One of the most requested videos we’ve ever done was our comparison of the Roland FP-30 digital piano (since replaced by the Roland FP-30X) and Kawai ES110 (soon to be replaced by the Kawai ES120). These are two of the best-selling portable digital pianos in the world, and both are often touted as the two best options in the price range.
In this companion article to the video comparison, we’ll be taking a close look at both pianos, detailing their similarities and differences, while trying to paint a picture as to which one might be the best fit for you based on your personal needs.
Let’s get right into it.
Roland FP-30 vs Kawai ES110 – General Impressions
Let’s start with some general impressions first. The ES110 is a great instrument for a wide number of reasons. For one, it weighs 26lbs meaning it’s one of the most portable 88-key weighted action digital pianos available. The FP-30 alternatively weighs a little bit over 31lbs.
The trade-off here is that due to the lower weight, the ES110 has less amplifier power with 14 watts in total compared to the FP-30, which has 22 watts of total power, and as a result, has a fuller sound overall, even though the ES110 actually has a warmer bass register.
Both pianos have very good actions, sound engines and overall functionality which is why both are so popular, with both beginners and more experienced musicians. Let’s compare how they sound.
Digital Piano Sound Comparison
Kawai’s Harmonic Imaging Sound Technology vs Roland’s SuperNATURAL Piano Sound
The ES110 is using Kawai’s Harmonic Imaging engine, with a handful of different concert grand piano samples. The core sample is from their EX concert grand piano, and this is recorded with 88-key piano sampling for a very high degree of authenticity. 192-note polyphony means you’re not going to have any concerns in this regard, and there’s a nice variety of reverb settings including Concert Hall and Small Hall.
On the FP-30, we’ve got the SuperNATURAL sound engine, with 128 notes of polyphony. More or less, the difference in piano tone between these two really just comes down to personal preference. Both sounds have tons of detail and complexity to the tone with additional elements like damper resonance, damper noise and fallback noise, and they offer the user the ability to edit a decent number of parameters within those tones.
At this point, pop over to the video to hear some playing examples of both of these pianos as you’ll really get a clearer idea of the tonal differences that way.
Importance of High-Quality Sound
Something we tell everybody who’s shopping for a piano, whether it’s an acoustic or a digital, and whether you’re browsing Amazon or actually setting foot in a showroom, is to never compromise on the acoustic piano sound because at the end of the day, it’s really nice to be able to just sit down, turn your piano on, and immediately piano sound that you love and inspires you to play.
If you’re starting with a foundation where the primary objective is to start building piano playing experience, especially for beginners, the odds increase of successful endeavour increase if the player really enjoys the piano sound.
Non-Acoustic Piano Sounds
While the ES110 has 8 total acoustic piano patches compared to 6 on the FP-30, there are 19 total sounds on the ES110 which is nearly doubled up on the FP-30 with 35.
Both pianos have a nice selection of harpsichord tones that are going to work quite well if you’re practicing some Baroque music.
Electric pianos and synths are probably the highlights aside from the acoustic piano patches on both instruments as the ES110 and FP-30 have a nice selection of highly useable e-piano and even some synthesizer tones.
Overall, quality is pretty much a draw, but the FP-30 of course wins from a quantity perspective
Stereo Speaker Systems
As we briefly noted above, both pianos have a solid set of speakers. The ES110 is somewhat limited from a power output perspective with only 14 watts of power, but the quality of the speaker system is very high and the result is an especially warm bass register.
The FP-30 has more punch with 22 watts of power though the difference is not as pronounced as one may think when comparing the specs sheets.
To sum up, what you’re getting with both pianos regarding sound as a whole when it comes to the acoustic piano sounds, there’s no question that both instruments have excellent default piano patches.
The ES110 has a wider dynamic range and a more authentic tonal palette with the differences between loud and soft playing. This dynamic range tends to be a little bit compressed on the FP-30, which for a classical musician may be a consideration. For contemporary styles, it probably won’t matter.
The ES110 also has a greater polyphony count, though, at 128 notes, the FP-30 is no slouch in this category with many fine stage pianos sitting at 128 notes.
On the other hand, the FP-30 has almost double the total sounds and a more powerful speaker system.
Digital Piano Action Comparison
The key actions on both of these instruments considering the price point they’re both available at, are simply outstanding. You can’t go wrong selecting either one of these, whether from a performance or durability perspective.
Kawai’s Responsive Hammer Compact Action
The ES110 is using Kawai’s first-generation version of their Responsive Hammer Compact action (RHC). There’s a second-generation version of this action now featured in their newest KDP series home digital pianos with a triple sensor, but this first generation is still using a dual sensor.
