In the premium portable digital piano segment, there is the ES8 from Kawai, P255 from Yamaha and Roland launched their flagship FP-90 to compete in this market. It has many unique features that you won’t find on any other models out there. Let’s explore these in my Roland FP-90 review and find out if it’s the right choice for you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”)
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 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.
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.
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.
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
- Dual Mode: two instrument sound simultaneously
- Split Mode: split the keyboard to different instruments
- Internal recording:
- MIDI: 10 songs
- USB to Host
- USB to device
- Output (L/Mono, R)
- MIDI (IN/OUT)
- Headphones x 2 (6.35mm 1/4” + 3.5mm 1/8” )
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.