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Roland FA-07 released

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Roland FA-07 released

Postby Scramble » Sat Jul 01, 2017 12:16 pm

Some of you might be interested to hear that Roland have released a 76-key semi-weighted version of their FA series keyboard.

I have an FA-08. I have to say it's an excellent keyboard. I've been meaning to write about it here sooner. I know the FAs got a bit of stick here when they came out. Dave B wasn't keen, and his opinion carries weight. But I've had one for quite a while now, and I really like it. People have said that it's plasticky and doesn't feel well-built enough, but I disagree. It is made of plastic, sure, but that's the way it's supposed to be. It's supposed to be lightweight, and it is lightweight. But for a cheaper plastic keyboard it's put together pretty well, and I'm confident in taking it out to gigs.

The sounds are excellent, particularly the Supernatural pianos. It's basically a somewhat cut-down Integra. It's a really good all-round live keyboard, and a pretty decent studio performer as well. Better than my Krome. Soundwise it's up there with my Fantom X8, although the X8 has a lot more features - the FA has been stripped back a fair bit (sometimes in frustrating ways), and doesn't work anywhere near as well as a master controller.

Obviously it's a bread-and-butter keyboard that's not breaking any new ground in synthesis. Some people have criticised Roland for their lack of innovation, and fair enough too, but I'm looking at this keyboard purely as a general all-rounder.

The FA-08 hammer-action keybed is really nice. The unweighted FA-06 keybed has won few fans, but it looks like the 07 will have a semi-weighted keybed that will be better than the 06. So it's worth a look if you want a good value bread-and-butter lightweight keyboard, particularly for live use.
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Re: Roland FA-07 released

Postby Dave B » Sat Jul 01, 2017 12:43 pm

Scramble wrote: Dave B wasn't keen, and his opinion carries weight.

Nah... never confuse "is too fat" with "carries weight" ... ;)

Interesting board. Just to clarify, the 'semi-weighted' is still a synth action - hopefully it means that it's a decent one rather than the shonky one that's been on the lower end keyboards for a while. BUT .... no aftertouch!! WTF?? Seriously??

For 1200quid, that's a lot of keyboard for the money. But it now looks like unless you're prepared to blow 2k+ on a main board, you don't get a proper power supply or aftertouch. And that's just mad. Roland aren't alone on this - I looked at the Korg Krome and whilst it sounded great, it had the same failings.

As time goes on, I suspect things will get harder for the big boys simply because there are now so many high quality s/h workstations out there. People are almost giving away Fantom Xs and the Gs are coming down as well. If I were in the market for a 76key keyboard, I think I'd be looking at an X7 at the moment. I'd be fascinated to know how the FAs are selling and whether this is their new idea or just a last roll of the dice.
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Re: Roland FA-07 released

Postby The Elf » Sat Jul 01, 2017 5:06 pm

That looked a nice machine. Roland's 'semi-weighted' to me are actually 'non-weighted', which is something that suits me perfectly. In this instance I was particularly interested in the fact that it could double as an audio interface to help me with my live rig...

...then I noticed. Over a grand's-worth of keyboard and we have to live with an external PSU?!

Gone are the days when, if I complained about an external PSU, I was told that it kept the cost down for budget gear. How much would an internal PSU have added to this machine?

It could redeem itself if it can be powered by the USB connection - any idea if this is possible?

The lack of aftertouch is in keeping with newer Roland stuff such as the System 8. I really don't understand what's happened to Roland in this respect - I'm baffled as to why aftertouch isn't included here.

The problem is that Roland must be selling these things - and that suggests that the people parting with their money don't care about these issues.
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Re: Roland FA-07 released

Postby Escapegoat » Sat Jul 01, 2017 6:07 pm

I think I read every review of the FA-0n before going for an out-dated Fantom G for my little home set-up. There's an Integra 7 at work, so I didn't need the SN tones, and everything else on the FA looked like a backwards step.

