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
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.
May 29, 2013 @ 8:35 pm
@robotunes I don't know synths? I like to think I know them quite well. I have a Gaia, Triton LE, Motif ES7, Minimoog Voyager, DX7, SH-101 and plan on getting a JD-800. I won't list all my VST synths. But if it bothers you that much, submit a correction. Say it's not VA, it's an SH32 rehash. I'm sure that'll fly. Technically not VA or not, it simulates the feel of an analog synth, so why make such a fuss. In any case, I agree with a lot of the comments posted. Hopefully Roland and others can follow the Korg MS-20 mini example and go analog.
May 26, 2013 @ 10:39 pm
that article is what you get when folks who don't know synths are allowed to review.

gaia is NOT a VA. it's a rehashed sh32 (likewise sample-based).

i love my sh32. it's quick to program and sounds great with FX. it's 4-part multitimbral, so synth 1 can be a pad, #2 can be an arp, #3 can be a filter sweep and #4 is an 808 or 909. same big sounds as gaia but cheaper and more flexible. you can do whole album with just an sh32.

roland could update the OS to make gaia multitimbral. but they choose instead to fall further behind, hoping ppl who don't know synths will keep buying rolands.
Tommy U.
May 23, 2013 @ 10:32 pm
I owned this synth for about 4 months and while I absolutely loved the interface it sounds TERRIBLE! As someone mentioned in the comments it's not even true VA, it's all sampled and you can literally hear loop-points in the waveforms. [beep] ? I've owned quite a few VA's and this one sounded the worst of them all. Also, there isn't really any useful modulation. The D-beam is stupid and the LFO's are limited. I really did not like this synth. It [beep] s too because I really wanted to.
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Rated 3.03 (406 Votes)

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  • 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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