Roland F701 & RP701 Review: Incremental Changes

Roland F701 RP701 Review

We’ve recently reviewed most of Roland’s latest updates to their product lines, with the classic FP-series getting a much appreciated upgrade to bring it into the new decade. However, Roland’s updates aren’t just limited to their portable digital pianos.

With their new 2021 product lineup, Roland also announced the RP701 and the F701, an update to their popular F-140R and RP501R. Unlike the FP-X series, these two instruments come in the form of furniture-style console digital pianos.

As the name implies, these digital pianos sacrifice the lightweight portability of their counterparts, and aim to be a beautiful set piece that feels right at home in any living room.

From an engineering and design perspective, it’s also interesting to see how the designers utilize the extra leeway to enhance the playing experience.

While features such as larger speakers and solid construction are to be expected, I’m eager to see how Roland engineers improve on the pre-existing formula.

With all that out of the way, let’s see how the RP701 and the F701 fare.

Roland F701 / RP701 Specs

  • 88-key fully weighted keyboard with Ivory simulation
  • PHA-4 Standard Keyboard: with Escapement and Ivory Feel
  • Touch Sensitivity: adjustable 100 types, Off
  • Display: Graphic OLED 128 x 64 dots
  • Sound: SuperNATURAL Piano Sound
  • 256-note polyphony
  • 324 instrument sounds
  • 377 built-in songs (10 Listening, 30 Ensemble, 20 Entertainment, 30 Let’s Sing with DO RE MI, 287 Lesson)
  • Effects: Ambience, Brilliance
  • Piano Designer: Lid, Damper Resonance, String Resonance, Key Off Resonance, Single Note (Tuning/Volume/Character)
  • Modes: Split, Dual, Twin Piano
  • 3-track MIDI recorder
  • SMF format 0/1, WAV, MP3 playback support
  • Metronome, Transpose, Fine-tuning
  • Speakers: 2 x 12 W (2 x 12 cm)
  • Connectors: USB to Host, USB to Device, Headphone jacks (2), Audio In (mini jack), Bluetooth (MIDI, Audio)
  • W x D x H: 53.5” x 13.6” x 30.7” (136 x 34.5 x 78.1 cm) – F701 | 53.8” x 18.2” x 40.4” (136.6 x 46.3 x 102.7 cm) – RP701
  • 79.4 lbs (36 kg) – F701 | 101.4 lbs (46 kg) – RP701
  • Release Date: February 2021

Below you can check the availability and current price of the Roland F701 in your region:

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Design

Design is one aspect where both the RP701 and F701 really shine.

Unlike previous models’ design, which emulated the typical button-heavy style of early-2010s digital pianos, the new design looks more futuristic, and dare I say, a bit more ‘posh’.

Roland F701 vs RP701

In fact, the F701 was awarded a Red Dot award for its control scheme and aesthetics. This is Roland’s 3rd time winning said award, with previous winners including their high-end FP-90 and their top-of-the-line LX-series.

While the RP701 technically didn’t technically win the same accolades, it is basically the same instrument with a different cabinet shape, so I’ll discuss most aspects of the two instruments interchangeably.


Aesthetics and Construction

F701

The F701 is smaller, having a simple, low-profile body that minimizes the space it takes up. As with prior models in the series, the key cover doubles as the music stand, which is an ingenious design that I still find very convenient.

The F701’s dimensions are 53.5″ (W) x 13.5″ (D) x 35.9″ (H). This is a bit smaller than most console-style digital pianos, and it actually clocks in at a similar size as the portable FP-60X.

Roland F701 Design

The F701 comes in 3 colors. Contemporary Black, White and Light Oak.

While I typically gravitate towards black as my color of choice, I do have to say that the oak hue is very tempting. In fact, I’m sure Roland knows this as well, as it is the main color on display on the F701 webpage and most brochures.

The body itself feels very solid despite the relative compactness of the overall instrument. Tapping the wood gives off a sound that makes it obvious that these aren’t just hollow MDF planks, and the semi-reflective finish also adds a layer of polish to the design that adds to the premium feel.

