In this review, we will take an in-depth look at the award-winning Roland FP-90 and see what it brings to the table.
Table of Contents
Roland have always created stunning instruments with a great look and design. As such, the Roland FP-90 is no different and features a sleek and refreshing look that is visually pleasing. The overall design itself is enough to set the FP-90 miles ahead from its competition due to the futuristic look. Honestly, it looks like something out of the TRON world.
Featuring a matte case, the housing on the Roland FP-90 feels sturdy and durable. From the initial look and feel, it is evident that the Roland team put together a truly quality instrument in terms of its design.
Available in either black or white matte colours, users have the option of selecting their preferred colour finish for Roland FP-90. Having several options to choose from is always a welcomed feature.
Designed to be a stage piano, the Roland FP-90 weighs in at 52.02lbs (23.6 kg). While this may not be the heaviest instrument in the world, it is nevertheless relatively weighty, and this is something the ‘on-the-go’ gigging musician should take into account.
The Roland FP-90 is relatively bulky, objectively speaking, and has a depth of 15.3”. In comparison, many competing models are relatively smaller than this and a majority of them are under the 14” mark. The Kawai MP7-SE, for example, has a depth of 13.3”.
In terms of width and height, the Roland FP-90 is relatively similar to other competing models and these measure in at 52.8” and 5.3” respectively.
The weighty nature of the FP-90 is however not enough to deter us completely, and there are several aspects of this instrument that make up for the extra weight. Not to mention that the ‘heavy’ nature of the keyboard can be attributed to the weighted hammer system of the keys.
The front panel greatly contributes towards the eye-catching design of the Roland FP-90. The design features a small LCD display, as well as 25 buttons coupled with 8 slider controls. Despite all this, the design is clean, crisp and does not come across as cluttered.
The buttons on the Roland FP-90 are illuminated. However, users have commented that the panel labels may be slightly difficult to read as they themselves do not light up. As such, when performing in a low light venue this is something performers will have to overcome.
The main advantage of the illuminated buttons is that they allow for the user to know exactly which function has been selected. This saves a great deal of time.
The sliders also allow for certain settings, such as the equalization, to be adjusted without much of a fuss. This greatly aids towards the playability of the Roland FP-90 and comes in very handy.
The most stand out thing about the buttons and sliders is the ease of access and simplicity it brings to the table. As opposed to having to use button and key combinations to change settings, users need only press a button or slide a control.
While the adage ‘never judge a book by its cover’ is one to always abide by, the Roland FP-90 is a spectacular looking instrument that draws you in just from the design alone. The minimalistic look means that it blends in in virtually any surrounding. Not to mention it just looks really cool!
The keyboard on virtually any piano plays a massive role in its viability. As such, a piano with a lacklustre keyboard instantly puts one off purchase seeing as there is hardly any point in acquiring a machine that doesn’t do its job.
With that being said, the Roland team do not fail to live up to the hype of this instrument, and the FP-90 features a rather impressive and delightful keyboard.
With 88 fully weighted keys, the Roland FP-90 provides the user with a realistic playing experience and some have mentioned that it comes very close to an authentic grand piano feel. However, this is often a very subjective opinion.
Featuring the PHA-50 (Progressive Hammer Action) keyboard, the Roland FP-90 keyboard employs the use of graded hammer action whereby the keys on the lower register are heavier than the keys on the higher registers, just like an acoustic piano.
One cannot overstate the importance of graded keys. In fact, most, if not all, modern day digital piano manufacturers aim to produce pianos of such build, depending on the price range of course.
Some users have gone as far as to comment that this is easily one of the most realistic keyboards that they have played on, and we are hard-pressed to disagree with this statement thanks to
Made of wood and molded materials, the PHA-50 keytops have ebony and ivory simulation. The key surfaces have a matte finish texture. This means that grip is improved, not to mention there is better moisture absorption.
The keys on the Roland FP-90 have wooden sides and are encased in a synthetic housing. This hybrid build means that the keys maintain an organic feel without being too heavy. Furthermore, this provides for greater durability.
The action on the PHA-50 is impressive and allows for great dynamic expression thanks to the accurate response of the keyboard. Thanks to this, the Roland FP-90 provides users with a precise attention to detail when playing.
On acoustic pianos, there is often a subtle clicking feeling that is present when keys are pressed down. Thanks to the Escapement Feature of the Roland FP-90, this is also present. This feature allows for the hammer to rebound immediately.
The keyboard on the Roland FP-90 further allows for users to adjust the touch sensitivity levels. This is a common feature in a majority of the digital pianos found on the present-day market and many manufacturers offer roughly 3-5 touch sensitivity levels.
However, the Roland FP-90 stands apart from the rest owing to the fact that one can adjust touch-sensitivity in the 1 – 100 range. This is a relatively new detail that has not previously featured on many digital pianos.
