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 Richard Barbieri.

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145 Visitor comments
March 27, 2011 @ 9:39 pm
This synth has some interesting sounds for sure but I find that the controls are limited. You need to use the software to get to all the parameters which isn't very handy in a performance or jamming situation. I found this extremely frustrating coming from a purely analog synth background. I found the resonance and cutoff parameters in the filter to be lacking. I have other Rolands that have more cutoff and res range, I don't understand why they cheaped out on the filters on the 201.
Would be nice to have an on board display too.
But it's worth it for it's price.
Fernando Calzada
March 24, 2011 @ 5:10 pm
For "old school" guys like myself , that play Classic rock I honestly believe THIS IS THE Synth that will reproduce very, very closely all those sounds from Minimoogs, ARP'S, Prophet-5's Etc. I don't want to overstay my welcome in this comment , but I think that for musicians who play covers of 60's , 70's , 80's songs then the Roland SH-201 is for you. Of course, like "pb" posted, you need patching skills , but this is a great flexible synth, almost like 4 minimoogs cramed in one synth, but with a sequencer and memory.
March 14, 2011 @ 1:07 pm
PART 1: I own an SH-201 and must say its extremely good at modeling analog waveforms, but the filter does not have the full capability of an analog. I did a full comparison between the SH-201 and the DSI analog Mopho. I compared raw waves, filter, and resonance dry without effects.

The Mopho's raw analog waveforms sounded identical to my SH-201, I couldn't hear any significant difference. But the Mopho's analog filters were considerably better, especially the resonance, which could generate realistic bubble sounds and other full resonant sounds that the SH-201 can't.
March 14, 2011 @ 1:07 pm
PART 2: For more musical sounds I really can't see where the Mopho is better except for giving a little more high end resonance on a sweeping pad. My overall impression is that Roland got it right with the SH-201, or maybe better to say they got the JP-8000 right.

By layering the SH-201 upper and lower banks its possible to double the number of oscillators and LFO modulation to generate some very organic sounds. I was able to emulate several multi oscillator NI Reactor VST synth patches by layering the SH-201. There are also two Chorus presets in the Delay - buried in the manual.
March 12, 2011 @ 6:17 am
I personaly think it's a good entry synth!So many people slag this synth off but it's not nearly as bad as these people make out!If trance or hard dance/happy hardcore is your bag, then this may well be the synth for you!It's a soundcard and a controller too and works brilliant with VST's like vanguard or sylenth and is in my opinion much more than just a beginner synth!(the presets and FX are utter crap, but with some tweaking and a lexicon you can get great sounds out of it!). If you want a slightly better synth engine you may want to look at a JP80x0, but this is by no means a bad synth! (:
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User Rating

Rated 4.25 (913 Votes)

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  • 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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