Introduction

The RD-2000 is the latest in the RD series from Roland – probably the world’s best-known stage pianos of the last 10 years along with Nord’s lineup, and a bench-mark for master controllers across the industry. It offers up a dual sound engine, giving full polyphony to it’s piano sounds; it has the Supernatural Piano engine and sounds loaded on it; with wave expansion slots, vintage effects engine, 9 faders and knobs to give crazy levels of real-time control in live and studio settings. And if that’s not enough, there’s both a set of modulation wheels and pitch bender, onboard parametric equalizer, and assignable audio outs through both 1/4″ and XLR jacks, this thing is a pure beast and a power tool for keyboardists of all stripes. Stu Harrison, a personal user of the RD2000, sits down for a video review of the machine he plays on sometimes on a daily basis within the professional Toronto music scene.

Roland RD2000 Digital Stage Piano Review Video Transcription

Hi, everybody, my name is Stu Harrison, we’re back at Merriam Pianos for another piano review. And today, we’re looking at is the Roland RD2000 professional stage piano, an instrument just loaded with controller features, internal sounds, the latest in digital piano research and supernatural technology, and all driven by an action that approaches an authentic grand piano touch. Now, this is an instrument that came out in January of 2017, so it’s been out on the market for a couple of years, but still just as dominant, just as impressive. And to be honest, and full disclosure, this is actually the instrument that I professionally used to play on. So, if you detect some heavy personal bias during this review, that’s why. When I was at the NAMM Show in 2017, I actually put the order in with Roland literally behind their booth right after I saw the main demo. I was so impressed with the capabilities. And to this day, I continue to be happy with and impressed with what this instrument does, both in studio and on stage.

So, we’re gonna be diving into the action, and we’re gonna be talking about the suite of features on here, how they’ve set up the interface, some of the cool things that I really love about this instrument, and hopefully, give you a slightly deeper insight into whether this might be a great option for you at home. If you’re a professional, or you’re somebody who’s just a big sound enthusiast, or, you know, a gearhead, lots to love here on the RD2000 digital piano. So, we’re gonna get started right away, thank you so much for joining us today.

The PHA-50 Hybrid Wood Action With Escapement and Ivory Feel

My battle with digital stage pianos generally starts with the action. I would fall into the category of snobby piano players that absolutely insist on action being absolutely as good as it possibly can be. Even if I’m at a 30-minute gig, and, you know, the setup takes longer than you’re actually gonna be playing, I still really love having something that’s gonna feel like a real acoustic hammer action so I can feel unconstrained by the instrument, I’m just gonna be able to have fun. And so, this has always been something that has been the very top of the list priority for me anytime I’ve been shopping for a stage piano.

Now, the chronology of what I’ve owned over the course of the years, just for perspective, I’ve had Yamaha CP300, I’ve used Yamaha S90… Is it an SE, or the second edition of it? We’ve had the Yamaha Motif8, then we’ve had Roland Fantom X8, and then, of course, now we’ve got an RD2000. And so, I’ve had these gigantic, beastly, super heavy machines for the last 20 years of my gigging life, and the action continues to be something that I battle with.

Now, when I play the RD2000, the action was just this amazing surprise. They are using the same action in the RD2000 as what you’re gonna get on a lot of their LX, HP, or the DP603 digital piano. So, this is an actual wood core action, I believe they call it the PHA-50 progressive hammer action keyboard. So, you’ve got a nice texture on the top, you’ve got a wood core action in the middle, it’s got escapement, but it’s a real pleasure to play this instrument. The ivory feel white keys, and the ebony feel black keys are lovely to the touch, and the keys – I can personally attest to this – are certainly built to a rugged durability.

And so, I do a ton of work on here where I have to go into studios where there’s no piano, this really allows me to be quite expressive even when you’re doing subtle solo stuff. Obviously, out on gigs it feels immediately comfortable, it’s not overly heavy, but, you know, I can play three, four hours on this, no problem. There’s no fatigue like you get on some of the heavier stuff, like some of those Yamaha CP300s were just really heavy actions. Players out there will know exactly what I’m talking about.

