Roland RD-88 Review – Great Choice For Serious Players?

RD88

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.

Roland RD-88
4.0
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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

my rd 88 in my studio

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.

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • 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.

Design

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.

Keys

rd 88 keys

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.

Speakers

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.

Portability

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.

Connectivity

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.

Compressor

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.

Reverb

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.

Sounds

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.

Piano Sounds

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.

Electric Pianos

The electric pianos on the RD-88 are well-rounded. I believe they stand up to Yamaha’s, which I have always enjoyed, personally.

Organs

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.

Pads

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 10Yes, 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.

Overall Thoughts

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.

Roland RD-88

4.45

Design

4.6/5

Key-Action

4.5/5

Sound-Quality

4.4/5

Features

4.3/5

Speakers

4.5/5
16 comments
  1. Really appreciate the I’m depth review and for giving some opinion. Curious if you can comment on the ease of layering sounds (not splitting ) and also saving presets. Thank you.

  2. What is the polyphony? I did read that the action of the keys on the keybed are a little lighter feeling when playing them even though it is still called a PHA4 keybed. What is your experience with this? Thanks for any information in advance.

  3. Good overview. I’ve been happy with the RD88 so far and am still working my way through the many sounds and options. I personally would have liked to have another set of real time dials for controlling parameters, especially when connecting to MainStage, Roland Cloud, or other VSTs.

    I think worth mentioning that with Roland Cloud and ZEN-core, the RD88 goes well beyond an FP90 or other digital piano class instrument as you can craft your own sounds or import them from other ZEN-core synths (including the software version). While any midi keyboard can interface with a device for gig or at home, the ability to transfer patches natively to the RD88 and access them on board without a VST/computer is a nice option.

  4. Good overview Chris, I am still a beginner but i would like to buy a good quality digital piano mid range price and wondered if the RD88 is too advanced for a beginner. Also i am looking at Yamaha GDX 660 as well as Roland RD88, can you please let me know how these 2 compare, many thanks Claudine

    1. Hi Claudine, thanks for the question!

      I would say the RD88 wouldn’t be too advanced. If you’re really invested in learning to play and you can swing the price, then it’s a great keyboard. I would say the same with the Yamaha DGX 660. The FP-10 is also a really great look, especially for the price.

      I would recommend any of these 3. If I was picking for myself, I would do the RD88.

      Cheers

  5. Definitely rd 88 is an overrated keyboard.
    Pianos sound tinny and lack warmth compared especially to even yamahas lower priced p125.
    Also electric pianos not good. Leaking depth and warmth again.
    Also too much menu searching for sounds.
    Would not recommend

  6. I tried them all and ended up buying the RD-88. The Pianos are great and the feel is great. I have friends who bought the RD-2000 and say they would have bought the RD-88 if it was out then. For the price it’s a great keyboard filled with beautiful Pianos. Electric Pianos, strings, pads, brass, organs, choirs synths and so much more. I use it gigging and in my studio along with an Fantom x8. It offers so much with Roland cloud and Mainstage which opens up a world of musical gems. Make no mistake the RD-88 is well worth the price and more.. The customer service sucks but then again all companies customer service sucks these days. I give the RD-88 5 stars

  7. I’ve had my RD-88 for over a year and I love it. The only thing I dislike is that you can’t really transpose on the fly, You literally have to stop playing to punch a button and a key.

  8. Aku kurang sepakat dengan artikel anda. Aku mau anda dapat membetuli tulisan yang telah anda unggah di laman kami. Terima beri banyak untuk semua isu yang anda berikan melainkan untuk kebaikan kita seluruh, anda dapat berikan sedikit tambahan isu dimana kesibukan yang anda lakukan.

