Roland is a musical instrument manufacturer that usually produces high end musical equipment. You can’t, or better said couldn’t, find any products from Roland that were in the affordable or beginner category.
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But about a year and a half ago, towards the end of 2017 they surprised us by releasing the RP102, an entry level digital piano, designed with the beginner inn mind, and in an affordable price range. Today, you’re going to find out everything there is to know in our Roland RP102 review, so that you can decide for yourself if it is the best fit for your needs.
The price range that Roland decided to approach, the under $1000 range, is a densely packed environment, with high quality digital pianos from reputed brands such as Yamaha and Casio. One thing is sure, it’s definitely not an easy battle they entered.
Is the Roland RP102 a worthy competitor for digital pianos such as the Casio PX-870 or the Yamaha YDP-144? Well, that’s the question we decided to give an answer to in this review. So, let’s dive right in, and find out if this is the best digital piano for you!
Before we go deeper in this chapter, there’s one thing we have to set clear.
With cabinet style digital pianos, in recent years, there has been a divide between two types: traditional and modern.
The traditional cabinet style digital pianos look more like an acoustic instrument than a digital. In my opinion that’s one of the points of getting a cabinet style digital piano in the first place. It should offer a closer to authentic experience than a portable digital piano.
Then there’s the modern cabinet style digital pianos. These are slimmer, more minimalist, if you will. The have straighter lines and are designed to fit in more compact places and integrate with modern, minimalist furniture.
Opinions are varied as to which cabinet style is superior. In my opinion, if you choose a digital piano of this type, an acoustic look is something want. Even if your home decor is more modern, the traditional look of the piano will contrast nicely with the rest of the room and make for an attractive feature in any space.
Then there’s another aspect that needs to be observed. The higher end a cabinet style digital piano is, the more acoustic it looks. Higher end usually also means higher price range.
In the case of the Roland RP102, it kind of stands out in its price range. It’s an affordably priced digital piano that has a very acoustic look so to say. Other comparable digital pianos like another model from Roland, the F-140 and the Casio PX-870 have cabinets that are more modern looking.
So, judging solely by looks, you would say that the RP102 is a higher end instrument than it actually is. I don’t know if that matters to you at all, but it’s a fact, so you should know about it.
The overall looks of the RP102 are clean and sturdy. I think these two characteristics describe this digital piano best.
I base my opinion on the following aspects:
First the design is very simple and uncluttered. Actually, there are only four buttons making up the control panel, which are located on the left hand side of the keyboard. This is good and bad. Good, because it assures a clean, elegant design. Bad, because you can’t access the functions as quickly as on instruments with more control buttons.
But, having in mind that the Roland RP102 doesn’t have an extensive list of functions, navigating the menu is not as difficult as you might imagine.
The four buttons are: power, function and two volume buttons. No matter which function you want to access you will do so by pressing a combination of the function button and one of the keys. First it might seem pretty difficult, until you learn the right combinations. Because there are no labels on or under the keys that can make these combinations more intuitive, you’ll have to study the owner’s manual. But soon enough you’ll see that you’ll learn
Second, the durability factor is underlined by the way it’s built. Yes, it is kind of heavy at 83 pounds, but it’s also very sturdy. Anyway, it’s not designed to be a portable keyboard, so weight is only a factor until you install it.
You will see that installing this digital piano doesn’t take more than an hour. In total, you’ll have to assemble six parts. Aside from the keyboard itself, you’ll find two side panels, a rear panel, a music rest and a pedal unit. A screw driver will shorten the time it takes to install the piano.
A very nice characteristic about the 3 pedal unit is the fact that you can do half pedaling on all three of them. This contributes a lot to the authentic experience of this instrument. It also helps you develop the right technique from the start, that you can later use on an acoustic piano if you want.
There is one other way, though, to control the functions of the RP102. By using the dedicated app from Roland you can access the function section of the piano, and not only. We’ll get into details about this aspect later in our review.
