Roland Intros C-30 Digital Harpsichord

Roland Intros C-30 Digital Harpsichord

This is sort of stupidtacular – Roland has introduced the C-30 Digital Harpsichord. It’s also a sign that the technology is getting cheap and good enough to be irrelevant for a lot of types of instruments, so packaging starts making more of a difference.


Roland’s “click action” F-scale keyboard provides an authentic harpsichord feel, while two different types of unique harpsichord modes give you an expansive selection of sounds including French-type and Flemish-type harpsichord. Each mode has four stop variations: 8’1, (back), 8’11 (front), 4′, and Lute.

In addition, Roland has added totally new sounds with the “Dynamic Harpsichord”, which can be played with dynamics and with a damper pedal. It also features two positive small-pipe organ sounds and the sound of the early fortepiano.

Available tuning options include baroque pitch (415Hz) and Versailles pitch (392Hz), which can be switched instantly without changing the temperament (classical tuning). A total of five tunings are supported. In addition to equal temperament including: Werckmeister, Kirnberger, Vallotti, and Meantone.

It’s possible to adjust the sound to achieve a proper balance when playing in an ensemble with violin, modern flute, or other comparatively loud instruments. On the other hand, if you want to practice at home late at night, you can turn the volume down. You can also practice using headphones.

The C-30 can be split up into unit and stand. You can easily transport the unit (25 kg) and stand (13 kg) in an ordinary car.

The C-30’s unique keyboard lid and side panels can be customized with a variety of patterns including paintings, and stained-glass inspired artwork.

34 thoughts on “Roland Intros C-30 Digital Harpsichord

  1. Stupitacular applies more to your comment.

    Roland realises, as do the makers of most other floorstanding
    musical instruments, that the instrument is also a piece of furniture.
    Too often, if little Johnny or Janey don’t want to practice, that is
    what a the instrument is for most of its life.

    The technology is very relevant, things like effective emulation
    of the feel of harpsichord keys, provision of alternative tempering
    and other digital advantages are not as immediately attention-
    grabbing as angels playing lutes.

    The pricing instruments depends to a great extent on
    projected sales to recoup R&D costs and the costs of production.
    Making instruments that appeal to as many people as possible
    is one way of making these superb musical instruments available
    to as many people as possible.

    There is no particular reason why a digital instrument has to
    be made from moulded plastic. Instruments that are essentially
    based on samples from acoustic instruments are reproducing
    sounds. Why should it be odd that they also emulate the look
    of the instruments they sonically resemble? It helps to complete
    the illusion.

    Without the hassle of tuning, you get several harpsichords and
    a piano in a customizable wooden box. I’d say that is cause for
    approbation not denigration. If you find the glass or the
    keyboard panel lame or distracting, just remove them.

  2. Thanks for your feedback, Mr Tongue.

    I’m not sure what your comment about angels playing lutes refers to, though.

    Sorry if the post offended you. My point is that synth technology is sufficiently advanced that the packaging is often more important than the technology. Disguising a playback synth as a 300 year-old harpsichord seems both stupid AND spectacularly awesome.

    Like you suggested, Roland isn’t just selling a musical instrument, they’re selling something that frequently will be a nice piece of furniture for most of its life.

  3. I should apologise for being, let’s call it,
    excessively polemical.

    The “Angels playing lutes” refers to the
    decorative panel that comes with the C-30.
    It displays when you have the keyboard lid up.
    There’s also stained glass in the stands.
    Luckily, you can remove the cultural bling.

    “packaging is often more important than the technology”
    is not restricted to synths. I would say that most people
    care about looking cool. The moment of truth comes when
    you actually have to play. The nice thing about the C-30
    is that you don’t have to play in public. Harpsichords are
    fickle instruments and have been too expensive for most
    people to own. Now you can have one at home and explore
    the history of music via switchable dispositions and access
    to several different period instruments. With headphones
    on, no-one has to hear you at all.

    I hadn’t thought of disguise as a concept for this
    product. I suppose we are coming at it from different direction.

