Roland RD-64 Review
There is a unique problem facing the digital piano market. If you are looking for a digital piano that has fully-weighted hammer action keys then you have to sacrifice portability. This is because such keys are mostly found on full 88-key versions. This makes it difficult to transport especially if you are a gigging musician who has to travel a lot. Roland has come out with an answer to this conundrum in the form of the RD-64. It is a compact 64-key digital piano that features a true piano style fully-weighted hammer-action keybed. On paper, it looks like the perfect solution for an active musician who wants to travel light. In this review of the Roland RD-64 we will have a closer look at how it fared in the real world.
The first thought you would get on seeing the Roland Rd-64 is that it is a nice throwback to the vintage keyboards of the 80s and the 90s. It beautifully incorporates that classic look. The keys also look more authentic and this is down to a special ivory-like material used to make the keys. This look, however, is not for everyone. You will either like it or hate it. Some might find this look charming while others will find it dated. How you feel will depend upon your visual taste and we will leave the aesthetics to you.
The layout is very simple and all the buttons are to one side leaving the top of the keyboard narrow and clutter-free. The buttons are also laid out in a nice way but they are all to the left. This can be a challenge if you want to access something with the right hand while the left hand is busy playing something.
It is not impossible, just that it can require some complicated maneuvering on your part and will look awkward if you are on stage. It looks a bit more appealing from the front. The actual keys look really classy though and can easily be mistaken for authentic ivory. It is also an unintimidating digital piano and less proficient pianists can feel right at home on this piano.
With the reduction in the number of keys, Roland had to really up the ante when it came to the sound quality and this is one department where they have delivered. Roland’s latest sampling technology with the moniker of “SuperNatural” is actually more than just a gimmick. You can actually hear the system working depending on your playing style. There are multiple controllers that control every aspect of the sound in real-time making this digital piano almost as responsive as a mechanical instrument.
The acoustic piano category has three tones all of which are actually some of the best piano tones you can get in a digital package. It is clean and warm. The concert piano is great for general playing while the other two suit solo playing better.
The Electric piano sounds feature two popular tones in Wurly and Rhodes and are quite handy in playing more upbeat and funky music.
It is the Clav settings that really impressed. Those combined with the tones create some really amazing sounds. Each of these sounds has three drawbar settings which gives you plenty of options to play around with. The organs are also of surprisingly high quality and you can play a lot of deep and thought-provoking music with the Roland RD-64.
Each tone comes with two effects option labeled EFX1 and EFX2. These individual effects are specific to each tone which really makes them useful. For example, the grand piano sounds have enhancer and damper resonance as the effects options. These add more realism to the sound. There is a universal reverb setting that you turn on or off and while it sounds fine, it lacks the ability to be fine-tuned which is a big bummer.
This is especially disappointing considering the fact that the RD-64 has a D-Beam that allows you to use gestures to increase or decrease certain parameters of the sound. Sadly, reverb isn’t one of them. A regular pitch-bend/modulation paddle is also provided and allows you to really control the sound.
The sound quality is pretty good provided you set up the external sound system properly as this does not have an inbuilt speaker system. One area where the RD-64 seems to suffer is with the decay of sound. If you play a high-speed piece of music, you will find that the sound decays unevenly which can sometimes sound unrealistic an inorganic.
This is perhaps the biggest selling point of this digital piano. This is the closest you will come to an actual piano in this form factor and this price point. The fully-weighted keys and the hammer action provide a realistic feel. The ivory touch is another little addition that makes this one of the most authentic feeling digital pianos. The texture of the keys actually makes it feel quite good to touch and offer plenty of grip. The touch response or the velocity curve has been painstakingly calibrated to replicate an acoustic piano and this attention to detail has really paid dividends. You can even play zero-velocity silent notes which is a big achievement for a keyboard of this size and form-factor.
The buttons, however, lack an intuitive nature and there is a dearth of tactile feel which means that most of the time you will be left wondering if the button was actually pressed or not. The pitch-bend/modulation paddle is quite responsive and linear allowing for precise control. The D-Beam though is a different story. It takes a little bit of dexterity to get things to work exactly as you expect.
Customizability and additional features
If you really want to edit some of the parameters such as the velocity curve of the RD-64 then you can do so by using the function key and using one of the designated keys of the keyboard. This is an archaic system and can feel cumbersome at times but the great thing is that the RD-64 works perfectly well on its default settings.
It has MIDI capabilities and can act as a MIDI controller quite well. It lacks MIDI-in feature though and no option of creating your own sounds underlining the fact that it is a digital piano and not a keyboard. It does allow for audio input allowing you to connect any audio device to play backing tracks. We do have to mention that while it has the option to connect an expression pedal, it only works in MIDI mode which disables all the sound that the RD-64 comes with.
Portability and live gigging capabilities
The Roland RD-64 weighs in at just a little over 28 pounds which is like a featherweight in the world of digital pianos, especially one that has fully weighted keys. This allows you to carry it around without having to break your back. As far as live gigging goes, setting this digital piano up is quite easy. The only problem you will encounter is if you need to play the really high notes or the really low notes. You can transpose the keys but again the button is on the left and if you are looking to play a really low note then you will have to crisscross your arms to access this feature with the right hand.
Another small but sometimes really annoying issue is changing the various parameters. As we mentioned earlier, the buttons aren’t placed well and they are quite pathetic when it comes to providing a reliable tactile response. These are things you can work around but there are better options if you are looking for just a digital piano to gig with. On the other hand, if you are willing to put in that extra bit of effort, and portability is paramount to you then there are few options as good as the RD-64.
Retailing at around the $1000 mark, the Roland RD-64 serves a niche in the digital piano market. It is meant for the traveling musician who needs a portable digital piano without sacrificing the feel or the sound. It has a couple dozen fewer keys and whether that is going to be a problem has to be what ultimately decides if this is the piano for you. Purely on the basis of sound and feel, the TD-64 is better than most other options in this price range.
It does have a few quirks like the non-adjustable reverb and the annoying placement of the buttons. Whether these will end up as too big an impediment to your playing is where you have to make the call. In our opinion, this can be a great second digital piano that you can take for gigs but it cannot be the single solution for all your digital piano needs. The aesthetics are also a bit hit and miss.
Its biggest advantage is the portability and form factor without compromising on the feel. Buy it only if you really need the portability as otherwise, the compromises in the instrument do not fully justify the price. A traveling musician will find this digital piano to be incredible value for money though and it is this dynamic nature that stops us from passing a definite judgment on it. Simply put, you will either really love this keyboard or find it a bit strange.
– Great tones
– Very portable for a digital piano
– Fully-weighted keys
– D-Beam adds a bit of sophistication
– Ivory feel keys
– Lacks the ability to fine-tune reverb
– D-Beam can take some getting used to
– The buttons are placed to the right which can be inconvenient to operate at times
– Expression pedal only works in MIDI mode
– Sound decay isn’t accurate at high speeds
- Rated 3.5 stars
- Very Good
- Roland RD-64
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Categorised in: Product Reviews