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Fr-4x First Impressions (after a whole 3 days of ownership)

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Like the title says, I've had this puppy for three whole days so this is not an in depth review, but rather my first impressions of it.
First, some background.
I've played keys/piano of some sort all my life. Not a great player but good enough. I switched to accordion about 5 years ago with a Titano Stroller (41/120) then switched up to a Borsini (41/120) a couple of years ago so I had enough full size accordions although I will probably sell the Titano now that I have the Roland.
I also have small ladies size box I got just for fun (it's VERY small) so I know I can handle the smaller size even though I am a big guy at 6' 5".

So, why the 4x and not the 8x?

Well, price for a start, but the main reason was that I just did not want another full size accordion. My knees are bad so I play sitting down most of the time. I'd like to be able to play standing but there's no way that is happening with a full size box. At 19 lbs, the 4x is a lot more manageable in that respect.
Volume is not an issue as I mostly play farmer's markets or busking down town (where NOT being too loud lets me get away with it without any hassle from police or shop owners) or open mics where there is usually a PA I can plug into with the 4x.

I got mine from Crown Music in Arizona and it came with the Dale Mathis sound set all programmed in so it's not a standard Roland setup. That was a deliberate choice as I had heard (although I have no actual experience) that the box as it comes from Roland is not that impressive re the sound setup. Dale said it's because it is built for a global market but when you are paying that much they could at least pretend to make some sort of effort to customize it for the target region. Bit like buying a car with the steering wheel in the middle because, well, that's the average position in a global market! No matter, moving on....

First of, let me say that this will never be a 'real' accordion. at least when playing with accordion sounds, while it sounds good, it's just not the same to my ear at least. The sound just does not resonate from the whole box in the same way that it does from a real accordion so I cannot see it replacing my Borsini any time soon but rather augmenting my playing choices.

The keyboard 'feels' a bit different. More like a synth keyboard than an accordion. I assume that is because you are not moving rods and levers against springs so the physical mass is different. I got used to it pretty quickly though. However I do find that I notice sloppy playing far more on the 4x than I do on a real box. I suspect the keys are just more sensitive to when they have been touched vs being intentionally played so missed or bum notes tend to show up more. The fix of course is to become a better player so it's not all bad!
As for 37 keys vs 41. So far I have not noticed the missing keys. Maybe if I played in F or Bb more I might but so far I think I've only had one occasion where I was looking for the F as the bottom note of an Inverted Dm chord and it wasn't there but it didn't really affect the overall sound of the song any and I can always just play the F an octave higher if I really need it.

Bellows control takes a bit of getting used to. I have the 'air bleed' knob currently just off the heavy setting so it bleeds a bit but not too much but I still find myself fighting the bellows a bit so my bellows work is not as good as it is on the Titano or Borsini and tends to be a little jumpy at times which affects the volume. Hopefully that will improve as I play it more.

The Drums are a bit naff. OK, I think they are pretty crap and can get a bit annoying if used too much. Almost seem to be an after thought. OK for polka maybe but not much else. Manual says there are three drum sets but I've yet to figure out how to select anything other than the set that is setup when you turn the box on.

I am still experimenting with the various sound sets and setups but the ability to layer sounds is great. So far my favorite setup (using the Dale Mathis setup) is acoustic bass on the bass and contra bass, strings on the chord buttons and clarinet on the treble side, with maybe a musette accordion layered over it at times. Moonlight Serenade with that setup sounds so great.

The screen does it's job. Bigger would be nice, if only so that my old eyes could actually read it cleary but I can make out enough, even though it is slightly blurred with my computer/playing glasses (let me see clearly at about arms length so great for computer use and music on a stand).

If I have one disappointment, it's the fact that there is only ONE MIDI port so it is either input or output. This means you cannot have a setup where you are using a midi foot pedal to control the accordion and at the same time use the accordion to control a module like a BK-7m (if you are lucky enough to have one). While playing with midi is not something I have gotten around to yet, It will be on the cards at some point in the future. I will probably use the midi as output to control a rack synth and just get used to hitting the buttons on the accordion to control it as you would anyway.

