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Topic: New Roland RD700GX replaces my Kawai MP8

  1. #1

    Thumbs up New Roland RD700GX replaces my Kawai MP8

    Hello Everyone,

    Though not an easy decision, I recently opted to replace my Kawai MP (master controller) with the new Roland RD700GX.

    I have detailed post on my personal blog including some pictures, but have copied the musician-oriented portion below... again, allow me to preface that this a subjective opinion coz we all know that it comes down to simply that: your personal preference...

    My full blog posting with pics

    Let me start by saying that this was not an easy decision because the Kawai MP8 is a fantastic board with some distinct advantages particularly if you’re accustomed to the feel of an acoustic piano - and are primarily interested in just piano. As you probably know, the Kawai MP8 series uniquely employs real wooden keys making it the benchmark in terms of an authentic weighted-key experience. Since its introduction, the MP8 has since been replaced by the MP8-II, and while this is subjective, I personally believe the MP8-II is a step backwards from the original MP8. The MP8-II has a notably lighter feel, BUT it still has that same “soft bed” of the MP8 so you find yourself unable to dig into the notes the same way encouraged by the MP8. That’s the best I can describe it, and while Kawai claims to have improved the “speed” of the action, I don’t equate a lighter feel to providing greater speed; the response is equally important. Lastly, I’m not sure what they put on the key surface, but it feels like a “cheap plastic” almost like a toy (dare I say)? Let’s just say that when the MP-II came out, I drove a long distance to test it, and walked away from the unit in less than 5 minutes. This was the background that created my curiosity for Roland’s then forthcoming RD700GX. I always liked its predecessor, but the action of the earlier RD700SX was no where near the MP8, but it wasn’t that far off. Given that Roland was professing the benefits of its new PHA II “Ivory Feel” with escapement action, I was sufficiently intrigued.

    Roland first showed the unit at the Winter NAMM ‘08 show here in Los Angeles, but had the damn thing literally “locked down” - very few people were able to sneak in any playing time as if this was some threat to national security? I suppose they’re aware of how fast the word travels these days good or bad! Regardless, there was really no way to test drive the unit until it finally hit the Streets in late May. And of all places, my local Guitar Center had one on the floor, and my first impressions were pretty strong, but alas, Guitar Center is no place to evaluate an instrument. That said, I spent a lot more than 5 minutes on it! Turns out, my good friend is even a more ambitious early adopter than am I so he picked one up (before me) and I had the opportunity to spend an entire afternoon testing it in a proper room.

    No question that the claims of the PHA II action are entirely valid! It’s a lighter feel than the MP8 (owed to not using wooden keys) but it’s a much faster action than the MP8 - a compromise I’m willing to live with and arguably advantageous for longer sessions. The response of the action is very impressive and combined with the on-board expressive patches you can really play an amazing range, much more than any board I’ve experienced to date. And that “Ivory Feel”, well I wasn’t expecting too much, but it’s pretty damn good - it sure as hell beats the glossy plastic surfaces you routinely find and feels quite nice to the touch.

    Clearly, this unit is aimed at the live performing musician (which I am not); for example, having 4 physical MIDI outs - very cool, as well as balanced XLR outputs. Having 4 mappable Zones is also quite handy both for live performance as well as inside the Studio.

    I haven’t had the unit long enough to dive into all of the sounds and editing, but I’m duly impressed. Up until now, my reference piano sources have been Ivory (on the Muse Receptor) and/or various Gigastudio libraries (such as PMI). I’ve never fancied on-board piano samples, but the new Roland provides some very convincing patches. The escapement provides the sympathetic resonance only found in more substantial (multi-gigabyte) libraries. Sure, in a head to head test, Ivory will probably win out, but the Roland is by no means a distant second. I envision that my composition process will greatly improve owed to my ability to now dial-up some very inspiring sounds by simply turning on one device! I haven’t tried the backing track capability provided by the USB memory interface, but I suspect that will also help with productivity…

    It’s probably worthwhile listing the other keyboards I’ve recently owned and since replaced for various reasons just to provide some additional perspective of my personal taste:

    Kawai MP8 - Great feel, but the action didn’t quite have the speed I was looking for…
    Yamaha P250 - Great board, but too much bulk and limited as a MIDI controller
    Yamaha S90ES - Doesn’t hold a candle to the Yamaha P series in terms of action/feel.

