Read the following review for the HP504 as well as the discontinued HP506 & HP508: Roland started making digital pianos many, many years ago and is well known throughout the world for building higher quality, advanced digital music products that piano students, players, teachers, professional musicians, churches, and studios use. I have played and used many of the Roland music products over the years including their digital drum kits, MIDI guitars, home organs, pro keyboards, digital pianos, pro audio systems, keyboard & guitar amps, headphones, special effects systems, MIDI products, and other music gear, so I am very familiar with their products.
|HP508 polished ebony|
|Roland HP504/HP506 control panel|
I have already played these pianos many times and I really did not expect them to be as good as they were as it did not look like much had changed on the inside from previous models. However, I was very surprised that they had changed (improved) in a big way with regard to the fundamentals of piano playing including key action, sound & dynamic response, and pedaling. The best product change analogy I can use is when Apple computer company upgraded their iPad2 to the iPad 3 with Retina display screen. The iPad Retina display was a huge upgrade in terms of the screen display quality and realism for images, the processing power was greater too and buyers were very impressed and bought them in huge numbers. The Roland HP504 (left pic with bench), HP506, & HP508 is much the same way in its new upgrades of noticeably superior piano performance over previous models. The new key actions are much quieter and move better than before, the piano sound and dynamic range is much more realistic & pure, and pedaling is improved. For those people who play digital pianos or have played good acoustic grand pianos, you would be able to tell how good these new Roland pianos really are as compared to anything that Roland and other piano companies have had before. The subtleties in tonality, nuance, dynamic range, and expressiveness are evident when playing complex music in ways not possible on Roland pianos in the past.
Roland has two new upgraded piano hammer weighted graded key actions and they have been given names instead of the boring model numbers used in the past. The best key action, which is in the HP506 & HP508, is called Concert Keyboard (an appropriate name actually). The key action in the HP504 is called Premium Keyboard. The difference between the two is that the Concert Keyboard in the HP506 & HP508 feels even more like a grand piano to me and the Premium Keyboard action in the HP504 (below left pic) is feels slightly less like a grand piano as compared to the Concert Key Action but still very enjoyable to play and much better than most other brands in its price range. In comparing even the HP504 Premium key action to the new Yamaha CLP525 and CLP535 digital pianos, the Yamaha GHX key action feels very stiff to me and noticeably harder to push down when playing. This can create hand and finger fatigue over a period of time and for me, that experience is not enjoyable. I much prefer the smoother Roland key action down weight (aka: (touch weight) along with a nice upweight key return. Piano keys should go down fairly easily which is the way most good acoustic grand pianos are like.when you play them. So when compared to other brands such as Yamaha, I believe the newer Roland key actions definitely come out on top and are more enjoyable for beginners or advanced players.
|New synthetic ebony keys|
|New synthetic ivory keys|
Overall, I like the SuperNATURAL piano sound very much because it's quite expressive and offers a beautiful acoustic playing experience more closely associated with the Steinway grand piano sound and I can hear that and it's impressive. However, everyone has different ears and reacts to sound differently but I personally enjoy playing and listening to the Roland acoustic piano sound in these new models and in the HP508, it's a big resonate piano sound also because of the substantially upgraded internal speaker system. People who own these new pianos have told me they really can't believe their ears at how good the piano sound is and how much it sounds like they are playing a real piano. For me personally, the sound of any of these new models, especially through headphones, really moves my musical soul and allows me to create the music that's in my head and on the music in front of me.
With regard to the piano pedals, they operate very smoothly and feel realistic to press down and incorporate the three traditional pedal functions (damper/sustain, sostenuto, and soft) of regular acoustic pianos. They do work better than other digital pianos I have played and also simulate a good note sustaining experience using a damper continuous detection pedaling feature. This function gives the player incremental note sustain amounts rather than just on & off or half pedal. It is definitely a much more realistic acoustic piano playing experience than other brands as well as physically feeling like the pedal is changing resistance when being pressed down. Roland calls this feature Progressive Damper Action. Having quality piano pedals & accurate piano pedal operation is very important, especially to more advanced players. Roland does not skimp on this area of piano playing like some other digital piano manufacturers do. Even the height of the pedals (an important aspect of pedal playing) is accurate as compared to concert grand pianos like the Steinway acoustic grand pianos. Every aspect of pedal playing can make a big difference in technique and performance and these are not features and functions that should be overlooked.
