Roland Introduces First MIDI 2.0-Ready A-88MKII MIDI Keyboard Controller At 2020 NAMM Show

Ahead 0f the 2020 NAMM Show, Roland has introduced the A-88MKII MIDI Keyboard Controller, a powerful new 88-note MIDI keyboard controller, designed for studio and stage.

The A-88MKII comes equipped with a weighted-action keyboard, USB-C connectivity, RGB-lit controls, and more. It’s also MIDI 2.0 ready, making it the first Roland instrument to support the new MIDI standard.

And the inclusion of MIDI 2.0 sends a big signal about adoption of the proposed new MIDI 2.0.

The A-88MKII is lightweight, but offers rigid, wooden construction and an 88-note Ivory Feel PHA-4 keyboard. They say that the controller’s high-resolution sensing and lightning-fast response lets the PHA-4 accurately capture the subtlest playing nuances. Users can also personalize the sensitivity for their own unique touch.

Other features include  three user-definable zones, an advanced arpeggiator and sophisticated split and layer functions. And Roland’s pitch/mod lever and an array of RGB-lit knobs offer expressive, hands-on control of sounds.

Eight assignable pads are available to control DAW functions, trigger sounds and clips, and more, and pad bank setups can be stored for quick recall. There’s also a dedicated sustain pedal input, plus two assignable control inputs that support expression pedals or footswitches.

USB-C offers single-cable connectivity and eliminates the need for an external power adaptor. And the A-88MKII is ready for the high-resolution control and extended capabilities of MIDI 2.0.

Availability & Pricing

The Roland A-88MKII will be available in March 2020 for $999.99 U.S. Street.\

35 thoughts on “Roland Introduces First MIDI 2.0-Ready A-88MKII MIDI Keyboard Controller At 2020 NAMM Show

  1. Saying it’s MIDI 2.0 ready is like TVs that were “HD ready”. They were pointless later on. How can it be 2.0 ready without MPE?

        1. “Yes, but you’re missing the point.”

          No – if so, your logic would suggest that all current MIDI controllers should support MPE.

          If you’re interested in a more expressive MIDI controller, it’s possible with MIDI 2.0, without using MPE. But even for more traditional keyboard controllers, MIDI 2.0 brings interesting new capabilities.

  2. Have any particular connectors been specified or recommended for midi 2.0? I assume 5-pin DIM can’t handle that amount of data. Ethernet? USB?

    1. 5 pin should be able to handle it without any problems. MIDI 2.0 is just another extension of Sysex. Read the specs. Its not that suddenly there is a very high amount of data like migrating from Firewire to Thunderbolt or serial DIN port to USB. Please let’s stop this hype.

      1. Hi — member of the protocol working group that has been developing the new standard, and what you’re saying here is not correct — it’s not just ‘an extension of SysEx’ (while that’s part of it — MIDI-CI and Property Exchange work over MIDI 1 7-bit SysEx). MIDI 2 includes a new Universal MIDI Packet built on 32-bit words that include higher resolution channel voice messages). The answer to the upper question about connector: this is currently unspecified, and in the end doesn’t matter, just like MIDI 1 is happy to be carried on 5-pin DIN, USB, 1/8″ TRS and Bluetooth.

        1. Thanks. The comment was based on MIDI-CI spec, page 11,16 etc all that is available to the general public AFAIK. (No annual budget of US$600 here yet to join the MMA). Will take above comment back based on this new information. A 32 bit mode may need new USB drivers USB descriptors that most incumbent hardware won’t support. Assume that 32 bit is a reference to the “New AMEI/MMA Protocol” (?). Now that it’s clear MIDI 2.0 affects the lower OS layers and I/O firmware, may need to start talking to the Linux world before MIDI 2.0 becomes another PC/Mac only feature.

        2. Just happen to find something on MIDI site: “there is no plan to use the Universal MIDI Packet on the 5 pin DIN transport. Unless/Until that plan changes, 5 pin DIN will only support the MIDI 1.0 Protocol” and then its says “Will MIDI 2.0 devices need to use a new connector or cable? No, MIDI 2.0 is a transport agnostic protocol.” and “USB is the first target for MIDI 2.0”. Conclusion: not a new connector but DIN is excluded and most exiting hardware won’t be able to support it even with a firmware upgrade.

  3. Does the MIDI 2.0 spec have poly aftertouch? Seems odd that a flagship midi controller like this wouldn’t be highlighting that in the day and age. Or is it that poly aftertouch is a hardware limitation?

  4. It’s similar to how MOST MIDI 1.0 controllers provide only a fraction of the power of the original spec, often omitting polyphonic-aftertouch and release velocity, and in many cases, even channel aftertouch. Recent controllers provided a workaround which sacrifices multi-timbral operation to provide a version of polyphonic continuous control.

    This controller doesn’t appear to provide the hardware for per-note control streams, so whether it: A. provides high-resolution per-note control streams, or B. Provides backward-down-coversion to MIDI 1.0 polyAT or MPE, or C. any fraction of the above, is moot.

    Roland is claiming MIDI 2.0 ready, which simply means that it will take advantage of SOME of the features of the new spec. No use speculating on what that might mean.

