Roland SH-201 Synthesizer

Roland SH-201 Image

Roland has resurrected their SH-series of synthesizers with the SH-201, an analog modeling synthesizer that's both fun and easy to use with plenty of features and cool sounds at a great price. The sounds and controls are analog style, and the SH-201 features Roland's famous Supersaw waveform (introduced in the JP-8000), resonant filter, saturation control, and more. Unlike the original SH-synths which were monophonic affairs, the SH-201 offers 10 voices of polyphony, which is perfect since we only have 10 fingers and this is definitely a hands-on performance oriented synthesizer.

At its heart the SH-201 has two beefy analog-modeling oscillators with ten analog styled waveforms. The two oscillators can be blended together in the Mix section, and there is also oscillator sync and ring modulation. Of course there is a filter section with High, Low and Band pass filtering at 12 or 24 dB/oct slopes, with the usual cutoff, resonance and key follow controls. Two LFOs add some modulation with 6 wave shapes plus sample-n-hold and multiple destinations. It also comes with high-quality delay and reverb effects, an overdrive control, and (like the SH-101) an arpeggiator function with 32 patterns.

Like the SH-101 of the early eighties, the SH-201 is quite user friendly, with a fairly simple and organized panel lay out (in a logically positioned signal path from left to right) and every control onboard is within reach. There are no complicated touch screens or menus of parameters to wade through, just grab a control and tweak! The keyboard is compact with just 49 keys and is only sensitive to velocity (no aftertouch). Patch memory is a bit on the disappointing side, with only 32 user and 32 preset patches. However, with its state-of-the-art USB connectivity, the SH-201 can be connected to a Mac/PC computer (both MIDI and audio can be routed through the USB port) and a VSTi software editor is included, which allows SH-201 sounds to be edited and stored from within a VSTi-compatible host software sequencer.

Roland SH-201 Image

The SH-201 also features external audio inputs with dedicated filters and effects. The SH-201 also features Roland's D-Beam technology allowing you to simply wave your hand above the D-Beam controller to create some wacky pitch-bends or modulations to the sounds. While it is clearly loaded up with Roland's latest technology it is packaged in a synth that is easy to use and simple to understand, with instantly accessible analog-type synth sounds that won't empty your wallet to attain--and in that way, this truly is a Roland qualified to carry the "SH" designation.

It is used by Noisia and Richard Barbieri.

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147 Visitor comments
October 1, 2010 @ 4:22 am
@stefbuik Velocity can be linked to cutoff, I hate it when people don't read the manual, theres acually a lot more features in this thing than people know about.
August 11, 2010 @ 12:35 pm
the reviews about this particular synth are so extreme - either people love it so much or simply hate it all the way. yet, despite the 50/50 reactions (not only here but all over the net), i eventually got hold of one to feed my curiosity. after a week of tinkering around with the sh-201, i fully understand now where all the gripes are coming from. nonetheless, this roland can actually stand on its own. the roland sh-201 is indeed a hit and miss classic. only time will tell where it stand in synth history. as for me, i like this synth very much.
August 9, 2010 @ 6:11 am
sure it can. all knobs can be linked to anything, despite the manual saying otherwise (iirc it says only one knob is assignable)
July 26, 2010 @ 7:35 pm
I'm thinking of getting this but I have one question that I've heard conflicting information on - can I use this to control VST synths on my laptop? NOT just the VST editor/softsynth for this synth, but, say, my Arturia synths, etc. (I know it can control other hardware synths; I know it can USB into my laptop; I just need it to be a controller!)
July 24, 2010 @ 9:06 pm
well, I cannot hate it, even if I try. It's dead-cheap, now the Gaia is in the shops.
Have a MS2000 too, so I can actually compare. The SH doesn't sound as bad as people would let You believe. Some aliasing on high filter settings, but not too bad.
Presets are meh... I got phatter sounds out of it after only an hour of twiddling.
It's lay-out is exellent. Much better than many other VA-synths that seem to relish making You go utterly mad while trying to find hidden menu-driven crap.

My only gripe is the limited routing possibilities. No velocity linking to cutoff etc., at least, not that I can find.

Oscillator syncing is also a bit of a hit- and miss.

But for the money? Unbeatable.
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Rated 4.25 (926 Votes)

  • Check Price
  • 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 - Up to 10 voices
  • Oscillators - 2 Analog Sound Modeling oscillators;
    Knobs: Pitch, Detune, Pulse-Width/Feedback, Pitch Enveloper: Attack, Decay;
    MIX/MOD Section: Oscillator Sync, Ring Modulation, Low Boost/Low Cut, Knob: Balance (OSC1/OSC2)
  • LFO - 2 LFOs; Shapes: TRIANGLE, SINE, SAW, SQUARE, TRAPEZOID, SAMPLE AND HOLD, RANDOM, Knobs: Rate, Destination 1 Depth, Destination 2 Depth, Tempo Sync ON/OFF
  • Filter - 1 Filter; Types: LPF, BPF, HPF (-12 dB/-24 dB), Knobs: Cutoff, Resonance, Key follow, Enveloper: Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release
  • Amp - 1 Amp: Level, Insertion Effect: Overdrive, Enveloper: Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release
  • Effects - Reverb, Modulation Delay
  • Arpeggiator - 32 Patterns (programmable with PC editor software)
  • Memory - Preset : 32, User: 32
  • Keyboard - 49 keys (velocity sensitive)
  • Control - MIDI (IN, OUT), USB Connector (AUDIO/MIDI)
  • Date Produced - 2006
  • Resources & Credits
  • Images from Roland-US.

    Reviewed August 2008.

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