Introduction

The Roland FP-90 is a premium portable piano that combines elements of a stage piano with performance enhancements like rhythm accompaniments, live mic effects, 3-band equalizer, high-quality onboard speakers, and available 3 pedal unit. It has emerged as a flagship piano for Roland and bench-setter in the category, competing head to head with Yamaha’s P5** series as well as Kawai’s ES8 digital piano. We hope you enjoy this video review and accompanying article from Merriam Pianos.

Roland FP90 Review Video Transcription

Hi everybody and welcome to another digital piano review here at Merriam Pianos. My name is Stu Harrison and today, we’re looking at Roland’s mighty FP-90 Digital Piano. We’re going to be covering the sound quality and the tone engines, we’re going to be taking a look at the action, talking about all its features. And of course, I’ll be sharing some musical thoughts and experiences on this instrument myself. If this is the first time to the channel, we’d really appreciate it if you subscribed. We’d love the support and, of course, you’ll be kept up to date with all things piano. So let’s get started on the Roland FP-90 digital piano.

Roland’s Supernatural Piano Sound Engine

So let’s talk about the sound on the Roland FP-90 digital piano. We’re going to split this up into the sound engine and then also the sound banks or the tones that are loaded onto this machine. So the piano sound engine on the FP-90 is pretty exciting for something that’s portable, something in this price range because it uses a sound creation process called modeling, which is Roland’s flagship tone engine: they call it “Supernatural Piano Modeling”. This is exactly the same type of technology that was available first on the V-Piano that Roland brought out, and is now also available in a number of their other kind of higher-end products like the RD-2000, has the modeling engine in there. And basically, what a modeling engine is, is a computer algorithm that is completely generating the piano tone in real-time as you press the key. So this is a complete change from what normally digital pianos produce their sound from where you press a key and it’s playing back a sample, which is like a recording of another piano having had that note played. What happens with modeling is it’s kind of like real-time computer graphics, where you press the key and the computer from scratch based on the algorithm actually generates the tone and it uses that based on a number of other parameters that might be occurring or happening at the same time. This all results in a highly detailed piano sound that can be moulded to your specific preferences. Every aspect of the complex sound profile can be manipulated, and with the Bluetooth technology discussed below, you can use “Piano Designer” to modify it to your heart’s content.

More significantly, it’s the only FP model in the whole FP series that offers that. So the sound engine on this, when you’re in acoustic piano mode or piano mode, you’re actually getting some V-Piano technology in this – modeling technology and so that gives you literally unlimited polyphony. Now, when you switch into all of the other sounds, now you’re back into the SuperNATURAL engine, which is based more on conventional sampling, and still going to give you 388 note polyphony on all the sample based stuff. And so that’s going to cover things like your E-piano, your strings, your organ, your pad, and synths all that other stuff – a whole range of additional sounds.

It’s super cool to hear this because usually, it takes a larger grand piano on the acoustic side to be hearing those types of colors and wide dynamic range. And it’s engaging to be able to get this out of a digital piano. So that’s the tone engine, or really kind of two-tone engines in one, the modeling on the piano and then the SuperNATURAL sound on the other. When we get into the type of sounds that are loaded into the instrument, we’re well over 300 on the FP-90. We have a really good selection of acoustic pianos. This was the concert piano that you’re hearing here. Very colorful, I would say trends a little on the bright side. But, of course, you’ve got your onboard equalizer, you can quickly kind of take care of that and I’ll be talking a little more about the equalizer later. Then you’ve got what they call the ballad piano, and that’s mellow piano, bright, so on and so forth. So it goes through a number of different models. Upright piano. Oh, I like that. That’s mellow upright. So it has, it looks like about 9 or 10 acoustic sounds, and then it gets into a number of other keyboard instruments, harpsichord, ’70s, electric grand pianos, all that sort of stuff.

Then we hit the E-pianos, which are just gorgeous – honestly, a truly premium selection of electric piano tones. The tremolo amp simulator that Roland loads up on these is very convincing. And all of your kind of normal suite of E-pianos you’re going to get on there, your Wurlys, your Rhodes models, it’s all there. The strings are a little poppy, they’re a little bright, but when you blend them, totally passable, totally convincing. Your organ sounds are there too, your synth sounds, your electric piano sounds, and your pads. Something I would say Roland is really well-known for is their pad selection. Like really rich sound and creamy piano sounds in there. I should mention that once we get into the general MIDI bank and even through electric pianos and the strings, this is exactly the same sounds that are available on the FP-60 actually. So somebody watching this might also be comparing the FP-60, and thinking to themselves, well, where’s the advantage of the FP-90? Well, what we were first talking about, that sound engine, that V-Piano modeling technology that’s loaded in there, that’s one of the big reasons why you might consider actually springing for the Roland FP-90 versus the FP-60.