Speaking of buttons. I like that all the small ones have little red LEDs on them facing the top so that you can easily see if they are selected or not.
The main 'register select' buttons do not. It's only a problem because if you cannot remember what register you have selected there's no easy way to tell short of looking at the screen which I can hardly read! On a 'real' accordion you can 'feel' the register buttons for the sloppy one to tell which is selected but on the Roland, there's no way to do that. A minor thing but worth being aware of.

Often on keyboards only one of the two stereo output gives you fill mono output so I like that you can plug into either left or right audio output and get mono instead of having to find the correct one.
The ability to plug in headphones and play late at night without disturbing anyone may save my marriage!

So yeah, overall I'd say I am glad I finally bought one and I am happy with my choice of the 4x rather than the 8x.
 
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jozz

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congratulations!

I have similar experiences with my FR1x. Especially I did note how sloppy I was too vs. with an acoustic, and how 'direct' digital can be. I see it as a tool rather than an instrument, and it's good at being just that. There are caveats, but: my timing has improved in general. The speed at which I can lay down creative ideas into a computer has increased a lot. Silent practice at night!

what's not to love
 

Glenn

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Thanks for your frank feedback. Glad you are having fun with the 4x.
I have the 8x and had the same bellows issue you are having. Coming from an acoustic instrument you are used to more finesse in the control. I have found that playing louder helps. In other words putting more effort into the bellows action and turning down the volume a bit. This may feel a bit exaggerated when compared to the Borsini but it helped me to learn to control the instrument and avoid those sudden jumps in volume at the bellows extremities.
 
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Update (already!)

I plugged it into my PA for the first time today.
At first I got no sound from the PA but that turned out to be a bad cable, so easy fix.

I was surprised to find that plugging in a cable into either of the outputs did NOT mute the onboard speakers (I know plugging headphones in does).
From what I can tell reading the manual, it looks like you have to manually turn them off. I was about to say they need a shortcut button to be able to do that but then I took another look at the manual and sure enough shift plus the 5/12 register button rotates the speaker settings through on/off/on+phones.
It looks like it does NOT remember that setting when you power off though.

I also found it strange that when using both outputs (stereo) the L/MONO output is for the RIGHT hand and the R/MONO output is for the LEFT hand. Just seems illogical to me.

I also ran it through my pedal board (Zoom MS-70CDR effect pedal -> Jamman Solo XT -> Beatbuddy). It does not seem to record in the Jamman as loudly as my keyboard does for a given volume at the PA speaker. Not sure why (as in, I have no idea) yet but will mess around with it some as time goes on to see if I can improve things.

The larger speaker (QSC K10) certainly improves the bass side sound.
 

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Thanks for your initial reports. I again saw an FR4x on sale at an affordable price (a 4xb actually as I play CBA). It's sad that your report once again confirms that the Roland is not an electronic replacement for an acoustic accordion. This is sad because when it comes to piano the modern digital pianos do produce an experience that is sufficiently similar to an acoustic piano at least for me, yet the digital accordion made by Roland is not good enough as a substitute for the acoustic... I very much want it to be, but maybe another one will come along that's better.
I saw the note on what is left and right regarding speakers and that is perfectly logical because you have to look at it from the audience's point of view. You place speakers behind you when you play for an audience and the audience sees your treble side on the left and the bass side on the right. So the sound actually comes from the correct side.
 
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You have to bear in mind that I am reporting what I hear and how it sounds as the player. From all the videos I have seen online, as a listener it does sound remarkably good. I'll be able to tell better once I try it through the pa (albeit mono because I only have one speaker) with the accordion speakers turned off so I get more of a feel of what the audience hears.
 

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You have to bear in mind that I am reporting what I hear and how it sounds as the player. From all the videos I have seen online, as a listener it does sound remarkably good. I'll be able to tell better once I try it through the pa (albeit mono because I only have one speaker) with the accordion speakers turned off so I get more of a feel of what the audience hears.
Let us know how your experience evolves. I already know from the recordings made by Piotr that the fr4x can sound very nice, but Piotr also makes recordings using a nice Victoria accordion... No direct comparison as the fr4x has reverb built-in and Piotr uses no reverb in the recordings of his Victoria (or maybe very little, hard to tell).
 

jozz

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I use a jack->mini TRS adapter into the headphones to quickly silence the onboard speakers.