So, first thing you’re gonna notice, if you’re like me, is that this action is super, super satisfying. The PHA-50 Keyboard is a true hybrid key with the wood core. It’s got a great, sort of, a dynamic weight to it, static weight to it…whether you’re playing an acoustic piano, whether you’re doing some Rhodes stuff, it has a very, very natural feel.

V-Piano Tone Engine the Piano Sound Engine

In terms of what it’s loaded with, from a sound standpoint, there’s obviously lots of options to get expansion boards and expansion sounds on this, but right out of the box, it is equipped with two independent sound engines, the SuperNATURAL piano engine and the V-piano engine (for full-keyboard polyphony) which is great. And there’s also quite a bit of modeling going on. So, even for the piano, and for the Rhodes (or any of the other classic electric pianos its loaded up with – and there are many), for the organ, any of these, like, core sound machines, what you’re gonna notice is this has got tone designer on here. So, this is very similar to, like, the Virtual Technician.

So, if I’m just on piano tone, or the default “stage grand”, and I hit tone designer, I immediately get piano designers and option, and this is where I now have the option to start editing the lid, the height of the lid, string resonance, damper resonance, hammer noise, duplex, key off, cabinet. I mean, it’s pretty extensive what you have to work with, and that’s before you even get into any of the effects processing.

So, as an engine, I would give this top marks in terms of being able to edit and create a really authentic acoustic piano tone without getting into any of the effecting, just the core piano engine, lots of good options as well. Out of the box, as I said, they’ve got a lot of the supernatural and the piano-influenced programming, lots of great presets, deep concert.

So, you can hear all sorts of different textures coming out of there as I’m flipping through a lot of the, sort of, their core presets on the piano. They’ve got a lot of great presets when it comes to the vintage stuff as well. So, if we go into tone designer, and on the vintage stuff, you’ve got hum noise, mechanical noise, mechanical key off, sound lift, lots of great stuff that you can play around with there as well.

Additional Sound Banks

The second supernatural engine provides an onboard sound suite which is plentiful – over 1100 quality sounds, and some exquisite recreations of some of Roland’s most famous synthesizers and keyboards from the past, like the MKS-20, or the Boss CE-1 Chorus. In terms of the quick select, you’ve got all of these tones organized into sections. So, you’ve got your acoustic piano section, your electric piano section, your clav organ, we’re gonna talk about that in a second, strings, pad, bass, and then other. Well, the other is as big, or bigger, as the sounds which are preset. And so, there’s ensemble sounds like ensemble brass or ensemble strings, solo brass, woodwinds, flute, sax, recorder, synth lead, polykey, synth sequencing pad, pulsating beats, hits, sound effects, percussion, all of these are categories that have, like, 15 to 20 sounds in each.

So, just a massive onboard sound library for you to work with. This is great for people who are gonna use this as a sound source within a studio. What I wind up using this for more is as a live instrument, of course. This huge bank of sounds means that you can create a wealth of presets that are gonna be just perfect for exactly what the application is that you’re looking for. So, if you’re looking for a specific synth sound to go along with some MJ tune that you’re playing on a gig, or you’re looking to really, really tweak some, kind of, deep, you know, synth-y bass thing without having to get into hardware, you can actually use this to do it all yourself.