  9. Chris Senner , thanks .
    I went into a music store in the city after ( or in the midst of ) covid , played the
    RD-88 and simply kept going back to it repeatedly upon each successive visit .
    It was sorta / kinda like a hypnotic experience as I flirted hopelessly with it’s well endowed keybed intertwined beautifully with the lush Roland grand piano sample… ( What manufacturer’s piano is that lovely grand piano sound from anyway ? )
    Surely your Wonderful , thorough in depth product review justifies Me adding one of these to My touring rig and thus now puts Me in square opposition to My WIFE !
    Thanks again . GD

  10. I’ve had everything over the years! When playing out Concert ‘s I use a real B-3 organ, a real grand piano, a nice synth. But I bought it to use for rehearsals, beside performances, a little Living room get together. Anyway
    Love it, plays great and actually gets pretty loud. Being Stereo it’s sometimes the last thing people passing away hear. The programming was a challenge not very user-friendly but got it! Great layered sounds, a B-3 with a Leslie. I ended up with 3 separate pedals. Sustain pedal for Piano, a moog volume pedal long throw like the Hammond swell pedal, another pedal to trigger glides, ect. But mostly to trigger slow & fast Leslie!
    Dale from : Michigan

  11. I own the RD-88 for a few weeks now – for home playing and homestudio music production. Very satisfied with keyboard action and sounds. I mounted my RD-88 onto the stand of a FP-10X, called Roland KSCFP10-BK. Fits perfectly, because the lower part of the RD-88 case is exactly the same as the FP-10-casing. Even the four threads for secure mounting are abailable. So I made a slim home piano out of a stage piano 🙂
    Also wanted to note, that not every headphone is perfectly suited for the RD-88: with most lower impedance headphones you‘ll hear some hiss (not too bad, but a little distracting). Now I use the Beyerdynamic DT-880 (250 Ohm). Also with my AKG K-712 there is no hiss. But with all 32 Ohm headphones I tried, there was a little noise.

  12. I have had the RD88 for over a year and really enjoyed it. If you use VSTs, this is a great product. The RD88 has a built in audio interface so you can run one USB cable to your computer and it handles the midi and audio connections. VSTs like Kontact can bs used on your computer and the sounds played back through the RD88’s speakers/main outputs. This makes it super easy to layer internal sounds like the great sounding piano with VST sounds. The knobs make it easy to control parameters in the VSTs. This keyboard is also much lighter than other 88 key weighted keyboards. I have been happy with the keyboard and if I dropped it and it broke, I would purchase another. The only odd downside….it is a smaller frame so there isn’t much free space to put other midi controllers on. It is funny to compare the size of this keyboard to other keyboards. I have an older keyboard that has enough “dash room” to put a laptop computer on….youwon’t be putting a laptop on this keyboard.

  13. I was blown away when I started programming mine!
    I PLAY key bass in 4 bands : they were blown away how good & the sounds were & how fast I got it programmed in just a short time I’ve had it. [ WAS a Chellege ] But
    Got : a great Piano, Bass, Hammond with a usable Leslie effect, both smooth & Deep Purple sound. A nice MIDI GRAND, RHODES, ECT. MINI MOOG LEAD .
    Hate to say but grew up playing and had everything: B3, clavinet D6, mini moog, wurlitzer, fender roades, profit 5, Baby grand. NOTE: Just bought it for a lite and small practice keyboard! Love ❤️ it! Dale Beagle – Michigan
    A BIG NOTE : using 3 pedals ; one for triggering Leslie effect, one for Piano sustain, MOOG volume pedal for Organ, Strings, Horns, Synth sounds!

  14. A couple of questions about the audio routing in the RD-88 that I can’t find out from the manual:
    1. Is their an option for a separate Fixed level piano output? (Clearly no jacks but maybe a setting)
    2. Is the Mic level independent from the volume (or does master volume also affect Mic)? (Even worse is the Mic sent out of the Line outs?)
    I’m trying to replace my RD-500 from 1992 that I use with an external monitor and want to use the onboard speakers as the monitor to simplify the rig. For this to work I need the piano output to the desk to be separate from the level to the internal speaker and ideally the Mic input also to be independent. I bought an FP-60X to do this and it is impossible – I was hoping the RD-88 as a dedicated ‘stage piano’ might have the flexibility to do this!

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