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

RD88

The Roland RD-88 Stage Piano was created in hopes to control the market for keyboards near the $1,000 price point. With this being said, there’s a lot that goes into actually accomplishing that, so, did Roland get it right?

I believe they did, but with this being said, I think there are also a couple of other keyboards that are great as well that we will get into.

The RD 88 comes with over 3,000 presets and is loaded with all of the features you would need for doing your standard gigging as a musician.

Roland RD 88 Overview

RD 88 Overview

At first glance, you can notice that Roland is really following the trend of the portable & sleek designed keyboards. I personally love these as they make it so much easier to gig with and transport.

The RD 88 cuts a lot of the fat that other keyboards still have and it also streamlines some intuitive features for ease of use.

If you’re looking for stage pianos, I recently put together an in-depth look at the best stage pianos.

You can easily navigate with the small interface in the middle of the keyboard and you can see which sounds you are on. This is the case with all keyboards around this price range.

If you compare it to the Roland FP-10, you will notice that the FP10 doesn’t have an interface. This is expected as the RD88 is an extra $500. Digital pianos that are under $500 are typically streamlined in order to cut the price down.

With all of this said, let’s get into the full review.

Roland RD-88 Specs

  • Lightweight & Portable
  • Easy to use LCD Interface
  • PHA-4 Keybed
  • Three zones with external control
  • Zone EQ: 3 systems
  • 3,000 presets
  • 8 types of Chorus/Delay effects
  • Sympathetic Resonance
  • 6 Reverbs
  • Master Compressor/Master EQ
  • USB Flash Drive
  • Input EQ
  • MIDI Capable
  • 2X 4.7 Speakers
  • 2 Tweeters
  • 2 Amplifiers

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 a great keybed in my opinion as I have owned various types of Roland keyboards over the years.

These keys are designed to return back to their resting position as soon as you lift your fingers off of them. This helps to emulate a real acoustic piano in the dynamics department.

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 really help with delivering a solid sound system.

The speakers aren’t the most powerful, however, they are plenty loud for just playing in your living room. Just like any other keyboard, you would be hooking up to an amp or PA system for live performance.

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

RD 88 Connections

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, you have all of the standard connectivity you would be needing.

Sounds

The sympathetic resonance on the RD-88 actually improved from the RD-2000, which is crazy, seeing how it’s about $1,000 cheaper then RD-2000.

To me, 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 really wanted to push the limit in terms of presets. This is a pretty large number of sounds when 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 definitely solid.

If you’re looking for a better sounding piano, you can use the RD-88 has a MIDI controller and use a piano VST. To me, the piano VSTs typically beat stock keyboard sounds. If you’re curious, here are some of the best piano VSTs available.

VS The FP 10

RD88 VS FP-10

Does the Roland RD-88 top the FP 10? Yes, I think it does, but is it worth the additional $500? No, I personally don’t believe it is. I would recommend going to the FP 90 for the price.

Obviously, this is just my opinion, but let’s look at why I believe so. First, the speakers are the same thing. The RD-88 does add the tweeters, but the actually speakers the same.

In addition to the speakers, the keys are also the same. I do enjoy the PHA4 keybed, but it is also on the FP-10.

So, where does the Roland RD-88 beat the FP-10?

It wins in the presets department big time. There are over 3,000 sounds on the RD-88 and only 15 on the FP-10. This means it’s far more versatile.

You also have an interface with an LCD screen that makes it really easy to navigate the keyboard.

The effects department is also won by the RD-88, with 6 types of reverb to really 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 going to be gigging, you’re going to want a sustain pedal, an instrument cable, and most likely an amp, unless you’re using a PA.

Overall Thoughts

To wrap this up, I believe that the Roland RD-88 is a great middle-of-the-road option. I don’t really have a ton of complaints about it and I think it’s great for the intermediate player or advanced player on a budget.

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
6 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

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