As a diehard Roland keyboard player, I have to say that I am so happy to be writing this article right now. I consider the Roland Fantom series to be one of my favorite series of all-time and I have to say, Roland has knocked it out of the park with this workstation.
The Roland Fantom workstation is currently the most innovative workstation available. From DAW integration to the sound engine it is simply out of this world.
I have to say, I am a big MIDI controller guy and I often use my Roland FA-08 as a controller. With this being said, MIDI lovers will absolutely fall in love with the Fantoms capabilities.
If the Fantom is just a little bit too steep in its price, I recommend the following choices
- Roland FA08
- Kurzweil PC4
- Yamaha MODX8
The Fantom is available in the following sizes:
- 88 keys – Includes PHA-50 key-bed
- 76 keys
- 61 keys
My first thoughts upon looking at the Fantom is that it looks sleek, dynamic, beautiful, and ready to be played. I owned the Fantom G8 for about 10 years and I got every penny out of that keyboard as possible, before getting the FA-08.
It is my opinion that the Roland Fantom is going to become the workstation giant in the next coming months to years as I feel like Roland has nailed some extremely important features, including its ability to work flawlessly with analog synths and as a MIDI controller.
The MIDI integration with Roland keyboards, in general, has always been spot-on. I used the G8 as a MIDI controller before MIDI keyboards really grew in popularity and it worked seamlessly, even 10 years ago.
With this being said, the DAW integration is easily the best available in any workstation. The touchscreen controls and parameters that you can tweak directly from your Fantom is out of this world.
I strongly suggest checking out these other guides that I’ve created to help you with your musical journey.
- Best Keyboard Workstation
- MIDI Controllers
- Kurzweil PC4 Review
- Best Free DAW
- Piano VSTS
- Electric Piano VSTs
- Guitar VSTS
Note: The new Fantom does not have the famous D-beam controller function. I personally never really loved this feature, so it doesn’t really bother me. With that being said, some people actually love it and use it quite often.
- Iconic TR-REC Sequencer
- Best DAW Integration On A Workstation
- MIDI Controller Functionality Is Top-Notch
- Allows for fast and simple recording
- Touch Screen Interface
- Massive Sound Library
- Comes With 16 RGB Lit Pads
- Incredible Key-Bed
- Durable For The Road
- User-Friendly Layout
- Step-Time Recording Allows For Input Quantization
- Analog & Digital Filters
- Everything Is Visual With The Controls
Roland Fantom Review
The Fantom is a professional workstation that is loaded with quality features including a sequencer, touch-screen interface, 16 pads, 14 endless encoders, incredible DAW integration, and more that we will get into shortly.
The touch-screen interface is one of the things that really sets this keyboard apart from its competitors. The seamless transitions and recording that you can do at the click of your fingers is ridiculously awesome.
Design Of The Fantom
You will notice that the overall design of the Fantom has greatly changed. I personally think that Roland crushed it in this department. While it slightly resembles some of the heavy-hitters like the Montage, it also brings its own uniqueness to the table.
The one negative with the design of this keyboard is the overall weight. People will definitely comment on the weight of this keyboard as this is quite heavy. With this being said, I owned and did national tours with the Fantom G8 and I was always okay.
Roland laid this keyboard out in a very unique way. If you view the left side of the Fantom, you will be observing the MIDI controller side. This is an extremely unique design as Roland has laid the Fantom out to have a synthesizer side and a MIDI controller side.
Note: Everything is visual with the Fantom. I am going to mention this several times as I truly believe this is a huge selling point. If you want to do a filter sweep or tweak a parameter, you will see it on your interface of the Fantom.
If we go back to the left side you will see the following:
- 16 zones for external and internal
- 8 endless encoders(Double as Harmonic drawbars for Tone-wheel Organ)
- 8 sliders
Looking at the right side you will see the following:
- Pitch Filter
This is the creation or synthesizer side of the workstation. You can instantly tweak and create your own synths just like that.
The touch-screen is beastly on this keyboard. Roland set this up perfectly and I think this will help it grow in popularity.
