What is it that makes this new models worth considering? First of all, Roland has produced a good hammer weighted & graded piano key action, acoustic piano sound, and pedaling realism that surpasses what I expected in this price range for Roland and is better than many other pianos in this price range, which I mentioned earlier. The key action is called Standard Keyboard action and has a more fluid key movement and graded weighting from low to high keys with nice smooth synthetic ivory feel material on the keytops. The new Standard Keyboard action also has an escapement/letoff feature which tries to simulate the feel the escapement/let-off (from a real grand piano) which you could not do on the previous model. Although this escapement key movement function is still too subtle and not actually like a real grand piano, at least it's a more noticeable than in the past. Roland has also improved this key action from older models in the past by decreasing the key noise to an overall acceptable level although their is still some clunking noise when playing the keys more aggressively when the keys hit bottom and the action movement itself is a bit heavy and sluggish as compared to other digital pianos in this price range, However, the Standard Action has risen to a better level of comfort and playability than Roland has had in past models. It is important to note that Standard action is not as good as the key actions in the higher priced Roland HP digital pianos over $2000 such as the DP603 or HP603, but that is certainly to be expected. When I say "not as good" that simply means that although the F140R has a playable key action in this price range, you can get Roland pianos with key actions that are noticeably upgraded for even more authentic key movement. It would be like comparing a good acoustic upright piano to a good grand piano. If you want or need an even higher level of key action authenticity (generally a smoother and slightly lighter touch), look at the the higher priced Roland HP series pianos.
When it comes to actual acoustic type piano sound, Roland has a 128-note polyphony sound chip which they call SuperNATURAL Piano. The Super natural piano sound in Roland digital pianos has been around in previous models but is different depending on the models. There are three different levels of this SuperNATURAL piano sound in the various models of Roland pianos which I call "good, better, and best." The F series piano SuperNATURAL sound is good, the more expensive HP504 piano sound is better, and the newest DP603/HP603 through LX17 models are the best. Roland really should have specific names for these 3 levels of SuperNATURAL sound, but they don't...possibly just to confuse everyone...which I believe they do:). However, an experienced piano player like myself can definitely hear the difference but the F140R is still good with organic changes in tone color across the entire 88 keys, and it doesn't have the drawbacks of the some other brands, so the Roland SuperNATURAL piano sound will be pleasing to a number of people. It is important to note that the Roland piano sound can be noticeably brassy or twangy when playing the key action harder and more aggressively because the piano sound becomes brighter the harder you play the keys and this harder velocity triggers a certain piano tone for all the FP30 acoustic piano sound choices which results in a "twangy" tone and that is the best way I can describe it. When you play softer on the keys then the tonal changes sound nice and smooth with expression...but when you play harder the piano sound just gets too twangy & metallic for my tastes and sounds more "digital" instead of organic...at least it does to me, and other people (not everyone) I have spoken to have also mentioned this.
The dynamic tonal and volume range of expression of the acoustic piano sound is quite large and has been noticeably improved over the previous models (which I just mentioned) when playing very soft gentile music to a more aggressive loud piece of music. This is due to the new PHAIV key electronics because the sensing of key repetition has also been improved because Roland has 3 electronic key sensors per key along with an additional key scanning processor dedicated to processing key velocity information makes it so that more advanced players can play complex music which requires faster note repetition and allows for more noticeable musical expression. The 128-note polyphony power remains the same as in previous models, which is how many notes can be played and sustained at one time. Even when layering a stereo acoustic piano sound with a 2nd stereo sound (like string symphony) or adding other digital effects on these pianos, there was no note drop-out at all like I have found on a few other brands. The SuperNATURAL piano sound is recorded in stereo from a real grand piano and then enhanced with Roland digital sound technology. When comparing the Roland proprietary 128 note piano polyphony chip with some larger 256-note polyphony chips in other brands, I find there is no discernible difference and the F140R does a very good job in being able to play a large amount of notes using two or more sounds combined along with other digital features simultaneously, so the polyphony "number" doesn't always tell the whole story.