Speaker System

Now, to round out the discussion of sound, we can’t neglect to talk about the speaker system that is on the FP-90. This thing is loaded up with 60 watts of onboard sound system and they’re really beautifully balanced, and sort of factory set so that it’s very difficult to actually distort these even if you kind of max the whole thing out. It’s a powerful sound out of the piano’s speaker system, one that makes it almost entirely self-contained for intimate venues. So the FP-90 can actually fill up a smaller medium-sized room and act as it’s own primary amplifier. So for people who are doing some light gigging or using this for rehearsal or something like that in a smaller venue, that’s kind of a big deal to have enough power onboard to avoid lugging a separate big heavy amp around with you. It’s going to give you 60 watts of sound right out of the box. And that’s a handy thing. Now, that’s divided into 2 x 25 watt mains, and then 2 x 5 watt tweeters. So you’re also getting 4 speakers straight out over those 60 watts. Also, it’s a multi-channel speaker system with processing, so each of the four speakers are receiving distinct signal, also something a bit unusual for a piano in this price range. So that pretty much wraps up the sound. We’re going to move on to action now, but before we do, we’re going to splash a slide up on the screen so you can see all those specs.

Authentic Grand Piano Touch

Now, let’s dive into action. The Roland FP-90 is equipped with the Progressive Hammer Action with escapement (PHA 50), an action which delivers great feel, excellent sensitivity, and industrial-level durability. Now, this is an action that came out from Roland, maybe what, four years ago, three or four years ago, and it shows up on a number of models. You can get this now on the DP-603, it’s available on the RD-2000. I know it’s available on the FP-90, and then I believe a number of their HP and LX models also feature the PHA 50. What’s interesting about the PHA 50 is it follows the trend of incorporating wood components into the action. So if you actually press the key down on an FP-90, and you look at the side of the key or the core of the key, it’s actually wood. So what that does, because, to be honest, at first, I thought this was a little bit of a gimmick. The more and more I play it, the more I realized that having that wood core actually properly simulates the dynamic weight and the dynamic resistance of the key. So you get a much more realistic repetition speed, I feel like you get a much more realistic keystroke, just generally every aspect of it, than you do when you’re dealing with a hollow plastic key. If anything, you have a sense that it’s a lot more secure, your finger kind of tends to pick up on a little bit of give and that hollowness in the plastic key and it’s just not there on the PHA 50. It’s a really solid key, and it’s got a nice satisfying stroke as it goes from the top to the bottom of the key travel.

One big difference or I should say another big difference with the PHA 50 over its predecessor, which is the PHA 4, and that’s the action that you still get in the FP-10, the FP-30, and the FP-60 is this has a triple sensor on it, versus the single sensor which you’re going to get in most of the PHA 4 actions. So what does a triple sensor good for? Well, if you are using the FP-90 for any kind of production, if you’re going to be feeding MIDI information from the FP-90 into a tablet or computer for any type of recording, that triple sensor really does make a difference. You’re going to wind up having to do a lot less velocity editing, afterward, you’re going to find that it’s going to output your performance much more accurately. There’s not going to be as many sort of random spikes in the velocity or loss notes. So it’s like basically, three ways that the key measures what you’ve actually done and so it’s like triple checking that it’s accurate before, you know, your computer or the tablet receives it. Kawai has done this as well, integrating the triple sensor and it does make a difference. So if you’re using it, as I said, for production, the triple sensor is a good thing. If you’re using this for any type of classical playing, I would say the wood core and the PHA 50 is also going to be a really nice feature if the budget permits you to get into some kind of an instrument with the PHA 50 action. In addition to the wood core and triple sensor, we’ve got kind of an ivory feel that’s been simulated on here. It’s subtle, but I like it. It sort of adds a little bit of grip on the white key. It sort of looks cool, too. I mean, for whatever that’s worth, I think it looks like a classy keyboard. It also has an ebony wood simulation on top of the black keys. So that’s pretty much what you’re looking at in terms of the action. A really solid action that’s going to serve pretty much any genre really well. A more solid feel than what you get on the PHA 4, and your triple sensor for extra accuracy.