Roland F701 Colors

In terms of what I’m looking for in aesthetics, the F701 ticks all the boxes. It’s durable, looks good, and feels sleek. There really isn’t much to complain about.

RP701

Meanwhile, the RP701 is a more traditional digital piano. While the F701 minimizes extraneous bulk, the RP701 looks like an acoustic upright without the ‘upright’ portion. The back of the keybed is extended and comes with a dedicated music stand.

While the key cover doesn’t fold into a makeshift music stand, the RP701 allows you to lock the key cover at the point where it covers up the upper portion of the front panel controls. This is quite handy if you want to reduce possible distractions during practice and give the instrument a cleaner look.

Roland RP701 Design

Naturally, the RP701 is larger than the F701, coming in at 53.7″ (W) x 18.2″ (D) x 40.4″ (H). Most of the added size comes from the extra depth, which is aesthetically pleasing (though I’m pretty sure it doesn’t serve a practical purpose apart from looking cool).

The RP701 comes in 4 colors. In addition to the 3 colors of the F701, it also includes Rosewood. While I think the oak palate was made for the F701, it doesn’t seem to suit the RP701 as well. With that said, the white seems great if you’re willing to take good care of the finish.

Similarly to the F701, the body is primarily made up of wood with a semi-reflective finish. The one notable difference is the overall bulkier outlook, which is understandable considering the RP701 isn’t trying to save space.

Roland RP701 Colors

Something I found surprising was how similar the two instruments were past their outer shells. I initially expected the RP701 to have a set of more powerful speakers (akin to how the Roland FP-60X used its extra bulk over the FP-30X to house higher wattage speakers), but this was not the case, as both are rated identically.

That’s not to say it’s a bad thing. After all, that means the F701’s award-winning control scheme is carried over wholesale onto the RP701. The choice of which model you decide to go with simply depends on which look you prefer.


Controls

The controls are honestly very well designed, with one tiny exception.

The buttons looked very familiar to me, and I quickly realized that these were the same buttons from the FP-90X, which I have previously gushed about as being very user-friendly. The buttons have tactile feedback thanks to elastic coil springs.

The buttons also have a surrounding backlight to indicate that a specific feature is activated. Back on the FP-90, Roland dubbed this ‘light-guiding‘, and is a helpful feature to have for stage performers.

Roland F701 Controls

Despite being geared towards a different audience, it’s nice to see the same high-quality build materials being used on home-based digital pianos.

I do want to comment about the button labels. All buttons are labeled with images indicating the function triggered by said button. Most labels are self-explanatory, but there are some features which might have been better served by text labels.

For example, my first impression was that holding down the Metronome button would allow me to modify settings. However, in reality, you need to press both the metronome and tempo button at the same time.

Roland F701 Display

The 128 x 64 dot matrix OLED screen is another neat addition. Previous models in this series used a less detailed LED screen. In terms of actual use, the new display shows more information, and also provides more contrast in case you’re using the F701 or the RP701 in low light conditions.

For navigation purposes, the F701 and the RP701 both include an encoder knob.

Navigating through the large sound library might be tough, and thus, having an encoder knob helps greatly. This knob has a notch for every step increment, and also lets you push it downwards to double as an ‘enter’ key.

Using this was very easy once I got used to the workflow, and I think most users should be able to grasp it with a bit of practice. The OLED screen also helps by providing navigational aid through highlights and hints.

Roland RP701 Navigation

On the subject of navigation, the overall control scheme tends to be a more minimalist, streamlined affair.

For instance, if you wanted to search through the tweakable options, you’d have to search through dozens of pages, which might be a bit of a turn-off. The tradeoff is that you end up with a cleaner user interface, which is definitely a plus for beginners.

The one ‘complaint’ I have is unfortunately present on both the F701 and the RP701. The volume controls are unfortunately not modifiable using the encoder knob. Instead, you have to rely on 2 buttons, one that increases the volume, and one that decreases the volume.

Roland F701 Buttons

This is the same system found on the FP-30X, and it is very inconvenient. The problem with this system is exacerbated because of the 5 lights that indicate the current volume level. These 5 lights need to somehow show 100 volume increments.

