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#2337383 - 10/14/14 06:08 PM Roland PHA vs lightweight action: pictures!
lolatu Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/01/13
Posts: 486
Loc: UK
There's been a lot of confusion around Roland's naming scheme for their piano actions, but it seems there are just 2 (two) lines of 88-key action that Roland has produced since the early 2000s:

1) a full-size action (PHA, PHA 2, PHA 3, Ivory Feel S, PHA 4 Premium/Concert), and
2) a lightweight action (PHA Alpha, PHA Alpha 2, Ivory Feel G, PHA 4 Standard (??)* )

I came across a gallery on Picassa showing the action of a Roland FP4, which according to the specs is "PHA Alpha 2".

This gallery is 7 years old, but despite extensive searching in the past, I haven't previously been able to find pics of Roland's lightweight action (aka PHA Alpha, Ivory Feel G). So this is exciting. laugh yippie And hopefully for you too.

Without further ado, here's a comparison using some of my own pics of my FP3 (PHA), and the FP4 (PHA Alpha 2) (apologies for crappy picture quality):



Differences:

- Biggest difference is that the hammers pivot in the opposite direction. In the full-size action the hammers point away from the player, while in the lightweight action the hammers come up underneath the near section of the keys.

- Full-size action has a steel chassis. Lightweight appears to be plastic.

- Key length, hence length to key pivot (since pivot is at the end of the keys) is shorter in the lightweight action.



- Full-size action has separate rows of pins / guide posts for white and black keys, hence the guides for white keys can be wider. Lightweight has a single row.

- Felts are positioned closer to the ends of the keys in the full-size action.

- It's not very clear from my photo but in the full-size action the hammers have two niches at the key contact point: one for black keys, further from the hammer pivot, and one for white keys, closer in. It looks like the lightweight hammers only have one niche.



More comparison of the full-size and lightweight actions.

Anyway, check out the gallery linked above for more pics if you're interested (that guy uses waaay to much grease!).

------

Evolution of the PHA line:

It's clear from a comparison of PHA (from my FP3, 2001) with PHA 3 (from dewster's RD-700NX, 2010) that the changes in the full-size line have been subtle: textured key tops, escapement tab, fatter felt strips, slightly re-shaped hammers, triple sensor, but the form is still the same. So perhaps we can assume that the form of the lightweight line has been similarly constant.

PHA vs PHA 3:


------

* Roland have said the PHA-4 Standard action is "new", but have released no details about what is new about it. So until someone takes the lid off their F130R and posts pics, we can't be sure where this fits. Since the F120 and F120R had the Ivory Feel G (i.e. lightweight) action, the assumption must be that it's a lightweight action with the hammers pointing towards the player.
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#2337502 - 10/15/14 12:08 AM Re: Roland PHA vs lightweight action: pictures! [Re: lolatu]
jtsn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/19/14
Posts: 32
So Ivory Feel G is comparable to Yamaha's GHS?

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#2337549 - 10/15/14 04:26 AM Re: Roland PHA vs lightweight action: pictures! [Re: jtsn]
peterws Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3708
Loc: Northern England.
Originally Posted By: jtsn
So Ivory Feel G is comparable to Yamaha's GHS?


From my experience, no. The pivot length is pretty good for a lightweight (cheap) action and probably compares with Kawai's on their Rh2 models. And those of modern Casio pianos. Its also little different from that depicted for the Kasai VPC1.

There the comparisons end. GHS has a very short pivot (slightly longer for the black keys). I'm of the opinion that there is so many influences in the action of the piano that the individual physical attributes almost aren't that important.

What matters is. . .D'ya like it? My own preference would be for lighter black keys. On most pianos they seem a tad heavier than they need to be particularly when your middle finger is pressing close to the limits. . .

Thx for the photos BTW. Very interesting.


Edited by peterws (10/15/14 04:31 AM)
_________________________
"I'm playing all the right notes — but not necessarily in the right order." Eric Morecambe

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#2337567 - 10/15/14 05:42 AM Re: Roland PHA vs lightweight action: pictures! [Re: lolatu]
toddy Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/30/11
Posts: 1751
Loc: Portugal
Thanks for the photos, lolatu.

PHA alpha II and Ivory G may be based on the same model, but they felt completely different to me (though it's ages since I tried PHA alpha II). PHA alpha was not at all conducive to playing, whereas Ivory-G was un-piano-like, but pleasant and quite well weighted.

If the difference comes from 'tweaking' the same basic system, that's interesting.

