Roland is one of the industry-leading names when it comes to keyboards and digital pianos.
The company is known for some of the most amazing, well-crafted, and finest keyboards that musicians have ever seen. Roland has produced a wide variety of high-quality keyboards and pianos that are popular for their realistic sound and amazing user experience.
Roland also produces a wide range of keyboards, from entry-level keyboards to excellent portable keyboards to stage pianos and synthesizers – so whether you’re a beginner-level musician or a professional stage performer, you’ll find a Roland instrument to suit your needs.
This detailed guide is all about Roland – from the company’s history, what has made them giants in the keyboard industry, and the best Roland keyboards and digital pianos.
Background on Roland
Roland Corporation came into being in 1972. Although it is not as old as other market leaders like Yamaha, it has made a place for itself among the musicians. It is a Japanese company that manufactures electronic equipment, electronic musical instruments, and software. It is headquartered in Hamamatsu, with factories in Japan, USA, and Taiwan.
Roland isn’t in the game for nothing. It has manufactured a number of musical instruments that have left lasting impacts on music. The Juno-106 synthesizer, TR-909 drum machines, and TB-303 bass synthesizer are among some of the Roland products that took the market by storm. Most of the high-end keyboards and pianos today are equipped with MIDI connectivity. However, can you guess who developed this feature? You guessed that right! It was Roland who developed the MIDI, which is used to synchronize electronic instruments that have been manufactured by companies other than Roland itself. According to certain surveys and experts, Roland has contributed to shaping electronic music more than any other company in history! Now, that is definitely something.
Roland doesn’t just manufacture keyboards and pianos. It offers a huge range of products that include digital pianos, synthesizers, electronic drum systems, accordions, guitar synthesizers, amplifiers, DJ gear, and recording products. In short, Roland caters to all possible needs that a musician may have!
Let’s have sneak-peek into how exactly Roland came into being.
It was founded by Ikutaro Kakehash in 1972. Initially, he worked part-time for a watch repair company but soon started his own watch repair business by the name, Kakehashi Watch Shop. After its massive success, he decided to take his love for music commercials. First, he learned the basics of radio, and soon, he started working on repairing broken radios at his watch repair shop. He soon got hit by tuberculosis and had to spend 3 years in the hospital. During his time in the hospital, he assembled a receiver using a cathode ray tube, so that he could receive the first-ever television signals in Japan – and he did!
After getting healthy and well, he started his own electronic repair shop. His business flourished. Now he was adamant about pursuing his interest in music. He developed the first prototype of a keyboard-based instrument. He didn’t like the sound of it, and hence, he never commercialized it. Later in 1959, he developed a Hawaiian Guitar Amplifier. Finally, in 1960, he set the foundation of Ace Electronic Industries. He developed an organ (later came to be known as the Technics SX601). The development had the company become a huge name in the industry. Kakehashi developed several other instruments, but due to continuous expenditure and capital infusions, he soon lost most of his share in the company. Ace was acquired by Sumitomo Chemical. Leaving 18 years of hard work behind, Kakehashi resigned, and just after a month, laid the foundation of the Roland Corporation.
The first ever product that Roland produced was the rhythm box, TR77. The first synthesizer by the company was also a first for Japan. It offered 10 preset tones that allowed the users to add portamento, growl, and vibrato. It is one of the most prominent milestones that Roland achieved early on. Ever since then, Roland has continued to come up with fantastic musical instruments. Despite being fairly new than other market leaders, it has enjoyed a fair share when it comes to success!
Roland’s Digital Piano and Keyboard Series
Today, Roland has a huge series of products. When we say there is something for everyone, we mean it. Let’s have a look at what the company has in store for its users.
As you can tell by the name, portable keyboards are for aspiring musicians who are fond of traveling around with their keyboards. Roland portable keyboards are smaller in size and hence, have a fewer number of keys instead of 88 keys. The keys feature the basic synch-action. These keyboards are ideal for beginners, so you can’t expect them to be loaded with too many features. They’re plastic-made and extremely light in weight, serving as a blessing for musicians who’re on the move quite often.
Roland GO Series and E-X Series
The Roland portable keyboards consist of the Roland GO: Series and E-X Series.
The keyboard models that the Roland GO: series comprise of include the Roland GO: Keys Music Creation Keyboard and Roland GO: Piano Digital Keyboard. They fall in the price bracket of $300 to $400, which is pretty affordable. The GO: Piano has basic features and an impressive sound engine and a very affordable price. It is one of the best keyboards for beginners out there. If you’re looking for an 88-key keyboard, you can opt for an 88-key variant of the same keyboard at a slightly higher cost.
The GO: Keys is a unique product that offers better performance and greater functionality. Being extremely user-friendly, anybody who has never used a keyboard before can take advantage of it and enjoy some real music!