It's nice the FR4 has that shortcut though. The FR1x hasn't.

Does your FR4x also put out a mono MIX of L+R when you plug into only one of the outputs?

That's one of the main problems with the FR1x. You will always get a mono MIX instead of just L or R, regardless if you turn the Balance all the way.
 

OldSqueezer

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I use a jack->mini TRS adapter into the headphones to quickly silence the onboard speakers.
Does your FR4x also put out a mono MIX of L+R when you plug into only one of the outputs?
That's one of the main problems with the FR1x. You will always get a mono MIX instead of just L or R, regardless if you turn the Balance all the way.
Just musing on the second point you raise, and I haven’t tried it - could you get just L (or just R for that matter) by putting a blind jack plug (ie not connected to anything) into the socket for the channel you don’t want? Would that trick the accordion into thinking it was stereo connected, or does the latter depend on a signal passing along both wires?
Doug
 
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Probably just mechanical switches in the jacks so that would work I think although I don’t know how the output amp in the box would handle no load. You’d probs my have to fake an impedance load in the plug
 

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in the Roland, the AMp portion is always on, and the speakers always provide Load

when there is no audio signal presented to the amp, nothing is made loud, nothing is heard

under normal use the volume control feeds a percentage of the audio signal from 1 to 100%
to the amp circuit, which makes whatever it receives as loud as it can

the days of controlling volume by nerfing the actual output of an
analog amplifier output stage are pretty much gone

so if you try to "trick" the Roland by shorting out something
you shouldn't (like the headphone jack) it will affect the logic
circuits which control the flow of Data, and if you fry something
by doing so, it will likely be your logic chip or associated gates
 

jozz

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Just musing on the second point you raise, and I haven’t tried it - could you get just L (or just R for that matter) by putting a blind jack plug (ie not connected to anything) into the socket for the channel you don’t want? Would that trick the accordion into thinking it was stereo connected, or does the latter depend on a signal passing along both wires?
Doug
how it works with the FR1x:
it's all digitally routed and stereo is the same

in fact, the routing of this is the same for all outputs, so for example there is no way to only output L at the jack and then have R still at the headphones (which would be a workaround for me)

I have the tried to set the balance to the max setting -1 (eg. L63) to get the least bleed and then amplify the weak R signal back into my ears via my computer interface....then I gave up and just started recording parts always seperately

bottom line:
want to play both L+R and then have CLEAN recorded tracks of both left and right? not possible

it always mixes a little L into R and vice versa, so blocking one channel (if it were possible) still gives you the bleed

so you get what Roland wants you to get - always a mix:






was wondering if the FR4 would solve this use case
 
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Ventura

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Isn't that wasting power

think of it like a wall-wart power supply..
old analog days a small transformer was hidden in the plug, it felt
warm all the time from the wasted electricity
new digital days switching power supplies... same small wall plug, zero heat
unless they are under a severe load (which makes them work very hard)

Old analog amp circuits wasted as much as 75% of the electricity
new low and mid power digital amps waste literally nothing

a Roland Street Cube can run on it;s AA batteries literally for days

but the concept of leaving the Power Amp on Full all the time
goes way back to many Concert venue sound people too
 

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1 - I was surprised to find that plugging in a cable into either of the outputs did NOT mute the onboard speakers (I know plugging headphones in does).
From what I can tell reading the manual, it looks like you have to manually turn them off. I was about to say they need a shortcut button to be able to do that but then I took another look at the manual and sure enough shift plus the 5/12 register button rotates the speaker settings through on/off/on+phones.
It looks like it does NOT remember that setting when you power off though.

2 - I also found it strange that when using both outputs (stereo) the L/MONO output is for the RIGHT hand and the R/MONO output is for the LEFT hand. Just seems illogical to me.

3 - I also ran it through my pedal board (Zoom MS-70CDR effect pedal -> Jamman Solo XT -> Beatbuddy). It does not seem to record in the Jamman as loudly as my keyboard does for a given volume at the PA speaker. Not sure why (as in, I have no idea) yet but will mess around with it some as time goes on to see if I can improve things.