    The rotary encoders MIGHT be able to generate data at much higher resolution. The keyboard might scan velocities at a higher rate (even if not at the level of resolution permitted by the 2.0 spec).

  5. I’m afraid this will turn out to be a disappointment:
    – No mention on channel or poly aftertouch
    – No mention of the quality of the keybed and keys: weighted, synth action, organ action ?
    – And what’s MIDI 2.0 ready? What are the specs for MIDI 1.0 support?
    – 3 (4) zones is absolutely too few for a real master keyboard

    Just will have to wait for Namm for any surprises, but as yet I’d say there are various top quality multi-parameter controlling keyboards already available leaving this one a yet-another-88-keyboard-controller. Curious for Jordan Rudess take on this.

    1. > No mention of the quality of the keybed and keys: weighted, synth action, organ action ?

      At the beginning of the video it says it’s a weighted, hammer-action keyboard.

      > Curious for Jordan Rudess take on this.

      Wow, you may be the first person ever to say that! 😀

    2. Also, MIDI 2.0 does a handshake to determine what it is talking to, so it will always be backward compatible to the original spec.

  6. USB-C bus power. Nice … except that I’ve never seen a class-compliant Roland USB MIDI or audio product, which means that eventually driver support will cease. Hopefully Roland will turn over a new leaf here, or at least some day.

    And what’s with the lack of a DIN MIDI THRU port? This is an 88-note keyboard, so there’s no lack of space. For that matter it should also include a USB-to-MIDI DIN interface.

    1. Two EXCELLENT points, @nebula

      Why don’t they ever make class-compliant USB devices!!??

      I think the missing Thru is probably not such a big deal, since the keyboard doesn’t make sounds of its own. You just patch directly to the modules. Am I missing something?

      1. Please see this portion…

        MIDI 2.0 and USB-C
        The A-88MKII uses the latest technologies for years of universal compatibility and convenience. Class compliant USB-C provides bus power and single cable connectivity with macOS, Windows and compatibility with iOS. And the A-88MKII is ready to take advantage of the extended capabilities of MIDI 2.0.

  7. Everything I have from Roland WITH USB MIDI works on Linux with MIDI. Everything I have from Roland WITH USB audio does not work on Linux Roland not supporting USB audio class compliant audio device is is true. Others claim to be audio class class compliant but only with a Windows or Mac class compliant OS DRIVER and thus does not work on Linux. That is not true class compliant but a marketing trick..

    P.S: everything that can update it’s firmware and has sufficient local storage memory left can be MIDI 2.0 ready. It’s that marketing department again looking how to make the specification better than it and with Roland habit of releasing something and after one year let the upgrades/updates die, it’s a question it ever will see the light of MIDI 2.0.

    No Poly AT and MPE for such Poly AT is a missed opportunity.

    There are many controllers run off USB 1 or 2 and they also provided bus power. A USB-C connector for this limited power consuming hardware means nothing here. If am sure the device descriptor will show it is just MIDI 1.1 like the ROLI products do.

    1. “Everything that can update it’s firmware and has sufficient local storage memory left can be MIDI 2.0 ready. Taking this back:. Comment was based on MIIDI-CI and not the 32 bit packet based transport feature.

    2. USB-MIDI worked perfectly fine with my Roland Boutique JX-03 and Linux. USB-Audio did *not* work on Linux, though. I sold it for unrelated reasons, nevertheless.

  8. Congrats Roland…just what the industry has been waiting with baited breath for from you, another controller keyboard (meh)

    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  9. MPE makes no sense for a keyboard like this. If you have channel aftertouch, or even polyphonic aftertouch, either way that’s only one stream of per-note data which can be done with bog standard polyAT.

    MPE is best suited for a situation where your controller has more than one polyphonic dimension of control, AND where you are willing to give up multi-timbral control.

    There may be other yet-to-be-revealed enhancements like higher resolution velocity and/or control.

    As to the DIN ports, Since MIDI will still be serial (?), but much higher bandwidth, I expect that MIDI 2.0 will require a higher quality of cable– twisted pair? better shielding?

    1. MIDI got nothing to do with the physical layer. There is MIDI over internet, Firewire, Thunderbolt, network etc. etc.. It’s just that serial was the only viable option 33 years ago based on the PC DIN keyboard connector using the serial protocol protocol. and MIDI 2.0 is just Sysex. and even a Roli does only does USB 1.1 speed with 5 dimension and 16 channels..

  10. Forget this A-88 mkII – I want a Roland A-80 mkII, including the polyphonic aftertouch that Roland seems to have forgotten how to make after the 1990s.

    Actually I’d settle for an A-50 mkII probably.

    Maybe we can convince Behringer to make a B-80 controller. ;-p

      1. @Rick that’s kind of my point: A-80 >> A-88

        It seems that traditional keyboards/controllers with polyphonic aftertouch peaked in the 1980s and 1990s with the Roland A-80 and Kurzweil Midiboard. The keyboard on the Prophet T8/Synclavier was also excellent.

        Let’s hope ASM steps up with a larger version of the Hydrasynth keyboard!!

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