I would very much prefer a fader- or knob-based control for volume, especially since we’ve seen that Roland has the necessary components to make it happen.

Apart from that complaint, I’m very happy with the design of both the F701 and the RP701. Roland’s design team is on a roll lately, and we’re getting some gorgeous digital pianos that also put the focus on user-friendliness.

Keyboard

Excellent design aside, the F701 and the RP701 are digital pianos, and one of the most important aspects about any competent digital piano is the keys.

The key mechanism is your main medium of interaction with the sound engine, and needs to be good to properly emulate how a real piano functions. Thankfully, Roland is one of the companies with a good reputation in the realm of keybed design.

Both the F701 and the RP701 use Roland’s tried-and-true PHA-4 Standard key action, which was also featured on the FP-30X and the FP-60X.

Roland RP701 Keys

The PHA-4 Standard key action is Roland’s go-to for most of their low to mid-range digital pianos, and I’m not complaining. It’s competent and is one of my favorite key actions in the beginner to intermediate level.

The keys are completely plastic, just like with Kawai’s RHC and Korg’s RH3 action, but come with textured surfaces that make the keys feel a bit more ‘premium’.

The faux-ivory texture on the white keys also adds a bit of grip, which is helpful for people with sweaty hands like me.

Roland PHA-4 Standard Ivory

In terms of the feel of the PHA-4 Standard keys, they are convincing. The marketing copy on Roland’s website makes them out to be natural and realistic, and I personally don’t think that’s an overstatement.

As with most digital pianos, the RP701 and the F701 use mechanical weights and triple sensors to emulate the hammers hitting the strings. It can’t really match the exact feel of an acoustic concert grand or upright, but it comes close enough.

Focusing on the dynamic response, the default velocity curves felt natural, allowing me to play over different dynamic ranges without needing to adapt my playstyle. If you’re unsatisfied, you can switch between 100 different preset values.

The realism factor is also enhanced by the use of a graded keybed and escapement. A graded keybed simulates how acoustic pianos have an increasing hammer size across the keybed, making keys in the lower register feel heavier.

Graded Hammer Action

On the other hand, escapement adds a slight notch to the end of the keybed, which models how an acoustic piano allows a hammer to “escape” touching the strings in the instant a key is let go.

All positivity aside, let’s talk about the minor negatives with the PHA-4 Standard. After all, both the F701 and the RP701 have an MSRP close to $1500, and it’s worth knowing what you’re missing out on.

Roland F701 Controls Front

The biggest gripe people have with the PHA-4 Standard keybed is its noise. The feel, as discussed, is all well and good, but the thud you hear every time the key hits its lowest point might be distracting if you’re someone who plays hard.

With that said, I’d note that key action noise is not something exclusive to PHA-4, in fact, I find it to be one of the quieter actions out there.

You might feel a bit cheated considering you can get the same key action on a much cheaper keyboard (the FP-30X retails for just over half the price of the RP701!), but rest assured, the PHA-4 Standard action is good, even with its roots as a budget keybed.

In fact, it is also used on some of Roland’s more premium digital pianos, such as the RD-88 stage piano.

Sound

Roland is no stranger to sound design. The company has a slew of coveted vintage instruments under their belt, and they’re well known for having some of the best sounds in the industry.

Roland RP701 Sound Controls

With the F701 and the RP701, you get access to a total of 324 tones. Just know that 255 of these sounds are General MIDI 2 sounds, which are generally considered to be of a lower quality than the more premium, bespoke sounds customized for the digital piano.

The main sounds themselves are as follows:

  • 26 Pianos – includes variations of uprights and concert grands, electric pianos, synth pianos and harpsichords.
  • 16 Strings – includes orchestral sounds, pads, and acoustic bass. (Oddly enough also includes a single out of place flute preset.)
  • 12 Organs – Jazz, electric and pipe organ variations.
  • 1 Voice Preset – Jazz scat only, no choirs.
  • 4 Do Re Mi – Solfege reference presets.
  • 9 Drum Kits – Includes 1 SFX kit.
  • 255 General MIDI 2 sounds.

