Roland FP-90 Review – Unique in Many Ways!

Roland FP-90 Review – Unique in Many Ways!

As the flagship model of Roland’s portable digital piano line, the FP-90 is a very impressive and powerful instrument. It has everything you need for an excellent performance. Many features on this model are quite unique and they set the FP-90 apart from its competitors. Let’s explore these in my Roland FP-90 review and find out if it’s the right choice for you.

DESIGN


The Look

The Roland FP-90 is a portable digital piano. It is meant for professional stage performance. That’s why when you lay your eyes on it, you know it means business. The instrument looks firm and is built like a tank.

Although the FP-90 is sizable, it doesn’t look dull. Roland has put much attention to details on this model. You can immediately tell that this is an expensive piano.

There are two colors to choose from, black and white.

Overall, the Roland FP-90 looks strong, premium and high tech.

Music Rest

The music rest that comes with the FP-90 is one of many features that tells you the premium quality of this instrument. It is a transparent music rest.

The transparent music rest that comes with the Roland FP-90.

It is quite sizable to accommodate any score book. You can comfortably display three A4 papers side by side.

One small thing I have noticed is the angle of the music rest. Since the FP-90 is quite deep in size, the music rest sits at the back end with a quite straight angle. It is not difficult to read any sheet but you will notice that you are looking at your sheet from high up.

Control

The first thing I noticed is the controls on the Roland FP-90. They are cleverly designed and looks futuristic.

There is one LCD display in the middle and quite a few buttons and sliders. Unlike the conventional design, these buttons are circular and have indicator lighting around them. They look really nice and futuristic. You will be able to glance over the panel and immediately know which setting you are on right now. This could be very useful while performing on stage.

The control panel of Roland FP-90

Another really useful performance enhancing feature is the sliders. They allow you to change many settings on the fly. One thing I wish Roland has done is to add marks beside these sliders so that I can quickly find my preferred levels.

The controls on the Roland FP-90 is good looking, user friendly and very useful on stage. I am very happy how Roland has done it and I’m sure you will appreciate it too.

Keys

The Roland FP-90 comes with a full 88 keyboard. Being the flagship from Roland, you can rest assured that these keys are of the highest build quality from Roland.

The key tops are synthetic Ivory/Ebony. So you get that light yellowish tint across the keyboard.

Size & Weight

The Roland FP-90 is a portable digital piano aimed at stage performance. However, to house the best key action Roland has to offer and many other advanced features, the FP-90 is heavy and bulky. It won’t be an easy task to move it around. In face, I can’t imagine anyone to carry it around by themselves. You will need a hand from your band members.

The FP-90 weighs about 24 kg (52 lbs).

Without stand and music rest, it has the dimensions of 133 x 38 x 13 cm (53” x 15” x 5”)

KEY ACTION


The key action is one of the most exciting features of the Roland FP-90. It is the most realistic and expressive key action from Roland, called the PHA-50. This is the top of the line key action from Roland that you will find on many of its luxury models like the LX-17.

The PHA-50 is a hybrid key action that combines plastic and wood. There are two wooden panels on both sides of the keys. It does add a realistic feeling to key press. Compare to a full wooden key action, like those from Kawai, the PHA-50 is much lighter to play. Which is at the same time one of the complaints against this key action. Many pianists find it too light and doesn’t really feel like the acoustic pianos they are used to.

The PHA-50 key action on the Roland FP-90

The key tops are synthetic Ivory/Ebony and they are much better applied then the PHA-4 key action from Roland. You can actually feel the material and they do help with grip and moisture absorption.

The keys are also individually weighted and graded. The left side keys feel heavy and gets lighter towards the right.

It is a triple sensor key action and Roland includes simulated escapement into this key action.

Being the best key action from Roland, the PHA-50 on the FP-90 is authentic, precise and expressive. It is certainly one of the best key actions I have tried.

SOUND


Roland has established its unique position on the market by using modeling instead of sampling in its sound engines. Other brands like Yamaha and Kawai use samples from their acoustic concert grand on their digital piano sound engines. They record each note at different volume levels and sometimes from different positions inside and outside the piano. These small recordings are then played when the corresponding key is being pressed on a digital piano.

Modeling however, uses computer to create sound from scratch. It models hundreds of components inside the piano and analyze how the sound waves bouncing around these components. The result is a super detailed, highly customizable sound.

The sound engine on the FP-90 is a bit complicated compare to its competitors from other brands. There are two different methods being used on the FP-90. The four piano tones use modeling technology while the rest of the tones use sampling from acoustic instruments.

When you play the four piano tones, you get unlimited polyphony. This is only possible with modeling sound engine and is unique to Roland. You don’t get unlimited polyphony with any other brand on the market right now.

Besides unlimited polyphony, another advantage of modeling is that the sound is highly customizable. On the FP-90, you can use the Piano Designer feature to customize many resonances and noises as well as effects.

Overall, the SuperNATURAL sound engine on the FP-90 creates authentic, rich and expressive sound of a piano. It is one of the best sound engine on the market. Although some pianists find it man made and unrealistic, I do think for most players, the FP-90 will be a satisfactory experience.

