Roland pianos at NAMM 2021Roland is one of the biggest manufacturers of musical instruments in the world. The juggernaut’s contribution to electronic music is well documented, but it’s with the addition of digital pianos and the guitar-centric Boss products that it became a household name. As usual, Roland had a solid lineup of various innovative products to show off at NAMM. These include a wide variety of instruments, creative tools, practice aids, and accessories. Let’s take a look at some of the standout newcomers.

New keyboard entries

Roland’s digital pianos have always delivered high quality sounds and great playability. The FP series has always been a go-to for discerning players around the world. This series gets a re-haul with the FPX range. While the regular FP line still retains its entry-level model, the FP10 (you can read my full review here), the FPX introduces revisions of the 30, 60, and 90. The top three models feature Bluetooth audio for playback, but also for connecting to music apps such as Roland’s Piano Everyday.

In addition to cosmetic alterations, the changes are generally incremental, including expanded sound banks for the 30 and 60 (with the latter having a lot more of them) and enhanced speakers. The 90 favours the PureAcoustic Modelling sound engine over Roland’s time-tested SuperNatural collection and features the PHA-50 Keyboard, which is built with wooden keys.

Heavyweight beat making with Verselab

Roland's Verselab at NAMMOne of Roland’s most exciting new products at NAMM this year is the Verselab MV-1. This clever unit integrates everything you need for modern beat making. It’s very impressive to see the amount of firepower that was packed. You can go from laying down drum grooves to mixing and mastering complete songs made out of multiple instruments, vocals, and sections. If you are a hip-hop, trap, or other rap genre artist, you owe it to yourself to check out this streamlined musical creation device.

Digital Woodwind

It’s an exciting time to be a woodwind musician. Thanks to products such as Roland’s Aerophone Pro, you can take your honed technique over to the digital world and explore drastically different soundscapes that weren’t previously available to you.

The Roland Aerophone DuoThanks to a clever design that enhances the feel and playability, players will be able to use authentic brass, woodwind, strings, and other samples with the unique articulations of a breath instrument. Additionally, there are many synth options to explore uncharted sonic territories. The multiple connections make it quite a versatile tool for live and studio performance and experimentation. Bluetooth, MIDI, and audio connections are all included. Get ready to bring it everywhere you go, thanks to a built-in speaker and battery-powered operation.

New Boss products

Boss, Roland’s guitar-oriented subsidiary, was also represented at NAMM and is immensely popular amongst players of all levels. It’s always exciting to see what they have to offer every year.

Nextone Special Amplifier

Boss's new Nextone SpecialThe Nextone Special is a kitchen-sink type of amplifier and a newcomer to the Nextone series. At first I found it hard to believe the amount of options present. There are so many features loaded in this product that it’s almost comical. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a complete solution for performing, recording, and practising, this might be it. Every intangible aspect related to guitar tone is tweakable on this unit.

A two-channel platform at its core, you can select between two EQ characters, multiple power section styles, reverb, and delay. Certainly, you can set these options independently per channel. Moreover, you also get a plethora of connection options, including a tweakable direct out signal, USB out, effects loop, MIDI, footswitch, and extension cabinets. The designers elected to go with a vintage-minded look. The multiple power scaling settings help to set volume, and it includes a custom voiced blue Waza speaker that evokes a popular Celestion model.

The interesting thing to note, however, is that this innovative model is aimed towards discerning players that are notoriously conservative. I’m excited to see how this amplifier responds to dynamics. Likewise, I’m also curious to see how the traditional crowd reacts after taking it for a spin.

Many new accessories

There were many Roland accessories present at NAMM this year. Thanks to excellent quality control, these are a great choice no matter what you need.

TU-02 Clip-on Tuner

TU-02 clip on tunerOne of the best-selling pedals in Boss’s lineup is the TU Tuner Series. The engineers have refined the concept and taken to the clip-on genre, promising to be a hit for the manufacturer. Although there isn’t much room for innovation in this type of tool, the tuner is built upon the expertise acquired throughout the years and will most likely offer a quality, dependable tool.

BCB Pedalboards

Boss’s pedalboards also get a revamp this year. These units promise sturdiness, excellent organization, and offer great cable management. Both the 30X and the 90X are standard pedalboard unit types. The 90 has some awesome additional features to tidy up your pedal organization such as a hollow cable channel underneath the pedals, integrated junction box, and a power supply.

Traveling guitarists will appreciate the 1000’s design which features a carry-on suitcase design. Although it doesn’t have an integrated power supply, there is still a handy junction box that’s built into the board itself, for very neat operation. Multiple handles (including a retractable one) and wheels make it a breeze to carry around.

Perfect practice tool: Pocket GT

Boss Pocket GTYouTube has become an amazing resource for musical education. Roland has realized this and engineered a pocket practice companion that greatly enhances and optimizes your practice. The Pocket GT is essentially an effects processor. Complete with over 100 amplifiers and effects, it will also store up to 99 user presets. If you own a GT-1, you’ll be able to transfer your tones there as well.

The most innovative aspect is the full integration with YouTube. The companion Boss Tone Studio has a built-in YouTube App that will play your lessons and songs, all while giving you useful practice features. Some notable options are the video song lists, loop section insert points, automatic tone switching markers that sync with the video/song, and a centre cancel function that lowers the volume of vocals and solos that are panned in the centre. Personally, I’m very excited about dedicated hardware buttons. They liberate us from reaching for the mouse, keyboard, or touch screen to control the playback.

In conclusion, it was a solid NAMM for Roland this year. With the addition of the solid releases of late 2020 (such as the powerful GT-1000 Core), we can see that the future is bright for the company. Thanks to strict quality control and innovation, it’s no wonder that this manufacturer has been around for close to 50 years now.

Check out all the Roland and Boss products at Best Buy.

Nikolai Olekhnovitch is a professional guitarist from Montreal. The experience and musical versatility he acquired during his music studies and involvement with diverse musical acts come in quite handy when reviewing various instruments. When he is not on the road performing, he’s exploring martial arts and seeking out the perfect espresso.