With the latest Roland keyboards, the entire range is called PHAIV which certainly implies variations on the same basic action design. I wonder if it is, and the 'light' and 'full' types have been somehow integrated?
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Roland HP 302, Yamaha SY85

Reaper / NI Komplete 9 /Kontakt 5// EWQL Sym Choirs/ Sym Orchestra Silver/ MOR2
Mics: SP B1 & MXL V67g/ Alesis MicTube Preamp/ Xenyx302/ Yamaha HS7s .

"Only a fool is fooled" pv88, All Fools' Day 2014.

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#2337568 - 10/15/14 05:44 AM Re: Roland PHA vs lightweight action: pictures! [Re: jtsn]
toddy Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/30/11
Posts: 1751
Loc: Portugal
Originally Posted By: jtsn
So Ivory Feel G is comparable to Yamaha's GHS?


Yes, I would say so.
_________________________
Roland HP 302, Yamaha SY85

Reaper / NI Komplete 9 /Kontakt 5// EWQL Sym Choirs/ Sym Orchestra Silver/ MOR2
Mics: SP B1 & MXL V67g/ Alesis MicTube Preamp/ Xenyx302/ Yamaha HS7s .

"Only a fool is fooled" pv88, All Fools' Day 2014.

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#2337701 - 10/15/14 12:28 PM Re: Roland PHA vs lightweight action: pictures! [Re: toddy]
Frédéric L Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/29/13
Posts: 44
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: jtsn
So Ivory Feel G is comparable to Yamaha's GHS?


There is a comparison here : http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthrea...tml#Post2093183

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#2337716 - 10/15/14 01:34 PM Re: Roland PHA vs lightweight action: pictures! [Re: lolatu]
Pete14 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/12/13
Posts: 263
To think that the V-Grand uses a similar action to the ones pictured above: plastic, folded, short keys, etc.... In other words, nothing like a real action.

The AvantGrand might be an overpriced beast, but the action is truly miles ahead of the V-Grand. You can modify a piano action only so much before it starts to look/feel like something else. BTW, that thing under the keys is not a hammer; it's more like a metal thing-a-ma-jig!

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#2337718 - 10/15/14 01:42 PM Re: Roland PHA vs lightweight action: pictures! [Re: lolatu]
bnolsen Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/14
Posts: 117
Loc: Colorado
Part of mechanical engineering and physics is that a mechanical system can be modelled using springs, levers, pulleys, weights, etc.

The problems with modelling are things like being able to sufficiently represent the original system, cost, etc.

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#2337741 - 10/15/14 03:07 PM Re: Roland PHA vs lightweight action: pictures! [Re: Pete14]
peterws Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3708
Loc: Northern England.
Originally Posted By: Pete14
To think that the V-Grand uses a similar action to the ones pictured above: plastic, folded, short keys, etc.... In other words, nothing like a real action.

The AvantGrand might be an overpriced beast, but the action is truly miles ahead of the V-Grand. You can modify a piano action only so much before it starts to look/feel like something else. BTW, that thing under the keys is not a hammer; it's more like a metal thing-a-ma-jig!


Blimey! You lot like to gripe haha. ..! And what is a real action supposed to play like? There are greater shocks to be found in acoustic actions than in any of the electronic variety.
_________________________
"I'm playing all the right notes — but not necessarily in the right order." Eric Morecambe

""

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#2337755 - 10/15/14 03:54 PM Re: Roland PHA vs lightweight action: pictures! [Re: lolatu]
bnolsen Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/14
Posts: 117
Loc: Colorado
funny enough i think traditional piano actions are almost rube goldberg machines. Builders seemed to arbitrarily hack on the hammer system adding stuff that finally seemed to work and that's what we've been stuck with. And just like many other industries, inertial carries the day.

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#2337778 - 10/15/14 04:53 PM Re: Roland PHA vs lightweight action: pictures! [Re: lolatu]
voxpops Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/20/07
Posts: 3083
Loc: Oregon
Personally, although I find the photographs intriguing from a general interest point of view, I couldn't care less what the action looks like when exposed - it's how it feels and plays that's important. I found PHAIII a joy to play, and Ivory-G not so much. And I also agree with toddy that Ivory-Feel G responds quite differently compared with its Alpha predecessors.