|HP508 control panel|
|General MIDI sound|
The speaker/audio system in each model is good and gets better as you go up in models with the HP508 being noticeably best of all. Each piano model has more audio power, bigger speakers, and more speakers than the model before it and the better internal speaker systems do make these pianos sound more realistic. The HP504 has 24 watts of total audio power going into 2 amplifiers and 2 speakers and although that specification may not seem like much, this model is surprisingly loud and full for its smaller size due to special Roland speaker technology and competes quite well with the bigger 40+ watt audio power of other digital pianos. Even though the HP504 specs are quite similar to the much lower priced Roland RP401R, the HP504 piano sound system has a noticeably richer more resonate piano quality to it as compared the the RP401R in the "under $2000 price range." These Roland models (including the HP504) also have built-in audio outputs so you can add a small external sound system to any of the models (like you would to a TV, iPod, home stereo, etc) and then you can enhance the volume even further if you want. The HP506 has 74 watts (an upgrade over previous model) of total audio power going into 4 amplifiers and 4 speakers, and the HP508 has 150 watts (an upgrade over previous model) of total audio power going into 4 amplifiers and 6 speakers. The HP508 is a bit taller piano (about 45" tall with music rack up - about 38" tall with music rack folder down) so that the 6 speakers can be laid out inside the piano with two near the top, two near the keyboard, and two below pointing forward (instead of down in the other two models). This system gives a more balanced approach to recreating the acoustic piano playing experience and it really makes the piano sound like a big acoustic grand piano. So it's not only the power or the internal audio systems themselves, but how and where they are installed in the piano and how the individual piano tones are projected through those different systems. Roland has been in the professional pro audio business for many years (I have owned and used some of their pro audio speakers) so they do have experience in this area and it shows in these digital pianos.
The best way I can sum up and identify the major changes in the HP504, 506, and 508 from the previous models are as follows:
1. PHA-4 Concert Keyboard with Escapement and Ebony/Ivory Feel features Roland’s latest high-resolution touch-detection technology
2. Fortissimo (dynamically very loud) playing styles are fully expressed with the Dynamic Harmonic feature, which provides both a unique tonal character and powerful sound
3. New Individual Note Voicing to customize the sound to your taste by adjusting the pitch (tuning), volume, and character of each note independently including Stretched Tuning: -50.0 – +50.0 cent, Note Volume: -50 – 0, Note Character: -5 – +5
4. Headphones 3D Ambience effect sound experience while using headphones for private practice
5. Display music scores and selected tones & songs with Piano Partner app for iPad
6. Independent volume control for headphones, volume limit function, and a 4 level tilt adjustable music rest which no other major brand has
7. Different connectivity with mini stereo input and output jacks as opposed to standard 1/4 jacks
I do need to point out that while all of the upgrades on these new pianos are pretty impressive, the most interesting new feature to me is that for the first time that I know of on a top name home digital (upright style) piano, you can actually adjust each of the 88 notes one at a time for tuning, volume, and character (voicing). On other top name digital pianos you can only do this for all 88 keys at one time, but not for each note individually. This may not be useful or ever necessary for beginner thru early intermediate players, but for more advanced players you may have reason to want specific notes individually altered because of the way you hear your music and the notes that are playing. It's all about the "ear" and about your piano playing experience & skill level, thus you may find this new and impressive feature useful to be able to play your music exactly in the way you want it to sound over 88 individual notes. I have used this feature to customize the piano sound and I like the result very much.
Another new Roland creation I found intriguing was the "3D effect" through stereo headphones. It's supposed to give you the impression the piano sound is all around you coming from different directions as opposed to directly into your ears. Roland calls it "an immersive sound experience" which gives you the feeling you're not actually wearing headphones at all...and that's really the point of this feature. I tried it out and found that overall, it had a more natural effect than listening through stereo headphones without it. It actually did sound like I wasn't wearing headphones...although I was:). This is new technology in digital pianos and it's a nice feature to have especially if you'll be using headphones often. The 3-D headphone sound effect only works when the ambiance button on the piano control panel is selected and it can be turned on or off or controlled in incremental levels Also, it's important to have/own excellent sounding stereo headphones for private playing because you want to capture all the nuances of the new enhanced Roland piano sound dynamics and tonal qualities. I can give you some good recommendations if you don't already have headphones.
|HP506 rosewood closed key cover|
I always like to suggest good alternative digital pianos so people have a chance to make the best decision before purchasing one. Below are 4 excellent alternate choices which offer a variety of features along with a very satisfying piano playing experience. There is one thing that I always try to get people/shoppers to understand: you do not have to spend a lot of money to get a real good piano playing experience along with some of the latest digital piano technology. Two very good digital pianos to consider under $2000 newly released in the US (to the internet) are the Casio Pro division Celviano AP460 and AP650. These 2 models actually offer more in a some areas with regard to key action, piano sound, features, and cabinet design. The AP460 is $1499US discount price and the AP650 is $1899US discount price. The AP650 is in a completely different league when it comes to the features that it offers as compared to the Roland RP401 so if you can stretch your budget just a few more hundred dollars then that model would be a good consideration for a longer term purchase. Both Celviano models even have a 5 year labor warranty with in-home service as opposed to the Roland 2 year labor warranty, so that extra labor warranty is a big upgrade as well. Go to the following links below to read my reviews on these two new models.
Celviano models.Casio AP650 Review
Casio AP460 Review
*Check out these videos below demonstrating various things about the new Roland pianos