That this FA-07 was deemed significant enough to be a revelation during Roland's recent PR event is a sign of the times.
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Re: Roland FA-07 released

Postby BobTheDog » Sat Jul 01, 2017 6:48 pm

I think probably the main idea is to stop putting mains voltages into a box that people touch.

It does make sense in a way.
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Re: Roland FA-07 released

Postby Escapegoat » Sat Jul 01, 2017 7:05 pm

Well, there's nothing wrong with any properly earthed mains equipment. But it's likely to be approvals (which is also about cutting costs).

1 - create an external power supply for mains-to-DC conversion
2 - test it for a wide range of current demands
3 - get that single-widget approved
4 - design many different products using it
5 - now the individual synths/etc don't need their own mains-related approvals process (because they are low-voltage devices)
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Re: Roland FA-07 released

Postby BobTheDog » Sat Jul 01, 2017 8:44 pm

Yep that's what I meant, granted you put it in a much better way!
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Re: Roland FA-07 released

Postby Scramble » Sun Jul 02, 2017 1:14 am

If I just wanted a studio keyboard, I would be tempted to get a second-hand Fantom X (which I do have in my studio), or a G, over an FA. I'm not sure though, because the FA's pianos are better than the X's disappointing pianos (don't know about the G's). Or maybe I'd get a second-hand Kronos, or just an Integra module.

For live work, though, there's no contest for anyone who has back troubles, or who wants to avoid them in future, and who doesn't have roadies. The FA-08 feels like a toothpick compared to the Fantoms (as does the Korg Krome).

The keybed on the 07 has supposedly got some good reviews from people who've tried it, it's supposed to be like the Jupiter 50 keybed which apparently is good. (Whether that will suit The Elf I don't know.)

The lack of aftertouch is of course incredibly annoying, but pretty much all the lightweight keyboards are like that. Unbelievable, I know, especially when it's supposed to not actually cost very much at all to put in. (Mind you, even on the X8 the aftertouch is badly implemented, you need fingers of steel to make it work.)

>It could redeem itself if it can be powered by the USB connection - any idea if this is possible?

It can't be powered by USB.

The external PSU will seem a pain to some people, but again, that's standard these days. I can at least report that the FA has a much better connector on its AC adapter than the Krome AC adapter, which threatens to fall out much more easily than the FA's.

There is, however, one advantage with an external PSU which means I prefer it -- if you're setting up for your gig and you realise that your PSU has died then your keyboard isn't screwed for the gig as it would have been with an internal PSU, you just get your spare external PSU, ie. spare AC adapter, out. (That means shelling out for spare AC adapters, but I'd rather that than the gig being ruined and then you have to find a repairman before the next gig.)

On the other hand an external PSU is liable to get left behind, but that's why I always have two spares with me.
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Re: Roland FA-07 released

Postby Dave B » Sun Jul 02, 2017 11:27 am

Scramble wrote:(Mind you, even on the X8 the aftertouch is badly implemented, you need fingers of steel to make it work.)

Roland keep to-ing and fro-ing when it comes to how heavy the aftertouch should be. I still reckon that's why so many JD800s have bad keys - you almost need a lump hammer to make it work ;)
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Re: Roland FA-07 released

Postby mick.n » Sun Jul 02, 2017 12:07 pm

Scramble wrote:
There is, however, one advantage with an external PSU which means I prefer it -- if you're setting up for your gig and you realise that your PSU has died then your keyboard isn't screwed for the gig as it would have been with an internal PSU,

That's exactly what happened to my Yamaha EX5 at a gig back in 2008. A replacement was not available even from Yamaha....but fortunately i was able to remove just the PSU & send it to Yamaha service to have it repaired at a modest price......Yamaha even paid the return postage. (Couple of blown cap's). Excellent service, but i have heard that they no longer have the repair dept(?)

