A musician and his or her instrument, when it is the right one, can create magical moments, especially during a live performance. If you are a keyboardist who performs live on a regular basis then you need an instrument you can depend upon. For keyboardists around the world, Roland has been a trustworthy name for a long time. They make some of the most highly-acclaimed keyboard models out there and here is a look at three of the best Roland keyboards for Live Performances.
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Roland JUNO DS-88
JUNO is one of the most acclaimed line-ups from Roland aimed at offering a lot of bang for the buck. The previous DI models under this line-up had become somewhat of an industry standard for people looking for a dependable stage keyboard that didn’t break the bank. The DS builds on that and comes with many improvements that justify it as a great option, especially as a stage keyboard
Portability And Durability: These are two very important factors for a stage instrument and the DS-88 shines when it comes to both. It weighs in at 36 lbs or 16.2 kg which might seem like a lot but is actually quite low for a keyboard with 88 fully-weighted keys. The DS-88 is easily one of the most portable 88-key keyboards out there.
As far as durability is concerned, this keyboard is built like a tank. While the accent lines might come off with time, the keyboard as a whole should last for years or even decades as long as it isn’t mishandled too often.
Feel: As an 88-key model, Roland has gone for a realistic piano feel with fully weighted ‘Ivory Feel – G’ keys. Are these keys as good as those on a real piano? Not so much but it isn’t too far off. The texture on the keys is really good especially if your fingers get sweaty during a performance. Pianists will find the keys very familiar. However, those transitioning from keyboards without fully-weighted keys will need some time to get used to it. This keyboard doesn’t quite have the premium feel of the high-end options but it isn’t too far off either.
Sound: This is where the DS series has really made a great stride. The sounds are all of exceptional quality and there are over one thousand of them to choose from. With 128-note polyphony and a huge plethora of effects that can be applied, you can really tailor the sound to suit your music. Up to three multi-effects can be used at the same time and it is more than enough for most use-cases in a live setting.
Stage-worthiness: As we are primarily looking at a stage instrument, this is perhaps the most important factor to consider. The Roland JUNO DS-88 mostly scores highly here. The buttons and knobs are laid out neatly making it easy to make changes during a stage performance. The two areas that could have been better are the screen and the combo stick for pitch bend and modulation. The screen is a bit on the smaller side and the stick will always return to a neutral position which might not be what you want for certain modulations. However, these are very minor shortcomings and something you can certainly live with.
Who Is The Roland JUNO DS-88 For?
This is the perfect option for anyone who wants that authentic 88-key piano feel at a reasonable price that offers enough flexibility and durability to make it a very worthwhile option as a stage keyboard.
If you are someone looking for the ultimate stage keyboard then the RD-2000 is inarguably your best bet. It is as good as it gets both as a portable piano and a workstation keyboard that can do pretty much everything you can think of on a stage with a keyboard. It does command a premium price but this is one of those cases where every penny is still worth it.
Portability and Durability: At nearly 48 lbs or 22 kg, the RD-2000 isn’t very portable but it can still be used as a stage instrument. You just might need a bit of assistance in moving it around.
Durability is where this additional heft is a positive. This keyboard as a whole looks and feels like the premium instrument it is. It is built like a tank and while you would want to take good care of such a premium instrument, it is always good to know that it can take the occasional abuse that any stage instrument is bound to suffer.
Feel: The RD-2000 uses Roland’s PHA-50 progressive hammer action keys which are among the very best in terms of feel, stability, and consistency. This is as close as a digital keyboard gets to an acoustic piano with one key difference. The keys are just ever so slightly lighter than piano keys and this is great as it allows you to get the most out of the excellent piano sounds while not feeling restricted when playing one of the many non-piano sounds. All the knobs and sliders feel really premium and every aspect of this keyboard justifies the price tag.
Sound: It should come as no surprise that the Roland RD-2000 comes packed with some of the best sounds found on a stage keyboard. It does lack onboard speakers but that should not be a big deal for a stage musician. Combining this keyboard with the right sound system shows the quality and depth in its tones which are just mesmerizing. There is a good mix of authentic-sounding tones and some truly unique sounds. This keyboard also offers plenty of room for experimentation making it capable enough to play even the most obscure music you can think of.
Stage-worthiness: While the aforementioned weight can be a bit of a hindrance when it comes to moving and setting this keyboard up, once you do that, there are very few keyboards that come close to it in terms of what you can do with it on a stage. The expansive real estate above the keys has been utilized very well to make sure that all the live controls you could ever need are laid out within reach. Everything is grouped very well and in an intuitive manner. The screen is surprisingly good and you will be able to do plenty of complicated setting changes and tweaking with relative ease even in a live setting.
Who is the Roland RD-2000 for?
This is a premium instrument and as such, it commands a premium price. This is not a keyboard meant for everyone but if you are looking for that one-time investment on a stage keyboard that will probably never need an upgrade then this is it.
Roland VR-09-B V-Combo
The two keyboards that we looked at so far were on the beefier side but if you want something that is as portable as it gets without sacrificing functionality then the Roland VR-09-B V-Combo is it.
Portability and Durability: The VR-09-B V-Combo weighs in at just 12 lbs or 5.4 kgs. This is extremely useful for a musician who is constantly on the move or has to be very flexible with where their instrument is positioned on stage. As an added boost as far as portability is concerned, this keyboard is more than capable of being powered by batteries.
Normally, such a high degree of portability comes at the cost of durability but that is not the case here. While it isn’t as sturdy as the other options we looked at, the VR-09-B V-Combo is sturdy enough for life as a stage instrument.
Feel: This is one of the smoothest keyboards in terms of feel. The 61-keys feel very predictable and the articulation is just right. Pianists will find the keys a bit on the lighter side but it doesn’t take long to get used to it and once you do, you will find out that this really makes the playing quite effortless. This can be particularly valuable during long performances.
Sound: Straight out of the bat, the organ sounds are exceptional and some of the best you will come across in a digital instrument. The nine drawbars make it really easy and intuitive to dial in the perfect organ sound. The other tones while not being ground-breaking are still good enough for any stage performance even in a highly professional setting. The effects are all quite good and can enhance various aspects of your performance.
This is one of the best stage keyboards out there. The portability is unrivaled without making any major compromises in any of the other areas. The 61-key layout is also much more compact. The biggest advantage is the way everything is laid out. Spending just an hour or so with the Roland VR-09-B V-Combo is good enough to become highly familiar with it which can make all the difference between a good performance and one that brings the house down.
Who is the Roland VR-09-B V-Combo for?
This keyboard is reasonably priced making it an excellent proposition for anyone on a mid-tier budget. It is the perfect option for anyone looking for a keyboard that is all about portability and stage compatibility without making any major compromises elsewhere.