Virtual Tone Wheel Organ Module

Now, I said I was gonna come back to the organ. So, we’ve covered action, we’ve covered acoustic piano, electric piano, let’s talk about the organ for a second. Because this is something that I think Roland is very aware that most keyboard players on gigs are called upon to pull out some B3 stuff now and again, and I think they’ve really made a cool attempt to integrate some design functionality into the Roland that brings the organ experience up a notch. Essentially, the RD2000 has a virtual tone wheel organ emulator built right in, as a discrete sound module – and it’s convincingly done. And so, if we click on the organ and we start looking at these presets, they’ve got eight great presets, but all this is really working off, kind of, like, a virtual organ instrument. And so, with one hit, the key, we’re just gonna pull up the harmonic bar, those slide bars… And I know Lee’s gonna grab some footage of this later so that we can see exactly what we’re talking about. We’ve got nine independent tone bars, just like you’re gonna find on a B3, and this is entirely in real time, customizable tone bar. So…

And you’ve got your little toggle wheel over here which triggers the Leslie. And so, you’ve got all of those things, you can save them as presets, or as I said, this comes equipped with all sorts of predetermined sounds that you often hear out there. So, the organ functionality down here is great, that’s another thing that really appealed to me.

Now, once you start creating your own programs, or setting up a gig, and this is where I think the RD2000 digital really shines, is a couple of key differences, approaches, not sure what the right word is, but the control interface is so intuitive, you don’t wind up having to spend eons digging through menus. I really, really love the fact that you’ve got mixer, sort of, fader bars to manage your different patches within a program. Easy on/off buttons immediately overtop if you’re trying to activate or deactivate a particular patch, easy selection of those zones. And then an entire control surface, which makes it very, very easy to get to your standard envelope controls, like your pan, your reverb, cut off, resonance, tack, release, all of that. The Keyboard setup flows well, it’s easy to select different key ranges and assign them to the zones, the scene function is easy to use for gig setup…it’s a candy store of modern controller features.

Assignable Controller Functions

You’ve got an entirely assignable set of controls. So, if you’re hooking this up to a computer to use soft synths and other software instruments, external sources, or just as a midi interface, this has every widget that you’d expect out of a master controller, and everything you’d need to control a mobile daw or even a daw-studio setup. If you’ve got an auto-detect functionality within your system, you can just quickly go through and assign these knobs to any parameter you want within a, sort of, a laptop, or something like that. The LED indicators help for accurate settings and use within a darkened live setting.

You’ve got an EQ that’s right here in a low-mid-high with sweepable mids and sweepable lows, and sweepable highs. So, you’ve got a full parametric EQ, as well as a 3-band compressor. And then, of course, you’ve got a separate reverb delay engine. Now, on top of all that is two independent physical sound processors in there. And this is where this thing just, like, blows anything out there, that I’m aware of, out of the water, for just ease of use and high fidelity sound.

There are also two assignable modulation wheels and a traditional pitch-bend that Roland’s are normally equipped with, just in case you didn’t have enough control surfaces!

We’ve got something called zone effects. Now, so, these are independent sound effect engines which you can apply to your first four patches within a program. And so, you’ve got modulation effects engine, which is very easy to pick, and then you’ve got a tremolo effects engine, which is also easy to pick, plus, an amp simulator on top of that. So, if you want to take something like a vintage 1975 EP, and you wanna add a little bit of amp, kind of, grunge to it. So, we’re gonna pick…we’re gonna turn the amp simulator on.

That’s the clean. So, that’s very easy to get to, and it’s super easy to save either in its own program or scene, which is something I’m gonna touch on right now.

So, we’ve got independent effects which you can apply to the first four assignable zones, tons and tons. I mean, way too much to get into a review, but you just got to play around with it. Then you’ve got full assignable controls, avlo [SP] controls, reverb, and EQ, very, very easy, nice tactile ways to quickly edit those on the fly within a gig. We’ve got the fader bars which can be used to mix a program, internal and external sounds, also functioning as tone bars for the organ stuff. Very easy access for your patches over here, which is great. Some basic playback of audio through the USB.