Although i still winge about external PSU's, at that time i wished that the EX5 had one. ;)
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Re: Roland FA-07 released

Postby bill555 » Thu Jul 27, 2017 9:48 pm

A couple clarifications:

- It costs $1500

- It is not a synth action keybed calling itself semi-weighted. I thought so initially but later found it is semi-weighted as one would expect that to be defined (more to it than a synth action but not as much as a weighted). That said I have not personally tried yet but got on authority from people who I trust. When I find one I'll try it and if it's like the 06 I will smack those people. :)

- IMO if you're going to go that far ($1500) why not just get the 08, but I guess if people like the action on it and won't miss a few keys, why not save the coin?

And yeah I'm also PO'd about the whole after-touch thing generally. sigh.
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Re: Roland FA-07 released

Postby PatrickB » Thu Oct 18, 2018 6:37 pm

Having been out of the home music making hobby for about 10 years, I decided to get an FA-07 to encourage my son to learn piano. I have a TG77 and Alpha Juno2 in the loft, but wanted something he could just sit down at and play, with the onboard sequencer and other toys adding a bit of encouragement.

What really surprised me is how little things seem to have moved on sound-wise in more than 25 years! - Sure, there are more sounds, and the samples are longer, but really? - Most of the synth tones are no more inspiring than the TG77 (and I'm not even a fan of FM) and the Alpha's rich bass tones still get you in way that most of the 1000's of FA sounds just don't (I had to dig it out to check - AND it has aftertouch). It's nice to have the Juno and Jupiter emulations, but if the selling point of a brand new synth is that it can make some of the sounds of 40 years ago, it's a sad tale.

Once you get past the 'oooh look, I can play a ten second layered sample on the keyboard', it just sounds like synths have always sounded. Given the huge strides forward in technology, I'm really surprised they haven't come up with something genuinely different. - Think DX7 - Radical. D50 - Radical. M1 - Radical, for the time, of course. Now it seems the approach is 'more of the same in a cheaper box'

As for the SuperNatural stuff, I have to say, marketing guff. - It's easy to make it sound Super Unnatural if you don't hit the keys in the right way. Everyone seems to be raving about the SN Pianos, but I really have heard so much better.

On the upside, the noise (or lack of) is admittedly much improved, but if I was making serious music, I'd be banging my head against the wall for inspiration, rather than trying different sounds on this unit.

The multi effects are handy, but they're not a substitute for proper effects

Thinking about it, if this is typical of the synth business, it's very much like the desktop printer market - real useful functionality and quality hasn't improved for years, decades, even, so the only business direction is 'sell em cheap and pile em high'

I'll admit I haven't heard all the other modern variants, but from what I read on forums like this, there is unlikely to be much to choose between them.
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Re: Roland FA-07 released

Postby Dave B » Fri Oct 19, 2018 9:37 am

And if you make those sort of comments to the Roland sales rep, you get glared at and asked "where is all this anger coming from?". Eventually, he'll just tell you that Roland aren't interested in selling you a synth any more as you haven't waxed lyrical about their cheap boxes that recreate yesteryear (badly in some cases).

We live in a great time for synths. I really believe that. But nobody is currently considering the gigging musician - it's "our flagship product or nothing" in terms of critical features. Very sad
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Re: Roland FA-07 released

Postby Escapegoat » Fri Oct 19, 2018 4:40 pm

PatrickB wrote:Having been out of the home music making hobby for about 10 years, I decided to get an FA-07 to encourage my son to learn piano. I have a TG77 and Alpha Juno2 in the loft, but wanted something he could just sit down at and play, with the onboard sequencer and other toys adding a bit of encouragement.

What really surprised me is how little things seem to have moved on sound-wise in more than 25 years! - Sure, there are more sounds, and the samples are longer, but really? - Most of the synth tones are no more inspiring than the TG77 (and I'm not even a fan of FM) and the Alpha's rich bass tones still get you in way that most of the 1000's of FA sounds just don't (I had to dig it out to check - AND it has aftertouch). It's nice to have the Juno and Jupiter emulations, but if the selling point of a brand new synth is that it can make some of the sounds of 40 years ago, it's a sad tale.

