Roland Gaia SH-01

Roland Gaia SH-01 Image

Following the SH-201, Roland continues its SH-series with the Gaia SH-01. The Gaia is an analog modeling synthesizer that retains the basic traits of previous SH-series synths: hands-on tweaking, user-friendly layout and compact design. You won't find any screens or menus on this synth—so if you're in the market for a hands-on, tactile synthesizer, the Roland Gaia SH-01 is not to be overlooked. There are 64 preset sound patches as well as 64 user patches—a huge improvement over the paltry 32 user patches in the SH-201. Weighing in at less than 10 pounds and able to run on battery power, the Gaia is a compact sound designing tool worthy of stage and studio.

The Gaia SH-01 features three oscillators, each with seven different waveforms (saw, square, pulse, triangle, sine, noise and super saw). Each of the seven waveforms have three variations, so it's almost like having 21 waveforms to choose from…per oscillator! Course tuning, fine tuning, oscillator sync and ring modulation controls, and a two-part (attack/decay) envelope generator complete the oscillator section. The filter section has all your basic controls (cutoff, resonance, a dedicated ADSR envelope generator) but also allows you to choose between low-pass, hi-pass, band-pass, or peaking filters. You can also bypass the filter entirely. The amp section controls the volume of the selected oscillator and has your standard ADSR envelope generator. The Gaia essentially offers three LFOs at your disposal (with controls for rate, tempo sync, delay time) that can be routed to any combination of the oscillator, filter or amp.

What makes the Gaia SH-01 stand out, is that although there is physically one oscillator, one filter, one amp and one LFO, you actually have three of each that are virtually layered over one another. In other words, this synth can sound huge! Many synthesizers have any number of oscillators that mix down before going to the filter and amp, but each Gaia oscillator has its own filter, amp and LFO, allowing for some very interesting patches. Furthermore, there is a dedicated master effects section featuring distortion, fuzz, bit crusher, flanger, phaser, pitch shifter, delay, panning delay, reverb and low boost. Each effect is highly tweak-able and really helps bring its sounds to life.

Of course, Roland has their "D-Beam" sensor for live performance fun (or just showing off to your friends). There is an onboard phrase recorder, arpeggiator, external audio input with various voice-canceling options, V-link support, 37-key keyboard with pitch/mod combo joystick, MIDI In/Out and USB connectivity to store patches to a thumb drive or use the bundled patch editor software. No MIDI-Thru may be an issue for some—the Gaia will need to be last in your daisy chain.

Roland Gaia SH-01 Image

The predecessor to the Gaia SH-01, the SH-201, notoriously felt cheaply made, particularly the keys and the plastic casing. The Gaia is still plastic, but the keys feel much better than the SH-201 and the Gaia feels less "hollow" and more robust than the SH-201.

For well under a thousand USD, you'd be challenged to find a better analog modeling hardware synthesizer. There is so much more to this synth than meets the eye. On top of the fact that you have three oscillator sections, filter sections, amp sections, and LFO sections that all mix down to the master effects section, there is a "Shift" button that allows you to adjust countless other parameters to further expand your synthesizing. Nearly every knob, button and fader has a second function via the "Shift" button. Roland could not fit all the "Shift" functions on the panel, but the manual contains a list of these parameters and they are logically laid out to help keep you planted in the groove of sonic exploration.

In summary, the Gaia SH-01 highly compliments the SH-series name and is more than worthy of carrying the name. Analog purists, forget about "analog vs. digital" and just give this synth a try, it's surprising how good analog modeling can sound when Roland does it right!

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76 Visitor comments
September 10, 2013 @ 9:39 pm
Don't buy into the hate. This is not a bad synth. You can get great sounds out of it, just like every other synth on the market. If you need it to be more analog, get a tube amp to satiate your analog lust. Or better yet, try hitting the "shift" button and find out about all the different distortion and amp models that are very high quality.

A bad artist blames his tools.

I rest my case.
September 9, 2013 @ 8:26 am
if bob moog and wendy carlos had listened to people like you, there wouldn't have been artists like jarre and fast. at one time, even *real* synthesizers were considered soulless, mechanical, mishmashes of metal and wire. the artists i mentioned--and countless more--know it's not what's in your studio; it's what's inside of you.

gaia is no moog. but "inferior" tools can rock. for example, most musicians in the early '50s would have thrown away a busted amp, but ike turner's band used one to make "rocket 88." so bashing gaia as inferior to *real* synthesizers makes no sense.
September 8, 2013 @ 9:15 am
And no, I'm not going to hold myself up as an example. I'm not that vain. But listen to Jean Michel Jarre, listen to Larry Fast, listen to *anybody* who takes real instruments and understands them and their character and coaxes truly amazing sounds out of them because of it. Tasteless mush like the Gaia ain't got nothing on that.
September 8, 2013 @ 9:12 am
@ratatatsplat: Ah, fun, time for the armchair-psychologist part of the argument! *That's* always a joy. It may be "just a synth," but it's also one that they're selling with the name of real synths that had their own distinct character; it's quite dishonest of them to sell this box of flavorless sonic gruel that way - as with *every other* modern Roland synth with a classic name attached. It's like taking some cheap thrift-store guitar and calling it the "Stratocaster-80." I hope that they take a lesson from the wild success of the MS-20 Mini, and get off this track...
September 8, 2013 @ 2:34 am
Guess I'm just a boring and uninspired "trancedance wannabe" then... Get over yourself. It's just a synth. Haven't you figured out yet that life is too short to spend it being such an angry, bitter person? I hope you find peace someday my fellow synthesizer enthusiast. It was great to meet you. ;)

Now, if I could only find a *real* synthesist playing *real* synths to listen to. Oh, I know! Hey commodorejohn, how about you let all of us know where we can find the music you make so we can bask in it's *realness*.
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Rated 3.03 (406 Votes)

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  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - 64 voices
  • Multitimbral - 16 parts (1 VA, 15 PCM)
  • Oscillators - Virtual analog synthesizer sound generator, PCM sound generator
  • Waveforms - Saw, Square, Pulse/PWM, Triangle, Sine, Noise, Super Saw
  • LFO - Waves: Triangle, Sine, Saw, Square, Sample-Hold. Controls: Rate, Fade Time, Pitch Depth, Filter Depth, Amp Depth.
  • Modulation - Oscillator Sync, Ring Modulation
  • Filter - LPF, HPF, BPF, PKG (-12 dB/-24 dB), Cutoff, Resonance, Key Follow, Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release, Envelope Depth
  • Envelope - Amp: Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release
  • Effects - Distortion, Fuzz, Bit Crash, Flanger, Phaser, Pitch Shifter, Delay, Panning Delay, Reverb, Low Boost
  • Vocoder - None
  • Sequencer - Phrase Recorder: 8 patches, 1 track
  • Arpeggiator - 64 patterns
  • Keyboard - 37 keys (velocity sensitive)
  • Memory - 64 Preset, 64 User
  • Control - MIDI In/Out, USB 2.0
  • Controls - Pitch Bend/Modulation lever, D Beam Controller
  • Weight - 4.2 kg (9 lbs. 5 oz.)
  • Date Produced - 2010

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