The Roland HPi50e is available in an attractive simulated dark rosewood finish wood furniture cabinet assembled in the US (believe it or not, Roland owns a US factory) with a sturdy matching bench. What makes this piano unique in the digital piano industry is a number of things including a very large, easy to read built-in LCD computer monitor built inside the music rack (the only one of its kind from the major manufacturers), a vast array of intuitive piano instructional and practice software and songs accessed by a user friendly control panel just below the monitor, a full color menu of music lessons, 100's of popular play-along songs, auto digital sheet music page turner for sight reading music, younger & older kids fun interactive music theory lessons displayed in the large monitor, ensemble music styles for learning chord progressions and interaction, instant auto lesson correction telling the student what they did right or wrong displayed in the LCD monitor, and many other interactive learning and piano playing features.
The Roland HPi50e has hundreds of built-in songs for a wide variety of traditional & popular music along with actual interactive lessons, which definitely help you learn to play and are quite motivational because they allow you to sound good and have fun (and that's always a good thing). The user can also add their favorite General MIDI format songs from a USB flash drive and the HPi50e will instantly display the sheet music from that song. There are literally thousands of these General MIDI format songs for purchase on the internet from all your favorite artists and music styles, and some of these songs can be downloaded for free. Many of the songs will playback the original parts of that song in a GM (General MIDI) multi-instrument playback mode and you can interact with it by playing live piano along with the song while you set the tempo at any speed you desire. It's like playing piano with a band or orchestra and seeing the sheet music right in front of you! So whether you are a basic absolute beginner or are an advanced player, the Roland Hpi50e is super fun and helps you learn music at the same time. For more info on General MIDI, please read my review of General MIDI here: General MIDI Review
The Roland company has been producing the HPi series for many years and has had the HPi6, HPi7, HPi6F, HPi7F, and others, and after personally playing this model extensively, I am very impressed with it. For the first time ever in any major brand of digital piano that I know of, Roland now has 3 electronic key sensors per key along with an additional key scanning processor dedicated to processing key velocity information . This new 4-part electronics system is in all of the new Roland DP, HP, & LX models and makes a huge difference in overall touch sensitivity, dynamic range, and organic piano tone subtitles and is especially noticeable if you are a more advanced player. This new key sensor system is a big deal because you can get more powerful expression whether you are playing more softly or with great power pressing on the keys. The new extended tonality and volume range is pretty amazing and yet the soft to loud changes are smooth and even unlike other digital piano brands that I have played, and you'll definitely notice this. The key weight and static touch weight (amount of finger pressure required to press keys when keys are at resting position) is also more natural like an acoustic piano should be as well as balanced from bass through treble range and from black keys to white keys.
|HPi50e synthetic ebony & ivory keys|
The HPi50e acoustic piano sound is recorded directly in stereo from a Steinway acoustic concert grand piano. Roland has attempted to reproduce a much more "natural & beautiful" acoustic stereo piano sound in this model which they call SuperNATURAL Piano along with their 128-note polyphony piano memory chip (how many notes can be played and sustained at one time). After playing this piano many times I found that the 128-note polyphony memory in this model is more than enough for even the most complex piano pieces because of Roland's advanced polyphony voice allocation, even when you are layering and playing two sounds at one time. It's a fancy way of saying you won't run out of notes even when playing complex MIDI song files while playing live over the top of it. There are certainly other brands of good digital pianos with great sounding piano tones. But Roland is the only major brand who is using a Steinway concert grand piano sample with the 4-sensor key response and this is unique in giving the player a piano tone not found in any other top name digital pianos in this price range.
When it comes to display screens in digital pianos, this Roland piano has the best there is right now using a very large Graphic color LCD with 1,280 x 800 dots built directly into the music rack which Roland calls DigiScore. The DigiScore display can actually improve your playing. It doesn’t just display sheet music but can analyze your playing and assess how accurately (or not) you are following the music. That feedback alone could help you to improve your timing and sight-reading which I consider to be the most difficult thing for most students to learn. I do like large display monitor screens such as what's in my iPad and laptop computer and the larger they are with good resolution clarity, the better. This Roland HPi50e is beyond that of other large user display screens such as the one found on the new $10,000 Yamaha Clavinova CVP609 which has an 8.5 inch 800 x 480 dots (resolution) WVGA TFT Color Wide LCD display screen. Although the Yamaha screen itself is a touch screen which is very cool, at $10,000 approx discount price, the Yamaha CVO609 should have a nice touch screen for that price range. However, even without a touch screen the Roland HPi50e is easy to navigate from the control panel buttons and its monitor screen can also display up to 48 measures of music at one time in 32nd note resolution (small notes that are fairly easy to see on this kind of display monitor) which is quite impressive. The notation will also follow your performance and is synced to turn the pages at the proper time...how nice is that!:). The piano even has on-board piano exercises which
helps make your playing and reading skills challenging and fun as well as other educational fun features for kids & adults such as a graphical (visual) metronome, onscreen keyboard, fingering number display, and the list goes on. It is especially worth noting that the monitor screen on the HPi50 is directly in front of you built into the music rack where you would normally put sheet music so the viewing position of the display monitor screen is where it needs to be, unlike all other display screens in the other major brands. The display screens in Yamaha CVP & Kawai CP pianos are down in the control panel which makes you have to look down at it and that angle is not good when it comes to reading music or seeing digital functions in my opinion. The Roland HPi50e does not have this issue and that's a very good thing.
The HPi50e control panel is laid out in an intuitive way with buttons above the keys. The control panel buttons are easy to push and operate and the surface is not cluttered with unnecessary controls and it has easy to use display screen navigation controls (left pic). One of the main reasons for less uncluttered buttons on the control panel is because of the large display screen which is colorful and easy to navigate (using the navigation buttons on the piano panel) with most of the controls for the extensive features in this piano in the visual software on the display screen. The display screen is not touch sensitive like an iPad tablet so you must use the navigation buttons on the piano to move through the software features. But I found this to be easy and intuitive so not having a touch screen was not a problem for me, although I do like touch screens better but I assume that would drive up the piano cost quite a bit.
|Hpi50e interactive rhythm styles|
No matter whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, I believe the Roland HPi50e has something for everyone to enjoy and can satisfy a lot of musical tastes from Classical, to Jazz, to Pop, and in-between. In my opinion the primary reason why a person should buy any digital piano is, first & foremost, for the best piano key action and acoustic piano sound in the price range they can afford. Coupled with that are digital features which can help make the playing experience even more enjoyable. Depending on the kind of music you like, your playing skill level, your musical tastes, and your musical goals, this new Roland piano may be the perfect choice for you. However, if you just want a piano that has realistic piano touch & tone with a minimal amount of features and you do not want or need the interactive educational system on the HPi50e, then in the Roland line of pianos, the new HP605 ($3899 store discount price) may be a better choice. I have done a review on that model at the following link: Roland HP605 Review
For the average beginner or family who wants a very nice piano in a reasonable price range they can grow with while keeping everyone motivated and interested, the Roland HPi50e stands in a class all by itself as far as I am concerned. There is no other digital piano that I know of which comes close to what the HPi50e offers with regard to a unique educational package while still offering a very satisfying piano playing experience with realistic acoustic grand piano sound and responsive graded hammer style key action. The main downside I see with this piano is that it is offered in just one color (satin rosewood). I wish Roland had offered it in other color finishes (black, white, polished, etc) but for what it is and what it does, that's just a relatively small complaint. It looks good, sounds good, plays good, has tons of cool stuff in it, and makes you feel good, and that's what it's really all about...feeling good when you practice and when you play...and the HPi50e can do that quite well.