Roland RD-88 Stage Piano Overview

Brief observations on Roland's highly playable, portable and versatile professional stage piano

Published May 1, 2020 by John G.

Arguably Roland's best stage piano in years, RD-88 ticks all the boxes for professional gigging musicians, offering a slim profile that strikes a great balance between playability and portability, a versatile sound engine presented through a thoughtful, streamlined physical interface and a wealth of performance- and travel-focused amenities.

Slimline design
Courteous to your keyboard stand real estate, your trunk space and your back, RD-88 has an impressively small footprint and light weight considering all it has to offer in terms of feel and sound. Its sturdy, portable frame comes in at just 50.5" wide and 10.25" deep, weighs only 29 pounds and yet still manages to house Roland's great-feeling PHA-4 Standard keybed and a built-in 4-speaker sound system.

Feel and playability
Much like RD-88 itself, the PHA-4 Standard key action offers pro-level playability with only minor concessions made in the name of portability. The differences between PHA-4 Standard and Roland's bulkier PHA-4 Concert action are subtle and unlikely to matter as much to a stage performer as they might to a home pianist, with RD-88's PHA-4 Standard still packing escapement into its comparatively compact mechanism and still offering a well-regarded ivory feel via its more lightweight materials.

Image of hands playing RD-88
Closeup image of RD-88 display and panel

Powerful sounds
With a proven foundation in its newly-developed iteration of Roland's SuperNATURAL piano and electric piano engine, RD-88 adds to its sound arsenal the ZEN-Core synthesis system introduced last year in Roland's flagship Fantom workstation. RD-88 comes with a generous curated selection of acoustic and electronic ZEN-Core sounds.

Part of the ZEN-Core family
Alongside RD-88's introduction, Roland also announced ZEN-Core patch cross-compatibility not just between Fantom and RD-88 but among the whole growing family of ZEN-Core instruments that also includes Jupiter-X/Xm and the MC-707/MC-101 grooveboxes. Transfer a patch from a friend's Jupiter-X and play it on stage using RD-88 or sample sounds from Roland's free downloadable ZEN-Core sound packs. No other stage piano in any price range offers a configurable PCM+VA sound engine as powerful and versatile as ZEN-Core.

Simple, approachable physical controls
RD-88's button- and knob-based physical interface has been carefully designed to keep the essential controls available and accessible at all times. As much as you'll appreciate the performance and patch-tweaking controls during a concert, you'll also appreciate the EQ and tone controls during sound check for any last-minute room-specific adjustments.

Closeup image of hands on RD-88 knobs
Image of RD-88 with laptop

Built-in stereo speakers
Not necessarily intended to fill a performance space or to replace stage monitors, traveling musicians will nevertheless appreciate the convenience of RD-88's room-filling 2-way speaker system as an alternative to using headphones or carrying and setting up an external speaker. Practice, patch tweaking and performance setup just got a whole lot easier and better sounding.

MainStage integration
Anyone who's set up a stage piano or keyboard MIDI controller with Apple MainStage 'the hard way' will appreciate RD-88's remarkable out-of-the-box compatibility. Installing the downloadable MainStage profile and enabling DAW control mode on RD-88 instantly maps its buttons and knobs to various MainStage mixer, patch selection and synth/effects control parameters and allows for easy customization and re-assignment.

Performance and practice features
Other performance amenities include three configurable zones just as capable of controlling soft synths as the internal sounds, standard pitch and mod wheels in lieu of Roland's sometimes divisive pitch/mod joystick, compatibility with the RPU-3 triple pedal and 5-pin MIDI in and out. For practice there are 1/4" and 1/8" external audio inputs as well as ±200 onboard rhythm/metronome patterns. While not a performance or practice feature per se, RD-88 can even send and receive audio over USB.

If you have any questions about RD-88, our exclusive bundle offers, or putting together a personalized stage piano package, please contact a Kraft Music Sales Advisor.

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