Piano pedals and pedaling ability on digital pianos is also very important and should not be overlooked whether you are a beginner or advanced player. The most important pedal is the right damper/sustain pedal because that's where 95% of the pedaling happens for most beginners through recreational players. The other two pedals (soft & sostenuto) are used in much less degrees depending on the type of music being played and your pedaling skill level. Roland offers what it calls continuous detection electronics for the damper and soft pedal which means that it will allow for more incremental damper sustain time and soft tonal changes when pressing the pedals down or letting them up instead of just on or off changes the way other digital pianos work. Some piano companies have the half-damper sustain pedal electronics which also can allow for a wide range of sustain for the right pedal which is very good. Roland's pedal technology works well for beginners as well as more advanced players or students who are progressing in their playing skills. When I was trying out the damper sustain pedal I noticed two things which made the sustain sound more realistic. One of these things was a damper resonance feature giving the piano tone a natural organic sound such as what you would hear in acoustic pianos, along with a much longer sustain/decay time allowing for longer natural decay instead of shorter pedal decay times found in cheaper/off brands.
Natural pedal sustain/decay time is how long the sound takes to fade out after striking keys and letting them go while holding the right damper/sustain pedal all the way down. The longer the "damper/sustain pedal decay time," the better and more natural your music will be. On some of the digital pianos under $2000 that I have played in the past, the amount of damper pedal decay time is typically not very long when holding down the right pedal after playing some keys, especially the keys/notes on the right side of the keyboard. Those are the treble notes on the right side of the keyboard and they fade out the fastest (because they are shorter strings in a real piano while the left keys (bass notes) have the most/longest fade-out time because they are longer strings. This is an important aspect of piano playing because real acoustic piano strings keep resonating for longer periods of time after a key has been played in the normal playing range with the pedal held down, and a digital piano really needs to get close to that time to offer a natural piano sound playing experience. It takes advanced sound/pedal decay time technology in a digital piano to allow the longer pedal sustain/decay time to take place. The Roland F140R is one of those pianos and has more natural pedal sustain/decay time depending which notes are being played. That is substantially longer and smoother than many of the other digital pianos out there and is an important element not to be overlooked when shopping for any piano. If you are a beginner student then the advanced pedal technology will mean very little to you. But as the student progresses in the playing ability or you are already at an intermediate playing skill level or higher, that pedaling sustain time technology will become very important and these new Roland pianos will rise to the occasion. The middle sostenuto pedal is so seldom used that Roland has also given a person the ability to control various functions of the piano by triggering them with the middle pedal such as on/off drum rhythm function, into/endings, fill-ins, and other things which give a more professional ability to using these extra features. The middle pedal can still trigger the traditional sostenuto function, but it also does these other things too. The bottom line is that full size pedals are important in the way they move, feel, their height position on the piano, and their ability to recreate the actual acoustic piano pedaling experience, and to me that's something I look for in a digital piano. If the student is a beginner or very small where their feet cannot reach the pedals yet (little kids), then the more advanced pedaling of these new Roland pianos is irrelevant, but later on you will likely be glad you have it:).
If the new more advanced key action, piano sound, and pedaling functions was all that were in these new pianos, they would still be very competitive with other brands...but there is so much more that it's pretty amazing in my opinion. Let's start with the instrument sounds and related features. First of all there is a total of 316 tones including 6 primary stereo acoustic piano sounds in a button called "piano", along with a large selection of strings, choirs, electric pianos, mallets, church/pop/jazz organs, voices, harps, guitars & banjos, accordions, bass, synthesizers, horns, reeds, woodwinds, special effects environmental sounds, and more in another access button called "other." These sounds are not your average quality found in a few other brands, but they are at a higher realism level of the actual instrument tone, although some are better than others.
