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Roland RD-08

Stage Keyboard By Robin Bigwood
Published July 2024

Roland RD-08

Roland's RD‑08 is a stage keyboard with hidden depths that punches well above its price tag.

Roland’s RD keyboard range has been around for decades, offering various permutations of the stage keyboard concept, from simple preset‑based designs to models (like the current flagship RD‑2000) that border on workstation synth complexity.

The RD‑08 under review here sits at the simpler end of things, and is one of the most affordable RDs ever. It’s a counterpart to the existing, slightly dearer and more sophisticated RD‑88, and is clearly pitched at musicians who want easy access to high‑quality, playable sounds, and not too much in‑your‑face complexity. As we’ll see, though, there is considerable depth if you go looking for it.

Relative Dimension

Let’s start with the basics. The keyboard is Roland’s 88‑note hammer‑action PHA‑4, with textured ebony/ivory feel keys and an additional resistance stage in the downstroke that mimics an acoustic piano’s escapement mechanism. There’s velocity sensitivity (of course) but no aftertouch.

The PHA‑4 isn’t Roland’s top‑of‑the‑range action, but it’s a very good one indeed, with a notably lively and responsive feel. Key dip is 10mm and octave span a full‑size 165mm. Mechanically it’s quiet, with nothing but a damped thud on the downstroke and even less on the release. I enjoyed playing it immensely: it seems to work well regardless of musical style, though is obviously not well suited to some organ techniques and really widdly synth solos.

I’ll let the accompanying photo in this review illustrate what the RD‑08’s control panel offers [click to enlarge it]. Suffice to say, there are fewer knobs and buttons even than on the RD‑88, and hugely less so than the RD‑2000. The pitch and mod wheels are small and stubby too, though serviceable. Crucial stuff on the rear panel includes USB A and B sockets for thumb drives and a computer connection, audio inputs for a mic and stereo line on 6.35mm and 3.5mm sockets, and three pedal inputs. One of those is specifically for a damper pedal and works with continuous‑type pedals for partial‑pedalling effects; a squat switch‑type DP‑2 pedal included in the RD‑08 box isn’t sophisticated enough for that but is better than nothing. The other two pedal inputs are configurable to generate MIDI CC numbers, channel aftertouch and pitch bend, and can also step through memories/presets. All sockets are clearly labelled in white on the top panel, but from the rear only with embossed lettering on the case, which will have you reaching for your torch in dimly lit venues.

Overall build quality inspires confidence and at 13.5Kg it’s easily lugged. It’s worth noting the RD‑08’s tubby girth though, with the very shallow (front to back) control surface behind the keys only accentuating the uncommon height: on my studio desk it was a hefty presence, with the surface of the white keys a full 13cm above the feet, and the total height 15.9cm. That’s something you may need to factor in in some setups: for example, for a workstation with a pull‑out keyboard tray, or some multi‑keyboard stage stacks. The presence of built‑in speakers (downward facing, with top‑panel vents) helps explain the bulk, but at a rated 6W and with a rather boxy quality they’re a handy convenience feature more than anything. For serious work you’ll want headphones, monitors or PA as usual. Helpfully, the speakers can be disabled via a dedicated button.

The RD‑08’s rear panel houses a USB port for computer connection and another dedicated to updates(!), a full‑size MIDI out port, three expression pedal ports, quarter‑inch and 3.5mm audio inputs, stereo quarter‑inch audio outputs and a quarter‑inch headphone port.The RD‑08’s rear panel houses a USB port for computer connection and another dedicated to updates(!), a full‑size MIDI out port, three expression pedal ports, quarter‑inch and 3.5mm audio inputs, stereo quarter‑inch audio outputs and a quarter‑inch headphone port.

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