Comparing this tone count to their predecessors, you are getting 19 extra tones over the RP501R’ and the F-140R’s 305. The bulk of the new sounds are pianos (predecessors had 11 piano presets), which is a plus in my books.

Roland’s SuperNATURAL sound engine powers the sounds on the F701 and the RP701. This sound engine might be familiar to longtime followers of Roland instruments, as it’s the same engine behind most of Roland’s instruments, including the recently released FP-30X.

Roland SuperNATURAL

The SuperNATURAL sound engine uses a hybrid approach, using both sampling and modeling to produce sounds that, in theory, sound more realistic than simple PCM audio playback. Considering the same engine has been Roland’s go-to for nearly a decade, I’d say it does its job.

With the new set of late-2020 releases, Roland has also updated the engine to bring it up to date. Roland also uses a new proprietary Behavior Modelling Core (BMC) chip to achieve more detailed modeling and playback.

Roland F701 Logo

Do the improvements actually, provide any tangible benefits? If you’ve read our recent reviews on the FP-X series, you’ll already know that the answer is a resounding yes.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, let’s discuss the different types of sounds in detail.


Pianos

I briefly brought up the updated SuperNATURAL sound engine, and pianos are where it shines the most. If you have the opportunity to have a side-by-side comparison done with the prior models, the improvement is clearly night and day.

The SuperNATURAL piano sounds have commonly been criticized as being too bright or thin. In my opinion, the new updated engine certainly fixes this issue.

Steinway Grand Piano

The previous models sounded like they had a constantly active mid-EQ cut, resulting in a weaker sound. On the other hand, the newer models sound a lot better. I’d describe the sounds as being pleasingly ‘fuller’.

The default preset available when you boot up either model is a concert grand, and it sounds clean and neutral, with minimal sampled ambience. This is perfect for practice purposes and generally playing, as there are minimal additions to the excellent preset tone.

The combination of the PHA-4 Standard’s sensors and the SuperNATURAL’s behavioral modeling results in a seemingly seamless playing experience. Specifically, I’m very happy with the dynamic response, as even minute changes in dynamic velocity result in an audible difference.

The criticism of SuperNATURAL pianos being bright does still stand though, it’s just mitigated with the more consistent sonic spectrum of the new sound engine.

For what it’s worth, I do not consider the brightness a negative. I personally like the close-mic-style sound of the SuperNATURAL engine, though I empathize with people who might want a more classical, darker sound.

Roland F701 Side

Unfortunately, this isn’t something you can easily fix with the onboard menus either. Both the F701 and the RP701 have a ‘Brilliance‘ effect, which acts as a high shelf EQ, but this only reduces the ‘brightness’ and doesn’t fully remove it.

This tonality is also present on the pianos under the ‘Classical‘ subcategory too.

Since this is a subjective criticism, I’d recommend giving these digital pianos a test run before deciding on a purchase. After all, my preferences might differ significantly from your own.

One thing worth discussing is the modeling component of the SuperNATURAL sound engine. Roland allows you to modify these sounds in detail using the Piano Designer.

This is accessible through the onboard menu, but you can also opt to use the Piano Designer smartphone app, which connects via Bluetooth.


Piano Designer

Roland Piano Designer

I’ll be honest, as someone raised on digital pianos and keyboards, a lot of the Piano Designer’s power is wasted on me. However, I can still appreciate the customizability on offer here.

Essentially, the Piano Designer gives the users access to the parameters controlling the SuperNATURAL piano sounds.

Such settings include:

  • Lid – The extent of which the lid of the piano is open
  • String Resonance – The sympathetic vibrations of strings adjacent to the played string
  • Damper Resonance – Simulated resonance of the piano when the damper pedal is pressed
  • Key Off Resonance – Simulated sympathetic vibrations when keys are let go
  • Single Note Volume – The volume of each key
  • Single Note Character – The tone of each key (harder or softer sound)
  • Single Note Tunings – Tuning adjustments of each individual note

I didn’t dabble too much with this during my playtest due to my lack of knowledge, but it’s nice to know that these options exist for those who want it.

An omission I noticed was the lack of the ‘My Stage‘ feature that was included with the FP-60X and the FP-90X. This provided users a simple way of switching through custom Piano Designer settings straight from Roland’s sound designers and was a godsend for modeling novices such as myself.