Certainly, key length is a good indicator of how fluidly and evenly a board will play (the GHS compromise is revealed as you approach the rear of the keys, particularly black keys), but the fact that a hammer is placed one way or the other is immaterial to me so long as the action and sensors allow for subtle and controlled dynamics when playing.
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#2337796 - 10/15/14 06:09 PM Re: Roland PHA vs lightweight action: pictures! [Re: bnolsen]
Doritos Flavoured Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 10/10/12
Posts: 174
Loc: Brazil
Originally Posted By: bnolsen
funny enough i think traditional piano actions are almost rube goldberg machines. Builders seemed to arbitrarily hack on the hammer system adding stuff that finally seemed to work and that's what we've been stuck with. And just like many other industries, inertial carries the day.


very much so smile
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unlocked by keys
wordless poetry sings free
- piano music -

my piano haiku

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#2337813 - 10/15/14 07:15 PM Re: Roland PHA vs lightweight action: pictures! [Re: lolatu]
Pete14 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/12/13
Posts: 263
Grand piano actions, or the goldberg machinations as they are lovingly referred to, have indeed gone through some improvements since the good ol' Bach years. If indeed all those contrivances -referred to as "stuff"- were useless, then why not do away with them, and simply stick Kawai's GF actions into real grand pianos? It would definitely save Steinway a lot of money if they were to use a Roland PHAIV in lieu of a Renner action in their pianos. grin

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#2337844 - 10/15/14 09:07 PM Re: Roland PHA vs lightweight action: pictures! [Re: voxpops]
anotherscott Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/10
Posts: 3296
Originally Posted By: voxpops
Personally, although I find the photographs intriguing from a general interest point of view, I couldn't care less what the action looks like when exposed - it's how it feels and plays that's important.

I agree, but...

Originally Posted By: voxpops
Certainly, key length is a good indicator of how fluidly and evenly a board will play...but the fact that a hammer is placed one way or the other is immaterial to me

I'm wondering whether the hammer location may tell you something worthwhile just as key length does. It may not be coincidence that all the "better" feeling boards have the hammer-simulating mechanism on the same side of the pivot as the actual hammer on an acoustic piano, whereas the lesser feeling actions put the mechanism on the "wrong" side of the pivot, maybe that's part of why they don't respond as well or feel as authentic. Not that any spec tells the whole story... I would expect you could probably find some short key length model that feels better than some other long key length model. But it does tell you something. So maybe this is the same kind of thing.

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#2337916 - 10/16/14 06:07 AM Re: Roland PHA vs lightweight action: pictures! [Re: lolatu]
bennevis Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5281
To paraphrase some ancient boffin, the proof of the key action is in the playing.

Being a well-travelled sort of guy, I'm used to encountering disgusting-looking (even foul-smelling), slimy stuff in the name of food. But when you're in the middle of nowhere, and that's all you've got (or are given), as another boffin might say, "When the going gets tough, the tough gets going". Then I also remember that the proof of the pudding is in the eating (as a Masterchef might say), and discover that the 'slime' tastes delicious. Nothing like that camel dung Bear Grylls is slurping on.

Similarly, I don't bother to take apart any digital (or acoustic) to find out whether I like the (look of the) action, or whether it looks 'authentic' enough.

I just play it....... thumb
_________________________
"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."

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#2337919 - 10/16/14 06:35 AM Re: Roland PHA vs lightweight action: pictures! [Re: lolatu]
lophiomys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/01/14
Posts: 108
Loc: Austria, EU
IIRC the original cause of this photo documentation was, that the various names of actually not so much different
versions of key actions by Roland were and still are confusing to prospect buyers (as it happened to myself).

We - the customers - still have to play and test the actions of different - that is for sure.

Besides:
I was forced to bother to take apart my old RD-500, because after 15 years some plastic hammers got brittle and started to break. IMO that is OK after more than 10 years. From that experience I can also confirm that the basic mechanics inside the RD-500 look *very* similar to the "short and lightweight"-type action, like the depicted PHA Alpha 2 above.

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#2337928 - 10/16/14 07:37 AM Re: Roland PHA vs lightweight action: pictures! [Re: lolatu]
toddy Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/30/11
Posts: 1751
Loc: Portugal
From that experience I can also confirm that the basic mechanics inside the RD-500 look *very* similar to the "short and lightweight"-type action, like the depicted PHA Alpha 2 above.

The question is, though, is the later Ivory-G, which feels totally different, also derived from this PHA alpha template?

And what is PHAIV standard? Is it a development of Ivory-G or genuinely part of the PHAIV range installed on the best pianos Roland now make?

Idle curiosity. As bennevis says, the playing is all that matters....and durability, of course.
_________________________
Roland HP 302, Yamaha SY85

Reaper / NI Komplete 9 /Kontakt 5// EWQL Sym Choirs/ Sym Orchestra Silver/ MOR2
Mics: SP B1 & MXL V67g/ Alesis MicTube Preamp/ Xenyx302/ Yamaha HS7s .

"Only a fool is fooled" pv88, All Fools' Day 2014.

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#2338132 - 10/16/14 06:50 PM Re: Roland PHA vs lightweight action: pictures! [Re: toddy]
Jay Roland Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/08/13
Posts: 307
Loc: White Rock, BC.
Originally Posted By: toddy
From that experience I can also confirm that the basic mechanics inside the RD-500 look *very* similar to the "short and lightweight"-type action, like the depicted PHA Alpha 2 above.

