Roland is a name and brand synonymous with keyboards and digital pianos. Going back to the year of 1972 – the year that the company was founded – you will have been hard-pressed to find the means to play piano at home or on the road without having to invest in an expensive and cumbersome acoustic piano.
|Yamaha YDP-144||GHS action, CFX Grand Piano Voice|
|Casio PX-770||128 Note Polyphony|
|Casio PX-870||Redesigned Cabinet, Speaker System|
|Yamaha YDP-164||GH3 action, CFX Grand Piano Voice|
|Roland RP-102||Works w/Roland Piano Partner 2 app|
|Casio AP-470||256 Note Polyphony|
|Yamaha YDP-184||Graded Hammer 3 Action (GH3)|
Roland’s Continued Success
Fast forward 40 years later, and Roland stand at the forefront of digital piano technology – offering both consistent quality of performance, and value for money: resulting in a brand and company widely known (and loved) amongst the music community, and indeed the digital piano enthusiast.
It can take time (and a great deal of money) to find a keyboard that suits your needs to a tee, with each brand, line, and model of instrument having their own unique feel, sound, and features. However, we hope that our research will help guide you on your path to choosing the right keyboard for you – without having to fork out for a host of different models.
The Roland RP102 and FP-30 are two examples of Roland’s continued excellence developing digital pianos and are certainly both capable performers at their respective price points – however choosing which model is really the right keyboard for you can be a difficult task, particularly if you do not have not a wealth of experience using different keyboards.
We will compare and contrast the two Roland digital pianos against each other, evaluating each keyboards performance in the four key traits: Design, the Keys, Sound, and Software: before summarizing each models strengths and suggested demographic, and finally concluding by choosing our overall winner.
Below, take a moment to view some of the best selling digital pianos online, and then see how well they stack up to the Roland FP-30 and Roland RP-102:
|1) Casio PX-770|
|2) Yamaha YDP-144|
|3) Roland RP-102|
|4) Yamaha YDP-164|
|5) Casio PX-870|
Design of Both Pianos
A big part of growing trend revolves around the steady transition of the digital interface control from the body of the keyboard, to our phones and computers.
Digital Pianos, have traditionally featured a great number of different buttons, knobs and lights on their bodies, more so as technology has advanced – allowing for scores of different samples, effects, and other sound manipulators – and one has generally been forced to choose between a minimal keyboard with limited capabilities beyond its use as a piano, or a keyboard not so aesthetically pleasing on the eye, but armed to the teeth with features and customization options.
For a number of years, the trade-off between aesthetic and functionality has split the digital piano market in two – but recent advances in technology (particularly the rise of the smartphone) has seen manufacturers begin to transition interface control from the physical to the digital, and Roland have clearly embraced this trend: if these two keyboards are anything to go by.
Both keyboards feature very few buttons – the FP-30’s physical interface boasts a pretty average set of controls for basic elements such as volume adjustment, splitting the keyboard between voices, and metronome control.
I must point out at this point that the volume control on the FP-30 is the best digital piano: one would expect the volume to increase or decrease incrementally with every tap of either button, however in order to change the volume you will need to hold them down for a short period. Its leads to a lot less precise volume control (physically at least) and feels so unnatural as to be jarring.
The RP-102’s physical controls are even more basic, featuring just the power button, volume control, and a function button. The function, pressed in conjunction with different keys on the piano, can be used to implement the various features built into the keyboard; however, the keys are not marked out, and you will have to trawl your way through the manual in order to work out exactly which combinations do what.
Both models, however, make up for their limited physical functionality by allowing for control via a bespoke app for your phone. Connected via Bluetooth, the app allows for users to control their keyboards from their mobile devices – which will please some, and annoy others. This digital interface integration does means that there are a lot of less obtrusive physical controls on the body of the keyboard, however can lead to finicky control.
The Roland RP-102 is a digital piano that manages to incorporate minimal design, whilst still making a statement. The RP102 is by no means a small instrument – the body is 16.3” deep, and weighs in at 6 3lbs – so is certainly a model aimed for those looking for permanent home fixture, rather than those looking to take an instrument on the road with them.
The FP-30, meanwhile, is half the weight of the RP-102, and is detachable from its stand (with an option for a cabinet style stand for those of you after a more traditional looking keyboard). The FP-30 is an unobtrusive keyboard with a small footprint, ideal for fitting into tight spaces.
In terms of the aesthetic of the RP-102 however, Roland manage to project a degree of minimalism that is more and more common in advanced digital pianos, but certainly no less impressive. The piano is built into its stand, and is designed in a traditional manner, with a larger body reminiscent of an acoustic piano.
The aforementioned lack of many physical buttons means that this digital piano appears sleek and sophisticated, and is only available in black; a design choice perhaps inspired by Henry Ford (‘You can have any color you want… so long as its black!’). The FP-30 doesn’t quite looks as chic as the RP-102, but is by no means an ugly keyboard, especially with the curved edges.
In terms of design, both keyboards are fairly easy on the eye, with a particularly minimal feel to both models. In this case though, the RP-102 stands as the clear winner between the two – the aesthetic is smart and sexy, with the lack of many buttons a particular bonus – provided you don’t mind digging your phone out of your pocket every now and again.