On the control panel, a bright LED display screen reads out info on these various sounds and other features which helps you know what sound or function is being used. Many of the instrument sounds are in stereo and you can combine two sounds together to create a layered sound. You can also split the keyboard into a left and right section wherever you choose, and then assign one sound to the left hand and another sound to the right hand (such as piano on the left hand and harpsichord on the right hand for some interesting classical music), or an upright bass and cymbal on the left hand and a grand piano on the right hand for a bit of jazz, all of which is fun to do. There are also preset sound layers already built-in (such as grand piano and string symphony) which is quite nice, so that you can combine a preset layer like that one with another individual instrument sound and get 3 sounds at one time. That's a very cool thing because it gives such fullness to the overall sound to have three instruments playing at one time with every key that you touch. You may not use that type of feature often, but I personally like it, especially when trying to reproduce orchestral instrument combinations.
One of the more fun things these pianos offer is the Roland intelligent interactive chord ensemble styles. This kind of function goes way beyond just having drum rhythms or simple accompaniment sounds. The Roland interactive rhythm & chord accompaniments actually sound like CD quality band arrangements including drums, guitars, bass, keyboards, horns, etc that you would hear a live band play. They sound like the real thing instead of toy-like sounds that you would find on other brands of digital pianos and keyboards. With this new interactive chord accompaniment system, you control the band with the chords you play on the left hand and the right hand. This is not a new feature since all the major brands have a system like this including Yamaha, Kawai, and Casio. What makes this one unique is how realistic it sounds as compared with a real band (as I mentioned) and also the flexibility you have with adding or subtracting parts of the band playback chords as well as controlling relative volume with your right hand melody line so one does not overpower the other. There are 72 intelligent rhythm chord accompaniments with an additional more complex arrangement for each one, offering a total of 144 accompaniment patterns, and they all sound great. The band arrangements include a variety of light, medium, and heavy rock bands, jazz bands, 40's big band, swing, disco, hip-hop, boogie, country, 50's, Latin, gospel, polka, march, waltz, and ballads from all eras and music styles.
You can use the intelligent accompaniments in three different ways. The first way is you can electronically split the 88 keys into two parts wherever you choose on the keyboard, and then you play a 3 finger (or more) chord on your left hand and play a melody with your right hand to go along with the left-hand chord, and the result is that you sound like you are playing in a band, only you are controlling and determining the song you're playing. A second way of using the feature is to play 1-finger (root note) left hand intelligent chords if you don't know anything about playing piano at all so even beginners can have fun. This intelligent chord feature is great for beginners (it makes you sound better than you are:) and its also great for accomplished players who can play full chords like me because it adds an entire live band to whatever music I want to play with both hands using as many fingers as I want. I've got to say that I was very impressed with the musicality and complexity of these accompaniment chord patterns and the fact you could also control other aspects of the intelligent chords by taking out or muting the actual instruments, bass line, or drum rhythms, or a combination of two or more of those functions while you're playing the chord. It's like you have total control of the band and I find that very liberating and useful as compared to other pianos like this under $3000. You can even use the drum beat patterns by themselves to help you with your rhythm and timing by adding a drum beat to your music (instead of using the metronome) without using the interactive chord arrangements. There are super cool intro's and endings for the arrangements that make the music sound naturally organic, and it offers professional band play-along realism at the touch of a button
When playing chords in the split mode (left hand/right hand), it recognizes the proper bass line no matter what inversion of the chord you are playing (root, 1st inversion, 2nd inversion), and that makes the song you're playing sound musically correct all the time. Prior Roland piano models could not do this so it's a nice improvement. There is a 3rd way of using interactive intelligent chord accompaniments playing your music wherever your hands are on the keyboard without you splitting the keyboard into two distinct parts and having to keep your left hand on the left side all the time. With this method, which is useful for more advanced players, the bass line will follow the outline of the chord inversion and play those notes rather than root position notes in the normal accompaniment split position. This feature is called "leading bass" and for those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry about it because it really won't matter to you in using this interactive chord feature. The advanced players will appreciate this 2nd way of using the accompaniments because then you can determine the bass line by the chord structure and play keys anywhere on the piano without constraint. One thing is for sure, you'll have fun no matter how you choose to use this new intelligent accompaniment system. You can also change key and transpose the right hand instrument sounds as well as interactive chord accompaniments so that you can play in a key more conducive to your singing range for singalong, or if you just want to modulate to a different key to change it up a bit. One downside to the transpose function is that you need to go into the editing menu to get that to happens and make changes. Roland should have had a dedicated transpose button on the control panel for easier access as some other digital pianos do because going into the editing menu is not intuitive to get to the transpose feature to work. Why Roland did not ask me about designing it the better way on these models, I don't know...but they should have:). When it comes to the rhythm section, you can control the rhythm by selecting any tempo/speed and even do some sing-along by plugging in a microphone directly into an audio input of piano. It's true that there may be some people who may not be using the interactive accompaniment ensemble features much, and that's fine because you don't have to use it. But for other people (like me), it's nice to have it there and be able to have more musical enjoyment because you feel like you are part of a real band or orchestra...and to me that's always fun.