The way the touchscreen works is actually quite simple. You can tweak your V-Piano sounds with it, as well as record and sample, all within minutes of each other.
I especially love the Step Time feature. You can directly record into your Fantom and I believe this is a huge win.
The interface overall on the Fantom is a huge step forward and a major achievement for them. This actually feels great when using your fingers to use the touch-screen.
I’ve always been paranoid of touch-screens, however, this one seems to be a major exception.
As mentioned above, the interface is a touch-screen that allows you to control your DAW and synth sounds.
This interface will benefit both beginners and advanced players as it allows for simple recording and sample editing. One of the major problems with workstations is that beginners often-times can’t find the right information in order to begin producing or writing.
The screen is measured in at 7 inches and it is also LCD Backlit. I personally do not believe that the interface is too small. I’ve seen a few people claim this, however, I think it’s a great size.
Note: The touchscreen on the Fantom allows keyboardists to switch between 16 different synths seamlessly. For example, you could have an electric Rhodes piano and instantly change to a ripping lead at the click of your finger. Because you have the ability to switch your synths right on the interface, the pads have been moved further to the right than on previous models.
The sound engine is next-level on the Fantom. Coming in with V-piano technology, over 3,500 presets and 90 drum kits, all designed uniquely. It’s an expandable 16-part multitimbral sound engine that allows you to transform and tweak your sounds directly on its interface.
As far as the piano sounds: I truly believe that the piano presets are the best available presets on a workstation. This is all subject to personal opinion. However, I’ve played the Kronos, the Motif, and the Montage and I just love the piano sounds on this Fantom.
With this being said, the ability to tweak the pianos is what really sets this keyboard apart from the rest of the herd. You can tweak even the way the piano is tuned and you can it as everything is visual. Roland laid the Fantom out in a way that makes sense for beginners and advanced players and this goes far.
The electric piano presets are honestly some of my favorites on a workstation. They just sound real to me. The problem with a lot of electric pianos is that they usually just sound cheap or thin to me. If not done right, they can sound ultra-cheesy.
For the old-school synth lovers, the Fantom features an analog filter that provides a lush sound. I still remember playing on the Roland Polyphonic about 3 years ago. The pads are the warmest sounding pads I’ve ever played. The Fantom does a great job at bringing this feeling back with the Fantom as best as it can.
The DAW integration is easily the most advanced in a workstation. You are able to control your DAW in every single way that you would want to. With this being said, when I compare it to the FA-08, I love what they did differently with the Fantom.
I’ve noticed that I have to run my FA-08 externally in order to run it as a MIDI controller. When I do this, I no longer have access to the internal sounds. So if I’m playing a show, I need to either be external or internal sounds if I want to be able to switch easily.
With the Fantom, you can seamlessly record an internal sound and then record a VST directly after. The connectivity on the Fantom is also special. The Fantom brings you the following:
- 1/4 headphone jack (stereo)
- Main OUT Jacks (L/Mono,R)
- Main Out Jacks (L,R) (XLR Type)
- Sub Out1 Jacks (L,R)
- Subout2 Jacks (L,R)
- Analog Output Jacks
- Mic/Line Input Jacks
- Foot pedal jacks including hold, CTRL1, CTRL2, CTRL3
- MIDI connectors (I/O1, O2/Thru)
- USB Memory
- 3 external device ports
One thing to note is that, if you’re an organ lover, the faders turn into harmonic drawbars for tone-wheel organs. These are extremely expressive and the faders themselves feel durable.
My personal favorite part of the DAW integration is that the interface literally turns into your computer. You can do basically everything directly from the touchscreen interface that you would typically have to use your computer for.
Ex. If you’re using Mainstage, you will notice that you can actually browse your VST library directly from the Fantom. This is pretty fricken cool.
Watch this video here and listen to the sounds of the pianos and electric pianos.
I personally think that this is the workstation that the keyboard world needed. With so many people going the MIDI controller route, this is a breath of fresh air for the community.