Today we’ve got two Roland portable digital pianos from the FP series that includes the Roland FP-90X, FP-60X, FP-30X, and FP-10, facing off against each other; the FP-60X and the brand new FP-E50. Is there still a place for the FP-60X in the marketplace with this new FP-E50? Well, we’re going to answer that question and more. We’ve got side-by-side comparisons of the piano tone and we’re going to talk through all of the major differences between these instruments.
Let’s get started on this right away.
Roland FP-E50 vs FP60x – Questions
How does the FP-60X still fit into the whole Roland ecosystem now that the FP-E50 is here at a pretty meaningfully lower price than the FP-60X? The questions that we want to answer are what are the differences in speaker performance and speaker experience between these two because that’s a major difference between these two stage pianos.
Is there a difference in the quality of the piano output between these two? Is there any perceivable difference in the action, the playing, or the mechanical experience between these two instruments because the key bed is a little bit different between the two? Then, beyond just the piano experience, what else is different, and how does it stack up?
Let us first start with the piano tone. These two pianos are both equipped with the SuperNATURAL piano sound engine with 256-note polyphony. This is not the modeling engine. It’s the sample engine, which has been configured to work with the new BMC chip, the behavior modeling chip, that Roland released about a year and a half ago.
Sensitivity and Dynamics
When I first started playing the piano on the FP-E50 my very first impression was that it was a little more energetic and not necessarily in the best way compared to the FP-60X in terms of the dynamic response and particularly this sensation that you’re getting a bit of a push up into the forte range from about the mezzo forte range. It jumps a dynamic range that you don’t feel you necessarily have too much control over. The more I played it back and forth, the more I realized the FP-60X actually has the same sort of little lip that you get over. The difference is that the speaker configuration and the speaker behavior on the FP-60X disguises a little bit more, or I guess better to the point, there’s all of this extra nuance that takes you through that 70% to 80% range that you hear when you’ve got the built-in speakers directly facing you that you miss when you’ve got the downward facing speaker system on the FP-E50.
So on the very first point of comparison, let’s call this sensitivity and the dynamic sense of playing the instrument, I do have to still give it to the FP-60X in terms of delivering just a more nuanced, more connected experience. I don’t think that it’s exclusively because of the signal. As I said, I think this is actually a combination of signal processing, as well as the fact that you’ve got the upward-facing speakers with just a little bit more power behind them.
Otherwise, the piano sound, which is generated by the SuperNATURAL piano engine, is identical in both machines, as is the chipset. So really the only difference is that the DSP, the digital signal processing, after the tone engine is a little different between these two machines, and the speakers, the power, and the configuration is a little bit different.
So those are the only major points that are delivering that difference, but it is a difference that I think does create a little greater sense of intimacy and control on the FP-60X.
Piano Tone Editing
When it comes to editing the piano tone, you have one advantage with the FP-60X over the FP-E50. The FP-60X is compatible with the Roland apps because it has Bluetooth MIDI. The FP-E50 actually has a Bluetooth MIDI radio inside, but it’s not enabled, and it’s not compatible with any of the Roland apps.
So you can’t use Piano Designer and you can’t use it on the Roland Piano app.
Let’s now move to the action, because both of these are equipped with the PHA-4 standard keyboard with adjustable touch sensitivity and an ivory feel. The PHA-4 action is a plastic action. It’s a graded action, meaning that it gets heavier toward the lower notes and lighter near the upper notes, just the way an acoustic grand piano does. That’s of course due to the fact that the hammers are actually larger on the bottom than on the top, and so that causes that gradation.
It has triple sensors and it also has escapement. So both of these 88-key digital pianos, in theory, should pretty well feel the same. They don’t, and here is why they don’t. The FP-60X is a slightly heavier, slightly beefier machine when it comes to its overall construction; whereas the FP-E50 is a largely plastic frame, which is not at all unusual at this price point.
You get that when you’re looking at the Roland FP-30X or the FP-10. There is some steel reinforcement under the keys; however, the FP-60X just feels a little more solid. So when you’re really laying into the keyboard and trying to get that exact response that you want out of the keyboard, the stiffer the key bed on any piano, digital or acoustic, the bigger the impact on how connected you feel to that instrument.
Because even a half millimeter of give in the right moments can create a sense of mushiness or a little bit of sluggishness when it comes to the reaction you were expecting out of the instrument.
So, points to the FP-60X for having a slightly more rigid structure and a slightly more reinforced frame underneath that PHA-4 action.
Let’s now move on to other sounds outside of the acoustic piano. The FP-E50 absolutely destroys the Roland FP-60X when it comes to additional sounds, and this is for a couple of reasons. The FP-60X is not equipped with the ZEN-Core sound engine.
ZEN-Core Sound Engine
ZEN-Core is a synthesis system that Roland released a couple of years ago that is found in professional synthesizers like the Fantom, and which is very comprehensive. It’s basically a simulated analog synthesizer system. It allows up to four tones to be combined, each with a multitude of oscillators and cutoffs with modulation over time. Those can be combined together into even larger sounds so you can get these super lush, moving, thick tones.
There’s a huge user community that’s creating sounds within the ZEN-Core environment. So Roland has created the ability to download all of these different sounds and load them into any instrument that’s equipped with a ZEN-Core engine, and extend what the instrument can do sonically to your heart’s content.
Range of Additional Sounds
The FP-60X doesn’t have the ZEN-Core sound engine, so you’re basically locked in with what it comes preloaded with. That’s not to say that the quality of the sounds isn’t great or isn’t there, but you are going to be locked into five or six dozen tones. If you are using the Roland Piano App, you can access the general MIDI 2 Sound Bank as well, so that’s going to take you up to over 300 tones.