    If you are into synths, then you get a kind of x-ray vision into
    the electronics. A consumer who always wanted to try a harpsichord
    or wanted an interesting second keyboard, is not going
    to be that concerned about anything but the quality of the playing
    experience and whether or not it is affordable.

    The appearance is part of the playing experience.
    Moulded plastic is not probably not going to appeal much to
    people are interested in hearing what Kirnberger harmonies
    sound like and comparing them to Werckmeister.

    You are right that making such an instrument depends on
    being completely competent with acquiring libraries of sound
    samples of sufficient quality and assigning items to keys. But
    there is a little more to it than that.

    In the C-30 the mechanical design of keyboard must have
    required a great deal of know-how, research, and ingenuity.

    There is a knack to designing successful products and keeping
    an innovative business going.

    In a product designed for music, you would think that sound
    and playability are paramount, but as Apple has demonstrated
    with the iPod, looks can be more important than sound and

  4. The C-30 does not seem to be simply another “playback synth”; it is a niche product that fills a very specific niche. As a harpsichordist who owns an authentic reproduction of a 1685 Italian instrument, I’ve always been frustrated that it constantly goes out of tune, and the so-called “harpsichord” stops I found on every electronic keyboard I ever tried never sounded anything remotely like a real harpsichord. If they can sample a grand piano to make a really good-sounding digital piano, I used to wonder, why they couldn’t do that for a harpsichord, too. In fact, I reasoned, they could offer more than one harpsichord sound (French or Italian or Flemish etc.) and offer different termperaments (since numerous temperaments were used in the 17th and 18th centuries), different pitch standards, different registers (8-foot, 4-foot, 16-foot), the whole works, all in an instrument that would never need tuning and never need to be “revoiced” by having all the plectra replaced periodically. But it always seemed that the harpsichord market was too small for it to be feasible to produce such an instrument. From their description, it sounds like Roland has created very near what I’ve fantacized about. They even (although I’m not sure how successfully) attempted to reproduce the feel of a harpsichord keyboard, which is unlike any other keyboard because you can actually feel the strings being plucked as you play. I have no interest in having the capability to reproduce the sounds of saxophones or trombones or a wordless chorus or any of the other sounds common to most synthesizers, and I suspect most other harpsichordists feel the same way. I have not yet had the opportunity to try the Roland C-30, and to tell the truth I’m not overjoyed by the visual design of it (it doesn’t look like a harpsichord, and who cares about stained-glass inserts, etc.), but if it comes anywhere near matching the description, I will certainly buy one. It isn’t stupid; it’s a fantastic idea whose time has come.

  5. Be forewarned:

    In 1988 Roland released their C-50 and C-80 Digital Harpsichords. I bought a C-50 in May 1988. Just beyond one octave above middle C, the keys in the range of E-A or so, in one of the 8′ registers, were mis-sampled. The result was that a distorted or static-like sound would occur after a fraction of a second when holding the keys down. In the words of a Roland technician whom I spoke to on the phone while he had my C-50 right in front of him, there was a “sampling error”, and as the sampling error was built into the original design, nothing could be done about it. In other words, it was not specific to my C-50, but to all of them. The C-80 also contained the same electronics as the C-50, but with a higher level sound system and cabinet, therefore, the C-80 would have also exhibited this problem.

    The new C-30 contains the exact same voicing as the older models. I believe it is fair to assume that Roland has not corrected this problem, they might not even be aware of it. However, any potential buyer of the C-30 needs to be aware of this. That particular register was, for me, as good as unplayable, and therefore rendered my C-50 useless.

    As far as realistic tonal response is concerned, that’s a subjective analysis. The basses were pretty good, the treble range seemed to lack something.

    Caviat emptor: Try before you buy. If you can’t try it first, make sure you can return it.

  6. I own a C-30 since a few days and I am impressed. This digital instrument can´t replace a real acoustic harpsichord but it is perfect to practise in a small room. I´m a music student (organ and conducting) and it´s very nice to have such a instrument near my desktop. This C-30 replaced my Clavinova and for my use it is a great deal because of the “click” – keyboard which is definitvely nearer to organ an harpsichord feeling than the heavy piano keyboard of a digital piano. The sound isn´t really important for me, but it is even very good! I can´t find the “sampling error” Jack mentioned above. The poissibility to change between old temperatures is great.

