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Roland Fantom-0

Roland Fantom-0

The Fantom‑0 squeezes the soul of its flagship big brother into a compact and affordable package.

As intrepid TV ghost hunters terrify their viewers with dimly lit scenes of bogus spooky happenings, there nevertheless exists genuine evidence that revenants walk among us. These lonely creatures seemingly never die, but return to haunt us again and again in a variety of shape‑shifting forms. As ghosts go, they’re surprisingly amenable and house‑trained — in fact, you can buy one on credit from your local music shop and take it home to entertain your friends and family. I refer to the Roland Fantom, a popular and enduring keyboard which has restlessly roamed the Earth for the last 20 years.

The latest manifestation of this deathless apparition is the Fantom‑0, available in Fantom‑06 (61‑note), Fantom‑07 (76‑note) and Fantom‑08 (88‑note) models. The instrument is a direct descendant of Roland’s 2019 flagship Fantom keyboard (aka the ‘big Fantom’), a pro‑level workstation‑cum‑synthesizer which I reviewed in SOS November 2019.

Though impressive beasts, the big Fantoms are expensive, large and heavy: the 88‑note version weighs 28kg and is over 43cm deep, which would overshadow anything placed beneath it in a multi‑keyboard stage rig. No doubt conscious that this costly and back‑breaking unit might not be the first choice for someone playing a Tuesday night pub gig, Roland have created a more affordable slimmed‑down version. The new Fantom‑0 series combines the original’s sound technologies and open performance architecture in a light, streamlined and competitively priced instrument with potential appeal for professional, semi‑pro and hobbyist users.

This combination of musical versatility and great value for money seems bound to ensure that the new slimmed‑down Fantom‑0 will never die.

For this review I examined the 61‑note Fantom‑06, which is identical to its 76‑note and 88‑note siblings in all respects bar the number of keys and keybed style. Since its design and functions largely replicate those of the big Fantom, you might care to read my review of that instrument at Rather than repeat its details, I’ll concentrate here on explaining how the new Fantom‑0 instruments differ from their big brothers.


The main reason for the new Fantom‑0 keyboards’ dramatic weight loss is the substitution of a plastic chassis for their predecessors’ tough metal body. The Fantom‑06 and Fantom‑07 models also shed extra ounces by utilising a standard unweighted synth‑action keybed. While this light action is perfectly serviceable, responds well to rapid note reiterations and is relatively noise‑free, I found it easier to articulate fast runs on my old Fantom‑G6, rattly keys and all — by comparison, the new keybed feels a tad spongy and resistant. Maybe it’s just me? In any case, strong‑fingered keyboardists may prefer the Fantom‑08’s PHA‑4 Standard weighted keyboard, which simulates the ‘escapement’ bump and ivory feel of a grand piano. The keys are full size and standard width, but keyboard aftertouch is not implemented in any of the models.

In the interests of affordability certain features have been scaled down: the Fantom‑0’s colour touchscreen display is 5.5 inches from corner to corner (down from the big Fantom’s 7 inches), the 16 patch‑select/step‑sequencer buttons are smaller and there are no front‑panel ADSR envelope controls. The USB audio slider has also been removed. Other than that, the panel layout is essentially unchanged.

Back‑panel audio connections consist of a stereo headphone jack, main output L/R balanced jacks, auxiliary sub output L/R jacks, a sub out stereo headphone mini‑jack, a mono mic input jack and line input L/R jacks. There are no XLR connections (though the online documentation claims otherwise) and no CV/gate connections. For the fashion‑conscious, the big Fantom’s somewhat incongruous bright red rear panel has given way to a tasteful black, though small flashes of red here and there will help audiences identify the make of keyboard.

Standard MIDI connections consist of a single in and out (the latter doubling as MIDI Thru, selectable in a front‑panel menu). You can send and receive MIDI and audio to and from your computer and other devices via USB external device and computer ports. An additional USB memory port is available for transferring sample and patch data. Back in the pre‑computer world, there’s a jack socket for your sustain/hold pedal (which supports half‑pedalling) and two further jacks for pedal controllers, which can control MIDI volume, expression, patch change, sequencer start/stop and a host of other functions.

Lurking inside the product box you’ll find a wall‑wart mains adaptor (cue massed booing) and a printed owner’s manual, which reiterates its 35 pages of text in eight languages, hopefully all saying the same thing. This simple guide is supplemented by several enormously detailed PDF documents (including sound lists), which you can download from Roland’s website. Gigging keyboardists will be pleased to know the Fantom‑0 boots up in 20 seconds, a welcome improvement on its predecessor’s 40 seconds (though less time to enjoy the psychedelic flashing‑lights...

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