Considering both the F701 and the RP701 are aimed at beginners, I expected this to be an obvious addition. Regardless, it’s not a big deal.

The default sounds are already quite competent, and people who really want to dive in still have access to the full engine.


Other Sounds

The rest of the categories round out the sonic capabilities of the F701 and the RP701.

Apart from grand pianos, there are also upright, electric and synth pianos. These don’t sound as detailed as the pianos in the Grand Piano subcategory but are still nice additions that expand the pianos’ repertoire.

Rhodes Mark II piano

The ‘E. Piano’ category is one of my favorites, including more exotic piano sounds that work great for songs that require them and can also serve as a layer to other sounds. The ‘1976SuitCase‘ preset is great, capturing the sound of an old Fender Rhodes beautifully.

Roland’s Wurlitzer and Rhodes-style presets are some of the most popular in the industry, and respond realistically to their playing dynamics. You also get synthesizer-based pianos like DX-7s and synth stacks.

Roland F701 RP701 Menus

The ‘Strings‘ category covers most rich, sustained sounds, such as orchestral instruments and pads. The titular string sounds are wide and epic, but I don’t really see myself using them for more than layering purposes.

If you want to practice left/right hand split playing, there is also an Acoustic Bass + Cymbal preset in this category.

The ‘Organ‘ category contains some good sounds as well. I tested out the ‘Combo Jz.Org‘ preset, and it is a good example of Roland’s electric jazz organs.

Unfortunately, there is no way to modify the rotary speeds, which might limit these presets’ usability in a recording context.

I’ll skip the ‘Voice‘ category, as there’s only a single ‘Jazz Scat’ preset, which I don’t really know how to use effectively.

For solfege singers, the ‘Do Re Mi’ category provides reference tones across the keybed.

There’s is also the ‘Drums‘ category, which includes excellent sampled drum kits. For finger drumming, the samples work great, but it is not easy on weighted keys.

Musical Instruments

Finally, the ‘GM2’ soundbank covers the General MIDI 2 sounds. There’s a total of 255 sounds in this category, and are comparatively basic compared to the rest of the sounds.

However, the main use of the GM2 and Drum sounds are in the Rhythm mode (with the caveat that this mode is not accessible on the keyboard without the app).

All in all, the F701 and the RP701 covers good ground with its sound library. Unfortunately, the sounds are somewhat limited in terms of further customizability.


Effects

The RP701 and F701 both have a very limited effects section, consisting only of an Ambience, Headphone 3D Ambience, and a Brilliance effect.

Sound Wave

The ‘Ambience’ effect is essentially a reverb unit. It includes a single algorithm, having 10 distinct levels. The intensity of the effect controls the depth and size of the reverb effect simultaneously.

This effect can be used to place your presets in a simulated room, which adds a sense of space to the sounds.

The ‘Headphone 3D Ambience‘ is another space simulator effect. This effect is only active when headphones are in use and only applies to piano sounds.

Roland Headphones 3D Ambience

When activated, this effect makes it seem like you’re sitting in front of a piano with some stereo enhancements. It defaults to being activated, and I found it subtle enough to leave it on.

The ‘Brilliance’ effect acts as a high-shelf EQ. This includes 21 distinct values, ranging from -10 to +10. Using this effect, users can increase the treble content of sounds on-demand. This will primarily be used to tweak the sonic profile of the sounds, to better suit the room the piano is placed in.


Polyphony

Roland F701 RP701 Polyphony

What is Polyphony?
Polyphony is the number of notes a digital piano can produce at the same time.

Most of the contemporary digital pianos are equipped with 64, 128, 192 or 256-note polyphony.

You may wonder how it is possible to have 32, 64, or even 128 notes playing at the same time, if there are only 88 keys and we never play them all at once.

First of all, many of today’s digital pianos use stereo samples, which sometimes require two or even more notes for each key played.

Furthermore, using the sustain pedal, sound effects (Reverb, Chorus), dual-mode (layering), and even the metronome ticking sound takes up additional notes of polyphony.