    The C-30 is a perfect choice for students.

  7. Jack is back. I just saw a demo of the new Roland C-30 Digital Harpsichord on Youtube. I’m impressed. Close your eyes, and it sounds like the real thing. My previous blurb here entitled ” Be forewarned” regarding the previous Roland C-50 still stands, please read it. If Josef’s (see his review also) did not have that sampling error, I’m glad to hear that. The new C-30 now has French and Flemish sound samples, so maybe they resampled the whole thing.

    I’ve seen the C-30 priced at $4000 and also at $5000 online. So just make sure you can get your $ back.

  8. I would be very interested to hear if anyone has been able to compare the new C-30 with the older C-20 and C-50 digital harpsichords. I have a C-20 and am wondering how much of an improvement the C-30 would represent and whether or not it would be worth buying. The different touch does seem interesting, and the sound of the samples on the Roland website is also quite nice, but it would be nice to hear from someone who has actually played the new model and also is familiar with the earlier ones.

  9. Today I tried out a C-30 for two hours. Contrary to observations given above, I hear no imbalance in the sampling of any of the “stops.” All sounds very even. The key widths mirror those of other Rolands which will suit keyboard players generally though not those who play hand-built intruments. The sharps sensibly are matt finish. However in contrast, the naturals are highly polished causing fingers easily to slide off unless carefully placed. This contrasts dramatically with the grained key surfaces of Roland stage pianos. So, those with sweaty fingers beware!

  10. Some thoughts from a harpsichord enthusiast.

    Unlike professionals who posted very relevant and interesting comments in this forum I am amteur pianist, play the organ from time to time and played a real harpsichord not more often than twice in my life. Originally I was looking for a digital church organ for my living room and when I found this instumrnet by chance this morning got somehow enthusiastic about it. This is also becuase I have had the wish to own a harpsichord for years.

    In the end what I think about this instrument and what the whole thing boils down to for me is:

    Major advantages:
    – cheap to buy
    – no maintenance, no tuning, no being afraid of cracks in the wood
    – easy to move
    – quality of sounds and material seem good (from the demos I saw and from what I read here)
    – can play different kinds of harpsichords in different tunings and change within seconds
    – MIDI to play any sound I want on the keyboard
    – click action keyboard for realistic feeling

    major disadvantage (and what I really do not understand about this instrument):
    – Roland tries to imitate the sound of the baroque ages in all its facets (different regional makes, different tunings)
    – Roland puts this kind of great technology in a wood cabinet with decoration panels (I find the idea awesome) to attract certain kind of people

    they equip it with a keyboard with click action to simulate the touch of a harpsichord but WHAT HAPPENS BEFORE YOU FEEL THIS CLICK???

    exactly: You feel plastic and you feel keys that are not the size you expect them to be on a harpsichord.

    I read parts of a very famous (german language) book on harpsichord playing technique summing up various authotitative sources (Couperin, Scarlatti, Bach,…). FIngering and playing technique, therefore also the sound of a baroque piece strongly depend on the size of a key. Playing the harpsichord asks for a technique that is entirely different from playing the piano (much less use of arms, much less moving of the body, mainly the fingers move). Therefore as a pianist you will have to accustom to more than click action…

    So in the end they wanted to build the perfect electronic harpsichord and through not respecting these details built a harpsichord piano hybrid. Wooden keyboards are offered as an extra by almost every builder of digital organs. Why not there???

    Did somebody in R&D overlook these details???

    I guess I would still buy it but I see this as a major disadvantage. They diliberately chose not to offer the real touch and feel!

  11. Follow up:

    After some more searching I found this product by a company selling digital organs as their key business:

    They also offer a wooden keyboard for it and the measurements of the keys to me look quite realistic.

    Click on “Klangbeispiel” to listen to a soud sample.

    This one doesn’t offer a flemish and a frensh harpsichord but also 2 8′ and 1 4′ and a lute and really almost looks like the original…

    They promise that it imitates the feeling of plocking a string in a ver realisitic way.

    What do you think of that?

