood core in the key, as well as the escapement, and it’s using a triple sensor. So, the sensitivity is very different and quite frankly, the sense of weight and the bottom of the key bed even feels a little bit different between these two instruments.
In terms of my own preferences, I actually find places and times where I prefer one over the other and vice versa. The FP-60 is a super easy action to play, you don’t have to think about it that much. It’s definitely less sensitive than the FP-90. But if you’re on a gig, for example, where you’re backing up, you know, you’ve got three or four other people on the stage and sensitivity is not necessarily what you’re worried about, you just want an action to be able to punch on when you need to and be sensitive enough, I find the FP-60, for whatever reason, to be a really fun instrument. It reminds me a lot of the FP-50 digital piano, which if I’m not mistaken had the same action. And I’ve played the FP-50 tons, you know, in professional settings. So, this seems very familiar, and I like that it’s got such an upfront, bright and rich sound that cuts through, you know, really easily, and I find that the sound is very well matched to the action.
On the FP-90, if I was doing any sort of solo piano work or if I was doing…definitely, if I was doing any classical, this is a 100% the route that I would wanna go because this is giving me all the nuance that I find very, very difficult to pull out of something with the PHA-4 keyboard action. The triple sensor combined with that wood weight in there, just makes this respond so much closer to an acoustic grand piano, if that’s what you’re used to. If that’s your comfort zone, you’re gonna really appreciate that and enjoy that. And when you push this action, when you really start to hammer on this action, this, sort of, maxes out much later in the game than this. I feel like on the FP-60, if I’m giving this like 50% or 60% of, sort of, my maximum force, I’m already getting, like, the full response out of the sensor on this.
There are some similarities on the action: They both have escapement, they both have exactly the same texture on the top of their keys, which I like in both cases – it’s a great feel . But again, just to wrap up, really the big difference here in action, PHA-4 and the PHA-50. Wood core, triple censor, all kinds of range in color, great for solo. This one is a nice, punchy keyboard that’s easy to play, nice for giving action. In my opinion, really, really great for any kind of pop, contemporary or even professional use when you’re backing somebody up.
So, let’s move on to features and functionality. Before we do, we’re just gonna splash those specs up on the screen so you can see them one more time.
Features: Similarities and differences
The Roland FP-90 and the FP-60 are very similar in terms of the features that it offers you or me, the players, the end users. They have virtually the same user interface, that gives you easy access to the ambience (reverb) settings, the volume sliders which are easy and satisfying to use, the tone banks are also the same, and both come with built-in music stands and available matching keyboard stands. They’re also both available in black finishes or white finishes, and both also come with a DP-10 Damper Pedal out of the box.
There are a couple of exceptions that we wanna cover just so that everybody understands what the differences are. The main difference between the FP-90 and FP-60 in terms of functionality is actually the microphone. The Roland FP-90 has a mic input. It’s not an XLR, it is quarter-inch, but you could still adapt pretty much any dynamic mic and put a quarter-inch into there (no Phantom power, so condensers are out).
The point is, this is going to allow you to use a mic during a live performance or overtop of a pre-recorded performance, and the microphone function on here allows you to add vocal effects such as doubling, add compression, and echo effect. It’s actually really engaging and fun, particularly if you’re a singer-songwriter or somebody even just who wants to maybe improve your singing voice, and piano is where you’ve always been or vice versa. We know a lot of singers who are working on their piano chops and want an instrument that’s gonna be able to support the repertoire and the genres they enjoy doing. FP-90 is really well suited for that. There is no microphone available on the FP-60. I mean, of course, you could always set up an amp, plug an amp, you know, a microphone in and do all of that. It’s a little less convenient and you’d have to have some sort of effects processing going on, either through your phone, iPad or maybe a computer to replicate what the Roland FP-90 is doing.
hey both have Bluetooth midi support, which is becoming a really popular feature within the digital piano world. The Bluetooth technology on both of these allow you to connect music apps, such as Roland’s Piano Partner 2 or Garageband with your smartphone to enhance your playing and practice sessions. The Piano Partner 2 is their main companion app that allows for direct interface between the instrument, access the rhythm accompaniments. The Piano Designer app also functions through the Bluetooth connection, They also allow for their piano technician app, which kind of lets you edit the piano sound. Obviously, way more functionality on the FP-90 because you’re accessing that modeling, sort of, the V-piano modeling sound engine in there, whereas this is just the SuperNATURAL sound engine. So, a few more parameters to play around with on that. But by-and-large, kind of, offering up very, very, very similar things.