Other Important Features

Let’s move on to features. One of the biggest features that I wanna draw your attention to on the FP-90 is actually the user interface or that front panel with all of the switches and knobs. When Roland came out with the FP-60 and the FP-90, the biggest change I would say was this visual difference in how the controls are laid out, how the buttons are laid, how you really interact with the instruments. And I would have to say this is one of the most successful sort of redesigns or forget the redesign, just one of the most easy to navigate successful user interfaces of any keyboard that I’ve ever used. Period. Somebody or group of people really spent a lot of time getting feedback from users and spending some time in the drawing board to make sure they got this right and I’m just going to go from left to right or your right to left. Talking about every reason why this is an easy to use machine, virtually no need to ever to consult the user manual and something that’s ideal for live situations. So you’re not having to rely on all kinds of presets, or all kinds of shortcut commands, you know, making these changes on the fly is super easy with how they’ve laid this out. So first of all, you’ve got a slider volume knob that’s really easy to use. I know that sounds super obvious, but some of the keyboards out there even some of the Roland keyboards out there, now have like button control on the volume. And just from a personal standpoint, I’m not a fan. I really like when you’ve got a physical knob or physical slider that clearly shows where the volume is, and doesn’t require any sort of button manipulation to switch it.

Moving on to the equalizer, which is probably my favorite function of this whole machine. And this is on the FP-60 as well. You’ve got a Low, Mid, and High EQ, which is so easy to use, and it’s very effective. You can pretty much get 95% of the way to your perfect piano just by modifying and playing around with the EQ settings.

So you can see as I kind of jack the mids, jack the lows, you’re getting dramatically different sounds out of exactly the same patch, right, this is all just concert piano. So that’s really cool. Plus for, I don’t know, it’s called power users out there, you can actually go in and modify, you know, basically it’s a parametric EQ. So with a three band parametric EQ, you can set these sliders to represent any widths and frequency focus within the advanced settings. That’s just fantastic and I really enjoy that feature.

Next one over, and this is something that I only actually recently realized and so for current owners out there, I’ll mention this and for now, it’s just a tip. The ambience button allows you to quickly edit, you know, whether the ambience is what they call plain and rich, really it’s the reverb engine. So plain means that it’s a shallow depth and short time. Rich means it’s a deeper depth and a longer decay on the reverb. What’s a little bit odd is that you can’t really turn the ambience on or off by pressing the button even though the button light does come on or off, which seems a little odd. But that’s how you do access the sitting and I’ll just show you right here. So I’ve got ambience set to eight, so it’s super obvious. But turning the ambience off, it’s still there. So that is not really an on-off button. So if people are getting frustrated, it’s simply the button that accesses the ambience slider and then of course, you can turn it off like that, or you can do that.

You’ve got your part slider lower and upper. And so that’s of course when you’ve got some sort of a split or duo mode, that it’s really nice and easy to be able to mix and match. I’ll quickly demonstrate that. So if you’ve got strings and piano, you can completely shut the strings off, slowly mix them in or completely shut the piano off. Really nice tactile controls, love it. Then you’ve got easy access to your split duo mode or your transpose functions. And then all your tone categories are beautifully laid out, plus the option for registration button. That really just means presets. That just means whenever you find some combination of sounds, and rhythms, whatever and you wanna commit that to memory, so you don’t have to recreate that next time you turn it on. That’s what your registration keys are there for. They’re easy to use, they’re really super obvious. Maybe that’s the only thing you might wanna use the owner manual for just so that you kind of understand the process of saving and creating those.

Then we’ve got your function key, which allows you to go into all sorts of really cool stuff. But I would say the biggest onboard feature that you’re going to wanna play around with would be the piano designer. So this is where they’re going to give you access to that V-Piano engine. This is where you’re going to be able to modify and play around with and I’ll just actually get in there so I can show you all the stuff. So piano designer, this is where you can edit how open or closed the lid is, or the sound the key makes when you let off the key, the hammer noise, duplex scale, string resonance, damper resonance, key-off resonance. Like just insane amounts of detail that you have. And that’s right on board and there’s actually a little graphics right on the display to help you understand what it is that you are editing.

