Because so many of you have written and asked abut a comparison between the Roland FP-30 vs Kawai ES110, I decided that it’s time to test these two pianos head-to-head and write this comparison review. Truth be told I was thinking about writing this comparison review for some time now because these are so similarly looking digital pianos, and I was sure that you may be wondering which one of these is the better choice. Both are portable digital pianos meant to be used by beginners, with clean lines and great quality features, priced under $1000. So which one is the better choice for you? This is the question that I will try to answer with this in-depth analysis of the two.
Roland FP-30 vs Kawai ES110 Comparison Chart
|Model||Roland FP-30||Kawai ES110|
|Check Price on Amazon||Check Price on Amazon|
|Sound Engine||SuperNATURAL||Harmonic Imaging|
|Key Action||Weighted Individually PHA-4||Responsive Hammer Compact|
|Key Touch/Weight||Ivory feel, 5 levels||Matte, 4 levels|
Designed to be primarily portable, the Kawai ES110 vs Roland FP-30 design comparison doesn’t show many differences in a broad spectrum. Both have a compact size which will fit into most apartments or dorm rooms. The weight isn’t an issue either. The ES110 is even lighter than its predecessor, which was designed to be portable as well.
I can’t talk of many design differences between the Kawai ES110 and its predecessor. They basically kept the overall looks of the keyboard unchanged. The Roland FP-30, on the other hand is a definite step forward compared to its predecessor in matters of design.
Both digital pianos have clean dashboards made up of a few buttons and a volume slider. Most of the functions can be accessed directly through pushing a button, or using a button and key combination. This is true with most digital pianos for beginners priced under $1000. This may be quite annoying at first, but after using these combinations a few times you’ll start memorizing them. Another design lack of both pianos is an LCD display which would make navigating the settings a lot easier. But, again, as with most digital pianos these days, an integrated display in the dashboard is rather the exception than the common practice. I tend to like the FP-30’s control panel more because of the illuminated buttons that are simply more attractive, and lend a more contemporary look.
Dimensions-wise there’s not much of a difference between the two: 51.6″/11.2″/5.8″ for the Kawai and 51.2″/11.2/5.8″ for the Roland. There is a certain difference in weight, though: 26.5 pounds for the Kawai and 31 pounds for the Roland. Although both are almost equally portable, the importance of this aspect depends on how often you plan on transporting your digital piano.
There are a number of fundamental differences between the Roland FP-30 vs Kawai ES110 in matters of sound.
First, let’s analyze the way the two digital pianos produce sound. The ES110 uses Kawai’s Harmonic Sampling sound source. It uses individual samples of each key from a Kawai 9-foot EX grand piano. Using individual samples of each key helps in preserving the tonal characteristics of each key. In an effort to create truly difference nuances for every one of the 8 different piano tones, they used slightly different methods for the samples for each tone. Roland has gone a different direction. As it’s well known by now, Roland uses the modeling method to produce sound. It’s based initially on samples but then computer technology is used to determine the sound for every push of a key in real time. This means the sound is created the moment you push a key, according to the velocity the key is pressed with. It’s very similar to the way an acoustic piano produces sound. This technology also smoothens the differences between tonal variations out. That translates into a sound that behaves very similar to that of an acoustic piano for human ears.
For all the extra technology used by Roland, the downside, for some pianists out there might be the fact that you can’t adjust the sound a lot. You basically are stuck with the manufacturer’s configurations. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because the sound of Roland’s pianos is the result of a team of experts fine tuning every aspect of it. The Kawai ES110, on the other hand, gives you the ability to adjust and modify almost every aspect of the digital piano’s sound, like reverb, damper resonance, voicing, fall back noise, damper noise, brilliance and temperament.
This is an aspect that is kind of part of the sound chapter of a digital piano. Polyphony indicated the number of different notes that can be played at the same time, before the first sustained notes start falling off. You would think that you don’t need a lot of polyphony, but some musical pieces that you might want to play could prove you entirely wrong. Now there’s a debate on what level of polyphony is enough for most pianists, but as a rule of thumb, more is better in this case.
The difference in polyphony is evident between the RP-30 vs ES110, in favor of the ES110. It has 192, compared to 128. Although there’s a clear difference, and this difference remains constant compared to all other alternatives in this price range, a 128-note polyphony is more than enough for beginners. But, once you pass the beginner and even the intermediate stages, and learn hw to play more complex musical pieces, you could notice that in certain moments you max out the digital piano’s polyphony limit. You would be hard pressed, though, to be able to even come close to that limit.
So, as far as polyphony is concerned, there is a difference between the two, but it shouldn’t be a main deciding factor.
The main difference between the speakers of the Roland FP-30 and the Kawai ES110 is their power output. The FP-30 has two 11W speakers, the ES110 has two 7W speakers. A considerable difference, if you ask me. But the power of the speaker system s not the only factor that plays into the quality of that certain system.
Both speaker systems have a very nice dynamic range, rendering clear and crisp sound across the entire keyboard, no matter how loud you turn the sound. This way you can easily punctuate subtle nuances, that will be heard exactly like you intend them to. The power is enough for most living spaces, if you plan on giving performance in front of family and friends.
The position of the speakers is somewhat counterintuitive on the FP-30. They are facing downward. But the sound is capable of surrounding you and creating a very realistic effect. If you want to play in front of larger crowd, I recommend you choose external amplification, which can be easily connected to either of the two digital pianos.
So, although the speakers are more powerful, I wouldn’t say that there’s a definite imbalance between the speaker systems of the Roland FP-30 vs Kawai ES110. Both speaker systems are high quality, and offer an authentic sound experience.
