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Roland FP-E50 review: Stage piano and arranger rolled into one

Roland’s FP series has long been a go-to choice for students and performers of all levels. The FP keyboards are popular because they provide no less than a solid sound, solid feel, and a no-fuss interface, even at the entry-level.

The FP-E50 is slightly different because it’s an arranger keyboard with abundant sounds and features.

playing the Roland FP-E50
Image: Roland

Final verdict on the Roland FP-E50 4.3

The Roland FP-E50 is undoubtedly an excellent keyboard for performers. Despite not liking everything about the design and interface, the FP-E50 delivers in the most important areas. It sounds very good, feels good, and offers all the versatility an arranger should have.

What I like

  • Over 1000 voices.
  • Progressive hammer-action keys with escapement and ivory feel.
  • Expandable sound engine.
  • Smart accompaniments.
  • Recorder with overdubbing.

What I don’t like

  • Keys are a little noisy.
  • Buttons don’t look/feel great.
Buy Roland FP-E50 at: SweetwaterAmazon

Why you should trust me

I’ve relied on various brands throughout my career, and my favorites might change again, depending on where music takes me. But, as a young pianist, Roland, and more specifically, the original RD-700, was my go-to choice when I first got on any stage.

James Nugent, author and contributor at Higher Hz

Roland’s keyboards got me through the early years of being a working musician, and I’ve been attached to them ever since.

The FP-E50 is a performance keyboard, and many potential users will be in the early stages of their performing career, just like I was when I turned to Roland.

Contents

Use these jump links to navigate to the desired section of the review.

Sound quality 4.5

The FP-E50 boasts over 1000 onboard sounds split into categories like Pianos, Orchestral, World Instruments, Guitar, Bass, etc. The sound quality is somewhat mixed across the board, but in Roland’s defense, the less convincing sounds (like guitars, for example) are ones few keyboards do well.

Roland’s FP-E50 features two excellent sound engines, the SuperNATURAL and ZEN-Core engines. The SuperNATURAL engine always delivers lovely piano tones (38 piano voices in total). However, it faces stiffer competition now since the CFX concert grand sound is available in the Yamaha P-225 at a similar price.

While I like to focus on pianos, the expandable ZEN-Core engine should be the difference-maker for most buyers. There are some impressive organs (mod wheel controls rotary speed), electric pianos, and plenty of classic Roland synths; there are too many sounds to list (brass, strings, you name it).

With a max polyphony of 256 notes, you can split/layer sounds without fear of notes dropping out. The presets also include ready-to-go layered sounds that add depth to any solo performance.

Built-in speakers 4.4

The onboard stereo speaker system has two 4.75-inch speakers (with speaker box) powered by dual 11-watt amplifiers. The speakers are slightly more powerful than average and produce rich and clear sound, which is perhaps more important than usual in this case.

As an arranger keyboard, players depend on built-in rhythms often, and although it’s never going to sound like a live band, it has to sound convincing, and the FP-E50 voice has to cut through the mix well.

The stereo speaker system does a good job that is made even better with the help of the onboard level sliders. The speakers are well-concealed, giving the FP-E50 a much smoother image.

Keyboard feel 4.3

The FP-E50 features Roland’s PHA-4 keyboard action with a synthetic ivory feel and escapement.

PHA stands for progressive hammer action; the keys are heavy enough but still very comfortable to play. I like the ivory feel; it sometimes sounds like a needless luxury, but the extra grip makes a difference.

Roland FP-E50 keyboard feel
Image: Roland

I know that escapement in digital keyboards divides opinion since there are no actual strings and hammers, but that ever-so-slight feedback you feel adds to the realism.

If there’s anything I don’t like about this keyboard action, it can be quite noisy. If you’re lost in the music, indulging in blissful ignorance, it won’t bother you, but it might bother others in some situations.

Features 4.4

The FP-E50 has some handy features that make your performance sound fuller with minimal fuss.

Expansion packs

If the massive preset library isn’t enough, you can expand your sound collection with Z-Style Packs, EXZ Wave Expansions, and SDZ Sound Packs via the Roland Cloud.