The Roland E-X Series comprises of two portable arranger keyboards; E-X20 and E-X30. The E-X20 didn’t create as much hype as that of the E-X30. They range from $250 to $300 in price. The sound of the E-X Series is superior as compared to other keyboards in a similar price bracket. The realistic sound, a high-quality sound engine, and the arranger features are what make the Roland E-X Series portable keyboards such a hit in the market!
Portable Digital Pianos
If you’re looking for a beginner-level keyboard to actually learn to play the piano, you might want a keyboard that is a level ahead of the Roland portable keyboards. It is where the Roland portable digital pianos step in. With superior sound quality and fully-weighted keys with hammer action technology, these keyboards produce a more realistic sound, as compared to the Roland GO and E-X Series.
The Roland portable digital pianos consist of the FP-series. The models include FP-10, FP-30, FP-60, and FP-90. Ranging from $500 to $2000, it includes models suitable for both beginners and professionals. The Roland FP-series feature Standard Hammer Action (PHA-4) keys and a high-quality SuperNATURAL sound engine. These features make the Roland FP-series one of the best by Roland.
Console Digital Pianos
As you can tell by the name, these pianos aren’t meant to be carried around. They’re more like heavy, furniture-style cabinets that are a lot similar to grand and upright pianos. Though they aren’t portable at all, they offer excellent sound quality! A console digital piano is an ideal choice for you if you’re looking for a great piano that you can practice on in the comfort of your home.
Roland offers multiple options in this category, including the RP-series, F-series, HP-series, DP-series, LX-series, Kiyola series, and GP-grand series.
Ranging from $1000 to $1600 in price, the RP and F-series offer pianos that are much more advanced than Roland portable pianos. The models that fall in this category are the F-140R, RP-102, and RP-501. All digital pianos in the RP-series feature a fairly traditional cabinet. The F-series is more towards modern and slim designs. All models in both of these series are equipped with PHA-4 Standard keyboards and SuperNATURAL sound engine. So, great and professional sound quality is assured.
The Roland HP and DP-series range from $1800 to $2500. The models included in these series are HP-601, HP-603, DP-603, HP-605, HP-702, and HP-704. These keyboards offer an excellent and realistic sound. They feature attractive, high-end designs and are equipped with great quality speakers. They’re cabinet-style digital pianos. They’re more like an upgrade of the RP and F-series. The SuperNATURAL sound engine is more advanced, and the keyboard is equipped with PHA-50 action instead of the PHA-4 (HP-702 is an exception, though).
Roland LX-series costs $2500 to $5000. It includes advanced console keyboards for professional musicians. The series includes LX-7, LX-17, LX-705, LX-706, and LX-708.
The keyboards in LX-series feature highly advanced sound technology, PureAcoustic Piano Modeling, that ensures that the sound produced is highly professional and realistic. They also feature the Hybrid Grand Keyboard, which is a level ahead of the PHA-50. The 8-speaker set, coupled with the Acoustic Projection System, ensures that you get to enjoy something truly and magically impressive!
The Kiyola series keyboards range from $4000 to $5000. The only model in this series in the Kiyola KF-10. The Kiyola series is a series of luxury console keyboards. They feature a handcrafted wooden cabinet that makes the keyboard look super-stylish and modern. The design is extremely ergonomic, so you can enjoy the utmost comfort all the while you’re playing it. The PHA-50 keyboard and the SuperNATURAL Piano Modeling technology offers users a truly great piano playing experience!
GP-Grand series, as the name suggests, is a series of advanced grand pianos that range from $5000 to $12000. Comprising of the GP-607, a mini-size grand piano and the GP-609, a full-size grand piano, the series is nothing but grand in the truest of its senses. Featuring the best quality PHA-50 keyboard and SuperNATURAL sound engine, the sound quality of the GP-Grand series will not disappoint you.
Roland has a great much to offer to the professional stage performers with its RD and V-Combo series. The Roland RD-series ranges from $2000 to $3000 and is ideal for intermediate to professional-level musicians. The Roland RD-2000 comes with a PHA-50 keyboard. It comprises of not one, but two sound engines, the SuperNATURAL and the V-Piano. This hybrid technology enhances the quality of the sound by several folds. It features numerous control buttons, knobs, and faders that allow the user to mix and modify the sound as per their preference. With more than 1000 onboard sounds, the RD-2000 is an ideal option for stage performers.
The V-Combo series is on the more affordable side of the scale, ranging from $1000 to $1500. It includes the models VR-09, VR-700, and VR-730. The VR-700 has been discontinued. The Roland V-Combo series features the waterfall-style keys that produce a highly expressive sound. The numerous control buttons, knobs, and tone bars allow the user to change the settings in whatever way they like!
It was due to its synthesizers that Roland was able to bounce back in the 1980s. They’re a particularly useful tools for sound designers and producers. Instead of weighted keys, synthesizers are equipped with synth-action keys. These instruments focus on playability instead of realism.