Roland RP102 Specifications
- Dimensions: 54.2″ x 38.4″ x 16.2″ / Weight: 83 pounds;
- Keyboard: Full 88-keys with synthetic ivory surfaces;
- Key action: PHA-4 Standard with escapement feature;
- Adjustable touch sensitivity in 5 increments + Off;
- Sound engine: SuperNATURAL;
- Sounds: 15;
- Songs: 213;
- Polyphony: 128 notes;
- Modes: Dual and Twin;
- Features: transpose, master tuning, metronome;
- Sound effects: ambiance, brilliance, string resonance, damper resonance, key off resonance;
- Speakers: 2 x 6W;
- Connectivity: 2 headphone jacks, Bluetooth 4.0, USB Update and USB to Host.
By now famous, the SuperNATURAL sound engine, characteristic to Roland keyboards, is a series of algorithms that renders the sounds of an acoustic piano. Basically it, with this sound engine, the engineers at Roland tried to remake the way sound is produced by an acoustic piano, just in digital format.
It differs from the way other digital pianos produce their sounds, which is by using samples.
The opinions are varied, some saying that Roland’s sound engine is able to produce piano sounds closer to the real thing. This is ultimately a matter of finesse. But, it’s important to remember that Roland’s sound engine also renders certain sound effects characteristic for acoustic pianos such as damper and string resonance as well as key off resonance.
You must know that the sound emitted by the Roland RP102 isn’t entirely created in the moment you press a key. It also uses samples taken from a 9 foot acoustic grand piano. But, the difference compared to other digital pianos is that these samples first go through what can be called a filter that adds these specific effects, making the sound a lot more realistic.
The RP102 was designed to be used as a piano. That’s why it doesn’t have a lot of other sounds on it. There are four piano types you can choose from: bright, mellow, ballad and concert.
The majority uses the concert piano sound most of the times. It’s a very pleasant sound complete with all those acoustic specific effects mentioned above. Comparing it to the main piano sound of other digital pianos in this range, it easily tops a big chunk of the competition.
If you want to adjust the brightness of the tone, you can do so easily by setting it higher or lower on a scale of 20 steps.
The other instruments, besides the piano sounds, are: two strings, two organs, two electric pianos, vibraphone, harpsichord, jazz scat, celesta and soft pad.
The speaker system of the Roland RP102 does the job it’s supposed to, but nothing more than that.
What I mean is that, with a total capacity of 12W, parted between the two speakers on either side of the keyboard, the piano is capable of filling a room, or be used for practice purposes.
If, on the other hand, you plan on playing for an audience in a larger hall, an external speaker system is a good addition.
The quality of the sound doesn’t necessarily correlate with the capacity of the speaker system, but it’s a good indicator. Even if you don’t need extraordinary volume, more Watts usually are capable of rendering a superior sound.
To support this argument, let’s take the Roland F-140R for example. It’s in a similar price range like the RP102, but has a more powerful speaker system. And guess what. The sound is somewhat better quality, although they’re equipped with the same sound engine.
So, I don’t know why Roland decided to go with a weaker speaker system for the RP102. Maybe it’s because it’s an entry level piano, designed for the beginner who will probably not use it for performances.
Contrasting with the speaker system, the keyboard on the RP102 is one of the best you can find in this price range. The keyboard is called PHA4 and Roland uses it across their entry level digital pianos.
It’s an 88-key weighted key action that has progressive hammer action. This means it’s heavier on the low end and gets progressively lighter as you go towards the high end. It’s actually really nice. You will be able to play fast passages with ease because of the 3 sensor system that detects the push of the keys gradually.
The keyboard also has artificial escapement. This is a sensation specific to keyboards of acoustic pianos. You usually feel this when you press a key incompletely. The feeling of playing this keyboard is very smooth. You can notice the progress from the previous key action from Roland. It’s also less noisy than that of competing brands.
Because the Roland RP102 is designed mainly as an entry level digital piano, there isn’t an abundance of features and functions that higher end digital pianos offer.
But there is a possibility of expanding the piano’s features: by using the dedicated app from Roland, the Piano Partner 2. You can use this app, no matter what type of mobile device you have to enhance the extent of the keyboard’s abilities.
Viewed from a different angle, the lack of features is a good thing. This is because the instrument could be designed to be simple, easy to use and concentrate on the main function of acting as a practice piano.
Most of the digital pianos that you can find nowadays have 3 modes: split, dual and duet. The Roland RP102 has two of these three: dual and duet.