In terms of the connectivity, they both have discrete audio outs, which is a huge plus. You don’t have to send the audio out through a headphone jack. And they both have independent switches for their onboard speaker systems, which is even more awesome. (I don’t know why more keyboards do not offer this, but I really like the fact that they do).
If you’ve got this plugged into an amp, you have the option of using the onboard speakers or not using the onboard speakers because there’s gonna be situations where one or the other are, you know, appropriate. So, having the switch is great.
You’ve got USB memory connections out to computer or other device. You’ve got the ability to plug in USB keys as well. And you’ve got the auxiliary audio jack so that if you have a cable, you wanna listen to iPhone, iPad, Android, whatever, digital device of music on it, you can wire it in.
One thing that I do wanna clarify, because this has come up with a couple of customers and I don’t see it talked about a lot, it’s kind of glossed over, is the fact I’ve had people who have bought wireless headphones to use with, you know, Roland devices, use with Kawai devices because they see Bluetooth and they assume that means that they can use this to listen to what they’re doing with a wireless headphone. That is not offered, this is not something that you can do with this, so do not buy yourself wireless headphones to use with the FP-90, FP-60, any Roland product, any Kawai product. The reason that most of those companies have not released or don’t support that is the Bluetooth protocol, generally speaking, has a bit of a lag time that other Bluetooth connections, sort of, accommodate for, but when you are playing a key in real time, there’s no way to accommodate for that lag. So, if you did have the Bluetooth connection, you’d be playing it and then a split second later, you’d be hearing it, you’d be kind of caught in this crazy delay. It’s almost unplayable. So, at this point, it’s not something that digital piano companies are putting out there, and don’t buy it. It’s a wired headphones only. Although, you can use the Bluetooth to transmit audio to the speakers. So, if you wanna do that, you don’t have to use the wire.
Features: Stands and Pedals
One last thing, both instruments also come with an available stand (the optional KSC-90 stand for the FP-90, and & optional KSC-72 stand for the FP-60) in both black and white. However, the triple pedal board on the Roland FP-90 is not something that comes on the FP-60. If you want the triple pedal on the FP-60, it’s the standalone RPU-3 triple pedal unit, or the KPD-90 for use with the stand. Whereas the FP-90 has that beautifully integrated triple pedal system (KPD-90 pedal) that looks more like a piano. So, let’s sum up those features and we’ll move on to the end of our comparison review.
So, what does the Roland FP-90 and the FP-60 compare best to out in the market? Well, they’re both fairly new and the other companies, mostly Yamaha and Kawai, are still kind of playing catch-up. The new FP release really was, kind of, leading the industry about a year ago. The Roland FP-60 and the FP-90 are gonna compare well with the ES8 from Kawai, which kind of sits about halfway between the two of them. It’s also gonna compare well to the Yamaha P255 or the Yamaha P515. Again, sort of, sitting in between the two of them and very, very similarly priced. So, if you’re the kind of customer who likes to literally look at every single option in the market before making a decision, those would be the ones that you’d wanna check out. However, if you’re already familiar with Roland, you’ve liked what they’ve done in the past, I can promise you you’re not gonna be disappointed with these products. They are really, really super solid and pretty well suited for a wide variety of musical scenarios, from intimate venues to full-on gigging duty.
Like I said, the FP-60 is, in my opinion, a great practice instrument for somebody who is involved more in contemporary music, whether it’s pop or jazz or R&B, and also needs something lightweight that could possibly be used for gigging and they need something, you know, decent from an action standpoint. And the speaker just needs to be loud, doesn’t necessarily need to have a whole lot of bass. It’s just so perfect and an incredible value for what you’re getting for the money. On the other hand, the FP-90, for some really serious, more classical players or just players who generally are mostly used to playing on acoustics, this PHA-50 action is a real treat. And of course, as long as you remember to jack up the EQ sliders at the same time as the volume, you’re gonna get major, major torque out of these speakers, an amplifier that definitely outpowers the FP-60. And then, of course, the microphone volume is a nice plus. Or the microphone slider, I should say, and the option to be able to plug in a mic is a nice plus. And finally, the difference in the piano engine. We’ve got full modeling and, of course, we’ve got Roland’s SuperNATURAL piano modeling technology.
So, thank you very much for watching our comparison video between the Roland FP-90 vs FP-60 portable digital pianos. Hope you’ve enjoyed it. If you have not subscribed yet, please do. We’d love to see you back for more videos. In the meantime, happy shopping, and thanks for watching.