  2. #2

    Re: New Roland RD700GX replaces my Kawai MP8

    I fully agree with you propianist.

    I own a Roland FP-7 and I am thinking of selling it and getting a mp8II. I got tired of the plastic feeling of the action and the hard wall that the finger feels when the key hit the bottom. I miss the weight and inertia of the wooden keys. I went and tried a mp8II last weekend and was delighted with the action. Unfortunately I could not try a mp8: not available anymore. I also tried the RD700GX. I did not like the action of the Roland as much but I was impressed by the patches. However, after spending more than 2 hours going from one to the other I realized that I was getting tired of the Roland patches. Strangely although initially the Roland patches sound better, it seems that the Kawai never sound the same, ... or maybe sound richer.... and end up being more attractive. I wonder if this is due to their harmonic imaging. In some sense the Kawai sounds slightly more artificial (especially in the middle range) but at the same time is much richer. If Kawai could improve the quality ("naturality") of their patches while keeping their richness it would be amazing.

    Some folks also suggest in some other threads that the action of the Kawai could be improved beyond the mp8 and mp8II.

    I wonder if I should wait for the mp8III? to come out. Anybody knows when the release of the next generation imp8 is planned? I hope they not only improve the action but also the sound.

  3. #3

    Re: New Roland RD700GX replaces my Kawai MP8

    Tell that "expensive 5 star hotel" that they should not be so cheap and make sure that they have a decent acoustic piano for you to play.
    Composer, Logic Certified Trainer, Level 2,
    author of "Going Pro with Logic Pro 9."


  4. #4

    Re: New Roland RD700GX replaces my Kawai MP8

    This is why I'm keeping my MP8... it's a tough call, and I suspect that it will get called in from duty from time to time. That said, having played the GX for over a week now, the action is definitely much better than the preceding model, and FAR better than the MP8-II. I'd recommend that if you're on the fence regarding an MP8-II, make sure you try the GX. If you have the opportunity to pick up an original MP8, you'll likely be much more satisfied than the MP8-II.

    I agree with the earlier posts... the patches are less important if you have access to external sound sources, but the GX's Expressive Grand is a big step forward in on-board samples.

    One thing I definitely notice in rigorous side-by-side comparison is that whilst the MP8 is "heavier" (and I agree this a GOOD thing), the GX is more receptive to delicate pianissimo, and the so-called Ivory feel is quite nice - especially if you ever need to use it live. Alas, it comes down to the personal preference... that's why the Steinway isn't going anywhere either.

  5. #5

    Re: New Roland RD700GX replaces my Kawai MP8

    Quote Originally Posted by propianist View Post
    From what I have learned, the excellent heavy solid wooden action on the MP8 (called AWA Grand Pro action, identical to MP9500 predecessor) was criticised by some weak-fingered naysayers as being too slow, and hindering their execution of one-note trills.
    I agree with you that overal the original MP8 is the most authentic thing out there, but I really don't think you have to be weak fingered to find the original MP8 kinda sluggish. When I auditioned that board, it was setup next to a few real Kawai grands, including the RX-7. The biggest difference I found between the RX-7 and the MP8 was rebound speed. On the MP8, there was this sort of tactile delay, especially noticeable when playing scales. I tried a few expriments, like holding down a note on both instruments simultaneously, then releaseing simultaneoulsy and feeling which would rebound first. Admitedly it wasn't very scientific, but confirmed what I was feeling when playing.

    I spoke to the sales lady about this concern, and she adimantly denied that the MP8 was any slower. Then she brought out samples of the key actions for both an acoustic grand and the MP8 (you know, those little, 1-key cross-sections that you can press and observe). Again, the MP8 was demonstrably slower.