Connectivity And Ports

And then finally, we get on to the song and the MIDI and I guess USB audio playback function, which is over here. So with a USB memory key, you can load up WAV or MP3 audio that you can playback through all kinds of different scenarios where that might be useful to you. You can also record onto a USB stick, which I know is very helpful for a lot of teachers, that’s kind of a big educational function there. And then the FP-90 also has a mic input. Now, it’s not XLR, it is just quarter-inch, but you can still get pretty decent microphones for quarter-inch and the mic can be easily turned on and off with your microphone volume slider, and it gives you compression. And it also lets you have like a voice doubler for vocal effects on it. Now, I would demonstrate that except I’m literally the world’s worst singer. So just take my word for it that this function exists or try it yourself. It is actually a lot of fun.

Finally, the very last set of features that I wanna talk about is not something you can literally see on there, but nonetheless it is really super handy. One of those is the Bluetooth connectivity, something that Roland has prioritized but Yamaha has yet to implement on their equivalent P series. This is something that is built into all of the FP series and certainly is on the FP-90 and this is what allows you to hook up a tablet or a smartphone and control the instrument directly with the Piano Designer 2 app that lets you change the sounds, lets you start and stop the intelligent accompaniment that’s built into this, also lets you do wireless recording to your device. All kinds of really handy stuff. That piano designer we were mentioning inside, there is also a free app that Roland makes, so you can do this virtually speaking. And then of course, because it’s Bluetooth MIDI, this is like a, you know, a universal musical tech language, it’s open source. This is the stuff that you can get music apps, tons and tons of apps on the App Store or Google Play Store or whatever, that lets you make use of that wireless MIDI support. And so this becomes kind of just like a keyboard for apps that you can download. And, you know, some really well-known apps like Garage Band, Logic, Roland’s Piano Partner 2, and all sorts of stuff like that you can use with the wireless MIDI. The MIDI connection also works as a Bluetooth Audio connection so that you can use the premium speaker system as a stereo, or play your favorite songs through the piano’s speakers as you play along.

The FP90 is also loaded with classic piano songs, and within the Piano Partner App, you can see the associated sheet music as well. The Bluetooth just to jump back a couple of topics, you can also use this beautiful speaker system as a Bluetooth speaker. So if you have a, you know, a smartphone, and you’re wanting to play along to some of your favorite music, you can just set your smartphone, set your FP-90 as the Bluetooth speaker and play along at the same time. So all of it is coming through the speaker, no cables, it’s really easy to use or you can plug in your headphones. You’re going to love that feature as well.

Keyboard Stands & Accessories

Last but not least, the Roland FP-90 comes in two colors, you can get it in black (FP-90-BK), and you can get it in a white finish (FP-90-WH). And you can also get it just in the slab format, which is what you’re seeing here. Basically just the keyboard sitting on a, you know, a portable stand with the DP-10 Damper pedal included. Or you can get it with a really beautiful wooden matching kind of furniture stand (optional KSC-90 stand), as well as a triple pedal system (KPD-90 pedal) or the pedal unit (RPU-3 triple pedal) on its own that Roland makes for it. This would give you full sostenuto, damper/soft pedal, and damper function. So lots of different options on how to enjoy the FP-90 whether it’s going to be sitting in one place, or you’re going to be lugging it around. But generally speaking, what we’ve got in the FP-90 is a keyboard for all seasons. This is something that’s going to accommodate players of both contemporary and classical repertoire because you’ve got a really accurate action, very sensitive action, and a detailed piano tone. So the people with, you know, a high degree of expectation for all of that, you know, tonal complexity, it’s all there.

For people who are using this as a stage piano for live performances, you’ve got really nice easy to use, you know, real-time control that’s going to make this satisfying, easy to patch into other systems. You’ve got your audio outputs out the back with quarter-inch, which you can use in stereo mode or automatically switches to mono if you just plug in the Left channel. which is a really great feature as well. And then of course, for singer/songwriters, you’ve got the option of your microphone input, and the ability to playback tracks that you can then just enhance with some piano and some voice.

The Roland FP90 Digital is a really, a beautiful comprehensive all in one unit from Roland. We’ve been loving it here at Merriam. I think you’ll love it for home use, so get to a showroom, try one yourself, and most of all, thanks for watching. We will see you back soon for another piano review. My name is Stu Harrison, and you’ve been watching Merriam Pianos.

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