Powerful speaker system of the Roland FP-90

Speaker system is another selling point of the Roland FP-90. It consists of four speakers outputting 60 watt in total. It is a very powerful system and the two tweeters help create crystal clear high frequency sound. With this speaker system, you can play the FP-90 without external sound system and create a volume similar to an acoustic piano. Hence, it can be used alone on gigs in a small/medium sized venue.

FEATURES


Besides the advanced half wooden key action and the modeling sound engine, the Roland FP-90 has many other useful features. It has Bluetooth for easy connectivity. It also has a microphone jack for you to sing along. You can also adjust some effects of the microphone input.

Unfortunately, there is no multi track recording on the FP-90. You can record up to 10 songs in MIDI or output WAV/MP3 to USB stickers.

Here are some other features that you might find useful:

  • Sound (72 total):
    • Piano × 15
    • E.Piano × 16
    • Strings × 11
    • Organ × 15
    • Pad × 15
  • Polyphony: unlimited (Concert Piano, Ballad Piano, Mellow Piano, and Bright Piano); 384 (other tones)
  • Key sensitivity:
    • 100 levels
    • Off
  • Modes:
    • Dual Mode: two instrument sound simultaneously
    • Split Mode: split the keyboard to different instruments
  • Internal recording:
    • MIDI: 10 songs
    • WAV/MP3
  • Connectivity:
    • Bluetooth
    • USB to Host
    • USB to device
    • Output (L/Mono, R)
    • MIDI (IN/OUT)
    • Input
    • Microphone
    • Headphones x 2 (6.35mm 1/4” + 3.5mm 1/8” )

ACCESSORIES


Being the flagship model from Roland, you can expect almost everything you would need with the FP-90. It comes with the transparent music rest and a very good sustain pedal. The pedal supports half pedaling and it feels realistic and precise.

The sustain pedal that comes with the Roland FP-90

Depend on your region and retailer, there might be a bench and stand included in the bundle. Otherwise, you will need to purchase it separately. Like any other portable digital pianos, you can choose between a furniture style stand with a three pedal unit or a portable style stand to move the FP-90 around gigs.

A good pair of headphones is always recommended for any digital piano.

Due to its high performance speaker system, you won’t need external monitor/speaker to perform for your family and friends or at small/medium gigs.

WHO IT’S FOR


The Roland FP-90 is recommended for intermediate and advanced players, especially gigging musicians.

It’s also not a bad choice for home use. Although you will have to pair it with a furniture style stand, bench and a three pedal unit. The total price will be higher and there might be better choices on the market.

As for beginners, I can only recommend it if money is not an issue for you. The good side is that you don’t need to upgrade any time soon with the FP-90 and you start with excellent key action from the beginning. The downside however is that you are paying for many advanced features that you won’t benefit from for at least a few years.

CONCLUSION


Roland FP-90 is one of the best portable digital pianos on the market right now. It provides realistic and expressive key action. The fully modeled sound engine offers so much details that you won’t experience on any other models on the market. It has many advanced features to enhance your stage performance and there is a microphone port that you can sing along. I would recommend any serious gigging musicians to consider the FP-90.

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY


OTHER OPTIONS


Roland FP-90 vs. Kawai ES8

The only other real competitor to the Roland FP-90 is the Kawai ES8. The Yamaha P-255 is somewhat inferior with a low price tag.

First major difference is in the key action. While FP-90 uses a combination of plastic and wood, the keys on the ES8 are fully wooden. The two instrument feel quite different when you play them side by side. The FP-90 is much lighter than the ES8. Although in my own opinion, the ES8 feels slightly more natural and real. The difference is minimal and subjective.

Sound wise, the FP-90 uses full modeling while the ES8 combines sampling and modeling. I still find the ES8 approach more natural but Roland has come a long way with their modeling technology and the result is very close.

Both instruments are highly customizable. The FP-90 has Bluetooth while the ES8 doesn’t.

The speaker system on the FP-90 is no doubt much better than that on the ES8. It has two tweets that the ES8 lacks and it has a much stronger output of 60 watt to ES8’s 30 watt.

The FP-90 also has a microphone jack that the ES8 lacks. You will be able to sing along on the FP-90.

Both FP-90 and ES8 are amazing instruments aimed at stage performance and they are similarly priced. You can’t go wrong with either of them. The choice in the end depends on your personal preference with the key action and sound engine.

For more details about the Kawai ES8, click here for my full review.


Leave a comment to let me know what you think of this review. And if you happen to have some experience with the Roland FP-90, please share with us in the comment below.

Roland FP-90

8.7

Design

8.0/10

Key Action

9.0/10

Sound

8.5/10

Features

9.0/10

Accessories

8.0/10

Value

9.5/10

Pros

  • Expressive key action
  • Full modeling sound
  • Bluetooth
  • Microphone jack
  • Powerful speaker system
  • WAV/MP3 output

Cons

  • Heavy and Bulky

10 thoughts on “Roland FP-90 Review – Unique in Many Ways!”