    You can say it doesn't matter, and that's an extremely good point. Variance in manufacturing is also a good posibility as you mentioned, I might have auditioned a particularly slow one. But weak-fingered just seems a little over the top That said, I can absoutely agree that the MP8 II was a big step in the wrong directon.

    I am gaga over the PHA II Ivory feel action. Haven't played the RD700GX specifically, but this new action appeared also on Roland's HP-207 digital upright, which has been around a while longer. Man, that "ivory feel" key surface is no gimmick for sure. When I was a kid, my family had a really old upright with ivory keys (that were mostly busted up). But touching the keysurfaces on the HP-207 caused immediate sensory recall of that old upright.

    Playing the HP-207 was another matter, but I personally tend to prefer it's approximation over either MP8 model. I think the original MP8 is more authentic overall, but the slowness just bothers me more than the Roland quirks. An in my very uneducated opinion, it seems we'll be playing whack-em-all with all these digital-piano quirks until someone makes a digital piano with 14" keys.


  6. #6

    Re: New Roland RD700GX replaces my Kawai MP8

    Wow! Didn't know my innocent little post would trigger such detailed discussion! I agree- no way a digital (save the Bosendorfer) is going to compare to an authentic grand piano. I'm also really glad to hear that my original concern about the MP8 (original) vs. MP8-II are shared. I'm really amazed that Kawai promotes the new model as an advancement, because if it was, I'm fairly certain a number of happy MP8 or 9500 owners (incl myself) would have "upgraded". Like I was saying the GX vs. MP8 is a close call, but I do feel the faster response of GX makes up for the (preferred) heavier weight of the Kawai; but alas, I intend to keep both for a period of time just to make sure. I also agree that the "ivory feel" is a great step forward - I was inclined to believe this to be a gimmick until I tried it. Appreciate all of the inputs - sure helps to validate my decisions!

  7. #7

    Re: New Roland RD700GX replaces my Kawai MP8

    Wow, I hadn't heard of that Bosendorfer. I browsed around for a picture of it, but the only thing I saw made it look kinda big but I couldn't tell. Is it a portable stage piano?
    I love that the MP8 has wooden keys. This feature alone made me agonize about wether to jump at it. It's good to hear that after some breaking in it get's more responsive.

    If Roland had released another all-plastic keybed, I might not be so excited about it. But I am in love with those ivory keytops.

    Now if they could just put Roland's ivory onto Kawai's wood........


  8. #8

    Re: New Roland RD700GX replaces my Kawai MP8

    Now you're talking! Put those ivory feeling keys onto wood, give it the weight of the MP8, but a faster response, and I think we'd about have it right! My question is: WHY hasn't or isn't this being done? We can't possibly be in the minority on this (or can we)? After all, these are Stage Pianos we're talking about. Seems that all the hype goes into the sound and control, neither of which are significant, but it pales in comparison to the feel. I just don't get it. And for that matter, what were the good folks Kawai thinking when they introduced the MP8-II? I'm still puzzled by that one... (vs. the MP8).

  9. #9

    Re: New Roland RD700GX replaces my Kawai MP8

    Quote Originally Posted by propianist View Post
    Ivory from elephants has been illegal for years!
    Yeah, we're just giving Roland props.

    After feeling it, I had the idea it was something chemically more brilliant than plastic-with-holes. I've never felt anything like it except my old real-ivory upright. Recalling that instrument was a truly unexpected surprise, I'd generally fogotten it's existence since I was so young at the time.

    That's interesting you mention the Fatar TP/40WOOD. I tried and begged for months to get one to try and put into my Kurz PC2X. I got far enough to get a repair technition to tell me that they should be electrically compatible, but the form factor might require me to alter my pc2x case a bit. But in the end, no one would sell me one. How in the world do you get one of these?

  10. #10

    Re: New Roland RD700GX replaces my Kawai MP8

    I've tried to get in touch with fatar so many times, but the only way you can reach them is through the contact's page on their website.. (which seems quite neglected) None of my mails came back tho. I did get a friend of mine in italy to give them a call, but couldn't get anything interesting results. I like the idea tho.

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