The innovative aspects of the Roland FP-90 digital piano keyboard make it a truly remarkable instrument that allows for users to fully immerse themselves in the piano playing experience.
Unlike most digital piano manufacturers that use real acoustic piano samples, the core piano sounds of the Roland FP-90 are produced via physical modelling.
To quickly explain the difference between sampling and modelling; samples are small recordings of real acoustic pianos that are then triggered when one plays the piano, and modelling is basically a highly sophisticated algorithm that mimics all aspects of what goes on inside an acoustic piano.
As opposed to sampling the recordings, the modelling approach used by Roland in the FP-90 SuperNATURAL sound engine results in the recreation of the sound of an acoustic piano as well as the intricate nature of the instrument. Modelling basically takes into account every single variable found in an acoustic piano, therefore resulting in a greater attention to detail.
The effect of modelling is very much evident as the SuperNATURAL sound engine provides the Roland FP-90 with a very responsive sound that is rich and intricate in terms of the piano overtones and timbre variations.
The sound is fantastic, but we have also come to realise that this is subjective as some users have mentioned that it sounds somewhat synthetic and unusual.
Out of the 15 varying piano tones offered by the Roland FP-90, four of these tones are modelled and they are the; Ballad, Concert, Mellow and Bright piano tones.
The concert piano tone is the most stand-out tone due to its versatility. With a stunning harmonic content and impeccable sustain, the concert tone is not only sublime, but offers a lot of room in terms of dynamic expression.
The Roland FP-90 also offers the Piano Designer feature through which users can edit a variety of elements that affect the overall sound of the selected tone. The piano designer option allows one to adjust and edit the lid position, key release and hammer noises, string resonance, duplex scale, cabinet resonance etc.
With the Piano Designer feature, the Roland FP-90 can quite literally be adjusted to perfectly fit your needs without too much of a hassle. The Piano Designer feature can be accessed from the FP-90’s display, and it can also be used as an app.
Apart from the Piano Designer function, the Roland FP-90 allows users to further apply a variety of effects. The ambiance option will result in a reverb effect and this could really bring your tone to life.
There is also a built-in equalizer (EQ) that allows for users to adjust the lows, mids and highs of the piano. In the music world, the right equalization could make the biggest difference in your performance or your composition.
Polyphony play an important role when selecting a digital piano for purchase. Users want to be assured that they can express themselves as much as possible without the limitation of having note cut-off during their performances.
In a nutshell, polyphony is basically a feature found in digital pianos whereby the higher the polyphony, the lower the chances that notes will get cut off early regardless of how fast one is playing.
With virtually unlimited polyphony when it comes to the piano modelled tones, the Roland FP-90 has an impressive maximum polyphony and quite literally blows the competition out of the water thanks to this feature.
When it comes to the other tones, the Roland FP-90 offers and impressive 384-note polyphony. This quite literally obliterates any and all possible limitations when it comes to performing and expressing one’s self as there is no chance of notes being cut off.
While some may argue that 384-note polyphony is over the top, we argue that it nevertheless is a welcomed addition and plays an integral role in the outstanding nature of the Roland FP-90. When it comes to polyphony, more is always better.
As already explored above, the Roland FP-90 is an impressive instrument that is chalk full of strengths. Another strong suit of this digital piano is the rather powerful on-board speaker system.
With a total of 4 speakers, the internal speaker system is extremely powerful for a digital piano and provides unbridled clarity to the user. Even when the volume is set to the highest level, the sound quality is not compromised and there is no clipping or sound degradation.
There are two 8 x 12 cm speakers with a total output of 50W (That means each speaker individually provides 25w). There are also two 2.5 cm tweeters with a total output of 10
With a total output of 60W, the Roland FP-90 offers a rather outstanding speaker system and guarantees audibility during practice sessions and performances in small venues such as restaurants.
With an impressive maximum volume of 107dB, the speaker system on the Roland FP-90 is loud enough to be played along to an accompanying 12-person choir and cuts through the background noise with much ease.
The speaker on the Roland FP-90 system is outstanding while performing music however, some users have noted that speaker system lacks the same powerful presence when music is played form an external device via Bluetooth.
Another criticism is that the internal speakers, to some users, can sound somewhat muffled and lacks the richness and authenticity found on other FP series models such as the Roland FP-30.
Worth noting is that sound is often quite subjective, different musicians will most often than note have differing opinions on the best sound, tone, quality etc. With that being said, it is most often than not recommended that you ‘try before you buy’ in order to ascertain that this instrument fits your needs.
At the end of the day, the Roland FP-90 offers a solid speaker system with a clean and crisp sound.
With advancements in music and sound technology over the years, the needs of the modern musician also change and evolve. It then becomes the burden of the industry to keep up with these needs when producing new and contemporary instruments.
