Roland MIDI Keyboard Controller suggestions?

Jan 10, 2017
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So I'm not a keyboard player, and I know very little about them. I'm actually planning on buying one for someone I know as a present so I obviously cannot ask him myself.

He currently has a Roland A-49 but I'm planning on buying him a better one or an upgrade. I thought of getting Roland since he's already used to the brand. I have my eye on the A-500 PRO, however I'm not sure if it's an upgrade. Any suggestions? Preferably from Roland and anything below $500 should be fine!

Also, not sure this is the right place to ask but he also has a Roland FA-08 synthesizer. Is it better to get an upgrade on the MIDI Keyboard or Synthesizer? He usually produces music in the studio (home) but not anything like live performances or anything.

Thank you!


I meant to play that note!
Jun 6, 2014
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The A-500PRO-R definitely looks like a better controller than the A-49, since it has more controls (sliders, knobs, etc.).

If he already has an FA-08, it can also be used as a controller, but it doesn't have sliders. Also, the A-500PRO-R or A-49 can be connected to the FA-08 to act like a second manual (keyboard) for it. I'm not sure what you mean about upgrading the FA-08-- it costs a lot more than $500, so you won't be able to buy a better synth for $500. You could get a Roland System-1 Plug-Out Synth for $500, but I don't really know much about it yet.

Fred Coulter

Collector of ancient keyboards
Feb 15, 2016
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Central Florida
If he's studio based, and making his sounds on his computer not on a synthesizer, I'm not sure that upgrading his controller is necessary. If he's laying down one track at a time, especially if he's only playing with one hand, then a 49 key controller may be all he needs.

The A-500PRO-R is also a 49 key controller, but as SeaGtGruff points out it has more capabilities for live control of the sound, with knobs, sliders, buttons, etc. BUT the question is whether the player would use them, or if he edits everything afterward on the computer. If the latter, then the extra buttons, etc., might not be all that useful.

One thing that would be useful is knowing what software he uses. If there are good drivers for the A500PRO-R for his software, he may enjoy controlling the software directly from the controls on the keyboard.

One other advantage of the A-500PRO-R over his old controller is that the A-500PRO-R supports channel aftertouch. (There are two types of aftertouch. Channel aftertouch means that the keyboard sends a signal indicating how hard the keyboard is being pressed down as a whole. This is in addition to the speed with which the individual keys are struck. Pianos do not have have aftertouch, just velocity. A much rarer form of aftertouch is on individual keys, which sends a message about how hard each key is being pressed after the individual velocity. Clavichords use this information, and can bend the pitch of a single note being played upward by increasing the pressure on that note. Obviously electronic instruments and software may be able to do far more with the information.) The problem is whether the player would use that information to control something. I know keyboard players who use that information to control vibrato or tremolo.

If he's primarily creating sounds on his computer and you're looking for a present, you may want to see if there's an upgrade available for his favorite software. Or you could look for interesting VSTs that he doesn't own.

Musical instruments are so personal, you might want to think about a gift card to a major music retailer instead. The mail order houses have far more in stock than any store ever will.

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