Once you get past the 'oooh look, I can play a ten second layered sample on the keyboard', it just sounds like synths have always sounded. Given the huge strides forward in technology, I'm really surprised they haven't come up with something genuinely different. - Think DX7 - Radical. D50 - Radical. M1 - Radical, for the time, of course. Now it seems the approach is 'more of the same in a cheaper box'

As for the SuperNatural stuff, I have to say, marketing guff. - It's easy to make it sound Super Unnatural if you don't hit the keys in the right way. Everyone seems to be raving about the SN Pianos, but I really have heard so much better.

On the upside, the noise (or lack of) is admittedly much improved, but if I was making serious music, I'd be banging my head against the wall for inspiration, rather than trying different sounds on this unit.

The multi effects are handy, but they're not a substitute for proper effects

Thinking about it, if this is typical of the synth business, it's very much like the desktop printer market - real useful functionality and quality hasn't improved for years, decades, even, so the only business direction is 'sell em cheap and pile em high'

I'll admit I haven't heard all the other modern variants, but from what I read on forums like this, there is unlikely to be much to choose between them.

That's a bit unfair. The FA is really 90% ROMpler, dedicated to a wide range of bread and butter sounds with lots of voices and multi-timbrality, and for those thousands of tones, sound quality has come on hugely. Nothing you've got in the TG or Alpha can touch it.

But if you want to synthesize a sound, you chose poorly, especially when there are more appropriate choices - System 8 or JD-XA - in the Roland catalogue.
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Re: Roland FA-07 released

Postby PatrickB » Fri Oct 19, 2018 6:27 pm

Thanks for your very reasonable reply.

Unfortunately, the main reason for buying it was for my son to learn piano, so the lack of keys on the system 8 and jdxa are a non starter. I have an A80, but the missus wouldn't allow it a permanent home anywhere she can see it.

I have to disagree about it trumping the Juno Alpha 2. I too thought I was just stuck in nostalgia land, so that's why I dug it out. It's hard to explain, but the Juno just inspires you to create basslines, even with it's limited ability (maybe that's got something to do with it). There's just an immediacy to it that I don't get with the FA.

I'm not sure about the TG77, I always thought everything sounded a bit DX-samey (and the reason I didn't go for a Yamaha), but haven't had time to dig it out.

I completely accept that the FA could be considered a bread and butter keyboard, and I'm sure it's great for that. It's just that with all the advances in technology, I'm surprised they couldn't come up with a more inspiring palette of sounds.

One other thing proposed by an earlier reply about the mains adapter. He absolutely nailed it - Get the adapter certified, and you're good to go safety-wise for any number of products. The point about replacing failed PSU's is another good reason, even if this app makes the whole thing feel a bit consumer grade.
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Re: Roland FA-07 released

Postby Escapegoat » Fri Oct 19, 2018 9:51 pm

I said the breadth of the FA's ROMples exceeds the Juno's capabilities. But - aside from the amazing Alpha chorus - I'll bet that if you took the time to programme the FA, you'd find that it's a deep and capable synthesis engine. The architecture alone takes it way beyond the Alpha's typically simple structure. Just have a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTofNxdIdvw - there are synthesized sounds that the Alpha will never get to.

But it's not immediate. My point is that no-one decides to buy a Fantom to program sounds. Instead you buy one to cover a huge amount of tones, stuff that a typical subtractive synthesis engine can't do. That's why they have decent pianos/etc, and 100+ bass patches. It's easy to give up on programming a ROMpler (I can't even watch more than about 30s of that video) and even though the Montage's AWM2 engine is a lot easier, I'd prefer to program a synth built for the job.
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