Live Sets / Scene Functionality

So, let’s cover one of my favorite things about the RD2000, which is scene functionality. Now, when are you gonna use this? Realistically, live performance is where this is gonna come in the most handy. Let’s say you get called for a gig, or a show, or anything where you’re gonna have to be doing quite a bit of quick changing between programs and patches, you’ve got 2 sets, 3 sets, and you’ve got 15, 20 songs that you’re gonna have to create some fairly layered programs for, specific sounds that the MD wants, whatever it is. Yes, sure, you can take a fresh 20 programs, build the whole thing so it’s nicely in order, or you could do what the RD2000 has intended, which is to use the scene functionality. So, this is how it works.

Essentially, as you pull up a program that you’ve built for another show, or it doesn’t even matter what order it is, you’re tweaking it to just be perfect for this show, and you’re like, “Okay, that’s gonna be song number one.” Well, you pick a scene bank, let’s say, bank zero, bank one, wherever you’ve got a nice, fresh slate, and you’re gonna say, “Okay, that’s scene number one, bank one.” And that basically becomes the first tune of that set. And that’s literally the press of two buttons and it immediately takes a snapshot of everything you’ve just setup and it saves it all to a single button. That is a huge time saver, massive time saver for setting up a gig, because then you can also have a pedal which simply advances through your scenes. So, as you’re going through the sets, it’s like, boom, scene one, boom, scene two. It’s really phenomenal, this has saves me hours, and hours, and hours of time in setting up for gigs.

Scene functionality is available on some other instruments, but I’ve never seen it quite set up, like, as easy and as straightforward as on the Roland, that captures as many parameters as the scene function captures on the Roland.

Features: Ports & Connectivity, Keyboard Stand

The RD-2000 features a suite of options for wiring into virtually any professional setting you could imagine. That includes being able to use it as a USB Audio Interface (whah!?!), running balanced XLR outputs without the need for DI boxes, independent 1/4″ main outs and sub outs for ultimate flexibility, USB type A and USB type B ports for firmware updates and expansions, and of course the requisite ports for headphones.

The RD-2000 also is available with a matching stand, similar to the V-Piano, although a good Z-style from Profile or Hercules also does the trick quite nicely. In terms of portability, it’s surprisingly mobile…not light by any means, but I’ve lugged far worse around in the form of a Fantom 8, or a Yamaha Motif. It’s manageable and totally usable for regular gigging.

The piano comes with the DP-10 damper pedal, which is sturdy and highly usable. But if you want more foot-triggers or a true 3-pedal playing experience, the RPU-3 is also compatible with the RD2000.

Overall Playability

So, just to sum it all up, the RD2000, as a digital stage piano, for me, delivers virtually everything that I look for in a stage piano. As I said, this is what I’ve been using personally, and will even maybe throw in some footage of me using this on a couple of stages around town. It’s delivering a great action, we’ve got a scatement with ivory touch on top with a wood core, it feels very authentic. You’ve got V-piano technology in here with plenty of parameters so that you can get a really nice, clean, customized acoustic piano sound. Really great electric piano engine as well to cover both the vintage-y stuff as well as the ’80s and ’90s stuff. Some great, like, you know, DX7 sounds in there. Clav. We’ve got the organ functionality, which has been really well considered with your tone bars. And then, of course, overall, we’ve got over a thousand tones packed in here right off the shelf. Easy program creator with the mixer functionality. We’ve got nice, intuitive physical controls for your envelope, your EQ, your assignable controls. And of course, it’s in a really, kind of, a cool package. I love the look of the instrument, and even though it’s not the lightest machine, it’s probably one of the lightest stage pianos that I’ve ever had to lug around anywhere.

So, if you’re in the market for something like this where you’re gonna need onboard sound, you’re gonna need a really great action, and potentially something where you’re gonna be using it both on stage with also some studio use, give the RD2000 a chance. Head into a showroom somewhere, or, you know, a music shop, and sit down, experience it, play it, have fun with it. And, of course, please leave me some comments, let me know what you thought of the review. I hope it’s been helpful. Good luck with your shopping, and we’ll see you around next time.

Shop all Roland Digital Pianos