  12. Josef wrote:
    …. I´m a music student (organ and conducting) and it´s very nice to have such a instrument near my desktop. This C-30 replaced my Clavinova and for my use it is a great deal because of the “click” – keyboard which is definitvely nearer to organ an harpsichord feeling than the heavy piano keyboard of a digital piano. The sound isn´t really important for me, but it is even very good! I can´t find the “sampling error” Jack mentioned above. The poissibility to change between old temperatures is great.


    Josef, the word is “temperament” not “temperature.”

  13. While a lover of Ancient Music in general and the harpsichord in particular I have been constantly saddened by the use of modern pianos in concert to replace the older instrument. In schools and colleges in particular we seem to be training young ears away from the original sounds and tunings. Now there is a chance instruments such as the C-30 may be able to change this, at least in theory. My students all play recorders from seven years up and deserve a better accompanying sound than they are getting now from the harpsichord setting on my digital piano – is this the solution I am dreaming of? However pretty it looks I do wish there was a way to hide that power cord.

    Have any schools or colleges already taken the jump or does electric still rhyme with plastic in institutions? When can we say the digital harpsichord has really come of age? I agree that wooden keys would have been a much more convincing argument but so would genuine ivory and happily we can’t do that any more!

  14. I would prefer the possibility of set my own temperament.

    What if I prefer the Vallotti or the Bach/Lehman 1722 temperament?

    Modern digital pianos like the Kawai MP8 have this feature and have a lower price (the MP8 have wooden keys).

    The C-30 should have this feature.

    Plastic is no so bad and the range of sounds are very good, I think.

    This is not a replacement for a real harpsichord, but for a stundent without enought money it could be the only way to have an instrument with similar touch and sound of a double manual harpsichord.


  15. Hi everyone, very glad to read your comments.
    Do you know how would the internal sounds compare to using Midi In from a computer with better sounds? Like Ivory (to name one I know makes great piano samples). Also, how would this compare vs a stage piano (such as the Kawai MP8) using the same samples? Still a much better option to have the C-30’s keyboard feel?
    What do you guys think of the Fortepiano sounds, and the Organ ones? Very nice Celesta.
    Check the videos on youtube, very very nice.

  16. Follow-up II

    Had a little mail communication with the product manager in Germany (I am from Austria). As most of you might not understand German here a brief summary about what I found out:

    – The main goal when developing the instrument was to produce and affordable harpsichord mainly targeted to professionals, students and amateurs, all striving to authtentically reproduce old music. The instrument has tehrefore really been made for people like me, not for people using synthesizers in pop music.

    – The black keys were developed from scratch whereas the white keys resemble the keys used in all Roland synthesizers (this was the major issue I had brought up in my previous postings).

    – The development of a completely innovative keyboard would have been possible, probably also the use of wood but given the higher cost of this development the instrument would not have been that cheap.

    – He even mentioned something I had not found in the brochures I had read which is that touching the key with less force results in a somewhat slower triggering of the chord. Also the use of “koppel” to couple to stops results in a slightly time shift between the 2 chords beeing pulled. A slower release of the key produces a different sound of the plectrum falling back. If thsi is true: Respect!

    – Concerning my reproach of also providing the player with a dynamic harpsichord which is of course not a real instrument he quotes Cristofori in his striving for such a dynamic instrument which finally resulted in the invention of the pianoforte. I see this as a very good explanation of their approach allthough I would myself not use it.

    – The provided damper pedal can also serve as switch between 2 different registrations which was widely used in harpsichords built in the 20th century and might be quite practical given the fact that the instrument only has a single keyboard. Thus by use of your foot you can quickly change between 2 different registrations – good idea.

    – ad Chris Chater: The University of Music in Würzburg /Germany) has recently ordered 3 of them for use in study and concerts. Htey where very happy with the cheap price compared to the good features according to the PM.

    – Last but not least a development of more expensive models with probably a better keyboard or 2 keyboards is possible. I guess this will depend on how many they sell of the C 30.

    I personally still find the instrument very interesting but would probably wait another year for possible improvements and new models.