  1. Hi Wei,
    Thanks for this review, I love how you give thorough reviews for each model. I’ve had FP30 and while I love the sound and the key action, my main issue with it is its clunking/rattling keys. Would you say the same might happen if I upgrade to FP90? I’m an intermediate player and was also considering KAWAI ES8, YAMAHA YDP-S54,Yamaha P-515 after your reviews. Thoughts?

    1. Hi Jungwon,

      Thanks for your kind comment. Always glad to know that my review has helped you.

      The FP 90 uses a different key action compare to the FP 30 and there are fewer reports of rattling noise of the FP-90. I would worry too much about it.

      Personally, I really like the ES8 from KAWAI, although it’s quite heavy. If you don’t need to move the piano around, maybe also consider some of the upright style models. The Kawai CA48 is amazing and the Yamaha YDP-184 is pretty good as well.

  2. The keys on the ES8 are not fully wooden its all plastic, and there has been some issues with this mecanic only after a few months from new.
    Not only the Es8 but also MP7 and other Kawais.
    Its to bad since its beautiful pianos with fantastic sound.
    That’s why i went for a FP-90, i cant find anybody complaining about issues when googling about the FP-90.

  3. Hi Wei, excellent review as usual!…, is the PHA-50 a clicky key action like PHA-4?, people complaints about this action are: noisy keys, some says thats is too light, others says that it is very heavey, other says it is responsive, others says sluggish key action, other says that PHA-4 is better, even the Standard one…, some people says that the wood is only cosmetic, others that wood produce a more substantial feel, some says about reliability problems, others says that the PHA-50 in RD-2000 is different than the FP90, other says long pivot key action, others that this is a short pivot…, well the list continue, but at the end…, please tell me, in your opinion the positive and negative points about these key action, and your personal experience… Thanks a lot my friend!…

  4. Hi Wei – Nice review. For me, the two most important aspects of a piano are the sound and the keyboard action. Obviously, these are both personal considertions and I suspect someone brought up on an acoustic piano will have different preferences to a non-specific ‘keyboard’ player. Which is me ::-)

    Historically, I am an organ and synth player and couldn’t always comfortably manage fast licks on an acoustic piano. Most electric pianos, however, have a lighter action and I much prefer playing them. Apart from which, the action is usaully uniform across the keyboard by which I mean odd keys on an axoustic may be heavier or lighter than their neighbours. Or maybe just the old acoustics I’ve played! 🙂  I see that the FP90 has graded keys from left to right which should please traditional pianists although, personally, it’s not a massive factor for me except it makes me thump the lower notes that little bit harder 🙂 Having said all that about the excellent PHA-50 action. I can understand how some traditional pianists find it light.

    I’m probably with you on the sound. I think samples still have the edge over modelling. Most of my ‘pianos’ come from software instruments such as those by Native Instruments and Spitfire and, to be honest, it’s almost impossible to say what is a ‘good piano’ sound. There are so many! 🙂 It is, really, down to personal preference.

    Great review, but it doesn’t make the choice asy :-)Ian

    1. Hi Ian, Thanks for dropping by. You make a good argument but since we are talking about digital pianos, graded and weighted key action is simply a must. Not only does that mimic the action of an acoustic piano but you express emotion through the weight. 

      As for the sound engine, sampling probably still has a small edge over modelling right now. But I’m not sure what’s to come in the future as technology in this industry is evolving every year. We will wait and see.

  5. Thanks Wei, I enjoyed reading your post, I play the violin and have a stand up piano in my house. I can pick the scales slowly on the piano but I would really love to play the piano as good as I play my violin. The FP – 90 sounds very inviting. You did say it is for advanced learners. Do I qualify as an advanced learner or should I start learning with my stand up piano? 

    1. Hi Juliet, thanks for dropping by. The reason why I would only recommend the FP-90 for advanced player is actually the price. It’s a premium quality stage piano which is not cheap. As a beginner, you are paying for many features that you won’t utilize for at least a few years. But if it’s within your budget, certainly the FP-90 is a great choice to consider. Another thing to consider is portability. These stage pianos are built like a tank, which again you are paying for. If you don’t need to move the piano often, there are other options you might want to consider.

      For around the same price, these two furniture style digital pianos would be my recommendation.

      1. Kawai CA48

      2. Yamaha YDP-184

  6. The Roland FP 90 is one of the best in the business in my opinion. You give a very detailed overview of the product . The sound from experience not my own but a friends is just short of incredible almost better than a full size piano. Do you think this would be a good fit for a bigginer or is it strictly for stage performance?

    1. Hi Cathy, welcome and thanks for your comment. The Roland FP-90 is indeed a very impressive instrument. Only the Kawai ES8 can compete with it. I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners though. Because you will be paying a lot for features that’s not relevant for beginners. It’s always better to start with a cheaper digital piano and grow your way upwards. 

      One thing you need to keep in mind is how fast the industry is developing. Digital pianos are getting better and better every year. Once your skill level improves, which will take a few years, there will be better options on the market then.

      Here are a few digital pianos I would recommend for total beginners:

      FIVE BEST DIGITAL PIANOS UNDER $1,000 in 2018


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