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After spending 30 days with the Roland RD-88, I will give you my full thoughts. First, I think the Roland RD-88 is genuinely one of the best digital pianos near $1,000.
If you’ve followed my website and reviews of digital pianos or simply my musical journey as a touring musician, you probably know I’m a huge fan of Roland digital pianos, and I’m thrilled to bring you another review of a fantastic instrument.
The Roland RD 88 is a fantastic option that is a little bit cheaper. I own this keyboard and play it on the daily. The electric pianos and feel of the keys are the selling points in my opinion.
This article will deliver my complete review of the Roland RD-88 and explain why I think it’s a significant win for Roland – acting as an alternative to the more expensive RD-2000.
Boasting over 3,000 sounds, a fantastic keybed, and a slim and sleek design, the Rd-88 raises the bar for what should be expected out of a digital piano near its price point.
Roland RD 88 Overview
Upon taking the RD 88 out of its box, I was met with a much sleeker design than I expected, which was to my liking. As someone who incorporates various keyboards into their rig, I appreciate a slim and sleek design for ultimate portability.
Anyone looking for a solid-sounding, portable digital piano will be happy with the RD-88, whether they are touring or frequently gigging at a local coffee house.
You will find in this review that the Roland RD-88 has done a great job at streamlining impressive features from their other keyboards, such as the RD-2000, into a more affordable option for musicians. They all achieve this by taking on the market of portable powerhouses that we are seeing more of.
If you’re looking for stage pianos, I recently put together an in-depth look at the best stage pianos.
Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of the RD-88 below.
- PHA-4 keys for impressive action
- Fantastic piano/electric piano and organ sounds
- Solid effects
- Most affordable stage piano that’s high-quality
- Built-In USB audio interface
- Useful Mic in slot
- Great EQ
- Impressive speakers
- 19 lbs lighter than the RD 2000
- Navigation took a little time to get used to
As you can see from above, the only thing that I wasn’t over the moon about was the navigation. But, other than this, The RD 88 shines bright.
Compared to the Roland FP-30X, the RD-88 comes in about 5 lbs lighter, weighing 27 lbs. Compared to the Roland FP-10, which has been discontinued, the RD-88 is 2 lbs lighter. While I believe the RD-88 is the choice over the FP-30X and the FP-10, the appeal of the FP-10 was that it was a solid digital piano under $500.
The design of the RD-88 is one of the slimmest that I’ve encountered over the years. What has surprised me most is the durability of such a lightweight build. I have a rather aggressive playing style, and the heavy key-action is fantastic for me – more on this later.
You will notice that the effects, including reverb, are on the left of the RD-88. I like this placement as I can adjust any parameters while still playing with my dominant hand.
All the nine preset patch banks are located on the right side of the keyboard. The one thing that is confusing is navigating through all of the sounds.
I would rather have a navigation issue than a performance issue when costs are cut, which is a silver lining.
With this being said, I’m used to turning knobs to get to new patches, and with the RD-88, you are clicking arrow keys.
When using the buttons and knobs, I was pleased with how they felt. I genuinely love the way all of the control knobs feel on Roland’s, as they seem to always go above and beyond in this department.
Overall, the RD-88 won’t blow you away with its looks, but it will impress with its features, keys, portability, and sounds, especially for the price.
Roland RD-88 Specs
- Keys: 88 Full-sized weighted keys
- Key-bed: PHA-4 with escapement/ivory feel
- Presets: 3,000
- Internal memory: 400 scenes
- Effects: Reverb, EQ, Chorus, Delay, Sympathetic resonance
- Connectivity: MIDI out, USB, Mic input, Sustain
- Headphone port: Yes
- Modwheel/portamento: Both
- Polyphony: 128 note polyphony
- Speakers: 2 x 4.7″ woofer, 2 x .78″ tweeters
- Amplifiers: 2 x 6W
- Height: 6.3″
- Width: 50.5″
- Depth: 10.1″
- Weight: 29.8 lbs
For additional specs and features, check this link here.
Roland went with the PHA 4 with escapement keys. For those wondering, yes, this is the same keybed as the FP 10. This is an excellent keybed, in my opinion, as I have owned various types of Roland keyboards over the years.
These keys are designed to return to their resting position as soon as you lift your fingers off them. This helps to emulate a real acoustic piano in the dynamics department.
Note* I have to say that the keys on this board are heavier than those of other Roland keyboards I’ve played. I am a fan of the heavier action, but some pianists might prefer less weight.
Onboard, the RD88 carries 2X 4.7-watt speakers with 2X .78 tweeters. The tweeters help in the upper register of the keyboard. Typically, keyboards that have them sound crisper in the higher notes.
You also have 2X 6-watt amplifiers onboard with this keyboard. These states compare relatively well with most keyboards near this price range. The fact that you have the tweeter and the amplifiers help with delivering a solid sound system.
I’m personally surprised by the noise of this keyboard for how slim it is. The speakers perform better than I had anticipated overall and still leave you room to push the needle a little more.
