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 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.
Check out the best keyboard arrangers in this article here.
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.
I recently wrote about some great metronomes for piano. Check them out here.
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
If you’re looking for a keyboard stand, check out my favorites here.