Review: Roland HP603 & HP605 Digital Pianos

Roland have just announced a new installment in their flagship home digital piano range – the HP 600 series, which brings two new models – the HP603 and HP605. Both come with some really nice upgrades that build on the success of the HP500 range. Let’s take a look…

New Features

• Progressive hammer piano action with escapement (PHA-50) and new part-wooden keys
• Bluetooth connectivity for tablets and smartphones – wireless audio playback* and app control
• ‘3D Ambience’ technology for headphones
• Six-speaker Acoustic projection system*
• New cabinet design
*HP605 only

On top of all of that, they come loaded with Roland’s latest ‘SuperNATURAL Piano Modelling’ technology, which will give you an extremely detailed and high-resolution piano sound compared to conventional sampling sounds. Also, on top of the usual acoustic piano voices, it’ll be loaded with a large, versatile selection of non-piano sounds such as strings, brass, organs and more, making sure you’ve got a full array of instruments to play should you need them.

New PHA-50 Action

So with the new PHA-50 piano keyboard action you’ll be getting an even more authentic feel, modelled on that of a grand piano, but with a new concept – part-wooden keys. In any acoustic piano, you’ll find the keys are often made of solid wood, which is a huge part of what gives it that distinctive, solid feel whereas some other digital pianos (and all previous-generation Roland models) you’ll find that keyboards are made 100% from moulded materials.

Both have their pros and cons; the wooden keys have a great feel but require maintenance, the moulded keys don’t need any maintenance but just lack the feel and weight you’d get with real wood. So to get around this, Roland created a hybrid keyboard i.e. part-wooden keys. The wooden sides give each key that classic solid mass that feels close to what you’d expect a fully-wooden key to but with an inner frame that lets you live worry-free that your piano won’t need any servicing on the keys. As an added extra, they’ve also worked to quieten the keys down so they make less of a ‘thump’ when pressed – perfect!

It’s not just the new feel of the keys either, each key has a stabilizing pin to stop any un-natural sideways movement and noise (often heard when playing glissandos) on the key. To finish it off, the keys have a look and feel of real ebony and ivory with moisture-absorbing properties meaning your fingers won’t slide off when playing.

Wireless Audio and App Control

The new built-in bluetooth capabilites of the HP600 range make it a doddle to get connected to your new digital piano. You can use your tablet or smartphone to wirelessly stream music (HP605 only) and take advantage of a huge array of apps and learning resources that work in tandem with your piano (HP603 & HP605). So now you have the option to allow the piano to control iOS music score apps and even turn the pages using the piano’s pedal – easy! And with the HP605 you can also use bluetooth to play along to your favourite artist with the music routed through the piano’s internal speakers, or headphones if you’re practicing privately. Either that or just use it as an oversized wireless bluetooth speaker!

Super-Realistic Headphone Sound

The new ‘3D Ambience’ technology takes private practice to a new level of definition. It works by not just re-routing the signal from the speakers to your headphones (as some other digital pianos do) but by altering the signal to give it more depth and space – as if it’s coming from the piano, and optimises the audio to reduce the effects of listening-fatigue.

The True Sound of Acoustic Piano

When you play acoustic piano, the whole piano resonates. The cabinet plays a big part in amplifying the sound of the piano and you’ll find different resonances emanating from relative parts of the piano. To simulate this, Roland have developed their ‘Acoustic Projection’ technology for the HP605. This comprises of a three-way, six-speaker setup driven by a four-channel amplifier with each section handling a specific element of the overall sound of a piano. The cabinet speakers will provide the ‘main’ sound with the top-mounted spatial speakers adding the resonances of a real piano frame. The sound is rounded off by the nearfield speakers, closest to the player, which handle the detailed overtones and mechanical noises of an acoustic piano such as the hammers hitting the strings. Finishing off the sound is the new, larger cabinet which adds a richer depth to the tone.

The Right Look for Your Room

When it comes to digital pianos, they’re not just a musical instrument but also a piece of furniture that can add a real element of class and add a real feature to a room, so naturally, it’s important to find the right colour to match. With the new Roland HP600s you’ve got a choice of contemporary black, contemporary rosewood, white and polished ebony (HP605 only) to make sure you improve the look of your room in style.

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