The question is, though, is the later Ivory-G, which feels totally different, also derived from this PHA alpha template?

And what is PHAIV standard? Is it a development of Ivory-G or genuinely part of the PHAIV range installed on the best pianos Roland now make?

Idle curiosity. As bennevis says, the playing is all that matters....and durability, of course.



The PHA-4 Standard action is based on Ivory Feel G. Just like the other two PHA-4 actions (Premium and Concert) are based on their PHA-3 predecessors. As bennevis says, what they feel like, is FAR more important than what they're based on.

Our actions are some of the most durable in the industry, and are designed to last for years even under the heavy use that occurs in professional gigging, and teaching studio applications.

This is borne out by the people in our Factory service department that say that they almost NEVER perform warranty repairs on our key actions, and don't see very many instruments under the age of 10 for any kind of repair. Roland is and always has been known for the quality of our instruments and their durability.

Anyone who regularly plays acoustic instruments (as I often do) knows how much difference the most minor tweak can have on the feel and response of any acoustic instrument, as well as the wide variation between individual instruments from one maker, or even between the same models. I feel that there is far too much focus on the form factor of these actions, and far too little on the improvements made in terms of feel and response irrespective of their construction.

All the feedback I've gotten from retailers and end users leads me to conclude that the PHA-4 Standard feels worlds better than the Ivory Feel G. I've received the same feed back on both PHA-4 Premium and Concert as well. My own subjective comparisons between both actions would lead me to the same conclusion.

The Biggest difference between PHA-3 (at all levels) and PHA-4 (at all levels) is the addition of the separate keybed scanning processor in PHA-4, which feeds the sound engine with the most accurate data as the player is making music.

The other major factor in the new PHA-4 key actions, is the decrease of the mechanical noise that happens when playing. The PHA-4 is much quieter than any of the PHA-3 variants were.

So based on the fact that all PHA-4 actions share a similar feel, and an equally great response to the input of the player, I would say that the physical characteristics and lineage of each, matter far less than their overall performance. Which, in my opinion and the opinion of our retailers and many end users, is outstanding, and an improvement on their predecessors.

Jay


Edited by Jay Roland (10/16/14 06:51 PM)
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National Piano Sales Manager for Roland Canada.
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t: RCMPianoGuy

I'm sure that Jay (along with every other product manager in recorded history) is quite accustomed to hearing different customers assert "X" and "not-X" with equal conviction. - slowtraveler

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#2338478 - 10/17/14 04:40 PM Re: Roland PHA vs lightweight action: pictures! [Re: Pete14]
leafhound Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/15/14
Posts: 6
Originally Posted By: Pete14
To think that the V-Grand uses a similar action to the ones pictured above: plastic, folded, short keys, etc.... In other words, nothing like a real action.

The AvantGrand might be an overpriced beast, but the action is truly miles ahead of the V-Grand. You can modify a piano action only so much before it starts to look/feel like something else. BTW, that thing under the keys is not a hammer; it's more like a metal thing-a-ma-jig!



I found the V-piano/grand to be one of the best and enthralling actions out there, with the expressiveness, feel and dynamic range.

The AvantGrand N1 shoud never be used to play classical musical on, as the tones are wonky and an abysmal fortissimo.
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#2338490 - 10/17/14 05:45 PM Re: Roland PHA vs lightweight action: pictures! [Re: lolatu]
Doritos Flavoured Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 10/10/12
Posts: 174
Loc: Brazil
smile

so funny these guys
_________________________
unlocked by keys
wordless poetry sings free
- piano music -

my piano haiku

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#2341476 - 25 minutes 45 seconds ago Re: Roland PHA vs lightweight action: pictures! [Re: Jay Roland]
gvfarns Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/07
Posts: 3484
Loc: Pennsylvania
Originally Posted By: Jay Roland
The Biggest difference between PHA-3 (at all levels) and PHA-4 (at all levels) is the addition of the separate keybed scanning processor in PHA-4, which feeds the sound engine with the most accurate data as the player is making music.


What's this keyboard scanning processor you speak of? I haven't been frequenting this forum as much lately but I've never heard of it. If Roland has made a significant advancement in keyboard sensor/processing technology, I would have expected to see some marketing material about it. Do you have a link you can share? Or a brief explanation?

I could speculate about other things you could do processingwise. Like, do current triple sensor pianos use both interval times (from the first sensor to the second and the second to the third) to estimate acceleration and get a better guess of velocity at the "letoff" point? I don't know whether current pianos do this.

Speculation is fun, but facts are more important, so I'd love to have them.

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