Do bear in mind that the RP-102 is definitely not a portable digital piano, whereas the FP-30 is a lot lighter and has a much smaller footprint – so make sure you assess up your lifestyle and needs before making a design-based decision.
Roland are notorious in terms of their dedication towards manufacturing the highest quality keys on their digital pianos. If you are looking for a digital piano that bests mimic the feel and experience of playing a real, acoustic piano: then the bigger manufacturers have always been your best bet – with years of experience, not to mention large teams of professional engineers and designers working in their favor. Roland are no different and the keys on both of these modes are superb.
Most manufacturers will implement one of a handful of different key-designs among their different models – with higher priced models, naturally, featuring more advanced keys. The RP-102 and FP-30 both feature PH-4 Standard keys, which, while are a design that appear in the majority of their entry level models, are by no means ineffective.
In truth, I am blown away by the PH-4 Standard keys, and I believe offer some of the best quality among the low-mid level price-point.
The keys are fully weighted and feature graded hammer-action: just like an acoustic piano.
If you’re not familiar with this terminology: the hammer-action keys ae designed so as to simulate the specific feel and slight resistance that is begotten by playing an acoustic piano. In the case of the Roland’s, internal mini-hammers built into the body of the keyboard ensure that all the nuance of hammer hitting string on an acoustic are replicated. The weighting of the keys is graded: meaning notes on the lower end of the keyboard are heavier than those at the top.
The casing on each of the keys mimics the feel of real ivories – gone are the days of the off-putting plasticky feel of the keys of a digital piano. The keys themselves are extremely quiet for a digital piano – which is fantastic, especially if you are playing at lower volumes or through headphones. I have been in rooms alongside someone playing their Roland through headphones, and have actually almost forgotten they were there they were so quiet, an experience unheard of ten or fifteen years ago.
These features are subtle, yet make all the difference compared with entry-level models from other manufacturers. Considering both keyboards feature exactly the same keys, there is no clear winner in this regard – however the fact that the FP-30 combines this with a degree of portability means it just the pips the RP-102 in this category.
When you’re looking at buying a digital piano, the second most important element to consider (behind the keys) is the sound of the instrument. Just like with the kays themselves, piano sound-design is best left in the hands of the leading digital piano manufacturer, whom have spent years researching the best methods for sampling and implementing the sounds of acoustic pianos in the digital realm.
The keys of a given model could mimic perfectly all the subtle nuances and character of the best pianos, but all of this would be pretty pointless if the sound generated isn’t adequate.
Both of these models feature Roland’s SuperNatural sound design – a highly intuitive and refined sound that goes along perfectly with the great keys. SuperNatural doesn’t just sample the sounds of an acoustic piano being played at different velocities – it has also been coded to physically model some elements of a pianos sound, the combination of the two leading to a nuanced sound that is, again, exceptional at the low-mid level price point.
While the sounds processed by each of these two models is fantastic, the outputting of this sound is not quite on par with the sound they are both capable of creating, although by no means is low quality.
The speakers built into the RP-102 are not quite as beefy as one might expect, and while this is not really an issue if you are looking to play at lower-mid level volumes: the lack of punch in the speakers is noticeable at higher volumes. This is somewhat disappointing considering its larger footprint, particularly compared with the FP-30, and especially so considering many similar traditionally styled built-in digital pianos are equipped with hefty speakers.
The speakers on the FP-30 are of a similar quality: capturing the subtlety of your playing at low-mid levels of volume, but faltering at higher levels.
While both keyboards feature the same sound-processing engine, the RP-102’s failure to incorporate speakers that match its bulkier frame mean that the FP-30 is the winner in the sound department. The FP-30s lower profile, and subsequent portability; mean that this keyboard is much likely to be player at lower volumes, or through a set of external speakers/PA: and therefore, meets expectation.
The RP-102 is bought as a single piece of equipment, permanent and unlikely to be moved, therefore it is disappointing the in-built speakers do not quite match up with potential user requirement.
Now that we have explored the performance of each keyboard in the three key areas to consider when buying a digital piano – it its time to choose between the two models.
Before I tell you my preference, please bear in mind that my definition of the best is subjective. Ultimately, my opinion as to what is the best or most appropriate is subjective – please ensure that you look to buy the keyboard that is best for YOU. Ensure to evaluate which keyboard best suits your lifestyle and budget. There is no point buying one keyboard, which while in paper is better than the other, does not at all fit with your own needs.
In conclusion, both of these models from Roland are very similar, and offer extremely good value for money at the low-mid level price point.
The PH-4 keys on each of the models is quite simply stunning – the feeling you get whilst playing, all the little nuances of playing an acoustic piano modeled adeptly: is staggering.
The RP-102 is perhaps the better looking of the two, blending minimalism with a look that is both bold and sleek: although this comes at the cost of portability: and unfortunately, when considering the needs and expectation of each models intended buyer: the Fp-30 come out top overall.
While the RP-102 is a great model, the lack of power from the speakers lets it down, especially considering you will have similarly adept speakers in the more portable FP-30. The FP-30 manages to straddle the line between being portable and offering a quality digital piano-playing experience – combing its relatively low-profile with a decent interface, quality keyboard, and adequate sound.
The RP-102 is a great option if you are looking for a more traditionally designed digital piano, however a bigger body should be made up for by more powerful speakers.
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