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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69 Visitor comments
depressed about perky man tits
June 12, 2013 @ 1:32 pm
I have owned many hardware and software synths. This roland does sound a bit lacking, but its inspiring for me to play and create with. Anyway, effect racks/pedals/studio production can make anything sound better than it really does. You just need the right instrument that inspires you to create and have fun with. This is loads of fun. If you like the juno 106 and casio cz 101 I reccomend this. By the way I'm influenced by early weezer, doom metal, mono, envy, and faith no more. Sidenote: I really wish they made a hardware version of sunrizer synth.
Mr. T
June 12, 2013 @ 5:36 am
Gaia is basic plastic, novadays budget synth. Nothing special. Bye.
lightman
June 8, 2013 @ 6:00 am
While I dig the interface, the tinny sound of the Gaia isn't my cup of tea and the modulation options aren't deep enough to make up for it. The fx section is decent, audio-in is useless as it has been placed after the fx section and only seems to be "good" for removing vocals. It's also not really multi-timbral, you can't assign different MIDI channels to the VA voices. The PCM/GM samples are a silly addition and cannot be used on the Gaia itself, you have to trigger them externally. Overall a disappointing and overpriced machine, there are better synths available in its price range.
Rob
June 1, 2013 @ 5:35 pm
@marc the darc I agree there about Korg. The new Kronos is quite the beast, I may still prefer the Motif's, but that may change when I get a chance to -really- mess with a Kronos. As for the MS-20, I'm very excited about it...but I'm really bummed to see that they made it smaller. I'm not a fan of these micros and minis. (Minimoog doesn't count, of course) Even mini MIDI keyboards. I guess those have a purpose for the sake of portability, but other than that, I can't bring myself to like the mini keys trend. Maybe I have a bad SH-201, I just really hated the way the keys felt. It was a bit old
Marc the Darc
May 31, 2013 @ 3:12 pm
Not sure which SH-201 the reviewer has had his hands on - the SH-201s keys are ATLEAST as good as the Gaias, if not better. The cases feel about the same. But the potmeters feel better on the Gaia. The OSC-section on the SH-201 is MUCH better, with seemless Supersaw tweaking, and the Feedback OSC. But the effects on the Gaia are a step up.
That said, I sold my SH-201 and now rock a MiniBrute (real analog is better imho). But I'm utterly disgusted by how people eat out of Korgs hand after all the crap they've pulled, and [beep] ty toys they've made. The new MS-20 is a disgrace.
 
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  • The link above will take you to a 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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