|F140R control panel buttons|
There are a couple of nice caveats to the 1-track MIDI recorder on these pianos; the control panel will allow you to actually record 2 separate tracks provided you use the split keyboard function with one instrument sound on the left hand and a different instrument sound on the right hand, like piano on left and electric piano on right, or whatever two sounds you choose. In this way the 2 parts can be played back one at a time or together and you can play live on top of that. The same is true when you layer two sounds together as they will be recorded independently on right and left channels played back together or independently. You can even rewind & fast forward digitally.
The Roland F140R can playback General MIDI/GM song files from a USB flashdrive which is a great feature and one I use all the time in my studio for teaching and playing professionally. The General MIDI song format allows you to play your live piano parts along "with the band or orchestra" using well known songs or lesson book songs (from popular lesson curriculum) in the General MIDI format and to interact with up to 16 instruments playing at one time (stored on a USB flashdrive inserted in the piano) using thousands of popular songs which can be found on the Internet such as movie theme songs, Christmas, famous pop, country, Latin, or Jazz music, and so on. The two largest publishers of piano lesson books in the US have produced General MIDI (GM) files for their lesson books for student playalong and the F140R are the only cabinet pianos found on the internet between $1000-$2000 that can play full General MIDI format 16 track songs. For more info on the General MIDI format go to the following link: General MIDI and Playing Piano.
Another useful educational feature offered on these pianos is the ability to electronically split the 88 keys into two equal 44-note keyboards which Roland calls twin piano. This feature digitally sets up the two 44-note keyboards to have the identical piano sound in the identical octave while having the right pedal be used for sustain for the right 44 notes, and the left pedal becomes sustain for the left 44-notes. This allows for two people to play the music at the same time playing the same notes in the same key with the same sound. It's useful when a teacher and student are playing at the same time in a lesson, or when two family members are playing the same song at the same time. Although I have seen similar duet type functions on other digital piano brands and models, it's definitely a specialized function and not everyone needs or wants it because they'll just never use it. But for others, it could come in handy depending on what you are doing musically. Finally, as far as fun educational features go, there are nearly two hundred famous and useful piano practice songs in the memory of the F140R to be accessed by the touch of a couple buttons and the songs sound great with full control over tempo as well as over the left & right hand playback.
