Hey David, thank you for your great review. As a satisfied owner of a FP-30 I was very interested in your impressions. It's almost funny how close our impressions are.
David B The best way I can describe the difference in sound is that the Roland almost sounds like I'm playing a bass guitar.
That's exactly how I feel about internal sound of my FP-30. I can't stand it, especially with headphones it is intolerable for me and sounds nothing like an acoustic piano. It's better with the speakers. The VSL sounds way better in your review. I think I said to my partner exactly the same with the bass guitar.
David B There is a constant pressure on my fingers that just isn't there with an acoustic piano action.
I can confirm this compared to to the NU1X action I had a few weeks ago.
David B I think could be happy with the Roland sound if that's all I had, but I might try the PHA-50 action to see if it's any lighter. Unfortunately, I think you have to go up considerably in price to get to it.
I had an HP 704 with a PHA-50 just this week here besides my FP-30. The PHA-50 (at least in this model, or my particular unit) was way heavier than the PHA-4 of my FP-30 - even slightly heavier than the VPC1 action I had. I was very surprised because my impression of the PHA-50 in the RD-2000 or FP-90 (without X) was that it was slightly lighter than the PHA-4… Maybe Roland uses slightly different variations of the PHA-50 in home vs. portable pianos?
David B That's what made me appreciate my previously owned MP11SE action after playing the Roland. Even though the concept of constant hammer weight is present on the MP11 action, it's somewhat mitigated by the long wooden keys sticks. IMHO, the MP11 has the nicest non-acoustic piano action in the digital market.
I can confirm this too! I wrote a very similar youtube comment a few weeks ago when someone asked about the differences between the P515 and MP11SE actions:
I am a little late, but maybe you are still interested in the answer. The MP11SE has a longer pivot than the P515. This makes playing more even across the depth of the key, so for example it is easier to play controlled soft and fast near the fallboard high on the keys on the MP11SE, whereas when the pivot point is rather short you require more force (and lose precision) the closer you get to the fallboard. The P515 keybed is heavier with a higher initial resisitance and a higher "springiness" factor pushing the keys up when you hold a large chord for example. In an acoustic action this weight pushing up the keys is way lower, because due to the real let-off of the hammer the weight of the hammer no longer "rests" on the keys and your fingers, while on a regular digitalpiano the hammer weights (simulating the hammers) are always connected to the key. The MP11SE also has a regular digitalpiano action, but the force pushing up the keys when holding them is somehow much lower, more like an acoustic action (maybe due to the longer pivot better balancing the weight across the keys and/or the unfolded design of the action). This makes playing feel more natural and relaxed to me. The MP11SE action feels also lighter and smoother, but also a tad "looser" the the P515, which may feel a bit "stiff". While the P515 has a fine action, to me the action of the MP11SE (Grand Feel 1) is the closest to an acoustic grand action in all pianos. Somehow I even like it better than the newer Grand Feel 3 action (Kawai CA79/99), which somehow feels a little more digitalpianolike to me. Of course it still feels different (the Kawai NV-10S has a real acoustic action), but you can play it very similarly.
This also made me appreciate the MP11SE action. Unfortunately I am not satisfied with its MIDI response and don't want to buy a product with a design flaw that is not corrected in years (sticky keys) for over 2000€. I am waiting for a VPC2 with GF3, the Kawai pedal unit and the VPC velocity editor. That will be a worthy update of my PHA-4. For now there is no better alternative for me than the FP-30.
I can agree that the FP-30 is a great package for its price, especially now with the built-in audio interface as a very good and accurate MIDI controller with the best action in its price bracket.