Roland A-33 Midi Keyboard Controller

Roland A-33 Midi Keyboard Controller
Roland A-33 Midi Keyboard Controller

It’s been a while since I’ve found anything decent in the used music shop I frequent in Nagano city, Japan, but today I found nice little ( or big ) gem.

Just this morning they got a mint condition Roland A-33 Midi Keyboard Controller with midi cables, case, and adapter. They were selling it for $45, so I instantly jumped on it. The keys are slightly yellow and I’m not sure if that’s normal or not, but it didn’t really matter as it played beautifully. Like I mentioned above, the condition is absolutely flawless. The things I like about the Roland A-33 are as follows:

1. The professional weighted 76-note velocity-sensitive keyboard is outstanding. It really feels great to me.

2. The two selectable MIDI Outs, one MIDI In, one MIDI Thru are very much needed with all the hardware sound modules I have.
3. Having the two key zones, Split and Layer modes allows for quick modifications to the keyboard setup.

4. The 32 user patch locations; 32 presets for use with GM/GS sound modules should be useful for custom setups.
5. Dedicated buttons for Octave Up/Down keyboard transposition, +2 octaves is very accessible. Awesome!

6. The A-33 is battery powered, has a Bender/Modulation lever for added expression and a Start/Stop button for sequencer control.

7. There is a Roland A-33 software application to help visually program the keyboard which is nice.

I don’t need any computer connectivity as I don’t use one when performing and if I do use the computer I send the audio through a mixer. The newer USB Keyboard controllers are not necessary for me although I do have an Edirol controller should I need that.

I’m really excited about finding the Roland A-33. It really feels great and when connected to a couple of sound modules, it’s very flexible. It’s a really nice set of keys for just a controller.

Update: Here is a list of CONS in case anybody is interested in the negative aspects of the Roland A-33.

No Aftertouch
The pitch bender is not smooth
Only one data entry slider
Keys are not full size (length is shorter)
No progam up/down button
Velocity sensitivity is not full range of MIDI velocity

I pretty much bought this for the 76 keys and the two midi outs. I think for the price and condition, I really couldn’t go wrong with picking one up to try out.



13 thoughts on “Roland A-33 Midi Keyboard Controller

  1. hi, i just got one of these as well, through ebay, i’ve been using a Roland A-30 for almost a decade now but my hammond organ volume pedal stopped working, so i wanted the A33 for it’s expression pedal input…

    i foolishly gigged with it on saturday night without properly making sure it was set up right for my gear, & it worked great, i’m used to the feel anyway, but the Roland EV-5 expression pedal that i got hold of to control my hammond volume behaves in the opposite direction… all the way up & it cuts the volume, back down & the volume is on full…

    i thought i could deal with it, but it completely threw me…

    any ideas?

    PS – later today an A37 is finishing on ebay – it’s got too much for me… but i was looking at it… it has a screen & aftertouch x

    1. Hello Robbie!

      Thanks for visiting my blog.

      I’m not sure exactly how to fix your problem with the EV-5, but I was curious if you have tried the following software to adjust the parameters of the A-33.

      I noticed on my A33 I have a very hard time programming the settings or getting them to save via the A33 itself. When I connect to the software I have no problem at all adjusting the parameters or settings. Perhaps this might be a part of the problem if you are only using the A33 to adjust settings.

      I like the A-33 very much although it took some time to get used to the length of the keys feeling short. My fingers are long and they would some time hit the top of plastic cover above the keys. The width is fine and they keys have that flat surface unlike some other keyboards that are more rounded. It’s a decent controller.

      I’ll have to check out the A37 and see what that’s all about. I’d agree that too much controller can get in the way of my general playing..laugh.

      Thanks again,


  2. hi jim, it turns out that the problem with my EV5 is in the hammond box i’m controlling, although it would be useful if i could invert the signal going through the A33… but i don’t know how to do that…

    i have indeed tried the software, or at least some software… it makes life so much easier…

    in general i’m loving the A33 & i’m it’s giving you some joy too x

  3. Tom

    Hi.Jim, firstly I am a novice musician and wrongly bought an A33, thinking it is a digital piano. Bummer me. i try nevertheless to enjoy this A33. I only need the A33 to play like a digital piano and set it up as simple as possible. I understand I need to connect the keyboard to a sound module (where I purchased a basic one Roland MT-100) and connect the sound module to a speaker, which I did. There is sound coming out from speaker but I do not know how to configure the A33 and the sound module to make the keyboard, when pressed, produce output sound like a piano. Will you provide some guidance? Cheers Tom.

    1. Greg Fredericks

      The A33 has no sounds and it sounds like you are running out of the sustain pedal jack to the amp. Get a tone generator, MIDI cable and a sustain pedal with a polarity jack and you’ll be set.

      A good choice for a tone generator is a Yamaha Motif rack used on Ebay. Keep your eyes on Ebay and you might be able to get one for $300 – $400 used. Tons of sounds (almost 1000) and outstanding acoustic piano too.

      That rack was $1300 new.

    2. Greg Fredericks

      I just made a post regarding this on Harmony Central. This adds a few ideas I hadn’t mentioned.

      Reversing polarity on an expression pedal

      Buy a large type (not walkman) stereo headphone extension cable. Cut it in the middle and strip all three wires to the male end. You can shorten the total length as you won’t really need length. It’s basically going to become an adapter.

      In a stereo headphone extension cable there are three wires. Using a battery and a light bulb rated for the battery, you can find out which colored wire goes to which part of the plug (Tip, ring below the tip and lower ring).

