The Roland F140R Review – The Best 88 Key Keyboard ?

Roland F140R
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The Roland F140R is, quite simply, one of the best digital pianos you’re likely to find for just over $1000. The SuperNATURAL sound engine that drives the sound doesn’t just play back samples of real pianos; it models them to reproduce an acoustically accurate performance based on what you play. The sound quality is absolutely second-to-none, with a keyboard action that is difficult to not fall in love with.

Did I love this digital piano? I think it’s quite a resounding yes!

If you’re looking for a digital piano that has all the gifts, but you have limited living space, the Roland F140R is your ideal keyboard; perfectly formed to fit into compact spaces (and larger rooms, obviously).

Roland is certainly up there amongst the best digital piano manufacturers. And the F140R is a perfect example of how they get things so right. Read on to find out why!

Who is the Roland F140R aimed at?

This keyboard is principally marketed to the student population – it’s a wonderful digital piano to take to university with you. The compact build is perfect for small student rooms.

But to write this off as a student instrument seems a little unfair. I think that this is an instrument with amazing sound quality that would satisfy a seasoned piano player as well as a learner. This is a universal instrument for a great price that would suit most players and learners.

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Sound quality

One of the things that I was totally astounded by when I first trailed the Roland F140R was the audio quality. I expected this digital piano to be a budget version of its more expensive brethren. I’d just trialed the wonderful Roland LX7, which I’d immediately fallen in love with. So, having that as a template, I was preparing myself to be suitably unimpressed with the F140R.

How wrong!

What you get with the F140R is Roland’s superlative SuperNATURAL sound engine, and a fantastic keyboard action (which I’ll discuss a little later). It’s the technology behind the SuperNATURAL sound engine that makes the F140R a worthy sound producer when you stand it up against some of its more expensive Roland cousins.

Let me tell you a little about SuperNATURAL to give you an idea of why it’s my favorite sound engine. Other sound engines, such as the Yamaha CF engine, take some incredibly high-quality samples from premium grand pianos; played at different dynamic ranges; and reproduce those sounds accurately.

However, an acoustic instrument doesn’t just play a single sound-wave per note, but a variety of tones and overtones – some of which aren’t necessarily audible to the human ear.

It’s the over-tones that we’re talking about here.

Say you play a middle C and a G above it. Those two notes will combine with a variety of clearly audible tonal waves and less apparent over-tones. Then you release those notes and play a top C. Even though you’ll have released the C and G, the sound may still be resonating around the body of the piano, and will subtly affect how you hear the top C.

This is what straightforward sampling replay lacks – the responsive over-tone.

Perhaps it might not sound immediately problematic, and what you can’t hear, you don’t miss, right?

Wrong.

When you play a digital instrument that recreates those overtones (as the SuperNATURAL sound engine does), you suddenly realize what you’re missing. The instrument responds like a real piano – even if it’s difficult to put your finger on why. Just be glad that you’re putting your finger on the F140R.

This 88 key, weighted keyboard features 128 note polyphony, 11 Grand Piano tones and an impressive 305 instrumental voices, including 8 drum sets, and an SFX set.

All of the piano sounds are drenched in the warmth, clarity, realism, and near acoustic perfection you might expect from a digital piano double the price.

But the electric piano sounds are also stunning – taking you straight back to the 70s at the flick of a switch (or the press of a button). If you love the famous Zero 7: When It Falls album, you’ll instantly fall in love with the electric piano sounds.

There are 10 different ambiance adjustments and 21 levels of “Brilliance” you can add to each instrumental sound, making this a perfect instrument to cater to your precise needs.

The speaker drivers are capable of 103dB of clear sound, which is plenty. But, essentially, the Roland F140R also sounds great through headphones.

Features

For the price, you get an amazing feature set. The 88-key, fully weighted keyboard features escapement and ivory-feel keys that make the keyboard a complete pleasure to play. The touch sensitivity is terrific – there are five levels of dynamic sampling per note, providing an amazing palette of tonal color.

There are three foot-pedals, providing soft, sostenuto and damper pedal action, just like a standard grand piano.

The metronome provides stability while practicing and the onboard recorder allows you to listen back to your performance, which is a really valuable feature for learners, who can evaluate their own performance. You can record up to ten performances and export them via MIDI or audio files to a USB flash drive.

The keyboard can be split, providing the same octave range across both halves of the piano – perfect for piano lessons. You can also divide the keyboard to allow you to play two instrumental sounds – perhaps electric piano in the right hand and bass in the left hand.

There are 72 different rhythms to play alongside, each with two variations. But what is simply amazing with the F140R is the Intelligent Accompaniment feature, putting you in control of a virtual band who follow exactly what you play. You play your piano part, and the F140R analyzes the chord sequence, following you with a great band accompaniment. Great fun!

Bluetooth connectivity allows you to connect to iOS or Android apps, allowing you to assign the middle foot-pedal for turning the sheet with sheet music apps, while Bluetooth MIDI puts you in control of the countless synth apps available on the iOS platform.

Ease of use

One of the great consistencies regarding Roland keyboards is in the excellent user-interface. They’re simple to operate, allowing you to get straight into the nitty-gritty of playing. The interface of the Roland F140R is a simple, button access system, accompanied with a 3-digit digital display, which is limited in the information it provides, but extremely straight-forward in terms of operation.

Quality-price ratio

For the price, (around $1,199) you get a fantastic piece of kit that’s going to provide years and years of fun, great reliability, and creative expression.

I think that the feature set, alone, justifies the price-tag: Bluetooth MIDI; 316 instrumental sounds; fully weighted, graded hammer action keyboard; and the SuperNATURAL sound engine combine to make this a steal.


PROs

  • Compact unit, perfect for student digs and bedroom playing
  • Ability to record performances and export them to USB flash drive
  • 316 instrumental voices, including 11 Grand Piano
  • Bluetooth connectivity for MIDI and iOS apps
  • Fully weighted, graded hammer action, ivory feel keys
  • Settings such as Split keyboard and metronome make this the perfect practice instrument
  • Built-in sliding keyboard cover
  • Superb sound quality, driven by SuperNATURAL sound engine
  • Comes in black or white finish

CONs

  • Difficult to find any CONs with this instrument, apart from the time you’re going to lose by the sheer joy of playing this fabulous piece of kit.

Comparison

An equivalent Kawai keyboard in the same price bracket is the Kawai KDP90. While this is also a fantastic digital piano with excellent playing action, you only get 15 instrumental sounds (which are great, but limited in comparison to the F140R). The build of both keyboards are of an equivalent.

A Yamaha equivalent would be the YDP103. It uses Yamaha’s entry-level AWM sampling technology, which is actually pretty good; I almost prefer it to the CF sound engine used in the higher-grade Clavinova series, which sounds a little artificial to my ears. But AWM vs. SuperNATURAL is like the difference between Standard Def TV (AWM) and 4K (SuperNATURAL). Both are fine, but if you were given a choice, most of us are going to go for the 4K version!

Summary

The Roland F140R is a fantastic digital piano. I’d say it’s one of the best digital pianos in this price bracket. If you’re looking for a superbly made instrument that you’ll enjoy for years to come, then the F140R, with its 88 key, fully weighted keyboard is difficult to beat.