The Roland RD88 has portability on its side, weighing only 29.8 lbs. This is one of the reasons why digital pianos are so popular today. If you compare this to how much an acoustic piano weighs, it’s around 40x lighter.
Aside from its weight, the RD 88 also is slim and sleek, providing ease of transportation.
The RD-88 features some great connectivity for even the most serious gigging musicians. Here is a list of what it includes below:
- Stereo 1/4″ Headphones Jack
- Output jacks (L/Mono, R): 1/4″
- 1/4″ Mic Input Jack
- Line input jack: stereo 3.5mm
- MIDI out jack
- USB-to-device; USB-to-host (supports USB MIDI/AUDIO)
You can see from above that you have all the standard connectivity you need.
For those who like to get their hands dirty with shaping their piano sounds, the RD-88 has a built-in compressor. The compressor affects the master output, allowing the pianist to control more dynamics.
You can bend the attack, release, and output. The RD-88 allows the pianist to dive deep when modifying their sounds for the stage, which is a massive win, in my opinion.
One of my favorite features of a digital piano is reverb. I love how reverb works with piano, and it truly allows you to dial in your perfect piano sound.
I love the reverb effects built-in with the RD-88, and they are accessible.
The sympathetic resonance on the RD-88 improved from the RD-2000, which is crazy, seeing how it’s about $1,000 cheaper than the RD-2000.
When you play chords on the higher end of the register, you will notice how well it sustains and glistens like an actual piano.
There are over 3,000 presets with this keyboard, and you can tell that Roland wanted to push the limit in terms of presets. This is a pretty large number of sounds compared to others in its price range.
With this being said, the standard piano sounds are your classic Roland sounds. To me, they’re good. They’re not mind-blowing, but they are solid, especially for this price point.
If you’re looking for a better-sounding piano, you can use the RD-88 as a MIDI controller and use a piano VST. To me, the piano VSTs typically beat stock keyboard sounds. Here are some of the best piano VSTs available if you’re curious.
I believe the RD-88 has a dark feeling, especially when using a little EQ and reverb. When applying just a touch of reverb, the piano sounds incredible for stock digital piano sounds, and this is coming from someone who regularly plays on acoustic pianos and uses piano VSTs.
The stock preset piano is my favorite on the RD-88, and I find it can cut through the mix quite well when playing live.
The electric pianos on the RD-88 are well-rounded. I believe they stand up to Yamaha’s, which I have always enjoyed, personally.
One of the biggest surprises for me when sound surfing was the sound of the organs on the RD-88. By using the control knob, you can dial in the rotary speaker speed control, which adds to the realness of the organ sounds big time.
When you hear the name Roland, you likely will think of pads immediately. The pads do not disappoint with the RD-88, and I have experimented with using one of the soft pads in a new piece I’ve been working on.
Integration With Mainstage
As a lifelong Ableton Live user, I downloaded Mainstage to check out the integration. I’m not highly familiar with Mainstage, but I can say that Roland put in some great time to make sure everything is fairly simple to figure out.
When you activate DAW control mode, you will notice that you can control Mainstage from your RD-88 and surf all of your favorite patches.
I also own the Roland FA-08, which has its own interface, so I’m familiar with the RD-88 and its interface. A built-in audio interface is essential for gigging, and I can vouch for Roland when I say they are incredibly reliable.
I also want to be clear in the sense that I’ve used Roland keyboards as MIDI controllers for over eight years of touring. They’re highly reliable and built for the road.
VS The P-515
Let me start this section off by saying, this is entirely subjective. All pianists prefer different brands/styles when playing.
With that being said, I prefer the Roland key-action over the P-515. In my opinion, the sound department is a toss-up, as both of these keyboards sound pretty darn good for the price point.
If we are talking about strictly using these two for gigging, I will pick the RD-88 as I like the way the keys feel, and I tend to run digital pianos as MIDI controllers.
It is also 20 lbs lighter and far slimmer than the P-515. However, where the P-515 excels is that many love the sampled piano sounds they use as well as the speaker department.
The speakers are more prominent on the P-515, making a difference if you do not plug into a PA, use headphones, or use an amp.
VS The FP 10
Does the Roland RD-88 top the FP 10? Yes, I think it does, but is it worth the additional money? Again, I believe it is, especially for those looking for more sounds to explore, with the RD-88 packing 3,000 sounds.
You also have an interface with an LCD screen that makes it easy to navigate the keyboard.
The effects department is also won by the RD-88, with six reverb types to bring out the warmth in your piano sounds.
Gigging With The RD-88
The RD-88 makes a solid keyboard choice for gigging musicians. The number of presets and the quality of sounds mixed with the portability goes a long way in playing live.
If you’re gigging, you’ll want a sustain pedal, an instrument cable, and an amp unless you’re using a PA.
I believe that the Roland RD-88 is an excellent option to wrap this up. Outside of the navigation issues I mentioned, I don’t have any complaints about it, and I’m surprised by its overall feel and sound.
I highly recommend checking this keyboard out and the FP-X series by Roland.