Mic input and effects

The FP-E50 includes a mic input, which makes it a perfect all-in-one device for singers/performers. It also features some interesting vocal effects, like real-time harmonies and a voice transformer.

Users will likely turn to more subtle effects like compression and noise suppression more often, but the more transformative effects will sound great for the right song.

Additional effects (not vocal) include ambiance, a three-band EQ, and rotary speaker emulation for organs.

Interactive accompaniments

The FP-E50 includes a substantial collection of accompaniments that cover the most popular genres. There are a few different ways to use the accompaniments and one of the coolest ways is that it will follow your chord changes as you play, like a real band.

But, if you aren’t at that stage yet and depend on the accompaniments for some structure, there are many preset chord progressions.

Roland FP-E50 auto-accompaniment
Image: Roland

What I like most about working with preset progressions is that you can display them in bar format on the screen, which is an excellent way to practice following chord charts. Once you’re ready, you can add custom chord progressions to the collection.

Scene memory

If you buy an arranger keyboard, you should need more than good sound and a nice action. The last thing you want is a keyboard that does a million things but takes forever to set up just how you like it.

The FP-E50’s scene memory allows users to save entire keyboard setups, so you’re ready to go on any gig without any tedious messing around.

Built-in recorder

The built-in recorder allows you to capture three internal songs, and more importantly, it allows overdubbing. Unlike many more basic built-in recorders, you can use this one to merge parts into a song structure before moving onto a DAW or external device.

In use 4.0

Sometimes, there are things about keyboards that I think will become a problem for all users, and sometimes, there are things I can attribute mostly to personal preference. In this case, most of my issues are personal preference, and other users could feel differently.

The FP-E50 is relatively easy to use, and with some help from the main screen, navigating the many onboard sounds isn’t too tedious at all. No amount of menu-diving is ever fun, but Roland has organized everything efficiently, and that makes a huge difference.

One of my favorite things about the interface is the inclusion of four level sliders for Keyboard, Accompaniment, Song, and Mic. It’s nice to have that onboard mixer of sorts providing more control over your output.

What I don’t like is the look and feel of the controls, and maybe I’m being overly fussy. But, although it’s easy to use, there’s something I just don’t like about the buttons.

Build quality 4.2

At a glance, the FP-E50 is a sleek and slimline instrument, which is a design element I do like. But, with a depth of 12.6 inches, it’s a chunkier unit than first meets the eye, and that’s not a bad thing.

Also, as a keyboard with the PHA-4 action, it’s got some real weight to it, coming in at around 37 lbs.

I think the faders and assignable wheels could be slightly better, but I have to say, even though I don’t like the look/feel of the controls, it’s not really a build quality issue.

I’d expect users to gig with the FP-E50 for years without issues.

Connectivity 4.1

Much of the attention here will go to the microphone input, which is a 1/4-inch TS input rather than XLR. You also get a second 1/8-inch audio input.

Roland FP-E50 inputs and outputs
Image: Roland

There are two 1/4-inch pedal inputs capable of recognizing a suitable three-pedal unit (damper, soft, sostenuto) if you choose to add one.

The FP-E50 provides two headphone jacks (one 1/4-inch and one 1/8-inch), which is always nice to see. It also offers two USB connections, types A and B.

Compared to other keyboards

Here are a few suitable alternatives if you’re still undecided.

Roland FP-E50 vs E-X50

If you want to save some cash but stick with Roland, and you don’t need 88 weighted keys, the Roland E-X50 is an excellent choice.

Roland FP-E50 vs Korg XE20

Korg’s XE20 is another solid option, and even though it offers fewer sounds, some users may prefer classic Korg voices over classic Roland.

Read the full Korg XE20 review

Roland FP-E50 vs Yamaha P-225

The P-225 isn’t an arranger keyboard, but people sometimes buy arrangers before realizing they don’t need one. If you just want an outstanding piano sound, Yamaha’s CFX concert grand is impeccable.

Read the full Yamaha P-225 review

Who is the Roland FP-E50 best suited for?

The FP-E50 suits players of all levels who require auto-accompaniment for performance.

Buy Roland FP-E50 at: SweetwaterAmazon
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