Roland FP-30 Review
Roland was the company that started the entire trend of feasible digital pianos that could actually be used in place of an actual acoustic piano way back in the 80s. This means that they have accrued years of experience in this field and have become the kings of budget-friendly digital pianos. The Roland FP-30 seems like a worthy product to carry forward this reputation and has been generating a lot of buzz for the way it is truly able to capture the essence of a grand piano while also giving you a taste of some nostalgia in the form of sound samples that try to authentically replicate the sound and feel of some of the most legendary electric piano’s from Roland’s past. Let us find out how well Roland has been able to achieve everything it sets out to do with the FP-30.
Roland FP-30 – The most authentic piano experience at this price
As we mentioned earlier, Roland knows very well what its customers want from it when it comes to digital pianos. One major failing of many of the other digital piano brands in the market is that they make the action feel very even and refined which is not how a grand piano feels like in real life. The action changes from key to key and octave to octave which means that the G below middle C will feel different to the G above middle C. This is a very subtle difference but is very noticeable to a pianist as they rely on the feel of each individual keys to make their performance more nuanced. The FP-30 is the cheapest digital piano that has managed to capture this feeling well. This makes you feel like you are almost playing a real piano.
If you are a pianist then you will know that some of the most enjoyable parts of a composition are the ones that takes you to either the lowest notes or the highest notes just because of the way a grand piano behaves there. The FP-30 will give you the same feeling and allow you to expand your musical repertoire without feeling cramped or handicapped just because the keys at both ends don’t feel right. Roland has this one nailed down and you will probably have to spend thousands of dollars to get a similar feel from another brand.
Genuinely captures some iconic EP and organ sounds
Providing a genuine piano feel is something that you would expect from a product like the FP-30 and it delivering on that front is great. However, when it doubles up as a great replication of the classic Roland EPs then it is like getting surprise goodies when you purchase something. The Roland EPs played an iconic role in the music world for a long time and they can still be very useful in today’s music.
Sourcing one of these relics in playable condition is both difficult and expensive. The FP-30 doubles up as a great option here as it allows you to sample these sounds and get a first-hand experience of what made these EPs so special. The same applies for all the organ sounds too. The other tones like guitar, harpsichords, celestes, etc. sound a bit funky and are all very usable in modern music which is a pleasant surprise from this device.
A clean layout and sturdy but light build-quality
One of the appeals of an acoustic piano is its aesthetics and while a digital instrument will not be able to capture that look and feel, the XP-30 captures the essence of an acoustic piano. The layout is simple, elegant and clean and will look great in any room or on any stage. The narrow and slender look is quite attractive and so is the lack of any sharp contours or lines. The lack of any fancy design features has also made this digital piano quite strong and portable. You can easily move it around and it can take a few bumps without suffering any permanent damages which is a great thing.
The keys are all well-set and there is no lateral movement. If you can invest a bit more and get the matching stands then it can actually look really stunning and make it seem a lot more expensive than it actually is.
Bluetooth MIDI connectivity: A great boon but lack of other connectivity options is a letdown
In an era of wireless connectivity, this piano keeps up with the times by providing wireless Bluetooth connectivity that allows you to use it as a MIDI device with various apps and softwares. This is the Bluetooth version 4.0 which is quite good but we did experience the occasional disconnects and lags when using it. It also comes with a USB-B port that you can use for a more stable and consistent connection. This allows you to pair it up with a DAW and use it for music production.
A big issue, however, is that Roland opted not to provide this piano with a quarter inch audio output which seriously handicaps the usability of this piano as a performance option. The onboard speakers are some of the best and accurately reproduce the sound from both ends of the audible range but they do not have enough punch to be heard clearly across a large hall or a big stage. This means that it is at best capable of being used on a smaller stage or as a practice keyboard which is a shame considering the sound capabilities of this instrument.
Quite a lot of useful features
We do not want to take away from this digital piano the fact that it is still a great value for money option. There is a cool rhythm section that allows you to use it for practice. While competitors offer hundreds of features, pianists rarely if ever use them. What Roland has done with the FP-30 is provide a few options when it comes to features but makes them count as they are really practical.
One feature we really loved is that you can specify the point where the keyboard splits in split mode allowing you to get a really tailor-made set of sounds. It also comes in a twin mode where both halves of the piano plays the same set of octaves making it a great piano to sit with a teacher and learn stuff. The tones are divided into three categories and there are 35 tones in all which are more than adequate for most pianists. You can also layer two sounds to achieve some great effects.
A little tricky to customize
This is another major area where the FP-30 suffers in a colossal manner. All the features that we mentioned earlier are great but getting them to work can be very difficult. The trouble starts with the lack of a screen. It gets compounded by the fact that there are a minimum number of buttons. You have to use combinations of the buttons and keys to achieve a certain task which is a tall order as remembering which key out of the 88 does a specific task is not easy. You will need to have the manual with you at all times until you can memorize the various combinations.
Another issue is with the way the tone presets are grouped together. There are only three groups with 6 piano sounds in the first, 7 electric piano sounds in the second and the remaining 22 assorted sounds in the third. This makes selecting a specific tone a real pain and can lead to a lot of frustration. This also means that it is next to impossible to change tones or some other setting while playing live.
If this digital piano was to be summarized then we could compare it with a talented chef who is on a strict diet. Just like the chef can cook anything but cannot eat it, this digital piano is capable of doing awesome things but is not as useful as it could have been. It has great sound samples and an authentic grand piano feel but the lack of an audio output jack means that you cannot use it for performances in larger rooms. It also has some very practical features but engaging these features is difficult due to all the complicated key and button combinations you have to memorize first.
This is not meant for the gigging pianist as their primary instrument. What it can do very well, however, is be a great practice piano for someone who will be performing live on a grand piano. It is also the perfect learning tool for a beginner. It could have been perfect had it come with an audio jack and a basic screen but for its price, it does the things it is supposed to do really well. This will not replace a grand piano or a more expensive digital piano but can be great to have around the house or backstage for practice and learning purposes.
– The most authentic piano experience at this price point
– Excellent EP and organ sounds
– Powerful onboard speakers
– Great value for money
– Playable in all octaves
– Bluetooth MIDI connectivity
– Lack of a display complicates things
– You have to learn many complicated combinations involving buttons and keys
– No quarter inch output makes it useless in large rooms or stages
- Rated 4 stars
- Roland FP-30
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Categorised in: Product Reviews