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
June 10, 2012 @ 10:54 pm
What I said about using presets is not cheap at all. I replaced my JP with the 201 and can point to other online sources of others who've owned both and can make the same claim. When you initialized a patch, the raw oscillators and filter sound identical. There's a few differences in how the oscillators are modulated, but overall, it's the same sound program and claiming that one somehow sounds better comes off as being biased. I've taken apart a JP before to repair the pots and it's a hollowed plastic case just like the 201 and AN1X. All 3 feel cheap, but the 201 was at least priced fairly.
June 9, 2012 @ 7:50 am
@ 201 , yes what you said here.."but perhaps you never made it past wanking around with the presets to figure that out." is what i call cheap. now that is a fact! the 201 is a good synth, just not the best build for me. IMHO. opinions and facts will always be on VSE. nothing wrong with both. what's wrong with guitars?
Casimir's Blake
June 8, 2012 @ 12:27 pm
I'm surprised by the rating here, and have to assume it's down the well-endowed control surface, which makes programming a breeze.

It can't be because of the sound quality. Because this has to be one of the fuzziest, messiest-sounding modern VA synths I've heard. It's useable, certainly, but the aliasing, weak filter, and shortage of modulation options are frustrating. Also, once again Roland are tightwads and neglected to include a keybed with aftertouch.

Don't pay too much or expect too much. Good for beginners.
June 7, 2012 @ 11:17 pm
What you said wasn't an opinion though, it was a comparison since you mentioned two other synthesizers. Comparisons should be debated with facts, especially on a website such as this. People come here for facts, but seeing how every review on this site has been trolled to death with cheap "opinions," we should just assume every synth [beep] s and all become guitar players. The end.
June 7, 2012 @ 7:38 pm
@ 201. i don't use presets. lol. the 201 just feels cheap to me is all. i said IMHO. unless you don't fully read comments? love the an1x, i own one. yes, all the same heart inside but i think it sounds a tad better to me. again, IMHO. has nothing to do with presets. i know what can be done with all 3 synths. i have been in the game since 1984. have played / owned 50 plus. all but moog. i think access gear is below JP8000 and AN1x. i can see the hate mail . i gave up a virus TI for the an1x. it's that good!
VSE Rating


User Rating

Rated 4.24 (928 Votes)

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  • 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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