  17. My brand new C-30 arrived just about a week ago and sofar I have been very impressed with it. I purchased it through the net from a national dealer at a very reasonable price (2.520 €, equalling 3.600 US $). It is compact, rather nice looking, has a definite aura of quality around it, and sounds beautiful. During the two and a half decades of marriage, my wife has developed very strong negative feelings about the voice of a harpsichord, mainly based on the old recordings of Wanda Landowska, but even she loves the sound of C-30. The craftsmen in Roland have obviously made a very thorough job in reproducing the touch and voice of an acoustic harpsichord to the most minute detail. I must admit that, being just an average amateur old music aficionado, I have had only a couple of chances of trying the real things, both harpsichords and clavichords alike. Nevertheless, the nice plucking touch is there, and soundwise I could not find a difference between C-30 and recordings made with real acoustic instruments. In my time, I have played a host of digital keyboards, and I usually always try the harpsichord sound on them. Admittedly, some of them are rather good. The things, that really beats me with C-30 are the small details, that simply do not exist in any other digital instruments; the little rustling sound produced by the dampers, when You release the keys, the fact that when combining the different stops, You can actually hear the different sets of strings plucked a few nanoseconds apart (as mentioned by Christof in the previous message), and even the thumping resonance of the soundboard, if You hit the keys too strongly. Boy, I love that instrument!!!!

    Only one, very minor complaint. Roland claims, that they have shaped the C-30 using virginal as a model. OK, C-30 has a rectangular soundboard with keys on the long side of the instrument like a virginal. To my eye, however, the instrument it really, really resembles is not a virginal but a clavichord, probably the most common domestic instrument in the late baroque era, and reputedly also the favorite instrument of Johann Sebastian Bach himself. So where’s the sound???? Roland has made a huge effort in producing almost a perfect intrument for poor students and amateurs, they have added a reasonable selection of instrument sounds and stops, even included a couple of useless ones like dynamic harpsichord and celesta, they even shape it like clavichord, and then they leave out the sound!!! Does not make any sense to me.

    I added a short video to YouTube for those, who might be interested ( ). Of course, there’s nothing to add to Roland’s own informative and professional clips, but I thought somebody might be interested to start a conversation line with somebody with personal experience and no commercial interest whatsoever about the subject.

  18. Sampling error on C-30 …

    Has anyone noticed the annoying additional “click”-sound on F and F# in the middle-octave? This only applies to the french-harpsichord and of course has nothing to do with the “normal” attack of the “original” harpsichord!

    I’d really like to know if this error occurs only on my C-30 or is this a general behaviour (mistake) of the C-30 series ???

  19. This may seem unreasonable to some, and I readily grant that it's primarily an emotional reaction and not an entirely rational one, but the Roland C-30 put me off from the moment I first saw a photograph of it. Maybe it's those stained glass panels, which look as if they were scavenged from an 1890s brownstone before it was demolished, but the thing simply reeks of a Victorian aesthetic.

    Roland wants us to believe it was inspired by a virginal (and somebody here has suggested that a better comparison would be to a clavichord), but in point of fact the instrument it most evokes for me is a small harmonium minus the treadles, despite the fact that it doesn't really look much like one in a literal sense. Nevertheless, it belongs in the parlour of somebody's maiden aunt, and this would still be true even without the glass panels or other decoration. The design is just viscerally wrong for a harpsichord. It looks as if somebody built a retro-steampunk case to house a vanilla electronic keyboard. Somebody seeing it for the first time with no prior knowledge about it would have no intuitive idea what it was, and in my book that makes it a failure from a visual standpoint, regardless of other considerations. An instrument ought to telegraph to an informed eye and brain what it is, even before it makes a sound, and if it doesn't do that, then something's wrong.

    Despite the fact that its predecessors were technically less sophisticated and with far fewer bells and whistles and musical options, the plain fact remains that the C-20, the C-50 and the C-80 all looked unmistakably like harpsichords, whereas the C-30 looks like an anachronistic and misconceived emblem of the long fallow period between the instrument's sad decline and its eventual revival, a time when harpsichords were despised and reviled and ignored. Why design an instrument to look like an artifact of an age when no new ones were being made and the existing survivors got no respect?