      Write down which colored wire goes where.

      Once you know this information, call the manufacturer of the keyboard you will be plugging the expression pedal into and ask them how to re-connect these wires to reverse polarity on the expression pedal.

      Put a length of heat shrink rubber tubing on the wire that’s big enough to cover and surround your finished connections before you re-connect the wires. Once you know which wires connect to which, make the wires the right length on both sides so the connections won’t be by each other. This drastically reduces the chance of them ever touching and it also spreads out the bulk that the connections make so that the three connections are all in different places.

      Using heat shrink tubing and a heat gun is much better than black tape to seal the connection (black tape gets really sticky when it’s hot outside and then it usually starts sliding around and coming off).

      Black tape that is hot from the summer heat is also a real mess for a musician to get on his / her hands when it’s time to play. Whoever invented that adhesive on black tape probably said, “This is going to be funny to watch when this crap gets all over people’s hands in the summer !!!”

      The nice thing about reversing the polarity this way is it prevents you from having to rip your pedal apart and solder….. plus, you can use it with its’ original polarity just by not running through the extension cable.

    1. Greg Fredericks

      If you can’t find an expression pedal with reversed polarity, get a stereo headphone extension cable and cut it and reverse the polarity.

  4. Greg Fredericks

    In a stereo headphone extension cable there are three wires. Using a battery and a light bulb rated for the battery (cut and strip all three wires to the male end) the battery and bulb can tell you which colored wire goes to which part of the plug (Tip, ring below the tip and lower ring). Call Roland once you know this information and ask them how to re-connect these wires to reverse polarity on an A33 expression pedal. The headphone extension cable I’m talking about (of course) is the large kind and not a walkman size. I have an A33 too and the Roland expression pedal. The knob on the pedal only controls intensity and not polarity.

  5. Greg Fredericks

    You don’t really need to buy a battery and a light bulb….if you have a flashlight, even if it takes two batteries, one battery will still make light (a flashlight with only one battery will make a brighter light though). Any amount of light will still tell you what you need to know.

    Write down which colored wire goes where. Each color of wire connects to the same contact place on the plug on both ends (of course).

  6. Tom2

    I know this has been up for a while and no-one else has said anything….but in “1” of the original critique you say it has weighted keys. It does not. The keys are spring loaded and I can be sure of that because I’ve had it apart and replaced a key complete with spring..

  7. Joseph

    Hi Jim,
    I have problem with A33 in a way that I cannot transmit transponed voices from Roland Fantom G7. So if I play combination of 4-5 voices and want to one of this sound play on the A33 it does not transmit this sound to A33 transponed as it is on the Fantom G.
    Really go crazy with this problem.
    A33 is really good controller..keys very fast..great!

    Please advise.

    Thank you in advance.


  8. Greg Fredericks

    I found a Roland A-37, new in the box, a while back on Ebay (almost 2 years ago now….wow….how time flies)…….

    Here’s my review of it (the A-37 is as far as Roland took this type of board) (A-30. A-33, A-37)…

    Sound Quality:
    No sounds….it’s a MIDI controller….but everything I play from it sounds great !!!!

    It seems to be built very solid like the A-30 & A-33 before it….no worries there…..

    I found mine on Ebay March 6, 2014 and it was brand new, unopened, factory sealed for $330 with free shipping…..I jumped on that deal….I’d been wanting one a long time….it had been a box so long that the Duracell batteries they included with it were really low……

    General Comments
    Naturally this was a no brainer using this keyboard with my Roland gear and it worked perfectly with no adjustments needed, but when I played my Yamaha Motif rack and Motif ES6 from it, every patch I selected was drowning in reverb …..I had to turn reverb, chorus & delay off for all 128 patches and now it works perfectly….When I first tried it with my synths, they would always jump to the General MIDI bank every time I selected any patch…..this was all corrected within the MIDI settings of each synth (no adjustments to the actual A-37 were needed)……now I can select all 128 patches in the bank and it stays on whatever bank I select…..perfect !!!

    I made a document and I printed it out and I keep on the wall by my keyboard …..since all patches are selected by selecting bank A or B and then a two digit number using only digits 1 – 8, you need a chart to show how these entries translate to patches 1 – 128 (0 – 127 if you have a Korg….subtract 1 from each patch number)….

    One thing I like is if you are selecting a patch in group A and you are in group A, you only need to press 2 buttons…..same thing if you are in group B and the patch you want is in group B……any patch is never more than 3 button presses….

    I miss having the MIDI on & off buttons for the two MIDI out jacks that the A-33 has……

    I have always loved the feel of the A-30 & A-33 and this feels the same…..great board and I would buy the exact same board if it was ever stolen……it’s perfect for my needs !!!!
    I have owned several A-30’s over the years and I had an A-33 too and I’ve never broke a key or had even the slightest problem with any of them !!!! These are my favorite to play and I have many boards, from synths with unweighted keys to a digital piano and a Motif with fully weighted keys…..these still are my bottom board in my main setup…..they make me wanna play all the time and I play better on them as well…..they are absolutely effortless to play and the keys are super fast…..perfect !!!! A+++++++

    Reviewer’s Background
    I have been playing keys for money since Jan 1982…..I’m always trying to make my gear lighter and this certainly did that….I’ll be using it with a Motif rack & Roland XV-5050….I bought a Korg Triton rack as well….I have a Korg Karma already but wanted it in a rack…..

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