Kawai MP11SE vs Roland RD2000 | Introduction
If you’ve ventured into the world of stage pianos, and are looking at the best the market has to offer, it’s pretty much guaranteed that during your piano research you’ve come across the Roland RD2000 and Kawai MP11SE digital pianos. These are two of the most highly respected stage pianos in the business and are very common with professional musicians both on the stage and in the studio.
Both instruments have noteworthy features that make them equally unique in the space, for very different reasons. Whether it’s the full-length wood keys in the MP11 or the thousands of onboard sounds and Piano Modelling Engine on the top RD series Roland, there are lots to unpack.
In this article, we’ll look closely at both instruments, cover the exact differences between the piano actions, sound engines as well as other features, and offer some suggestions as to who each piano will be ideally suited for.
MP11SE vs RD2000 | Piano Action Comparison
MP11SE Grand Feel Action
The Kawai MP11SE uses Kawai’s Grand Feel action, which is oh-so-close to their current Grand Feel Compact action. It uses a triple sensor, an escapement simulator, and of course the full-length wood key that pivots on a mid-point exactly like an acoustic piano.
The action feels robust, extremely responsive, and beautiful to play at any speed, velocity, or genre…it’s really hard to argue that this isn’t the very best action available in a portable product, though Yamaha does offer a fully wooden action in their P515. The only hitch is how one defines portable… at 72 lbs, it’s ½ the weight of a lot of piano players – especially females – to who this is being marketed. I’ve been lugging huge slabs my whole professional life, I’m 5’10” and 180 lbs, and this is back-breaking to try and do myself. So this is either reserved for those with roadies or studio work. You’ll also want a substantial keyboard stand for this instrument due to the weight.
Roland RD2000 PHA-50 Keyboard
On the other hand, Roland has deployed their newer hammer-action design, designated the PHA-50 keyboard (Progressive Hammer Action keyboard), on several of their high-end models, including HP and LX series instruments. However, the FP90 and RD2000 are the only two portable models to be equipped with this upgrade. The action feels and behaves differently than the PHA-4 plastic action, both in terms of sensitivity as well as physical feel due to the hybrid keys which are a mix of plastic and wood. Classical players and people using this action for solo work will be far more impressed with its precision and playability, whether in a studio setting or live performance over the PHA-4.
It features a beautiful ivory feel and ebony texture on the key surfaces. Along with escapement and accurate triple sensor. Given that I personally own an RD-2000, I can attest to the durability of this hybrid wood action as I have put my RD-2000 through the wringer of all types of professional scenarios and live sets over the past few years.
I think many folks would agree that if your number one priority is touch, then the MP11SE has the Roland RD-2000 beat, as it boasts the most authentic grand piano touch in a stage piano. That being said, the extra 30 lbs of weight on the MP11 can’t be ignored, and for many folks, the balance of a much lighter instrument that still has great action will be preferable for many performing keyboardists.
Roland RD2000 Two Independent Sound Engines
V-Piano Technology Engine
The modeling approach to sound is a relatively recent innovation in piano technology, and essentially refers to real-time control of a particular sound that’s not derived from a sample, offering more editable parameters and the tactile response of generating quality ensemble sounds in real-time.
The Roland RD2000 features one of the highest-fidelity wave signals of any digital product on the market, period. The full keyboard polyphony of the V-Piano engine, and 8 full assignable zones for combining internal patches (including software instruments and soft synths) together in different key ranges without even batting an eye, make the RD2000 a dream for keyboardists of all stripes. There’s also a scene function, which allows you to save up to 100 different snapshots of the entire keyboard setup for fast on-the-fly recall, and a pitch bend wheel.
SuperNATURAL Piano Generator
The stock grand piano sounds are totally acceptable, although the expansion piano options give even more character and depth to the acoustic piano function. The electric piano category has a massive selection, ranging from contemporary sounds to very authentic l MKS-20 sound module recreations of vintage effects as well, such as the classic Boss CE 1 chorus.
The Organ engine has one of the most authentic Hammond B-3 tone engines of any stage piano on the market, along with highly expressive virtual tone wheel organs. Using the 8 slider bars as tone bars, users can set and save as many personalized presets as they wish.
Additional Piano Sounds
Beyond the traditional acoustic and classic electric piano sounds, there’s a massive selection of additional sounds with synthesizers, leads, clavs, pads, strings, brass, and percussion sounds also preloaded on the instrument, with over 1,100 internal sounds in total, and two wave expansion slots for adding even further sounds.
The Roland RD2000 offers up to 4 simultaneous effects processors to function, as well as a real-time 5-band digital equalizer, 3-band compressor, led indicators, Reverb, Amp simulation, tremolo/amp simulator, modulation wheels, and envelope control.
Kawai MP11SE Piano Sounds and Tone Generators
The MP11se is actually arranged a little bit closer to Nord. If you’re familiar with that brand of highly popular stage piano synths.
Modular Tone Generators
The Kawai MP11SE has organized around three modular tone generators (or at least that’s what the interface leads you to conceptualize this as). The acoustic piano sound includes several presets that have both tonal shaping (EQ, envelope) as well as some Virtual Technician-type effecting so that you as the player have the opportunity to create an entirely customized piano tone.
The total number of sounds on this instrument is pretty low when you compare it to the RD2000, with a total of only 40 onboard sounds. That being said, the quality of all 40 patches is without question very high. While not limitless, there is a robust 256 notes of polyphony available which should be plenty.
It seems obvious that if you’re looking for an instrument with a ton of onboard sounds then the Roland RD-2000 is the clear winner here. If you don’t mind connecting to an external sound bank or VST however, that advantage is mitigated. It should also be noted that neither instrument is equipped with internal speakers as is common among stage pianos, but both can be played with headphones without the aid of an amp.
Neither of these boards uses the Bluetooth BLE protocols for wireless midi, but that’s hardly an issue given the number of various ports that both instruments offer and options for connecting to DAWs.
Roland’s Flexible Audio Outputs
The Roland RD2000 USB Audio/MIDI interface function is definitely a plus, and somewhat puzzling why the Kawai doesn’t include it, especially since the concept of the instrument in the first place was to have it integrated into a larger MIDI-connected setup. That said, it’s easy enough to work around since there are ¼” XLR inputs with independent fader so you can still have integrated mixing going on.
A huge plus on the Kawai side is the inclusion of a triple pedal right out of the box. While this is available for the Roland as the RPU-3 add-on, it comes standard with a single damper pedal.
Conclusion and Overall Impressions
The conclusions between these two are quite clear actually. The Kawai MP11se is far more niche than the Roland, and for the crowd, it’s targeted at, nothing holds a flame. If the weight doesn’t present an issue, and its use is going to be exclusive as a piano or master controller within a multi-device setup, the Kawai has your number. The action is indisputably the best out there, and the quality sounds of the piano and e-piano tones are beautiful, rich, and easy to manipulate.
If your needs are more diverse and include using the instrument in a multi-genre setup, in a studio, on stage, decent portability, rugged durability with plenty of patches (not to mention the acclaimed SuperNATURAL technology), and modern controller features across all sounds, the Roland RD2000 is a far better choice.
That’s it for today’s piano review! Don’t forget to visit Merriam Music for more blogs and articles and check out our Youtube channel for more shootout videos.