Brand Loyalty: A Fanboys Review Of The Roland RD-64 Piano

by Ed Tsunoda on September 16, 2014

Let me preface this review by saying two things. First, this is not a technical review of the Roland RD-64 Stage Piano. There are tons of those, and plenty of them are reviews from much more accredited keyboard and music industry writers than I profess to be. Secondly, I am an unabashed Roland fanboy and have been for 30 years. While that factoid does certainly bias this review, it’s also why I’m writing it.

I’m assuming that if you’ve gotten this far, you’re considering buying a digital piano, that you’ve read some or many or all of the aforementioned reviews and comparisons regarding the Roland RD-64. They all say similar things both positive and negative, whether the reviews themselves are ringing endorsements, or luke warm critiques, in summary:

It’s a great stage piano. Sounds are top notch. Great feeling keys. Real piano action. They could have made the footprint smaller by putting the controls elsewhere instead of to the left of the keys. It could be even a little lighter. MIDI IN would’ve been nice. Effects are great but the controls thereof are limited. Action could be a little springier/bouncier. All true.

I personally like the action. And, I think the one point that doesn’t get mentioned in the reviews often enough is that the “feel” is dramatically enhanced by the Ivory Feel-G keys which literally have the texture of ivory. They feel like a real piano key, not just the weight/play/action, but the texture. It’s not the first or only Roland to have that feature. But when you touch it, it’s an “Oooooohhh…” moment. That and the truly studio quality natural sounding piano, electric piano, clav, and organ sounds are a ridiculously great value at under $1,000. Period. Pretty irrefutable. You won’t be sorry you bought one, that’s for sure.

But for me, the best parts of the RD-64 are the word “Roland” stenciled on it, and the history of my experience as a Roland customer both as a consumer and a professional musician.

Did you ever make a choice to affiliate yourself with a brand, and just have it work out great for decades, with no regrets? How many things can you say that about?

30 years ago, based on a recommendation from a keyboard salesman at Victor’s House of Music in Ridgewood, NJ, I selected a Roland keyboard/piano that might have been an early EP series or HP series circa 1983 or 84 as my first keyboard. I don’t remember the exact model. I do know I rocked it up all the way thru my first 8 track studio recordings as my main keyboard/MIDI controller. I stuck with Roland through my first stage piano – an MKB-1000 with an MKS-10 Planet-P Piano Sampler – and for the axe I used for pretty much every professional gig I’ve ever had. I played an AXIS, a D-5, a U-220, used a BOSS mixer, right thru to today where I use a Roland SD-50 Sound Canvas and a Lucina AX-09 as the main sound generator and primary controller in my home studio.

I’ve never ever lost a gig night or a studio hour to a faulty piece of Roland gear. And I abused it. One night I dropped my Roland U220, unracked, during a load in, off a ramp, into the orchestra pit…had to be a 15-20 foot fall. Plugged it in, set up my rig, no worries, not even a cracked screen. Someone once dumped an entire 32oz micro-brew INTO my MKB-1000 keys in the middle of a set. Sure I had to dry it out and clean it afterwards, but it kept working! They make stuff that’s designed to be played hard, taken on the road, and last forever.

I’ve only ever had one piece of Roland gear fail on me. I once had a Edirol MCR series controller that had a key stop working. I had no receipt. No idea where I bought it or when. I contacted Roland and sent it to them. They sent me a brand new one. Brand new. Not refurbished. Not repaired. Brand new.

I’ve never had a similar customer experience where every single episode of customer service, and purchase of their products has lived up to and/or exceeded every single expectation.

And that was before today.

Today the UPS man brought me a Roland RD-64 Digital Stage Piano.


The author with his new Roland RD-64 Stage Piano, Lucina AX-09 and SD-50  in his home studio.

I did dream about it. Wished for it. Even entered a sweepstakes to win one. But I did not buy one.

Thanks to all who participated. Congratulations to our grand-prize winner, Edward T. of Fort Pierce, FL.

Are you kidding me?!?!?

This sums up perfectly my relationship with Roland as a customer, and my experience as a musician with Roland and BOSS products on stage and in the studio with me every time across 30 years.

This is why EVERYONE says don’t skimp on your instrument. This is why you pick a premier brand as your main axe and why you show loyalty to the brand that brings you to the dance. Because if you make the investment in them, then they make the return investment in you, even if you’re just a working man musician and not a big star with 500,000 likes, or friends, or views, or whatever.

Or at least, it’s why you should pick Roland if you’re a keyboard player. It’s the single best decision I ever made as a consumer, let alone as a musician. I’m not a big star. I play mostly for my own amusement these days. But they have stood by their products, and by me as a musician and a producer and a writer and an engineer for 30 years.

So maybe you’ve read all the reviews and looked at all the other stage pianos, and maybe you think it’s a toss up, or you could save a couple of bucks, or that this feature or that feature is the deal breaker.

Hopefully you’ve found this review before deciding and it’ll help you if this is your first piano, or you’re thinking of buying a digital piano for your daughter or son to learn on. You’re not just picking a sound or a feel or a number of voices of polyphony or the number of patches or the built in drum machine or whatever.

You’re buying an instrument. A fine instrument, made by a master crafts person of fine instruments. And it makes a difference which master crafts person you choose. It matters how much love they put into the creation of – and care they provide in the service of – the instruments they create.

In my experience, Roland outdistances any other keyboard and piano manufacturer in this way by a long shot. Their loyalty to me as a customer has been unsurpassed, and professional reviewers don’t put that on the online product comparison charts.

If you’re looking for a deciding factor before buying a digital piano, the way Roland has treated this actual customer for decades is a pretty good factor to base your decision on.

Thanks to my friend Rachel Baker for letting me use this space on her site to support a company that I truly believes deserves the kudos. – Ed

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