The first mode we will explore is the Dual Mode (Layering) feature of the Roland FP-90.
A simple feature with a lot of room for creativity and experimentation, the dual mode feature allows for the user to layer two different sounds together which will then sound at the same time when a key is pressed.
This simple feature allows for the creation of rich and robust sounding tones. For example, users of the Roland FP-90 can layer a string instrument with a piano sound, or even a choir. The different sounds available for layering make this an interesting mode that will keep you entertained for a while.
Though impressive and always welcome, the dual mode feature is not a ground-breaking addition as it is also included on the Roland FP-30, as well as most digital pianos on the market such as the Casio PX-780.
The next mode included in the Roland FP-90 is the Split Mode feature.
As the name suggests, when this mode is selected the keyboard is divided and two different sounds can be played on either side. For instance, one may choose to have a piano sound on the left, and a string sound on the right.
The Roland FP-90 further allows for the split point to be adjusted to the user’s preference.
The split mode feature can be used by a single player, or one may choose to experiment with a partner. The Roland FP-90 facilitates for this, and it is up to the user to decided what they wish to do.
Again, this isn’t an industry first, but it nevertheless a great addition to an excellent digital piano.
When either mode is selected, users have the ability of adjusting the balance of the instruments by way of a Part Slider. This is an extremely practical feature that many digital pianos lack. As such, the Roland FP-90 already stands out.
Upon balance the levels to one’s satisfaction, the result can be saved as a Registration on to the Roland FP-90’s memory. Simply put, the memory settings note the current modifications made to the standard settings and then these are saved. The most minor of tweaks are taken into account.
Registrations take into account the tones, volume balance, any key transposing, split points etc. This is extremely convenient as it allows for a great deal of time saving. Not to mention that is practically every gigging musician’s dream.
The Roland FP-90 can store up to 30 registrations, thus giving the user plenty of options to choose from.
Surprisingly, the Roland FP-90 does not feature the Duet Play option. This has become a standard inclusion in most digital pianos in this price range. Despite that, it is not a deal breaker and the other modes easily make up for this omission.
Transposing, Octave Shifting & Tuning
As with most, if not all, modern digital pianos, the Roland FP-90 comes with an in-built Transpose function. This simple feature allows for users to change the pitch of the digital piano either up or down in semi-tone steps.
This simple feature is particularly handy as it allows for songs to be played in different keys without having to move one’s fingering position or learning the song in the different key.
The Master Tuning of the Roland FP-90 is also adjustable in increments of 0.1 Hz and can be set at a range between 415.3 Hz – 466.2 Hz thus giving users plenty of room to experiment with the tuning of the digital piano.
Recording and Playback
Most digital pianos allow for users to be able to make MIDI recordings of one’s performance. The Roland FP-90 also facilitates for this with its onboard MIDI Recorder.
When MIDI recording is selected, the user can record songs with 1 MIDI track.
Given the power and the capability of the FP-90, only being able to create single track MIDI recordings is a disappointment.
This basically means that unlike with some other digital pianos, it is not possible to record several tracks and play them simultaneously as a song.
The FP-90 allows for up to 10 of these 1-track MIDI recordings to be made, of which are stored in the internal memory. They can however be transferred to your computer for further editing and manipulation in your preferred Digital Audio Workstation of choice.
Built into the Roland FP-90 is the very handy SMF Converter that allows for the recorded MIDI files to be converted to audio. Seeing as most audio players do not allow for MIDI playback, this is a handy tool if you want to send the recorded audio to friends, or just play back on your external device.
Apart from MIDI recording capabilities, the Roland FP-90 goes a step further and allows for the recording of actual sound data by way of the built-in Audio Recorder.
The audio recorder in the Roland FP-90 records in CD quality WAV format. The convenience of this is that the audio recordings will be of high quality, and they can be played back on virtually any device from mobile phones, to iPods, Mp3 players etc
The Roland FP-90 makes recording a breeze given the options available, one literally could not ask for more. However, we are nevertheless slightly disappointed by the MIDI recorder on being able to record 1-track songs.
Keeping in time when performing is absolutely essential, off beat performances stick out like a sore thumb. Luckily, the Roland FP-90 comes with its own in-built Metronome tool that allows for users to keep in time during practice sessions.
Though a very simple tool, a metronome is basically a musician’s best friend and it plays a crucial role in developing one’s playing skills. Users can adjust the tempo (speed) they want to play along to and challenge themselves.
The saying “less is more” has been around for years, and it does ring true to an extent. For examples, the slightly minimalistic look and design of the Roland FP-90 greatly contribute towards the sleek look of this stunning instrument.
However, when it comes to connectivity options, more is always better and the Roland FP-90 does not disappoint! Loaded with numerous connectivity options, the FP-90 has plenty to offer.
