Roland Backing Keyboard BK-910 Juli 2013
For a few years now Roland has been producing instruments like the BK7, BK5 and now their new flagship arranger – the BK9. BK indicates the instrument is a “Backing Keyboard” and this is the market that is ideally suited for this instrument.
The first think you will notice about the BK9 is the 76-note keyboard and super lightweight construction. If you are looking for an instrument to gig with then BK9 is perfect. This is the first keyboard I’ve been able to pick up with just one hand and not just a 5-octave keyboard either!
You would think that being so light, the build quality would suffer in some way, but no, the BK9 is beautifully constructed and the keyboard as a great feel to it. For this feature alone the keyboard gets a big 10 out of 10 – as it really is a pick up and go instrument.
So what new features do Roland bring to the table?
Well firstly we have to mention the dual split screen. You can have 2 displays running at the same time, so the right hand screen could have the drawbar configuration and the left screen show the style information and voicing. It’s a neat idea, but for me, I’d prefer to see one big colour display. Both the BK5 and 9 use blue backlit mono screens, which are ok, but for me the angle of the display isn’t just right and I found myself leaning over a lot to see what was on the display, but this is a minor detail when you look at the other fantastic features that the BK9 has to offer.
The Sound engine in the BK9 seems to have everything Roland have ever created and a 22 of the supernatural sounds. Synths, pads, brass, organ, and choirs – the whole lineup is in the BK9 and there are 22 of the new “live” sounds that Roland has created called “Supernatural” voices.
Real Drawbars give any Hammond organ enthusiast just what they want. Positioned just below the main screen these drawbars have a good feel to them and are responsive. The drawbar sound from the instrument is very good, in fact all of the voices on the BK 9 are great, the 22 Supernatural sounds that feature are just incredible, but don’t forget there are just over 1700 sounds on this keyboard and 70 drum kits. The sounds don’t stop there – the instrument is ready to accept new sounds via the BK sound expansions.
For me the pianos and electric pianos are just beautiful, which when you have 76 keys brings the instrument alive. Keyboard players, Pianists and even organists would find this keyboard complete joy to play.
The menu system on this instrument is also very clever. When you select a feature such as one touch setting, the corresponding buttons begin to flash – which makes navigation very simple. As a typical “bloke” I don’t read instruction manuals or handbooks, and to be honest, with the BK9 you don’t need it. The playability of this instrument is first class. Everything is just where you want it – it’s so easy to play.
If you are a technophobe and want a keyboard that is as logical as you are – then the BK9 should be your first choice. Musicians young and old will find something to love about the BK9.
A good arranger/backing keyboard relies on a good backing band, and the BK9 has a good arranger section. The sounds and styles are very good; in fact the big band and swing styles are brilliant. The styles are very good, but there are a lot of song specific styles, which are good, but useless to use with any other songs. Roland aren’t the only company making styles that are very song specific and for me this is a complete no-no.
By all means make styles like this, but sell them separately, don’t use them as the basis of a keyboard. If you have a lady gaga style, sell it as such and don’t use it as the main “bread and butter” styles in the instrument.
There are 540 styles in the BK9, and 90% of them are very very good, but there is a 10% that you would use maybe once, and then never use again. The pop section houses lots of current chart hit styles as well as some really good rock styles and overall the backing section gets a 7/10 for quality of styles.
However, the backing section doesn’t stop there. oh no, the BK9 allows you to create your own styles – directly on the instrument, opening a world of new possibilities.
I am sitting at my computer trying to put into words just what the BK9 offers, and the simple answer is …
Everything! You can never really appreciate a keyboard from a review and in this case, it’s true. You have got to go and play one of these keyboards for yourself. I will try to help you by pointing out the great features that the keyboard has, but please pop to your local Roland dealer and try this keyboard for yourself.
Features found on much bigger, more expensive keyboards are all on the BK9. 16 Track sequencer, 5 multi-effect engines and a whole host of connectivity options.
There is a really nifty feature on the BK9, which makes playing a lot of fun called Audio Keys. The top end of the keyboard can trigger MP3, Wav and other formats of live audio. This allows you to sync vocal tracks to your playing and they are simply triggered by pressing the corresponding audio key.
The BK9 also features a whole host of wifi and connectivity options with direct connection to iPad.
The BK-9 is compatible with Roland Wireless Connect, enabling cable-free communication with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch via Roland’s optional WNA1100-RL Wireless USB Adapter for recording. You can also connect your iPad directly to the BK-9 (using Apple’s iPad Camera Connection Kit), giving you access to a number of helpful apps. To name a few, the BK Partner app lets you select tones and rhythms from your iPad, the Air Recorder app lets you jam and record on your iPhone or iPad, and the Lyrics Viewer app displays SMF lyrics on your iPad for karaoke-style performances.
One of the exciting add-ons for the BK9 is speaker stand which will be out later in the year. The stand features built in speakers which can be connected directly to the instrument by one connection. This allows the player to have a stand and sound system all in one.
BK9 is an arranger keyboard for the future and Roland’s development team has spent a lot of time and effort on making this keyboard future proof and you really should take a look.
Reviewer’s personal view.
The BK 9 is a really nice keyboard and at £1700 super value for money. There isn’t anything else out there like it. 76 notes, twin screen, real drawbars, wifi connectivity, the list goes on and on.
Would I buy one? Yes. For anyone who wants an ultra portable gigging instrument, the BK9 is the only instrument on the market at this price point with such a lineup of great features.
Positives – too many to list. Negatives – Screen angle is too low and could have benefited by some sort of angle tilt.
And I think that is all. So, jump in the car, get on a bus or hop on your bike and go and see this keyboard at your local Roland dealer.