Due to the fact that Roland has recently released an updated version to their FP line, I thought it might be a good idea to review them so that you know exactly what the improvements are, and if they’re something you’re willing to pay extra for. In this Roland FP-90X review, I’m taking a close look at the updated version of the FP-90 to discover the strengths and weaknesses, as well as the improvements that come with this new version. Are they taking the FP-90X to a new level, are they worthy of your attention? These are just some of the questions that I’m answering in my review. If you plan on buying the FP-90X but are not sure whether it’s the best fit for you, then you’re in the right place, because at the end of this review, you will have gained an informed opinion and ability to make the best choice with confidence.
Roland FP-90X Specifications
|Sound Source||Pure Acoustics Piano|
|Sliders||Vol / EQ / Part Bal / Mic|
|Speakers||2 x 8x12cm (BOX) plus tweeters|
|Connectors||Mic input:1/4″ jack,|
Input stereo jack: stereo mini type,
Midi (in/out) connectors,
2 x 1/4″ jack outputs,
USB Type B, USB type A,
Phones jack x 2: stereo miniature type,
1/4″ phone type
|Wireless Connection||Bluetooth MIDI & Audio|
|Dimensions||1340 x 390 x 136 mm|
|Included Apps||Piano Every Day / Piano Designer|
The Roland FP-90X is primarily designed as a stage piano, considering its technical capabilities, but it can be used as a home digital piano successfully. Although it comes with a one pedal unit, you can opt to buy a 3 pedal unit and a dedicated stand, separately.
The FP-90X, and for that matter all the rest of the FP line, like the FP-60X and the FP-30X, two examples of the same generation, is designed to be portable. Now, as everything else in life, portability is a concept that is fairly relative to your point of reference. It’s not the dimensions that raise my concern, but the weight, which at 52 pounds can limit that portability factor quite a lot for many people, or at least make it difficult even to get it in and out of a car. Well, you can’t have it all.
All that technology, that the FP-90X packs, adds up to a decent total weight. In my opinion, you will probably need a helping hand to be able to easily move the digital piano around.
If you compare it to cheaper digital pianos, still of the portable kind, you will discover that the cheaper ones are also lighter. This difference consists in the reduced weight of the lesser technology on the cheaper models, compared to the FP-90X. But I think the extra weight is worth the key action, for example, and may other high end features.
The looks of the FP-90X are very pleasant. Of course, taste is a subjective matter, but objectively speaking, Roland did a great job lending this model an organized, contemporary look with much attention to detail. They say you get what you pay for, and at a first glance, it seems that you pay for attention to detail. We’ll see if this is consistent throughout the component parts of the digital piano, which we’ll be looking at further down the page.
The dashboard consists of a central LCD display that makes navigating the pianos’ menu very easy. The buttons and sliders of the dashboard are found on either side of the central display. There are, in total, twenty five buttons and eight sliders. The attention to detail can be noticed throughout the control panel. The buttons are illuminated making it very intuitive in determining which are active and which aren’t. You probably guessed it, when you push one of the buttons, its lighting activates.
A particularity of the Roland FP-90X are the 8 sliders that give you detailed control over some of the piano’s characteristics. You can set the volume at the exact level with the help of the volume slider. If you want to set the exact volume for each voice, when using one of the specific functions, you can use the part sliders. High, middle and low frequencies can be adjusted by using the EQ sliders. There are two more sliders that help you easily adjust the backing song and the mic volume.
The sound is produced by digital pianos in two ways, both different from the way acoustic pianos produce sound. Because they lack strings, the sound of digital pianos is based on recordings, or samples of the sound of an acoustic grand piano in most cases. Most of the digital pianos on the market today, use this sampling method. Multiple samples of every note are taken and attributed to the corresponding keys of the digital piano.
Roland goes a step beyond that. They involve more computer technology in the sound rendering process. By the so called modeling method, the sound that is produced when you press a certain key is created in that moment, according to the way you press the key, rather than playing the proper recording. They kind of wanted to mimic the way acoustic pianos produce sound. They claim this way the sound is more natural, and the experience more authentic. Some piano enthusiasts prefer this method, others remain true to the sampling method. In my opinion, the Roland FP-90X sounds great. It’s very smooth with imperceptible transitions.
We can speak of a nice upgrade in the sound section. The sound engine on the FP-90X is the same as that on the previously superior line of LX700 series digital pianos. The difference consists in superior technology, with additional computing power, that is even exacter in interpreting the way you play a key. It depends a lot on how advanced you are, but if you are more advanced, then you might notice that with this model you have the ability to offer an even more expressive performance than with the previous generation.
Another interesting upgrade is the higher number of voices. The FP-90X comes with a total number of 362 voices that you can choose from. Of course the main grand piano voices are great but so are others that you can discover and have a lot of fun with.
