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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148 Visitor comments
February 28, 2011 @ 9:45 pm
I picked one of these up right when they came out. This thing was terrible, and i am speaking by Virtual Analog standards. The build feels cheaper than a Casiotone from the 90s! That is just sad considering it's 699 price tag. The build would nothing if it actually sounded good. The entire sound structure is a nightmare. I don't even know what to compare the filters to, pretty bad. This was the worst sounding VA i had ever used. Please try it for yourself with headphones before you go believing anything on here, and try a few other models after that. Its garbage! Returned it at once! Garbage!
February 28, 2011 @ 5:08 pm
I have one and love it !. For a VA synth it has emulated those quick punchy Roland filters really well. I make industrial music so I find this sounds good for dark doomy pads and stabby basses. It's not going to sound analogue but its not far away. It has a great design for those wishing to learn about synthesis basics. But, for those of you who want it to make piano sounds and emulate instruments, look elsewhere, its not designed with that in mind. Go for a rompler. This is a synthesizer for creating sounds however weird and wonderful you want them. A good buy.
February 14, 2011 @ 7:41 am
If you want an analog sound then get an actual analog synth not a virtual analog or analog modeling synth. The SH-201 is a great synth with great possibilities unless you don't know how to make you're own patches like most of these lazy f**ks on here.
February 10, 2011 @ 1:48 am
since my last post months ago, i'm still using this lightweight plastic synth - i learned to love it the way it is. the usb/pc connectivity is superb - an incredible bonus from the synth. i dumped my other controllers for this and have no regrets about it. still, like i said in my earlier post, the sh-201 is a hit and miss classic. nonetheless, for me, it's mostly a hit.
January 11, 2011 @ 9:34 am
I hear people compare this synth with a Nord, JP8000 etc. It's like comparing cows and horses. It's made of plastic Doesn't sound to analog, but it comes at an unbeatable secondhand price. I also hear people asking questions, can it do X or Y ? They don't RTFM and just go over to saying it's no good 'cause they think it can't do X or Y. Some good synth's have seen there reputation go bad because of ignorance. I don't say the SH201 is great. It's what you get for the price. Don't judge a synth by it's presets. Fiddle with it, tweak! Buy a keyboard if you want instand result.
VSE Rating


User Rating

Rated 4.24 (928 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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