Last week I stumbled upon a special find which happened to be the Roland A-90EX Controller Keyboard along with the VE-RD1 Expansion board for $200 bucks. The A-90 was in unusually “mint” condition so I had to ask the sales clerk in the used music store where he got it from. Apparently, a really old “grandfather” of someone brought it in with his truck and basically dumped on the store floor. The Roland A-90 to those who know about it is rather large and a bit heavy. The sales staff admitted they had a very difficult time finding a place to put the keyboard. I didn’t know much about the Roland A-90, but I did notice that the condition was exceptional. I also noticed that it had sounds in it even though it was classified as a controller. I later learned that the A-90 had the VE-RD1 Expansion board inside.
A few things I really liked about the Roland A-90 right away were the four ( yes four! ) midi outputs that were extremely easy to allocate and select. I also liked the fact that the on board sound module VE-RD1 has some great sounds including reverb, delay, and chorus effects. All of the parameters like attack, release, etc were easily found and manipulated on top. The 88 keys themselves were also very nice and I was immediately drawn to the great playing action. Other than a real piano, I have never owned an 88 keys synth or keyboard, so I’m probably easy to please perhaps. I did hear that the Roland A-90 keys are prone to break easily over time due to a hammer construction weak spot. However, with the condition of this A-90 I thought I likely would get quite a bit of mileage out of it before that happened… I hope!
I currently live on the 3rd floor of a building here in Japan and I have to climb three floors of stairs when hauling music gear. It was a bit strenuous getting the Roland A-90 up the stairs “by myself” but I eventually did it and realized the weight wasn’t all that bad. It could have been worse as I recently passed up a Roland RD-1000, but then later picked up a Roland MKS-20. I think that was a wise decision as I can now pair of the Roland A-90 and MKS-20 real nicely. I could actually get that combo to a gig if necessary too.
The overall build construction of the Roland A-90 is fantastic. I really like the wood ends and the big heavy duty buttons on top. The Roland A-90 is a really “cool” looking controller and so far it has been able to handle just about every controller situation I’ve thrown at it. The music store was just happy to get rid of it because in Japan anything that takes up precious space is difficult to manage. I was told the “grandfather” who brought in the Roland A-90 had it in storage for quite some time. Personally I don’t think its ever been played. It’s got that new feeling you don’t see often.
The reviews I’ve read about the Roland A-90 are all pretty much stellar. I was happy to find a nice “used” controller for my sound modules that has 88 keys and is built well. The Roland A-90 was a nice fine I thought and perhaps a lucky one at that!
The SynthFreq on Youtube really shows off the Roland A-90 well with the VE-RD1 expansion board.