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The Roland FA 08 is the newest version of the Fantom series. I previously owned the Fantom G 88 workstation before I upgraded to the FA 08.
Overall, my review is that the Roland FA 08 is an underrated keyboard workstation. I think that this is a keyboard that works for touring extremely well and also works as a studio keyboard.
Most workstations are expensive and I like that this is affordable, yet still competes with the best ones on the market. This is a really great keyboard for serious musicians who want something that gives them endless creativity with sound design and recording.
Roland FA 08 Review
The FA 08 is my touring keyboard that I also run as a MIDI controller. This is a great option as it doesn't overheat like other keyboards I have had. It is also far cheaper than other options.
The key-beds on the Fantom series keyboards are fantastic. Honestly, this is one of the reasons why I am a little biased towards Roland keyboards. To me, one of the most important things on a keyboard is the key-bed.
There’s nothing more frustrating than playing a keyboard that doesn’t have weighted keys or just has terrible action.
You can read all of my reviews on Roland keyboards by clicking on this link.
The FA 08 has the classic Roland staple Ivory feel key-bed. To me, this feels almost identical to a real ivory key piano key-bed. I prefer the feel of ivory over any of the synthetically blended key-beds as I feel like the action just can’t be beaten.
Using The FA 08 As A MIDI Controller
I used the G8 as a MIDI controller with Ableton Live and it worked really well for the most part. However, it took a while to program it and get it working the way I needed it to.
The MIDI technology was a little dated with the G8 so I was hoping the FA 08 would be better. When I plugged my FA 08 into my laptop, it worked immediately and it worked superbly.
The reason I love using this keyboard as a MIDI controller is because I can use Ableton and access unlimited sounds. Roland also put 16 different trigger pads on the keyboard. You can use all of these buttons to switch your synths on your computer without even leaving your keyboard.
To set the pad mode up and use it as a MIDI controller you simply:
- go to menu
- click pad-mode
- go to sample pad
- use the buttons in sequence with your DAW
Overall, the sound quality is fantastic. I love being able to tweak the sounds right on the interface. There are 6 control knobs that feel nice and haven’t worn out on me yet. I like how the reverb sounds on the effects. It comes with over 2,000 pre-sets that you can easily tweak to your liking.
If you’re someone who loves using your keyboard to bring in the full band, you may want to read about keyboard arrangers.
I think the sounds are much cooler on the FA 08 than on the G8. Some of the pads remind me of the old school Roland synthesizer pads. I personally think Roland does an amazing job with pad sounds as well as warm bass tones.
The FA 08 is nearly half the price as it’s biggest competitors and I honestly think it sounds just as good as them. The pre-set brass patches sound a little bit thin initially, but you can tweak these to your own liking and beef them up a little bit.
I really like the sound of the pianos and electric pianos. I think the acoustic sounds are not as good as the Yamaha Motif, however, I think that the pads and organs sound infinitely better on the Roland.
FA 08 VS The Fantom G8
When comparing the two, the first thing that comes to my mind is the huge difference in weight. The G8 is nearly 80 pounds and when it came to touring with it, it was difficult. I spent three years lugging the G8 in and out of music venues and it got to be too much
The FA 08 is only 35 pounds. To me, this was a huge upgrade because I didn’t have to worry about carrying it on my own. The exterior of the keyboards is also very different.
The G8 would constantly get too cold or get too warm because it was constructed with metals. When it would get too cold it wouldn’t turn on so I would have to wait for it to warm up to turn it on. When it would get too hot at outside venues, it would just turn off on me.
The FA 08 doesn’t overheat and it also doesn’t have a problem getting too cold. For me, these were two huge wins for Roland.
This keyboard is streamlined for a much easier time when creating music on it. The G8 supported computer mouses and the FA 08 does not.
To me, this isn’t really a big problem since I don’t record music into my keyboard. If you are planning on doing all your recording into your workstation, then you might like having the mouse feature.
*Note this workstation does not have speakers. You will need to connect to external speakers such as your monitors or a keyboard amp. This is very common in workstation keyboards as you can use headphones with them.
Favorite Things About This Workstation
- The key-bed
- Has over 2,000 high-quality pre-sets
- Relatively inexpensive for a workstation
- The sound of the pads and basses
- Extremely light-weight
- High-quality MIDI pads
- MIDI functionality
- Great LCD screen
- Can download free tones from the Axial website
Things I Don’t Love About This Keyboard
- It decreased from 24 audio tracks to 16. I get why they did this though. Roland did this so that they could cut costs. Cutting costs here was smart because so many people use DAW’s nowadays. If you are using your keyboard with a DAW you won’t find this to be a problem, but if you do all of your work on your workstation, you might miss the extra tracks.
- Lack of SDXC support for SD cards that are 128GBs or larger.
- It has only 2 expansion slots instead of 4. This isn’t a huge deal since the sounds are great already, however, I always crave new sounds
- Surprised it doesn’t have a touch-screen. Some of their competitors have this feature and it makes sense to have it.
- I wish it had a common power supply. Most keyboards do and I hate that I can’t use a standard power cord as its own special power
The FA 08 is provides you with a great experience whether it be for touring or for studio use.
I enjoyed reading your feedback on ROLAND FA 08. I am a classical trained pianist and a songwriter. I have the choice to buy a second hand Yamaha MO8 or a Roland FA08. I am not tech savvy. I could learn. I want to record my songs without going to a studio, using a producer, as it was too expensive.
