The Definitive Piano Buying Guide
Roland Corporation U.S.
5100 South Eastern Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90040
To simply say that Roland Corporation was established in 1972 is to ignore one of the most compelling stories in the realm of digital pianos. Ikutaro Kakehashi started down the path to Roland Corporation at the age of 16, when he began repairing watches and clocks in postwar Japan. However, his enthusiasm for music meant that his business soon evolved into the repair of radios. At the age of 20, Kakehashi contracted tuberculosis. After three years in the hospital, he was selected for the trial of a new drug, streptomycin, and within a year he was out of the hospital.
In 1954, Kakehashi opened Kakehashi Musen (Kakehashi Radio). Once again, his interest in music intervened, this time leading to his development of a prototype electric organ. In 1960, Kakehashi Radio evolved into Ace Electronic Industries. The FR1 Rhythm Ace became a standard offering of the Hammond Organ Company, and Ace Electronic Industries flourished. Guitar amplifiers, effects units, and more rhythm machines were developed, but as a result of various business-equity involvements, Ace was inadvertently acquired by a company with no interest in musical products, and Kakehashi left in March 1972. One month later, he established Roland Corporation. The first Roland product, not surprisingly, was a rhythm box.
In 1973, Roland introduced its first all-electronic combo piano, the EP-10, followed in 1974 by the EP-30, the world’s first electronic piano with a touch-sensitive keyboard. Japan’s first genuinely digital pianos for home use were released by Roland in 1975 as part of the early HP series. Next came Roland’s portable EP-09 electronic piano in 1980, and the debut of the wood-finish HP-60 and HP-70 compact pianos in 1981. In 1983, Roland released the HP-300 and HP-400, the very first digital pianos with MIDI.
When introduced in 1986, the RD-1000 stage piano was Roland’s first entry in what would become the digital piano category. Today, Roland offers more than two dozen models of digital piano covering every facet of the category: slab, vertical, grand, ensemble, and stage instruments, all produced in its factories in Indonesia and Japan.
Of particular interest to those looking for educational features are Roland’s HPi models, which include a substantial suite of educational capabilities supported by an LCD screen mounted on a music desk. The new LX models add traditional-looking vertical pianos to the line. Roland can also lay claim to the most extensive collection of model designations in the world of digital pianos. While this is hardly a drawback, it does present a challenge when sorting through the model lineup; the chart of “Digital Piano Specifications and Prices” will help to clarify things.
The Roland V-Piano is the first digital piano to rely entirely on physical modeling as its tonal source. Physical modeling breaks down the sound of a piano note into discrete elements that can be represented by mathematical equations, and creates the tone in real time based on a complex series of calculations. There are no acoustic piano samples. For more information about physical modeling, please see, elsewhere in this issue, “Digital Basics, Part 1: Imitating the Acoustic Piano” and “My Other Piano Is a Computer: An Introduction to Software Pianos.”
The HP models are the core of Roland’s offerings in home digital pianos; the latest models share the company’s new SuperNATURAL® piano sound engine, and differ from each other primarily in the specifications of their audio systems and actions.
Samick, in the process of expanding its presence in the digital piano market, now makes four grand and nine vertical models. The company’s Kohler line of digitals has been discontinued.
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