For example, when you depress the sustain pedal, the earliest played notes continue to sound while you’re adding new ones and the piano needs more memory to keep all the notes sounding.

Another example of polyphony consumption is when you’re playing along with a song playback (can also be your own recorded performance) or auto-accompaniment.

In this case, the piano will need polyphony not only for the notes you’re playing but also for the backing track.

When you reach the polyphony cap, the piano starts to drop the earliest played notes to free up memory for new notes, which in turn affects the quality and fullness of the sound.

You’ll rarely need all 192 or 256 voices of polyphony at once, but there are cases when you can reach 64 or even 128 note limits, especially if you like to layer several sounds and create multi-track recordings.

It’s desirable to have at least 64 notes of polyphony.

Both the F701 and the RP701 come with 256 notes of polyphony. This is a step up over their predecessors’ 128 notes. Polyphony serves as a measure of how many samples can be simultaneously triggered before the earliest sound gets suddenly cut off.

Thankfully, the cutoffs are almost never an issue. Even when playing layered multisample sounds with long sustained phrases, I didn’t have any issues.

This might end up becoming a problem if you start to add the polyphony-heavy Rhythms and Accompaniments into the mix, but 256 notes is still a very high number that leaves you with a good safety net.


Speakers

The speakers on both the RP701 and the F701 sounded identical during my playtest. A quick glance at the spec sheet also shows that they are rated at identical dimensions and wattages. Each comes with two 12W speakers.

Roland F701 RP701 Speakers

These speakers are bottom-facing, which is the norm for furniture-style digital pianos at this price point.

In terms of sound projection, these are capable of pushing quite a lot of volume, and at higher settings, can even fill out a small hall without the need for external amplifiers.

It’s also worth noting that unlike Roland’s recent portable digital piano releases, neither the RP701 nor the F701 include 1/4″ stereo outs, which makes using an external amplifier a bit more difficult unless you’re willing to work with converters.

Features

Apart from sounds and keys, most digital pianos require a few extra features to truly be considered complete.

Considering these are home-based pianos that serve more as furniture set pieces, I’m a bit more lenient about the inclusion or absence of specific features.

Roland F701 RP701 Metronome

Let’s start with a quick rundown of the modifiable parameters and functionality available on both instruments.


Functions

All of the following features are modifiable from the onboard function menu, but if you’re not a fan of menu diving, you can choose to operate the settings menu using Roland’s Piano Every Day through the Bluetooth connection.

This also has the benefit of having a larger touch-based interface.

Some notable settings include:

  • TRANSPOSING. This allows you to change the played key. For example, you can transpose down 2 semitones, and your C-key playing will sound like an A#-key.
  • Pressing the metronome button activates the in-built metronome. The tempo can be set using the dedicated buttons.
  • METRONOME SETTINGS. You can change the time signature, downbeat, pattern, volume and tone of the metronome.
  • MASTER TUNING. The central tuning of the middle A can be modified from 415.3 Hz – 466.2Hz.

Apart from these functions, there are some other features worth discussing in detail.


Modes

The F701 and the RP701 include 3 different modes. There’s Dual, Split and Twin Piano.

Dual Mode Layering

Dual mode is essentially the ‘Layer’ mode found on most modern digital pianos. This allows you to layer two tones, making each keypress trigger two sounds simultaneously.

Choosing which tones to layer is quite easy using the screen and encoder knob, and you can mix the volume balance between the two tones as well.

Split Mode

Split mode, as you might have guessed, splits the keyboard into two halves, assigning a different sound to your left and right-hand parts. You can designate the split point, and also tweak the volume balance to suit your needs.

Twin Piano Duet

Finally, Twin Piano mode is designed for one-on-one teaching sessions. When this mode is engaged, the keyboard is split into two halves of equal octave ranges. This allows teachers to sit alongside their students for a more direct approach to demonstrations.


Song Recording and Playback

Songs can be recorded onto onboard memory or an external USB drive. Note that any compatible USB drive needs to be formatted prior to use using the onboard menu. You can trigger the recording by hitting the record button, playing along to the metronome if you’d prefer.