The JD-series ranges from $500 to $2000 in price. The models that are included in this series are the JC-Xi and JD-XA. Roland mixed their true digital sound with analog sound to produce a highly versatile instrument. The keyboards in the JD-series are super-fun to use.
Juno-DS is also a series of synthesizers that Roland is very popular for. The price bracket is between $700 to $1000. It comprises of three models; JUNO-DS61, JUNO-DS76, and JUNO-DS88.
These synthesizers offered dual-mode chorus and a very rich saw wave. These modern synthesizers offer great performance and excellent flexibility. They’re entirely digital in features. However, the modulation features work just like classic synthesizers. They’re equipped with an onboard vocoder and features many sounds and instruments that offer the user a great variety!
Arrangers & Workstations
Workstations are designed for studio use. They have bulky bodies; hence, they are not at all portable. Their sonic capabilities and power make the Roland workstations ideal for stage performers and music creators. It is just one instrument that offers the users with nearly all the features and capabilities that a musician would want.
Roland offers a massive variety when it comes to workstations. The FA-series, Fantom series, BK-series, and E-A series.
The FA-series offers three models; FA-06, FA-07, and FA-08. These are all mid-range workstations. They’re equipped with more than 2000 sounds and are powered by the high-quality SuperNATURAL sound engine. What makes this series the top choice is its control scheme. Another prominent feature is the high-resolution color screen. The 16-tone studio set and 16-track sequencer are other add on that make these workstations so great.
Fantom series comprises of more premium workstations, ranging from $3000 to $4000. The Fantom-6, Fantom-7, and Fantom-8 are the three models in this series. The Fantom series offers excellent expandability of sound palettes. Moreover, the analog filter is also a promising feature that the synthesizers in this series come with.
The BK-3 and BK-5 of the BK-series cost between $700 to $1350. The 16-track sequencer, mixing tools, and essential effects, all add up to make the BK-series one of the finest in the market today. The actual strength of these synthesizers lies in their excellent sound quality.
The E-A series comprises of Roland E-A7 along with other models. The E-A7 combines the arranger formula with the features of a workstation and sampler, making it a great arranger/ workstation hybrid. It comes with 1500 tones and numerous backing styles. The dual-screen displays all the necessary information and provides great control over the instrument. The E in the model name denotes the expandability that is one of the most prominent features.
Features of Roland Digital Pianos and Keyboards
Roland digital pianos and keyboards stepped into the market later than other manufacturers like Yamaha and Casio, but it made its place in quite a short time. However, what features contribute to the popularity of Roland Digital pianos and keyboards and sets them apart from the other keyboard options?
Roland Sound Generation
The quality and realism of the sound of a keyboard are what make it stand out. To achieve the required realism in the sound it produces, a keyboard must have enough space allocated specially for the sample memory. Other keyboard manufacturers have struggled to find the right balance between quality and compression, but Roland hit the jackpot! Roland incorporated the modeling technology into their instruments. Roland added a hybrid element to the mix instead of trying to capture audio snapshots of different intensities. The end result was an excellent, realistic sound that needed only a few changes to achieve the level of greatness!
The SuperNATURAL sound engine, which is present in most of the Roland keyboards and pianos, produces great quality sound as well. This sound engine takes the revolutionary hybrid approach and offers great flexibility and quality in sound.
The Roland RD-2000 features the V-Piano sound technology, which is yet another revolutionary development when it comes to sound technology.
The built quality of Roland instruments is another feature that makes its products to stand out among its competitors. The keyboards and pianos are not just good looking but extremely sturdy. They are sure to last forever if taken care of properly.
Roland continues to equip its instruments with newer and better features. It takes an out-of-the-box approach and ensures that its users get to enjoy the maximum benefit at the best prices!
Although you may not find Roland keyboards and pianos cheap, when you compare them to the instruments by Yamaha and Casio, you will see how relatively affordable they are. They offer excellent value for money, providing the largest range of features at the lowest possible cost!
It looks like Roland is truly dedicated to satisfying the users, regardless of what their skill level is. The innovative features, and more importantly, the affordability are surely some of the major factors that account for the popularity of Roland keyboards and pianos.
Pros and Cons of Roland Digital Pianos and Keyboards
Roland Digital Piano & Keyboard YouTube Tutorial Videos
Below are the links to some YouTube tutorials that will help you find the way around the most popular Roland instruments.
Roland keyboards and digital pianos have received hype and attention for a reason - for people who’re looking for an excellent combination of great features and impressive price, Roland is a top option.
Whether you want a portable keyboard or a grand piano, Roland has it all. Whatever your instrument needs are, Roland seems to know them and is all up to cater to them with the massive range of products under its belt!
Now that you know about all of Roland’s products, making a decision based on your skill level and budget will be a lot easier.