The keyboards of these two pianos is one of the strengths of booth models. Roland and Kawai, both, are known for the exquisite keyboards they install on their digital pianos and the FP-30 and ES110 are a testament to this fact.
When looking at different elements of a digital piano, you have to put things into perspective. But in this case, I don’t have to necessarily put things into perspective, because these two keyboards offer a very realistic feel and touch. Let me explain in more detail.
Both digital pianos have full 88-key weighted keyboards that feel lighter towards the high end and heavier towards the lower end, just like an acoustic piano’s keyboard behaves. Both have hammer actions that contain 3 sensors for every key so that the response is as close to the real thing as possible. This allows for a qualitive performance where your expressiveness can be heard just as if you are playing a grand piano.
But there are certain differences, minor I might say, but still, existent. The Roland RP-30 has 5 different touch sensitivity levels. The Kawai ES110 only has 3. Basically the RP-30 has 2 extra intermediary levels between the 3 main ones. The most expressiveness can be reached if using the ‘Hard’ setting. Yes, you will have to to press the keys forcefully to obtain a high volume, but that’s exactly how acoustic pianos’ keys work. This way you’ll be able to learn the correct finger technique from the start, eventually being able to easily translate your new ability to an acoustic piano.
Another difference between the two is the surface of the keys. Roland decided to go with the artificial ivory and ebony keytops. This is the best kind of surface for keys of digital pianos. Kawai on the other hand went with matte keytops. It’s not quite the ivory and ebony feel, but it offers that extra grip especially when you practice a lot and your fingers start to sweat. So, the end effect is almost the same.
A minor weakness that I noticed concerning the Kawai ES110 is the slight inconsistency in the spacing between the keys. This is an aspect that you can notice upon detailed inspection only, so it’s not something that has the potential to break the deal. I thought it might have been a fault of the model I tested, but I could notice this in other ES110 digital pianos too.
In terms of features and functions, there is no big difference between the Roland FP-30 vs Kawai ES110. You get most functions that you would expect from most modern digital pianos in this price range.
Both digital piano have the split mode, where you can split the keyboard in two parts of your choice designating a different voice for each part, and the dual mode (layering) which lets you layer two voices one over the other, creating a new harmonic sound. What the RP-30 has and the ES110 lacks at this stage is the duet play, which splits the keyboard in two equal halves. This last feature is very helpful for beginners who can use it during lessons with a piano teacher. This way both the pupil and the teacher can play the same keyboard at the same time.
There are further features that are offered by both these digital piano like metronome, transpose, octave shift and master tuning.
Metronome will help you keep the right rhythm. It’s a simple feature but it’s very helpful, especially for beginners. Not everyone is a natural in playing the piano, or music in general, so the metronome feature will keep you on the right track.
Transpose and octave shift or two related features. Transpose lets you adjust the pitch of the instrument in semi-tone steps. Octave shift does so in octave steps.
By using the master tuning feature, you can adjust the pitch of the entire keyboard in steps of 0.1Hz.
The Kawai ES110 has a further interesting and useful feature, especially for beginners, called lesson function. This feature consists of 3 built-in song books that will help you discover and learn new songs. You can listen to the songs, turn the rhythm up or down, and practice each hand separately. It’s not a replacement for a piano teacher, but it’s useful. The books with sheet music that correspond these three lessons are not included in the package, so you will have to buy them separately if you want to practice reading music as well.
Last, but not least, let’s see how the Roland FP-30 vs Kawai ES110 comparison looks like in matters of connectivity.
Both digital pianos have two headphone jacks located in the front of the piano. The difference is that both headphone jacks of the ES110 are the same size, 1/4″, whereas the FP-30’s are different sizes, one 1/4″ and one 1/8″. This can be an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time. If you practice with a piano teacher and both of you use the same type of headphones, equal measure ports are very useful. But if you usually use headphones by yourself, it doesn’t matter what type of headphones you have, you can use them without any issues.
Another difference in matters of connectivity is the presence of USB ports. Roland FP-30 has both types of ports USB to Host and USB to Device. Kawai ES110 lacks USB ports altogether. Kawai decided to go without USB ports on the ES110, but they did include a Bluetooth MIDI connectivity that basically offers the same functions, just wireless. This also implies that your external devices have Bluetooth connectivity. Roland FP-30 also has Bluetooth MIDI connectivity.
There are also a series of music apps that you can use with your digital pianos too enhance the user experience. Once you connect your smart device to your piano, all you have to do is download one of these apps to unlock further features, or make the existent ones more accessible. There are multiple apps that work, but the dedicated ones are the Piano Partner 2 for Roland and the Virtual Technician for Kawai.
Both digital pianos also have sustain pedal jacks that can be used to connect pedal units that fit the size.
Now that we dissected these two digital pianos and compared them head-to-head, it’s time to reach a conclusion on which of the Kawai ES110 vs Roland FP-30 is the better choice.
These two portable digital pianos are approximately of the same size, a minor difference of a few pounds in weight setting them apart, in favor of the lighter ES110. The RP-30, on the other hand has a more powerful speaker system and more voices. The ES110 has more polyphony, though.
The keyboards of the two digital pianos are almost the same. The one difference that can be felt are the ivory/ebony keytops of the Roland. The Roland has also more connectivity options.
Overall, if I was to determine a winner, I would probably choose the Roland FP-30. But it’s not a clear win. These two digital pianos are so similar that you would most likely be equally pleased with either choice. It comes down to which details are more of a determining factor for you.