One of the characteristics of digital pianos’ sound is polyphony. This represents the maximum number of notes that can be played at any one time before the first sustained notes start cutting off. You’d think you don’t need a high polyphony limit, and that’s partly true. Depending on what you want to play on your digital piano, the polyphony limit can be an issue or not. For example, if you use layering mode and pedals, the number of notes that are played at once goes up.
The Roland FP-90X has 256-notes polyphony limit with all of the voices, excepting the piano voices, that are supposedly enjoying limitless polyphony. I don’t know about limitless polyphony, there certainly is a limit, but it means you can play any musical piece you want on the piano and not experience your expressivity being cut short.
Without speakers you couldn’t hear how you were playing unless you used headphones. So, the speakers are an important part of the equation. They can complement a high quality sound engine but they can also be a limiting factor.
The Roland FP-90X has two 25W speakers and two 5W tweeters. This is a powerful enough sound system to fill any room, or even a bigger location. You’d need to be playing for larger crowds to need any external amplification. It’s also capable of rendering a clear and crisp sound when you turn the volume up.
The keyboard is the other most important part of a digital piano. The two most important characteristics of a digital piano’s keyboard is the way it behaves and the way it feels, in other words, the key action and the materials used in designing the keys.
The Roland FP-90X, is blessed with the PHA-50 key action, which stands for Progressive Hammer Action. This is one of Roland’s very realistic and high quality key actions. It behaves similar to the way acoustic piano keys behave. The weight of the keys is progressive, lighter towards the high end and heavier towards the low end.
The second characteristic, the built, makes a very good impression as well. The wood and plastic design, with a wood base and simulated ebony and ivory keytops (made of plastic), is one of the best designs out there. You’d probably be hard pressed to identify differences between the FP-90X’s keys and those of an acoustic piano’s in the way they feel and behave. These characteristics combine to offer one of the most realistic keyboards of any digital piano you can buy today.
The Roland FP-90X’s keys also have a very authentic touch response. This gives you the ability to imprint a level of expressivity that you couldn’t with other keyboards. Your proficiency level is the only limiting factor in this equation. The manufacturers were so detail oriented as to also add an escapement mechanism that closely renders the clicking feeling when you press a key.
As much as sensitivity levels are concerned, I got used to see a set of 3 to 5 on different digital piano models. The Roland FP-90X differentiates itself from most other digital pianos, in this matter, by offering a really fine tuning capability of the keyboards touch sensitivity. You can set it anywhere on a scale from one to one hundred.
One of the big differences between digital pianos and their acoustic counterparts is that digital pianos usually have a greater or smaller number of functions. These functions can enhance your piano playing experience quite a bit. If you plan on using your digital piano in more ways than just playing the grand piano voice, then you will surely like all the extra features the RP-90X has.
Some of these functions give you the ability to adjust certain parameters of the selected voice, like the functions that let you tinker with the resonance: full scale string resonance, damper resonance, cabinet resonance and key off resonance. Others let you adjust certain noises that come from an acoustic piano, which are not necessarily intended, but contribute to the realism of the piano playing experience, like: hammer noise, damper noise, key off noise.
And then there are some functions, which can be found in one way or another on multiple digital piano models across the board. These are: split mode, duet mode and dual mode. There’s nothing new or revolutionary in these functions, and I explained what they’re all about with different occasions, but just in case you haven’t read any of my previous reviews I’m going to explain them to you again.
Split mode and dual mode are two different ways to combine two sounds. Split mode lets you split the keyboard in two parts in a point of your choice. Then you can attribute a different sound for each part. This way you can play two instruments together, one with your left hand and one with your right hand. With dual mode you can still play two instruments together, but this time the mode will mix the two sounds, creating a new harmonic sound made up of the two initial ones. There are classic combinations that sound well together, like piano and strings, but you can make different experiments and discover new harmonic sounding combinations.
Duet play differentiates itself from the two modes above in that it’s not a way to combine two sounds, but a way for two people to play the same pitch on one keyboard. When you activate this mode, the keyboard splits right in the middle into two equal halves, each one with a middle C. This is a great way for piano teachers and students to play at the same time, shortening the learning curve. There’s also a metronome function that helps you find the right rhythm. It’s especially useful for beginners but also more advanced pianists can take advantage of this when learning to play a new song.
Another differentiating feature between digital and acoustic pianos is the recording capability of the first. There are two types of recording functions: MIDI and Audio. Not all digital pianos have both, but the Roland FP-90X has them both. And not only does it have both alternatives, the MIDI recorder is a 3-track one, a step forward from the FP-90’s 1 track MIDI recorder.
When I started writing this Roland FP-90X review, I knew what a great digital piano the original version was. I didn’t think the manufacturers could have done a lot more to enhance it. But they haven’t failed to surprise me in key points, which combined make a difference for the better.