As with most other digital pianos, there are many editing features in the F140R which include being able to incrementally adjust the brightness level of the sound coming through the piano or headphones which allows you to customize the overall sound from mellow to very bright, although as I mentioned earlier, this does not eliminate the twangy piano sound using higher velocity key action pressure You can also adjust the ambiance/reverb amount from minimum up to maximum, change volumes of many functions & features, select and change metronome beat and tempo, adjust 5 separate levels of key touch sensitivity, change relative volumes between left and right hand parts and accompaniments, and digitally limit the maximum volume of the piano so that you can limit the total loudness through speakers or headphones even if a child should turn the volume all the way up. You can also save editing changes you make in the piano to a user memory so that they will instantly come back up again upon powering the piano up at another time, and other editing functions. In addition to all this, Roland has included something brand new which the F130R did not have. You can now save up to 25 of your own sound/function set-up registrations into 25 digital memory slots in the piano. So in addition to a power-up setting memory, you now can edit and save settings such as when you layer 2 sounds together or when you transpose to a different key, or when you want to split the keyboard with two different sounds. Typically when you make changes and then you change to something else, you have to recreate the editing changes again because they otherwise automatically erase. But now you can save 25 of your favorite sound and function custom settings and recall them later at any time without have to recreate them each time you want them again. As far as I know there is no other name brand digital piano in this price range which can do that. For some people this new feature will not be needed but for others it came be quite useful and come in very handy.
A new feature I found very interesting 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 this feature and the 3D effect can be adjusted incrementally to fine tune it to your personal tastes. Personally I don't care for using it a lot as it somewhat distorts or changes the nature of the piano sound as far as I am concerned. But this is new technology in digital pianos is a nice feature to have for some people especially if you'll be using headphones often. This headphone 3D sound effect comes on automatically when powering up the piano but can also be adjusted or turned off completely depending if you want it or not (I turn it off). I will say that it is important to have good sounding higher quality headphones when trying to enjoy the piano privately. This is because lower quality, cheap headphones can make the piano sound tinny or muted and just not very pleasurable. If you are going to use headphones, make sure they are higher quality that reproduce the piano sound in an accurate way that translates the organic tones of the SuperNATURAL sound properly. Roland actually makes a variety of high quality stereo headphones so their headphones would be a good choice for that purpose.
Both models can connect directly to an iPad for another interactive way of learning about music and playing the piano, and I use iPad piano learning/teaching apps in my studio which provide a cutting edge visual way of interactive piano practice and learning. A unique feature of the Roland RP/F pianos is that they provide Bluetooth MIDI connectivity with iPad, etc for specific MIDI apps designed to be use with Bluetooth technology. Also the Bluetooth allows for automatic page turning of digital sheet music music from specific sheet music apps by being able to press the other (non-damper) pedal on the piano when you want to turn digital sheet music pages. You will be amazed at just how easy and exciting it is to interface the F140R with an iPad. The audio sound from iPad music apps is not transmitted through Bluetooth (no Bluetooth audio) so you would need a connecting cable from the iPad to the piano, but that's true of the other piano brands too. If you do not have an iPad (or Android), these pianos would make a perfect excuse to get one, and I recommend it! As far as other connectivity, both pianos have USB output to computer, USB flash drive input to load and save songs, 2 headphone jacks, and stereo audio input and stereo audio output jacks, so there is plenty of external devices that can be connected which is very nice to have, especially because some pianos in this price range such as Kawai & Yamaha do not have this variety of useful connectivity including audio outputs and inputs. I use technology to teach piano students in my studio, so the more a digital piano has, the better I like it. For me personally there can never be too much connectivity options to external devices.
The internal speaker system in the F140R has two speakers playing through two 12 watt amplifiers for a total of 24 watts of power. The stereo sound volume coming out of these pianos is surprisingly loud when you want it to be and is more than sufficient for most homes and studios and has been improved over the previous F130 so the sound is a bit fuller and richer than before. The speakers carry the sound well and don't distort even at high volume. It is interesting to note that in this price range there are name brand digital pianos that have higher wattage speaker systems which have up to 40 watts of power with up to four speakers. But the Roland F140R volume output is a least as loud if not louder than the 40 watt systems I have played, and when I played this model at full volume it sounded like a very big piano, although a bit tinny compared to some other internal speaker systems on other models in this price range. I give credit to the Roland company in being able to maximize the db efficiency of the F140R internal speaker/amp systems because at 24 watts total you might not think that is enough audio power, but in reality it is more than enough in terms of volume. However, if you want an even louder and fuller sound in these Roland pianos you could plug in external stereo speaker monitors using the stereo audio output jack on the back of the pianos. In this way you could achieve a much greater instrument volume and fuller tone if you really want that and blow your window out:). Sometimes an external sub-woofer connected to the piano may be helpful to add more bass response if you should want that, but some of the off-brand sub-woofers I have seen out there would not help much so you need to be careful what you get. The internal audio system on the F140R will likely satisfy most situations in homes, classrooms, and other venues.