Roland F701 RP701 Recording

The recorder allows for 2 tracks to be recorded, labeled left and right. However, each track doesn’t limit the octave ranges, meaning you can overdub previous recordings in post.

The recorder also includes a part for the accompaniment. It isn’t actually possible to record any accompaniment without using the app, so let’s talk about how we can gain access to some otherwise locked features with the Piano Every Day app.


Accompaniment Features

As alluded to earlier, accompaniment features are inaccessible if you do not use the Piano Every Day app.

This is actually a strange omission. People familiar with the previous models might have realized that the letter ‘R‘ suffix was removed from the RP line, which represented the unit’s rhythm capabilities.

Instead, Roland moved the rhythm functionality to their app. This pattern is also observed with the FP-X line, though in that case, the feature was a bonus addition to a digital piano that otherwise lacked said options.

Roland F701 RP701 MIDI Parts

Regardless, accessing these features through the app is not too hard. If you’ve used arranger keyboards in the past, you’ll feel right at home with the accompaniment section.

Left-hand chord tracking and melodic accompaniments are available if you want to practice one-man-band parts.

I believe the main reason for the removal of these features is to reduce control clutter, as the intro, variation, fill and outro buttons would have resulted in a much busier user interface, which doesn’t really match the clean, minimalist look Roland is going for.

Instead, consider these extra features a bonus if you do decide to use the app.


Bluetooth Connectivity

Bluetooth icon

Apart from being used to connect to the Piano Every Day and Piano Designer apps, the Bluetooth connection also supports Bluetooth audio and MIDI.

If you want, you can play songs or backing tracks straight from your Bluetooth-linked devices, serving as an alternative to a wired AUX connection.

Note that Bluetooth Audio only works one-way. While you can playback external audio, you cannot send audio from either the RP701 or the F701.

Bluetooth MIDI affords a lot more flexibility. MIDI signals can be sent from the insturment, allowing you to control music apps with MIDI support.

Piano Every Day App

Roland Piano Every Day

Using a Bluetooth connection, both the F701 and the RP701 can be linked to the Piano Every Day app, which allows the user to control the digital piano without using the onboard controls.

The app is available on Android and iOS, and is free. All you need is a smart device.

Whether or not this is worth it might come down to personal preference. I found the onboard controls completely sufficient for my needs (and very well designed to boot), but someone might prefer using a larger control surface.

Piano Every Day Interface

It’s also worth noting that the app itself isn’t all that well received. At the time of writing, the app stands at a 2.2/5 star rating on the Android Google Play Store.

Connectivity

In terms of connectivity, a home-based furniture-style digital piano doesn’t need too much, but some options would have been nice to have.

Roland F701 RP701 Headphone Hook

A 1/8″ mini TRS jack serves as the main output, allowing you to use the F701 and the RP701 with external amplifiers.

I don’t really think these were designed with external amplification in mind, but they do work if you want to link things up to a consumer speaker. Since this isn’t aimed at stage use, I’ll excuse the lack of dual 1/4″ TRS outputs.

If you want to practice without the speakers turned on, both instruments come with two headphone jacks.

Roland F701 RP701 Connectors

Both 1/8″ and 1/4″ TRS jacks are available, meaning you won’t need to deal with the hassle of converters if you just so happen to have the ‘wrong’ headphone cord. Also, both headphone jacks can be used simultaneously if you are so inclined.

If you want to playback audio without using the Bluetooth connection, there is a 1/8″ stereo mini input that allows you to link up your smartphone or MP3 players.

For saving recorded songs, a USB Type A port is provided. As previously stated, any USB stick used must be formatted using the onboard menus prior to use.

Roland F701 RP701 Ports

Finally, there is a USB Type B port. This supports both USB MIDI and USB Audio, and allows these digital pianos to be used as with a DAW.

The Audio support comes as a surprise and means that you can directly record the SuperNATURAL-based sounds into your DAW without the need for an external audio interface.

Accessories

The base F701 and RP701 packages come with the following accessories:

  • Owner’s Manual
  • AC adaptor
  • Headphone hook
  • Stabilizer

As always, I want to remind prospective buyers to check the AC adapter voltages, ensuring that they match your country’s mains. This is particularly important if you are importing either instrument from an overseas retailer. Nobody wants to short out their brand new digital piano because of an oversight.

