The problem with the music instrument industry releasing all their new stuff at the same time – as they do annually at the USA’s NAMM trade show – is that useful but not-particularly-sexy stuff can easily get lost. So, here’s one example that I think a number of pianists and keyboardists wanting mobile keyboards might really appreciate.
Digital pianos, done right, might live up to this scene from the movie Crazy People.
There are plenty of digital pianos. They tend to fit in two categories: good, but massive and heavy, or light, small, and … slightly crappy. (At least if you suffer through the onboard sounds.)
So, Roland’s RD-64 is a pretty simple value proposition. You get the number of keys you’d normally need: 64 of them. It still has the feel of a hammer-action piano (scaled down a bit so you get the majority of that feel without a huge amount of weight). It’s a piano a pianist would be comfortable playing or practicing on – in terms of sound and feel – but that that same pianist could actually lift.
Weight: approximately 28 lbs, Roland tells CDM. (about 12.7 kg)
The onboard SuperNATURAL sound set for acoustic piano, vintage electric piano, clav, and organ likewise covers 95% of what most keyboardists need, rather than covering the remaining 5% by doubling the weight and cost.
Roland has also seen the light on class compliance – thank you, iPad – releasing a driver-free USB implementation that will work with everything from iPad to Linux to Windows and Mac without driver installation.
You don’t get any knobs, but onboard you’ll find the classic Roland-style pitch/mod wheel and D-BEAM touchless infrared controller. And while there are other compact keyboards, Roland’s sounds – twelve of them, plus EQ, reverb, and multi-effects – set it apart. SuperNATURAL isn’t quite as deep as one of the bigger sample libraries available in software, but it gets in the same ballpark of playability and quality without having to switch on a computer. And it easily bests, I believe, other controller keyboards in this price range by a pretty wide margin. There are even sound features like damper resonance, and the organ and electric piano parts sound lovely, too.
The keybed, for its part, has the textured feel of piano keys and sensors, escapement, and other details that should make this comfortable for trained pianists and keyboardists to play.
And since you can use it with an iPad, this is a reasonable solution without having to work out where to put a laptop.
Due around March, for US$1195.
RD-64 Digital Piano [Roland Connect]
And it’s hatchbackable.