4 - The larger speaker (QSC K10) certainly improves the bass side sound.
1 - Normal and even desired. Once you go wireless, or even amp an acoustic, this is the same effect. My main reason for rarely muting the accordion even with external PA is related to latency... the further you go from your PA, the greater the latency of the sound that reaches your ears. Keeping the speakers on completely negates this... for you AND your audience.

2 - One of 2 reasons... either it is your setup or it is your standing orientation. The logic here is that when you face the audience and your back is to the speakers (so to say) you want the stereo image to be set up not for YOU but for your audience. That means that when your back is to the speakers, your right hand comes out on your right side and your left hand comes out your left side... so that people who are looking at you, see your right hand on THEIR left and your left hand coming out on THEIR right side. Now if you turn and face the speakers, this will be reversed, so if you face the speakers, guess what... it will be reversed. :)

Now if you say that you are plugging in things properly and orienting them properly and the sound is reversed, one of 2 things... either Dale has set up the balance of the sounds backwards in his sets, or you have a hardware/internal wiring issue (albeit not a hard one to solve).

3 - No idea, don't own external pedals with my setup

4 - Basic acoustics. A small speaker with less wattage will always find it harder to general strong lower frequencies than a big speaker with roughly 10 times more wattage. :)

I always say that if you want to hear the best out of the 8X (or any Roland V-accordion), plug it in to a good set of quality speakers driven by a clean amp.
 
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So the speakers NOT muting when you plug into the L/R outputs (vs the headphone output) caught me out the other night. I was playing at home, late at night so I put the headphones on so as not to disturb the wife. At the time, I thought 'This sounds' great' but what I done is this. Instead of plugging the headphones into the accordion, I had plugged the accordion output into my pedal board and the headphones into the pedal board headphone output. Since I had the headphones on, I could not really tell that the accordion speakers were playing until my wife came in later and asked me to turn down. She said she thought it was strange that I was wearing the headphones when the sound was obviously still coming from the speakers! Oops!

I also tried something a little different. I noticed the 4x has a mini trs (stereo) input plug so you can plug whatever into it (ipod player etc) and I assume play along to whatever is playing. The sound comes out of the 4x's speakers. So I got a 1/4" mono (T/s) to mini stereo (trs) cable (basically a splitter cable), plugged the mono end into the output of my drum pedal (I only use one output even though it is stereo because I only have on PA speaker) and the other (with the now duplicated signal on the stereo end) into the accordion. When I started the pedal the drums came out through the accordion. I still had to control the drum volume from the pedal but an interesting setup if I needed it as my pedal board is all battery powered so I 'could' use it for busking type setups without the need to carry a PA around as well.

I've still not run out of keys with the slightly smaller keyboard either!
 

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Plugging into only one output gives you both L+R as a mono mix. You only get stereo if you plug a cable into both outputs.
Thank you much for your comment. I have played accordions for over 65 years. I just traded my Digital Musicmaker 50 for a Roland Fr-4x. I have only had it for 4 days. Much learning to do! I just play for my own entertainment at home. I am connected to Ketron Midjpro sound module using a Polytone Altra 3 channel 15"amp. I am in a townhouse so currently have to use wired headphones. I am in early stages of building a new home. I am really looking forward to eliminating these headphones! I plan to set up in a standard bedroom only about 10×14. I hope this will allow me to replace this big amplifier. I would like to ask? Would it be possible to replace with a Studio Monitor like the KRK Series? Would these produce the required frequentcies for clear and clean sounds? Would there be any real benefit to have two instead of just one of these speakers? With all of this in mind, would you have a recommendation?
Many thanks for your time in reading all of this.
And my best wishes. Stay safe.
 
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My studio/work from home spot/man cave! is also a standard bedroom.
I cannot comment on the use of studio speakers as I've never used them, not even with my keyboard. MY QSC K10 sits in a corner out of the way. I've found I get the best sound (for me anyway as the player/listener) when I let it augment the sound from the accordion rather than replace it so basically I don't turn off the accordion speakers.
With headphones (which are steroe) I find it a bit strange at first with different sounds in each ear because when playing a 'real' accordion of course the sound is all around you so there's less separation.
 

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