In 2009, Roland changed the digital piano industry forever with the introduction of the V-Piano – Roland’s very first fully-modeled digital piano.  At the time, nearly every other digital piano for the home or stage used a technology called “representative sampling” (often known as  “Harmonic Imaging,” “Wave Synthesis” or “Advanced Wave Memory” – every piano manufacturer had a preferred name for it).  Put simply, sampling technology utilized microphones to take short recordings of acoustic pianos (called “samples”) for playback in a digital piano.  More expensive digital pianos featured 88-note samples (meaning the manufacturer took recordings from every note on the acoustic piano) where less expensive instruments would sample every 4-5 notes and use computers to pitch-shift the notes in-between.  As the technology (and the required memory) improved, manufacturers added more samples to the mix in an effort to capture tonal changes within the piano as keys were played with more force, as the pedals were used and, as more notes blended together during the performance.  It seemed sampling was the way of the future…

Image with only 128 colorsDuring the 80s and 90s, sampling technology improved dramatically, but it still had significant limitations.  First, the maximum number of available dynamic (or volume) levels per key was 128.  This may sound like a lot, but remember that an acoustic piano has an unlimited range of dynamics.  Digital pianos of the era, in comparison, sounded… for lack of a better word… pixelated – just as this image with only 128 colors looks pixelated when compared to this image with thousands of colors.  Secondly, the samples couldn’t be customized after the fact – much like you can’t turn the violins down on an audio file you bought from Apple Music.  The recording was set and there were few options for those who didn’t love what came “out of the box.”  Finally, the samples had to be looped when the keys were held down longer than the initial recording… so most digital pianos of the era had “pixelated sounds” with “stair-step dynamics” and artificial looping and fading.  They just couldn’t come close to the emotion, nuance and control of an acoustic piano.

Image with 16,000 colorsSo, in 2013, Roland released SuperNATURAL Piano technology – based on the V-Piano sound engine.  This combined traditional sampling and behavioral modeling to create a far more authentic piano sound.  Now – instead of computerized looping and artificial fades – Roland SuperNATURAL Pianos used a modeling algorithm (processed in real-time by the piano’s built-in sound engine) to create a natural, organic sustain and decay.  They also used modeling to smooth the dynamic curve – giving these pianos 16,000 different levels of volume per key instead of the industry-standard 128.  It was a huge improvement.  …but it still had some flaws.  First of all, the system was still tied to samples (or small recordings of the piano sound) and, thus, had to rely on large amounts of memory to operate.  This limited the number of notes that could be played simultaneously (including overtones or sympathetic resonance – notes that sound in harmony with the notes you play on an acoustic piano even though they themselves were never directly played.  This also made voicing (or bringing the volume of certain notes – often melody notes – up over the volume of other notes played at the same time), phrasing (creating emotion between musical passages with changes in dynamics much like singers do) and pedaling “clunky” on digital pianos.  Though the resulting performance was better than anything from the 80s or 90s, SuperNATURAL pianos still didn’t “behave” like acoustic pianos.

Asbury University’s Roland Piano Lab consists of HP-600 Series Roland digital pianos – the first Roland home pianos to be fully modeled.

Then, in 2015, Roland released its first line of fully-modeled home pianos.  These instruments used an algorithm processed in real-time by the piano’s sound chip and based on information fed from the key sensors to mimic the performance of an acoustic piano.  Immediately, the instruments gained worldwide acclaim for their subtlety, nuance and control.  They were also highly customizable so Roland owners could create a custom sound profile for any and every application.  They could compensate for PA systems, room acoustics and even the personal preferences of each player in the home, school, church, studio or venue. They could change the entire piano’s soundboard type, resonance depth, brilliance and key touch OR they could adjust each individual note’s tuning, character or volume.  It was a monumental improvement!  …and it attracted even more players to the digital piano.

The Roland LX-708 digital piano

The Roland LX-Series digital pianos feature Roland’s “PureAcoustic” modeling engine.

A few years later, Roland released it’s PureAcoustic sound chip… which introduced a higher resolution modeling algorithm (offering over 20,000 dynamic levels per key), Ambience modeling (the ability to customize the “reverb” or after-echo in the piano’s tone, and haptic feedback – which introduced physical vibrations in the piano’s keys so the instrument felt even more like an acoustic piano.

…but – as jaw-dropping as this technology was – it wasn’t perfect.  It was limited by processor and key sensor speed.  It couldn’t account for aggressive pedaling or non-linear increases or decreases in dynamics… and it suffered from limited speaker positioning options.  Finally, though the sound chip was digital, Roland’s amplifiers were analog so the digital signal had to be downgraded inside the piano – greatly reducing the crispness and clarity of the piano’s final tone.

That’s why Roland decided to go back to “the drawing board” and take a fresh look at what they released in 2015.  They reimagined their entire piano modeling paradigm so they could utilize new high-speed processors and sensors, design a fully digital audio circuit and amplification system, and build cabinets with ideal speaker positioning in mind.  Early in the process, they realized that this new modeling platform had to take a holistic approach to piano performance.  Each component would not only require individual redesign, but would require integration into the system as a whole.  Thus, Roland engineers had to think of the new platform as a single ecosystem – an all-encompassing environment that would include key focus areas like:

  • The Sound Engine
  • The Key Action
  • The Audio Circuit
  • The Amplifier and Speaker System
  • The Pedaling System
  • The Cabinet Design and Interface

piano reality by RolandFinally, in 2023, Roland introduced this new piano ecosystem designed to fully immerse the player in the sights, sounds and sensations of an acoustic piano performance.  Thinking of the new platform as a type of virtual reality system for piano players, Roland engineers dubbed this new holistic environment:  “Piano Reality” and released it in three tiers:  Piano Reality Standard – which offers a next-generation approach to sampling with modeling enhancement, Piano Reality Premium – which brings unprecedented definition and expressiveness to the fully-modeled platform, and Piano Reality Concert – which sets an entirely new standard for emotion, nuance and control.  These three tiers (offered in Roland’s GP-Series Grand Pianos) deliver next-generation performance in some of the most stylish and innovative piano cabinets we’ve ever seen.  These pianos are at the very pinnacle of digital piano technology – offering exclusive features that no other manufacturer can offer – and they deliver a performance so unbelievably authentic that you won’t believe you’re playing a digital instrument!  …but don’t take our word for it.  See for yourself.  Check out this video for more on Piano Reality and how it is once again changing the piano business forever…



Of course, if you’d like a personal introduction to “Piano Reality” by Roland, we are happy to offer this at no charge!  Stop in one of our stores or contact us and setup a personal video conference.  We can take you through the technology and answer your questions… but we always recommend seeing these pianos in person.  You simply can’t experience these pianos properly over the internet!  We hope to hear from you soon!