Roland FP-E50 Portable Digital Piano with ZEN-Core synth sounds


Roland has announced another portable digital piano – the FP-E50 – is bringing the company’s ZEN-Core synth engine along for the ride.

Does this 88-note keyboard give you the best of both worlds?

ZEN-Core is Roland’s flagship synthesis system – the one used in the likes of the Jupiter-X and Fantom workstation keyboards – and its inclusion gives the FP-E50 a notable point of difference in comparison with other digital pianos.

In the FP-E50, ZEN-Core supplies 1018 onboard sounds (synths, brass, orchestral voices, guitars/basses, drums and more). These can be layered with the all-important piano tones that come included.

Said tones are generated using Roland’s SuperNATURAL piano engine, and can be played on the 88-note hammer-action keyboard, which offers escapement and an ivory-like feel.

More ZEN-Core sounds can be added via Roland Cloud. But, it seems you can’t install the Model Expansions that emulate specific classic Roland synths – you will need a Jupiter-X, Juno-X or Fantom if you want those – but EXZ Wave Expansions and SDZ Sound Packs are on the menu, providing you have the appropriate subscription.

FP-E50 is designed for home use and it is also portable – the built-in stereo speakers are a clear indicator of that – and you can hook it up to external speakers if you wish. Other connectivity options include a headphone output, Bluetooth audio/MIDI and computer integration via USB.

In addition, there are auto-accompaniment tools. You can fire-up full-band backing tracks in more than 200 styles, with more style packs available on Roland Cloud.

Accompaniments are triggered using your left hand. Beginners can use one-note triggering, and there’s full-chord detection for more advanced players. An Interactive mode enables you to adjust the volume and “energy” of the backing in real-time, and you can set up chord progressions for improvisation in a dedicated sequencer.

And, there are vocal effects. Plug in a mic, start singing and the FP-E50 can generate real-time vocal harmonies that follow the chords, and there’s a transformer that can switch your vocals’ gender or turn you into a robot. Further “studio-grade” vocal effects include a vocoder, an ambience effect, a compressor and a noise suppressor.

Navigation of the FP-E50 is said to be simple. The top-level display shows you the current sound, tempo and other essential information, and we’re assured that it’s easy to make sound selections, favourite specific tones, transpose and more. Long-press functionality on many buttons is designed to cut down on menu diving, and you can save complete keyboard setups as Scenes. Landing this February, the FP-E50 will cost $1,000.

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