The dual mode is also known ad layering mode. As its name implies, it gives you the possibility of combining, layering, two different sounds. This way a new sound will result that combines the two sounds that you selected harmonically.
Depending on the sounds you choose to combine, the result will sound better or worse.
You will not be able to determine the exact volume of each of the two sounds separately by using the controls provided on the keyboard, like with other digital pianos. But you will be able to do so through the dedicate app, Piano Partner 2.
This mode is especially useful for beginners. The Roland RP102 being designed as an entry level digital pianos, this mode couldn’t miss from the equation because it’s so helpful.
When entering this mode, the keyboard will split in two identical halves, both with a middle C. This way, the teacher and student will be able to practice piano at the same time, making lessons more interactive.
There are a number of useful functions that are worth mentioning. Although they are not so prominent as other features, they are very useful.
Keeping the right rhythm is essential. And doing so when learning to play the piano is not so easy for everyone. This is why it’s helpful to use the metronome on the piano to set parameters such as volume, beat and tempo.
You will use this function when you need to change the pitch of the instrument in increments of one semitone.
Usually when playing along a different instrument or a track that is playing back, you need to adjust your keyboard finely. This is where the master tuning functionality proves to be very helpful. It allows you to set the pitch at exactly the right wavelength in increments of 0.1 Hz.
It’s important for you to know that you will not be able to make MIDI recording with this piano. But, you will be able to make recordings through the Piano Partner 2 app. And that’s not the only thing you will be able to do.
The RP102 has a total of 200 songs that you can listen to or make use of in practice sessions. These songs are organized in the following categories: listening, masterpieces, easy piano, scales, hanon, beyer, burgmuller, czerny 100.
The Roland RP102 offers all the connectivity capabilities that you would expect from a digital piano nowadays. This includes 2 headphone jacks and 2 USB ports (type A and B).
Sometimes when you want to use your headphones and search for the plug, just to find out that you need an adapter is a pretty annoying situation. You will not experience this with the RP102 because the two headphone jacks have different dimensions. One of them is 1/4″ and the other 1/8″.
The USB type B port is very useful if you want to hook your piano up to a computer in order to take advantage of different music apps.
You will be able to make this connection in two ways: through cable or Bluetooth.
If you want to make a physical connection you will have to buy a cable separately because it doesn’t come with the piano. If not, and your laptop has Bluetooth capabilities than you can make a wireless connection.
The most important app of all, that you can use with your RP102, is Roland’s own Piano Partner 2. It enhances the abilities of your digital piano tremendously. The app is really user friendly.
We usually go over a list of accessories that you ought to buy along the digital piano that is being reviewed. But, in this case, the Roland RP102 is a console digital pianos. This means that everything that you might have needed to buy separately is already part of the package.
The stand, triple pedal unit and and keyboard cover are all included in the package.
You will only have to take a look at two additional accessories, which might prove to be of a lot of help.
First, you will need something to sit on when playing the piano. This is why choosing a piano bench might be a good idea. Of course, you’ll have to do this only if you don’t already possess one of those.
The other useful accessory that I can only recommend is a good quality pair of headphones. Headphones are very useful, especially for beginners. If you learn to play the piano, you can imagine that your practice sessions might not sound most harmonious. So, in order to keep those good relations with the people around you, you should use headphones when you practice. The other advantage of headphones is that they enable a very good quality sound, most of the times better than the sound emitted by the built-in speakers.
Overall I’m very pleased with the Roland RP102. It’s a very nice quality digital piano focused on the piano playing experience.
Yes, it lacks many features that other digital pianos offer, but the Piano Partner 2 app makes up for it with all the extra functionalities it offers.
If you don’t necessarily need the cabinet setup, but like the piano, you can read our Roland FP-30 review. The FP-30 basically offers the exact same piano playing experience as the RP102. They share the same sound engine and keyboard. The difference is that the FP-30 has more built-in functionalities but lacks a stand and pedal unit. You would have to buy those separately.
The decision then, comes down to whether you prefer the cabinet style setup for home use, or a more portable version.
One thing is clear, many people who tried the RP102 and other digital pianos in the similar price range, ended up preferring the Roland. So, I know I’m not wrong recommending this digital piano to all beginning and intermediate pianists who search for a practice instrument to have in their homes.