When we go to the FP-E50, even loaded on board, you’re getting a lot closer to the thousand mark and there are over a hundred instrument packs or sound packs that you can download from the Roland Cloud to extend that even further, including strings, guitars, e. pianos, synthesizers, drum sets, and Z-Style Packs, EXZ Wave Expansions, and SDZ Sound Packs.
So when it comes to the range of tones there really is no comparison here. Also, there is a greater lushness that you get out of a ZEN-Core pad or synth compared to what’s loaded in something like the FP-60X or the FP-90X.
So quantity, quality, and expandability are what you’re getting on the FP-E50 when it comes to alternate tones. Now, let’s talk functionality.
The FP-60X has an onboard equalizer, lower and upper part sliders, the ability to play in a single note, or single or dual mode, and a metronome. I like the ability to quickly select those categories.
On the FP-E50, however, you have a very similar set of functions. You have this Split/Dual so exactly the same type of function, the ability to split the keyboard into two or layer two sounds on top of one another. You also have your category buttons here to quickly select and help you navigate through those hundreds and hundreds of sounds, and you’ve got a mixer.
Then we get to the centerpiece really, of what the FP-E50 is all about, which is its live arranger and chord sequencer, which is very unique in the industry at this price range. The chord sequencer functions as part of the Auto-Accompaniment feature that contains 177 preset styles.
In this respect, there’s absolutely no comparison. On the FP-60X, you have a basic arranger, but it’s entirely contained within the Roland Piano App, so the tone is still being generated by the piano. Essentially you have a MIDI sequencer that’s spitting back live MIDI information to the instrument around these basic arrangements, so you have variation one, variation two, etc.
They are still a lot of fun, and they still can be used, but they have to be used with a mobile device, and depending on your mobile device, there may be a little lag, so I’m almost always recommending to people that they use a wired connection if they’re going to be using that arranger function as a major part of their experience.
Beyond that, the quality of the sequences, how up-to-date the sequences are, and the range and variety on the FP-E50 are really in a completely different league. The other thing is, just like tones through the Roland Cloud, we anticipate, and Roland has told us this is coming, that there’s going to be the ability to download and update the various rhythms and arrangements that are available to you.
We have done a pretty in-depth review of the arranger function on the FP-E50, so if this is something that’s sparking some interest, you’ll want to jump over to that video because we’re not going to do as comprehensive a dive into that in this review. This is really about giving these broad-stroke comparisons between these two instruments.
Another big point of comparison I want to bring up here is microphone functionality. Now I’m not the kind of person who uses a microphone very much on a gig, and, in fact, if it’s a paying gig, it’s probably better that I don’t even go near a microphone; however, it can be fun. On the FP-E50, you’ve got lots of effects, like real-time harmonies, voice transformer, compressor, noise suppressor, and you’ve got a vocoder effect as well. Both really deliver a pretty convincing experience.
On the FP-60X, you do have mic volume, but you are missing the vocoder experience, and you are also missing all of the harmonizer experience. So really what this is, is the ability to amplify your voice through the keyboard and mix it in with what you’re singing. You can apply some basic effects, like ambience, to that vocal input, but really, it’s a very different level of effects and sophistication that you can apply to this quarter-inch phone-type mic input.
Other Features, Connectors, and Accessories
Both have the ability to playback MIDI and audio information off of a USB flash drive as well as Bluetooth audio. You can also record MIDI and WAV files. Both instruments have quarter-inch outputs, so you can send audio output to an external amplifier independent of the headphone jacks, which is really handy. Both instruments have Headphones 3D Ambience.
Both instruments come with matching keyboard stands, the KSC-72 for the FP-90X and the KSFE50 for the FP-E50, music rests, and AC adaptor power supplies, and both are available with a damper pedal jack and a triple pedal unit, the KPD-90 or RPU-3, combining a soft, sostenuto, and sustain pedal.
A one-year limited warranty is provided for both keyboards as well.
For a list of detailed specs and features, see the owner’s manual or the Roland website.
Here’s what is winning for me out of the Roland FP-60X digital piano. The physical sensation of playing the keys because of the reinforced more rigid keyframe is a plus when I’m going to be focused almost entirely on just playing the piano.
The upward-facing speakers also give me more detail and make it feel a lot closer to the signal I’m getting out of the headphones. When I’m playing in that mid to lower dynamic range, it’s feeling more sensitive, I’m feeling a little more connected to the tone, and I can definitely hear more of the changes that I’m making in the piano designer because of the upward-facing speakers.
The stereo speaker system is 13 watts per side, and you’ve got the ability to EQ the sound, so by and large, the piano playing experience on the FP-60X, for me, still remains better, and not microscopically better. I would put the FP-60X several tens of percentages better than just exclusively the piano playing experience on the FP-E50.
That being said, if you want to do virtually any of the other things at or beyond the level that you can access on the FP-60X; such as, play with a live accompaniment, create your own tracks by way of the chord sequencer, mix and match tones across a wide variety of categories, potentially create your own recordings, use the microphone to create vocal effects in fun and interesting ways, and also bring some synth functionality, because although we didn’t mention it, on the left-hand side of the FP-E50 there is a modulation wheel as well as a pitch bend wheel on it which has some degree of assignability to it.
If any of those things are going to wind up being priorities for you as a player, whether it’s an amateur player, semi-professional, or professional, then man, oh man, does the FP-E50 ever deliver a walloping value in my opinion.
This instrument would be on your wishlist.