The most refreshing connectivity option on the Roland FP-90 is the dedicated Mic Input Jack, a feature that many digital pianos lack.
When connected, the vocals sound through the FP-90 onboard speaker system. This means you can have a small vocal performance with piano accompaniment without having to employ the use of an external PA system, or amplifiers.
Apart from having the ability to adjust the mic volume to your preference, users can apply effects to their vocals and make their performances even more captivating. Effects that can be applied include echo, compressor etc
Located on the left-hand side of the Roland FP-90 are two headphones jack inputs; a ¼” jack input and a 1/8” jack input. Headphones connectivity is essentially as some situations my dictate for silent playing, or perhaps the user simply doesn’t yet want to share the magic they’re cooking up.
Being able to connect any type of headphones without needing to employ the use of adapters is a welcomed addition as there doesn’t need to be any more financial outlay, not to mention adapters can sometimes compromise sound quality.
Furthermore, two different people can listen in without having to use headphone splitters which are notorious for degrading sound quality.
Located on the rear panel of the Roland FP-90 is a USB Type B port which allows for the piano to be connected to a computer where it can then be used a MIDI controller. This is essentially for any music producer, and as such we are glad it was not missed.
When connected to the computer, users can use the Roland FP-90 to record songs with as many tracks as they desire. When used as a MIDI controller, it can even double a drum machine.
As for the USB Type A port, users can directly connect an external flash drive to the Roland FP-90. This is handy as users can playback audio files from the flash drive. It is also essentially as audio recordings are not stored on the Roland FP-90’s internal memory, but rather on the external drive that is connected.
With built-in Bluetooth connectivity, the Roland FP-90 takes convenience to another level. The brilliance of the on-board Bluetooth option is that it supports both MIDI and audio data.
With Bluetooth connectivity, users can connect to external devices and apps for lessons, recordings etc. Roland have in fact developed their own app known as the Piano Partner 2.
With 2 dedicated ¼” output jacks (L/Mono, R), the Roland FP-90 can easily be connected to external amplifiers, PA systems etc
There is a 1/8” input jack that can be used to connect to one’s phone with an AUX cable and play music directly from the device. No speakers, no problem; the Roland FP-90 has you covered.
Last but not least, there are 3 pedal jacks located on the rear panel whereby users can connect piano pedals.
With the DP-10, half pedalling is possible. Basically, what this means is that one would partially press down on the sustain pedal so that the dampers touch the strings ever so slightly. This allows for greater expression and a fine variation of the sound.
If one decides to purchase the Roland KSC-90 stand, a pedal board worth considering may by the Roland KPD-90. This is a three-pedal unit that mimics the functions of the pedals found on an acoustic piano.
Below we explore the KSC-90 stand:
The Roland FP-90 does not come with its own piano stand on purchase, as such users will have to purchase an external stand separately.
Users can purchase X-type stands, of which are usually pocket friendly, and they are easy to move around. Some options may include the following:
- K&M 18976
- Millenium KS-2010
- RockJam Xfinity Heavy-Duty
Alternatively, users may opt to purchase the Roland KSC-90 stand.
This is furniture style stand designed specifically for the Roland FP-90, users can therefore rest assured of compatibility between the stand and the digital piano. Not to mention the quality build of the stand itself.
As mentioned earlier, the stand is fully compatible with the KPD-90 pedal unit, and they are designed to perfectly fit with each other.
Worth noting is that the KSC-90 has a price-tag of around $189.99.
The Roland FP-90 is no doubt a remarkable instrument and as explored above it brings much to the table. A stunning design loaded with brilliant features, the FP-90 blows away the competition.
Kawai ES8 (full review)
Like the Roland FP-90’s Piano Designer feature, the Kawai ES8 makes use of the Virtual Technician feature through which users can edit damper resonance, hammer delay, string resonance etc. The ES-8 also makes use of a 2-track MIDI recorder as opposed to the FP-90’s 1-track midi recorder.
However, the ES8 costs a $100 more than the Roland FP-90. Furthermore, while the Roland FP-90 offers unlimited maximum polyphony for the modelled pianos tones and 384-note polyphony for all other tones, the Kawai ES-8 only offers 256-note polyphony.
Yamaha P-255 (full review)
The P-255 is a solid alternative to the FP-90 as it features synthetic keytops with graded hammer action. The graded hammer effect is a large reason why the FP-90 has such a realistic feeling keyboard. Furthermore, the P-255 is 5kgs lighter than the FP-90 thus making it easier to carry around.
Despite this, the P-255 has far fewer adjustable parameters in comparison to the FP-90, thus making the latter a more viable choice if you are keen on being able to customise existing tones to your preference. The FP-90 also has a louder speaker system with 60W whereas the P-255 only has a 30W speaker system.