My Roland RD-700 doesn't sound good; help me fine-tune the settings.
May 13, 2014 7:36 AM   Subscribe

I recently purchased a Roland RD-700, which sounded ay-may-zing when I was playing it in-store. Playing it at home (without headphones), though, it sounds a bit dull; the highs don't sing, and the lows have no power. It sounded like a concert piano in-store, and it sounds like a sub-$500 keyboard at home. Please help me configure my keyboard settings/speaker location so I can get this keyboard sounding the way it should. The

I have one studio speaker (a Mackie MR-5), which I have placed in front of me. I have no idea where to place the speaker; I'm thinking behind me might be better but am not sure, and I've not gotten too much luck from Googling. Also, I only am using one speaker - would two be a better idea?

Right now, I have the keyboard set to preset settings (I think - can't find how to reset the settings). Reverb isn't turned on, and I haven't fiddled around with the equalizer or more advanced controls.

So, for the music experts out there: What do you say would improve the sound? Is the speaker position sub-optimal? Would another speaker be a good idea? Could it be the settings? Please let me know, as I've only used cheap keyboards with internal speakers up to this point and am not sure what I'm doing wrong.
posted by Kamelot123 to Media & Arts (9 answers total)
Almost all digital pianos are stereo, and having only one speaker would really make a HUGE difference in the way it sounds.

If you want to test this, plug in a pair of good headphones and listen to the piano that way. If it sounds markedly better and more realistic, you need two speakers.

I have a pair of the Behringer Truth B2030As hooked up to my digital piano and it sounds great.
posted by fake at 8:16 AM on May 13, 2014

This is going to be a bit tricky to solve because there are quite a lot of factors involved in how something sounds, but off the top of my head I would suggest the following:

1. The Mackie MR-5 looks like relatively small speaker, so that will definitely limit the low end somewhat. Using both speakers may help up the power a bit here, but there's always a physical limit to how low the bass will extend on a small driver.

2. I would recommend using both speakers anyway, because that will definitely improve the sound in general. Place both speakers in front of your listening / playing position, a few foot apart, turned in slightly to point towards where you would normally be. The tweeters should be at the same levels at your ears - the top end is quite directional so pointing this sound at your ears will help the high end clarity. The Mackies appear to have rear-firing bass ports, so depending how close you place them to the rear wall, that will change the bass balance (closer and it will produce more bass as more reflects off the wall). Ideally isolate the speakers from whatever surface they are on (e.g. place them on some solid foam or equivalent) so the power is used effectively in producing musical sound and not vibrating your shelves / desk.

3. It looks like the Mackies have some additional EQ controls on them, so I'd see if tweaking the top end and / or bass on them will help too.

4. What sort of room are you in? Normally you want a fairly acoustically dead room (i.e. lots of sound absorbing furniture / shelves / material / acoustic treatment) for hearing things played on speakers accurately, but if it is totally dead then that will definitely flatten the sound too (reducing top end "zing").

5. Turning the reverb on will almost certainly produce a more polished, impressive sound, although it may end up sounding more artificial compared to any natural reverb produced in your room. The reverb (and any other effects like chorus etc) will rely on the stereo effects produced by two speakers, so I'd prioritise speaker set-up.
posted by iivix at 8:21 AM on May 13, 2014

You need to use two speakers. And I would set them up, if possible, a few feet behind the keyboard, so you face into them and have the speakers as far apart as they are away from you.
- Aiming for an equilateral triangle with your head and each speaker forming the corners of the triangle is, broadly speaking, the most recommended setup I think, for a good stereo image.
posted by mary8nne at 8:25 AM on May 13, 2014

What kind of sound setup was it connected to in the store? Specific model keyboard amp? Was it hooked up stereo? Connected to a pair or reference monitors?
posted by stenseng at 8:57 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Almost all digital pianos are stereo, and having only one speaker would really make a HUGE difference in the way it sounds.

Yeah, this has got to be a big factor. At the least, disable any chorusing effects that it has on by default (my korg does this), which will likely sound terrible in a mono setup. And double check that the patch itself doesn't have reverb. These tips may help, and in fact from something they say there it sounds like that particular piano might have a mono-specific patch.
posted by advil at 10:05 AM on May 13, 2014

I sure's ain't no music expert, but why not ask someone at the store where you bought it?
posted by Poldo at 10:48 AM on May 13, 2014

You need bigger speakers with more power, and preferably not studio monitors. Buy an old roland keyboard amp for cheap on craigslist. Like a cube 60, or a cube 100 keyboard(which particularly rules).

A friend has a cube 100, and it makes every keyboard sound good. And actually, just pretty much everything you plug into it.(we do lots of monitoring on it too, or just playing music off a smartphone/etc while we're hanging out)

Studio monitors are designed to make everything sound flat and be really analytical. A keyboard amp is designed to make a keyboard sound, well, badass. Accurate flat response doesn't necessarily mean good-sounding response, but just flat. That's what you want for some things, and not for others.

What was plugged into in the store? If it was monitors, i bet it was bigger ones and the EQ was tweaked. At all the guitar centers and other stores like that i've ever been to though, the keyboards were plugged into... keyboard amps. They do that for a reason.
posted by emptythought at 10:52 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think you need to go through in stages and isolate what sounds good vs. not-good. I'd get a set of headphones you otherwise like, and plug them into the keyboard. See how that sounds. If it's good, you know the keyboard sounds OK and it's your monitor setup that's the problem. If it's not, then maybe you need to play with the keyboard itself a bit.

It's a good idea to have a set of headphones that you're familiar with and can use as a baseline when playing with new gear. That doesn't mean that they have to be some sort of expensive "studio reference" cans, just headphones that you know the sound of pretty well.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:07 PM on May 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have a Roland RD700 and can confirm it sounds great through Roland speakers in stereo (I used to have a pair of KC550s).

I think the keyboard also sounds decent enough through quality headphones, if a little thin and lacking in sustain. If you're looking for greater variety, realism and playability, you might ultimately want to consider going down the virtual instrument route - there are a variety of excellent, affordable sampled pianos available for Native Instruments' Kontakt, the leading software sampler.
posted by talltaleheart at 4:00 PM on May 13, 2014

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