Considering both the F701 and the RP701 include a stand and 3-pedal setups, it really is the complete package. While you might need a while to assemble them from scratch, you’ll be good to go as soon as you power it up for the first time.

My local retailer seems to include a bench of matching color with every purchase of the F701 and the RP701, and this seems to be the standard across most online retailers I checked as well.


Headphones

Roland F701 RP701 Headphones

Headphones come in very handy when you want to practice in private, focusing solely on your playing and not disturbing others nearby.

Moreover, a good pair of headphones will provide a clearer and more detailed sound compared to the onboard speakers.

Check out this guide to learn how to choose the best-sounding headphones for your keyboard.

Summary

Roland F701 RP701 Verdict

Pros
  • Award-winning design
  • New improved user interface
  • PHA-4 Standard key action
  • Upgraded SuperNATURAL chip with BMC
  • Wide sound palette
  • Built-in USB audio interface
  • Bluetooth MIDI and audio
Cons
  • Limited effects
  • Rhythms are only available through the app
  • No dedicated line outputs
  • Very similar to other, cheaper instruments

Both the F701 and the RP701 are gorgeous instruments, and I don’t really have much to complain about. The PHA-4 Standard keys are still excellent, the updated SuperNATURAL sound engine sounds better, and the overall design is well-deserving of the Red Dot award.

The improvements to sound quality are the most impressive. Roland’s updated SuperNATURAL sound engine and BMC chipset really help alleviate a lot of the complaints people had about the older versions. Fuller and warmer sounds are always a plus in my book.

The great design is probably most evident in the controls. The new controls seem like they’re copying the FP-60X and the FP-90X, digital pianos that are commonly praised for their well-thought-out control layouts.

Finally, there’s the PHA-4 Standard key action. There are better weighted key actions out there (such as Roland’s own PHA-50 with a hybrid wooden construction), but the PHA-4 Standard still stands the test of time. Regardless of your skill level, these keys will serve as a perfectly acceptable substitute to true piano keys.

All in all, I really like the F701 (and by extension, the RP701). These are fairly-priced console digital pianos that I’m very satisfied with.

Both instruments are fine choices if you’re in the market for a living room set piece that doubles as a nice practice piano.

Below you can check the availability and current price of the Roland F701 in your region:

US: ( What Retailer to Buy From )
Sweetwater Guitar Center Amazon

Viable Alternatives

I do want to discuss one major factor that any prospective buyers should know.

Considering that most of Roland’s new product line-up include similar components and features, you can get eerily similar experiences without spending as much, especially if you’re willing to go with a portable digital piano instead.

The FP-X series that we recently reviewed, particularly the FP-30X and the FP-60X, in an oversimplified sense, can be described as an F701/RP701 without the fancy stand. It ticks all the same boxes, using PHA-4 Standard keys and including the updated SuperNATURAL sound engine.

You might also be surprised to hear that the FP-60X includes larger and more powerful speakers that I personally find to be more pleasing.

I’m bringing up these possible replacements because of one big factor: cost.

While I definitely consider the furniture-like stylings of the F701 and the RP701 to be more aesthetically pleasing, getting the same features in a more compact package feels like an unbelievably good deal.

The FP-X series even includes a matching furniture-style stand and a corresponding triple-pedal setup as optional add-ons, further blurring the lines.

Sure, it might not look as cohesive as the F701 and RP701’s full-body construction, but with digital pianos, playability and sound come first.

As a thrifty (arguably stingy) spender, I did a few price comparisons at the time of writing. You can actually get an FP-60X with the stand/triple pedal combo for just under the F701’s MSRP. That’s a pretty good deal.

Though, to end things off, just note that I’m someone who prefers function over form. If I were to rank the F701/RP701 against the FP-X in terms of looks, there’s no competition, the F701 easily takes the runaway victory.

In the end, it’s a personal preference. I’m just bringing up this possibility for people who might share my viewpoint.

One Response

  1. Avatar Admin lee May 11, 2022

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