The dual sensor means this action will not be quite as accurate from a MIDI output perspective as a triple sensor keyboard action, so that’s something to keep in mind.
There’s a slight texture on both the white and black keys, and the edges are nicely rounded. This makes it really easy and smooth for playing anything with a lot of thick chords where your fingers have to straddle multiple keys.
In terms of the sense of weighting, this action is a little bit lighter than we have over on the FP-30, but it’s not as light as what you would get over on the Yamaha P125 for example.
Roland’s PHA4 Standard Hammer Action
Over on the FP-30, we have Roland’s PHA-4 Standard action, and you’ll find this action throughout Roland’s lineup on models up to twice the price of the FP-30.
This is a very well-liked and popular action and is generally regarded as the top action available at this price point. In fact, some people even prefer this action to the more expensive PHA50 action featured throughout the upper portion of Roland’s lineup.
The PHA4 is equipped with a triple sensor, meaning the touch sensitivity is very good and capable of highly accurate MIDI output. The texture on the keytops here is more dramatic than the texture on the RHC action, and Roland refers to this as the Ivory Feel.
Another thing that’s important to note is that the PHA4 also has escapement on the action, whereas the Kawai does not have any escapement. Escapement simulates the sensation one gets when playing a grand piano and can help with increasing repetition speed.
Digital Piano Action Wrap Up
There’s an interesting quandary in terms of making a clear recommendation between the Roland FP-30 vs Kawai ES110. On the action front, we would say that the FP-30 is going to accommodate a wider range of pianists since it’s slightly heavier and has a triple sensor along with escapement – classical players will certainly appreciate all of these things.
On the other hand, we really appreciate the dynamic nature and the richness of the Kawai piano sound, and the action is still good enough even for piano lessons so if you prefer the sound of the ES110, you’re not really sacrificing with the RHC action.
Both pianos come with all of the basics in the box, but there are also some additional accessories you may wish to consider as well.
Of course, they both also include a power supply and owner’s manual so you have everything you need to plug your keyboard in and start playing without the need for additional purchases.
In terms of optional upgrades, you may wish to purchase, both pianos are available with matching designer keyboard stands and triple pedal units.
If you’re looking at one of these pianos primarily for portability, these accessories probably aren’t necessary. If however, you envision both pianos being fairly stationary in your home, you may want to consider these additions.
In the case of the Roland FP30, the stand is referred to as the KSC-70, while the pedal unit is called the KPD-70. Over on the ES110, the stand is the HML1 stand, while the pedals are called the F350.
Bluetooth and MIDI Connectivity
In terms of connectors, both pianos have a pretty solid selection built right in. For starters, both pianos are equipped with Bluetooth MIDI, and while this is quite common now when both of these pianos came out, this was a pretty big deal for the time.
Bluetooth Wireless MIDI connectivity is very convenient as it allows you to connect to iOS and Android devices and access music apps like Garageband without cables. You can also view sheet music from a tablet which is great.
Both companies also have their own apps that allow you to control the features and functions of the keyboards from a smart device like an iPad, meaning you use things like the metronome, transpose, drum rhythms, twin piano mode and even reverb setting without having to menu dive on the instrument itself.
Both pianos also have dual headphone jacks, but from here, this is where the connectivity options start to diverge.
The FP-30 has both USB Type A and Type B meaning there’s a flash drive that you can use the song recorder to record WAV files directly onto. The ES110 does not have any physical USB ports.
The ES110 however has traditional 5-pin MIDI ports both in and out, and more significantly, it also has dual 1/4” line out jacks (L/MONO, R) meaning you can connect it to an amplifier or PA system if you need more power.
The FP-30 does not have discreet line outputs, and this is probably the single biggest drawback of the instrument as it makes it that much more challenging to gig with since you need to fiddle around with adapters if you need to connect to an amp.
This pretty much wraps up our digital piano review and comparison of the Roland FP30 vs Kawai ES110. These are two highly capable instruments that absolutely dominate the class. Warranty claims are rare for both instances, but fortunately, coverage is great should a need arise.
The FP-30 costs about $100 more and that extra spend gets you a slightly more powerful amplifier, arguably better action and more built-in sounds.
On the Kawai side, the ES110 is about 5lbs lighter than the FP-30 at 26lbs and is an extremely portable instrument as a result. If the acoustic piano sound is really your main focus, the ES110 has arguably the top acoustic piano sound in the class (though some would argue Casio’s Privia grand piano sounds have a case here too).
Kawai has also included quite a few music books such as the Alfred method books built right in as part of a lesson function which is a nice bonus.
Thanks as always for reading, and make sure to check out the companion video on these great musical instruments!