So far, I like the pianos and sounds on the Roland more than on the Yamaha, but the price a could get is much better (half) on the Yamaha than on Roland. I have the feeling that it will take a longer learning curve to become comfortable with the Yamaha. Am I right? Do you think the difference in price should be the deciding fact?
I believe that the FA 08 is easier to use from my experience. I also believe the sounds are a bit better and the key-bed is definitely better.
You would be fine with the Yamaha MO8,however, I would recommend the FA08. While it is more expensive, this is the type of keyboard that you wouldn’t really outgrow, so you would definitely get your moneys worth!
Can I make FA-08 Bluetooth so that I can connect to sound bar.
Yes. You can. Contact Roland for information about how to do so.
Nice and very detailed review. As a Fa08 owner, I must admit that this workstation is a beauty and works brilliantly both in the studio and on the stage. The action is pretty good and clearly better than its direct competitors, holding its ground against the more expensive models in the current market. Got both the FA08 and the Kronos in my studio and they complement each other beautifully. Extremely underrated keyboard. Got mine for 1200euros…a no brainer decision…exceeded my expectations. Btw awesome sounds in the Roland website duly organized by available libraries free of charge. Hands down one of the best workstations in the market.
Hey Mark, thanks for the kinds words.
Yeah, this keyboard has been with me for three roads on tour and I couldn’t be happier with it!!
I played keyboards, organs and pianos as a teenager, many years ago. I want to take it up again and consider the FA 08 as it seems very versatile.
I have an opportunity to buy an 5 year old FA 08 from 2016 for less than half price of a new. Any thoughts on this? Is there anything particular i should check on a used one?
In the section about things you don’t love about the keyboard, you say that you wish it had a common power supply. Can you explain what you mean by that? It looks like it comes with a power supply, so is it just proprietary (i.e. you can’t swap it out with another generic power supply if you lose the one it comes with while on the road) or are you talking about something else?
Also, you mention that it doesn’t come with speakers. It looks like there are built-in 1/4″ audio outputs, so an additional audio interface isn’t needed to play this out of the box, as is common with MIDI keyboard controllers, correct?
Thanks for the questions! What I mean by a common power supply is just your AC cord as most of my workstations have used those. There are built-in audio outputs, I was simply letting non-musicians know that there aren’t built-in speakers usually on workstations.
MIDI controllers are the same way, yet are typically connected via USB
Cool, thanks! The listing on Sweetwater’s website says it comes with a 9V DC power supply, so at least it’s got a non-USB power source, although it begs the question, will it work if it’s connected to USB as a MIDI controller? Also, is there a dedicated power switch so it can be turned off without unplugging it? I have used some instruments that don’t include this for some reason and have to be unplugged to turn it off.
Hey again! You will need to power it on. I just tried this with mine and it requires the power on. Once it’s turned on you can connect it via USB and it works great. This is actually what I used when I tour!
I am new to workstations and wasn’t aware the FA-08 didn’t have a built in speaker until I read your review. What would be a recommended amp/speaker for the FA-08? I just play recreationally in a home studio.
I am trying to replace my Technics KN 1200 which went kaput. I’ve had it since 1996. Since I don’t use computers to compose music, will the FA 08 play Roland sound modules and is it easy to learn since all the technology has passed
me by. I had a hard time understanding the FA 06 and had to send it back due to the lack of step by step instructions.
Can you help?
Hi Chris, interesting to read. But now in 2022 we have the Fantom-0-Series, what about this in relation to “your” Fa-08? And what about the Korg Kross 88 MB? I have an old Korg Kross 61 and I find it quite good, but not the keys. I am a singer songwriter too (not a pianiste), but in Germany. Regards John
I use FA08 as MIDI keyboard and sometimes writes on it. I have been having the same questions. What I come to learn is that the FAs and Gs are work stations. The Fantom 0s and the new Fantoms are synthesizers primarily. On a G you can produce a song start to finish without going to a DAW. FA can’t do as much as G, but is more streamlined. It makes more sense to compose on it. The new Fantom and Fantom 0 has a “pattern sequencer” rather than a traditional liner sequencer. I can see that it’s good for DJs and perhaps live performances. But I am scared that I’d get lost not knowing how long a “pattern” is or lose track how different patches interact. Words on the street are that most people don’t use sequencers or even workstations in front of the computer daw options… so Roland’s sequencers culminated at G and FA. I’d go with a G. But FA has functions like “rehearsal”, where you can keep the loop running and play notes as you write, and once you have something you just click a button in sight and record. You can write a song, without moving your eyes away. FA was also built based on the Integra 7, which means that it’s compatible with Integra 7 sounds. New fantoms have a sound library that actually predates Integra 7, which many say not as good. I really hate the color red and the overall design of FA. It’s like a wife that doesn’t cause trouble, clean the house, cook for you, but not as good-looking as a Jupiter-80 or other younger fantoms. But it’s really easy to get along with and make your life writing songs easier.
Hello Chris, I appreciate the work and generosity you provide with your posting.
I am attempting to replace my main stage keyboard with the FA-08. I want to disable the MIDI output changes to bank and program settings on my connected modules and boards, so that I can change patches on the Roland without affecting the downstream units. Thanks for your time.