Red Dog Music | Oct 9, 2018 | 0
Roland LX17 review – is this the ultimate piano?
Back in June, I had the honour of being invited by Roland to what was billed as a top secret event on a boat in Paris. I consider myself to be a very busy person, but I have to admit to jumping at the chance!
As it turned out, what I was there to see (other than the Eiffel Tower from a whole new perspective) was Roland’s new piano range, including the flagship Roland LX17, the pinnacle of their latest digital piano technology. This was interesting for me not just as someone who sells Roland pianos, but also (in fact more so!) as someone who plays the piano and owns the previous jewel in Roland’s piano range: the LX15E (which is an absolute steal at our clearance price, by the way!).
Aside from the engaging presentation from Roland and the delicious macaroons, the highlight of the boat trip was having a chance to sit down and play the LX17 (as well as the LX7, HP603 and HP605) to my heart’s content.
To summarise: WOW!
This is an incredible, inspirational instrument that will galvanise you to play better and more often.
I have previously stated (to a chorus of disapproval from traditionalists) that digital pianos are now effectively better than acoustic pianos, but now I am willing to shout that from the Parisian rooftops. The LX17 sounds 100 times better than any acoustic piano in the same price range.
It even approaches the likes of the finest Steinway or Bosendorfer Grands, or a freshly tuned Bluthner upright.
In fact, the way the innards of the LX17 work (more on that later) means you can make it sound like any piano you can imagine.
Not only that, but it feels like a top of the range acoustic piano. The new style keyboard (which, it was explained to me in excruciating detail, combines the feel of a wooden keyboard with the durability of “molded material”) really behaves like a “proper” piano keyboard in all sorts of subtle ways that other digital pianos don’t. The keys bounce back satisfyingly when playing complex runs, and the “ivory” actually feels like stroking an elephant’s nose bones (well, I can only imagine that’s what it feels like). The keys even have absorbent properties to avoid “slippery key” syndrome (a common complaint with digital pianos – the keys can become slippery with perspiration after a particularly wild Rachmaninov recital).
Roland are very keen to explain why their pianos sound better (and do so in depth on their website) but, to cut a long story short, they don’t just record an acoustic piano, they use proprietary software to recreate how it behaves. This may seem like a technicality, but it really makes a difference when playing the LX17: all the overtones you’d expect from an acoustic piano are there, and the different sounds, resonances and harmonics interact with each other in all the right ways.
This is just for the piano sounds. In fact – though this is not the focus of the instrument, and Roland barely mention it in their promotional text – all the other sounds are great as well, with a very usable range of lush strings, warm, rounded acoustic bass, brassy trumpets and more. Including piano sounds, there are a total of 307 different tones included, ranging across pretty much any instrument you care to mention.
You can get an idea of the sound in the following video:
The LX17 in polished ebony also really looks the part, exuding a subdued class and discreetly hiding away any features that would tag it as a digital piano. It is also surprisingly compact, with a footprint of 141 cm x 47cm.
Never ones to limit their market, Roland have also made the LX17 available in a polished white finish (if you happen to be Elton John).
A good indication of the faith a manufacturer puts in its products is the sort of warranty they offer. Roland offer a pretty astounding 10 year warranty against manufacturing defects.
That’s about as much peace of mind as you could hope for!
So, you may have gathered that I’m a huge fan of the Roland LX17 as an instrument. What really sealed the deal for me, though, was the addition of Bluetooth technology, meaning you can wirelessly stream sound from your iPhone, iPad, or Android phone straight through to the speakers (or headphone output).
Roland market this as a way to easily play backing tracks (from e.g YouTube) for playing along with and stream piano lessons straight to the unit (which is pretty amazing) but I think it means a lot more than that:
Before TVs and games consoles took over, pianos were traditionally the centrepiece of the home. I see the Roland LX17 as a 21st Century version of this: not only can it be used to play music, but it can also be used to stream music. With one of these (and given the exceptional sound quality of the speakers) you don’t need any other sound system in your living room.
Tired of practising scales? Just sit back on your sofa and stream music from your phone. It’s even loud enough for parties!
Another neat feature is that opening and closing the lid turns the piano on and off. Such an obvious idea, but it’s never been done before on a digital piano and makes complete sense, both ergonomically and ecologically.
The LX17 is priced at £3879 (though check here for latest price). That may seem like a lot of money and – well – it is, but this is an instrument that will transform your home and inspire you to enjoy both playing and listening to music a whole lot more for years to come.
What’s more, there are various finance schemes available that will mean you can pick one up for under £200 per month.
One of the points that Roland made in their presentation on the Seine was that – unlike other mainstream digital piano manufacturers (who shall remain nameless) – they do not make acoustic pianos. Their focus has always been on digital technology.
This could be considered a downside, but I was pretty convinced by their claims to the contrary; they are not a traditional piano maker who has turned their hand to digital technology, they are a digital technology company who has turned their hand to pianos. Their talent as a company lies in the research and development required to make the most of the wonders of modern technology. As such, they are in a better place than anyone to utilise that technology, and they can focus on their goal to build the most meticulous recreations of traditional instruments possible.
With the Roland LX17, there is no question that they have managed to achieve that goal and more.
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