In the final analysis, there are many good digital pianos between $1000-$2000US available on the market today. However, for shear piano playing realism combined with cutting edge useful educational & fun features, in my professional opinion there are few other name brand digital pianos available on the internet that can equal the F140R for what it does in its particular price range, although there are some other brands of impressive new digital pianos in lower and higher price ranges that I do like very much. For me personally, there are always a few things that I wish a manufacturer would have included in a new model, and in this case I really can't think of much other than an LCD display screen (like what the Casio PX780 offers) instead of a simple LED screen so you could see more useful information to know what's going on when you select various functions. Also a 2-track MIDI recorder instead 1-track recorder would have been beneficial. With regard to the LED display screen on these two pianos, although the internal function menu is not necessarily as intuitive to navigate using its LED display as compared to a larger LCD screen, at least they have a display because many pianos in this price range don't have any display at all, including Kawai & Yamaha. So once you get used to it, it becomes fairly easy to use. Overall I think Roland did a remarkable job in this $1000-$1500 price range so the F140R should be seriously considered when shopping for a new digital piano. Oh, and one more thing...the Roland factory warranty on these pianos is 2 years labor, 5 years parts with in-home service. That warranty is very good considering the price range these pianos are in, so Roland must feel confident about the reliability of these new pianos. Roland does make reliable product based on my experience with them throughout the years as a piano teacher and pro musician. Do your research and your homework before making any buying decisions because there are many digital pianos in this price range to consider, and I would be happy to help you figure it out if you contact me.
*Just so everyone knows, the next Roland digital piano up from the F140R in terms of a more realistic piano playing experience is called the Roland DP603. This new model has an even more realistic and upgraded piano key action (substantially upgraded), acoustic piano sound (substantially upgraded), pedaling, and cabinet along with a more user friendly control panel with more usable piano functions. This piano is for anyone who loves music as well as for the more serious piano student, but the DP603 also costs quite a bit more money (approx $1999) and is just coming out on the internet this December in limited quantities. But it is great for people who play at a higher skill level or want something they will keep for many years without need of another digital piano in the future. Go to the following link to read my review on the new DP603: Roland DP603 Review
It's also interesting to know that included in the built-in Roland instrument sound library is the General MIDI-2 GS sound set. This library includes over 200 additional acoustic piano tones and many other instrument sounds not listed in the Roland owners manual such as brass, woodwinds, reeds, synths, etc. These sounds are available for live play and also allow the full MIDI song files to play back correctly in the piano off a USB flash drive. If you wish to know more about what is actually in that additional instrument sound library, please let me know and I can answer your questions.
One more thing, another digital piano I highly recommend is the Casio PX860 which sells for $999US internet price. This piano is upgraded over the Roland F140R in my opinion with regard to key action movement, stereo piano sound, internal sound system, and cabinet along with having the more practical 2-track recorder for students or anyone who wants to practice right and left hand piano parts separately. The Casio Privia PX860 focuses squarely on piano playing and does not have as many digital features as the Roland F140R. However, it seems most people tend to want something that has less "bells & whistle" and concentrates more on the piano playing experience. I would recommend you read my review on the Casio PX860 and see if this model may be a good choice for your musical needs. Casio PX860 Review
If you want more info on new digital pianos and LOWER PRICES than internet, Amazon, Bundles, and store discounts, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call direct at 602-571-1864.
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