    It may be foolish or shortsighted to judge an instrument this strongly in terms of its appearance, but I think there has been a fundamental error of conceptual design on Roland's part, and that is unfortunate. Remember, I'm talking about the overall visual effect here, not the electronics. I respect Roland's engineering accomplishments here, but the totality nonetheless remains relevant. For some people the looks and the intangibles they convey may not matter, but for others, these things are essential components of the overall experience of interacting with an instrument, and not something that can be severed from how one feels about it and casually isolated and factored out of the mental equation.

    Call me subjective or eccentric or crotchety, but I just can't get past it. I don't care how good the thing sounds, I simply can't bring myself even to covet one. (And that's really saying something, because my fantasy life about harpsichords of every size and shape and sort is intense — indeed, my harpsichord-lust is often sufficiently lurid to be unsuitable for recounting in mixed company!)

    As someone here has already suggested, check out the Hoffrichter DS-30 instead, whose case looks very much like the old Roland C-80. It has proper wooden keys, three organ stops, a celeste, and the harpsichord is 4-8-8-16, with both a nasal and a lute. (Love the sixteen! You don't have to be a fan of Landowska's Pleyel to believe that an ideal harpsichord should have one.) Now that's something I can drool over!

  20. I personally agree with the above comment. The pleonasm of 'I personally' is intentional since it's a subjective correspondence rather than an attempt at the somewhat oxymoronic 'I [objectively]' which I fear might otherwise be implied… That aside, what we have here is an uneasy balance in a realm of perfectionists. Some aspects of the keyboard incorporate astonishing technology and astonishing attention to detail. But for someone like me (an architect) the visual presence of the instrument is a botched pastiche with all the historical scholarship of Taylor Swift's video 'Romeo & Juliet'; a sort of 'generic antique'. This has a peculiar sort of honesty about it if one considers that it is not actually a harpsichord. It's a compromise. That said, this could be a very valuable compromise for many students and musicians giving, as it does, access to some of the keyboard technique and temperaments of another age. And anyone who's listened to a recording of some of Scott Ross' renditions of D.Scarlatti might agree that, in the realm of music, the harpsichord sound and technique are no mere historical curiosities rendered obsolete by 'progress'.
    I imagine, with glee, the vast efforts our future technologists will have in attempting to reproduce the exact look and feel of the plastic mini-keys of today / yesterday / last year in the context of some unimagined future technological status quo.
    To aspire in the direction of perfection and to gain an inkling of what masteries this might entail is valuable. But also of value is an active participation in the compromises inherent in the situation beforehand. Thus, my first synthesizer; a Casio CZ 101, might not have been the MiniMoog I really wanted, but I still got a great deal out of it; a great deal more than if I'd simply sat dreaming of a Moog. If this instrument spreads a fascination with Werckmeister temperament amongst students and enthusiasts today, that's a liberation as great as cross-modulation and aftertouch 🙂

    1. I disagree that the outward physical design is a "botched pastiche". Have you seen any period virginals? They are a whole lot more gaudy than the C-30. There are some pictures at I had to the opportunity to play a C-30 recently and I like the tones that were available. I own a C-20 and I think that there have been some considerable improvements in the samplings. I agree with an earlier writer that it is too bad that Roland hasn't sampled a clavichord.

  21. @PDQ Bach:

    I just bought my Roland c30 and noticed exactly the same problem with F and F# . Did you manage to solve it?

  22. Hello there, simply changed into aware of your blog via Google, and located that it is truly informative. I am gonna be careful for brussels. I?ll appreciate in case you proceed this in future. Numerous other people will probably be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

  23. I have a Roland Cxc-30 for sale in Calgary Canada. It is as new. I have found it to be of exceptional value. $1800.00 CDN.

  24. I don’t own one, but on every demo and recording I have heard of the C30 there is definitely something up with the high G on the French 8′ I. Definitely some kind of sampling error here. At the very least Roland needed to get the sounds right – from what I have heard personally ( and from what I have read from other C30 owners) there clearly are some issues with certain area of the sounds. Quite disappointing really, as they’ re not cheap either!

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