Roland SH-32 Synthesizer

Roland SH-32 Image

The SH-32 is a 4-part multitimbral desktop synth module using new Wave Acceleration Synthesis to deliver up to 32 voices of fat synth waves and entirely new waveforms. The raw waveforms are sampled rather than mathematically generated and are actually multi-sampled across the octave ranges. There's also a full complement of knobs and sliders, analog-style 808 and 909 drums, DSP effects and a killer programmable arpeggiator - all at a reasonably cheap price.

The SH-32 is more like an affordable follow up to Roland's JP-8000 and JP-8080 analog modeling synthesizers than the real SH-series synths of the seventies/eighties. But that doesn't mean it can't sound like an SH-101, for example. The SH-32 has awesome, aggressive filters, however audible stepping can be heard when slowly twisting the cutoff knob, but not so when modulated with the envelope or LFO. It has many more variations of each classic wave than older SH synths, offering 67 types of waveforms. Everything from thick bass sounds to entirely new sounds not possible on traditional synthesizers can be coaxed out of the SH-32.

Every parameter is available on the front panel via knobs and sliders. There are no hidden menus, although the mass clutter of controls and information printed on the face of the SH-32 is a bit overwhelming, but look closer and it does seem as logically laid out and organized as possible.

Whilst you can certainly hook this baby up to your MIDI keyboard or sequencer and go to town with its great sounds, the SH-32 is perfectly happy running stand-alone making it perfect for DJs, live musicians, and just plain having fun. It has no sequencer but does have an amazing Arpeggiator with programmable or tap tempo settings. There are 64 arpeggiations and 64 drum rhythm patterns and they can be fully programmed by the user. It even has a chord memory feature making it great for techno and trance style arpeggiations. Superb built in effects will sweeten up the sounds immensely as well, with 35 insert fx and 10 types of reverb and delay. The SH32 is a unique combination of virtual analogue synthesis, excellent rhythm sounds, rhythm styles, an arpeggiator, and other 'groove' facilities - with an affordable price and compact size.

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83 Visitor comments
June 24, 2011 @ 2:05 am
Yes, it sounded quite good, (lets not exaggerate about it killing the top-VAs), but gratifying and solid sound, UI in some ways great, in others driving you mad, low quality knobs and kinda cheap feel but it held together fine when I owned it, what finally made me get rid of it was the whole setting up parts for MIDI and part allocation, cryptic and tiring display/menus to say the least. What I miss the most about it? Its juicy, melancholic jupiter-ish pads and strings with the onboard chorus/phaser, figured the JD800 might be the ticket for silky Roland soundscapes?
May 12, 2011 @ 3:37 am
Yes - the zipper noise is definitely there. The description has got it wrong - it's less noticable with slow twists. High resonance setting definitely makes it more audiable. Again, it's not an issue unless you are into realtime tweaking as the LFO and ENV modulations of the filter are smooth as silk.

I just can't recommend this thing enough. It sounds fuller, wider and fatter than most VA's including JP8000, MS2000, Ion and AN1x. I've got mine sat next to my Blofeld and I hardly use anything else ATM...

The FX are great and programing is simples. Will be a classic someday.
May 5, 2011 @ 6:18 am
Following-up on the widely reported filter 'zipper' noise, and in the interests of curiosity, I blind-posted sample filter sweeps at KVR and asked for opinions.

Upshot - more experienced ears can distinguish steppiness, but it is more noticeable at higher resonance and with fast knob movements. So, potentially an issue for you if you want lots of smooth manual filter sweeps. Get a decent analogue filter for that. For my (more prosaic) applications, it makes no difference at all. It's still a great filter IMO. YMMV.
May 4, 2011 @ 5:15 am
I have OS1.06 and I have no filter 'steppiness'. You need to read the manual to get results from of this synth.

Overall I think it sounds terrific. Nice buttery filter. Plenty of waveforms available. Patches react beautifully to the envelopes, velocity and aftertouch making it a joy to just sit there and play.
The arpeggiator is easy to use, pretty flexible and fast. The FX, IMO, are outstanding for such a machine. The drums are a nice bonus.

A perfect 'go-to' synthesizer. I sold my other VA's (Novation, Yamaha) because subjectively, the SH-32 sounds better
April 19, 2011 @ 3:41 am
Umm - wow! A rompler which regularly outshines the top VA's. Thick sounding bases, THE best pads I've heard on ANY synth. I have a feeling that Roland may have pillaged the JV-80-04 Vintage Synth card for the sampled waveforms on this? Whatever they did, they did it right. The drums aren't only a bonus, they are a useful creative tool with cutoff, res, pan, amp etc all available for each drum sound.

Filter zipper noise was never fixed, BUT not an issue if you use LFO, env etc to modulate the filter.

Some presets star on Goldfrapp's 'Tiptoe'!
VSE Rating


User Rating

Rated 4.57 (719 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 - 32 voices (16 if both oscillators are used, sub-oscillators don't decrease polyphony)
  • Oscillators - 2 x Oscillators (with Sub Oscillator, PWM, Oscillator Sync, or Ring Modulation). There are 67 waves (7 categories) for main oscillators, 63 rhythm waves for rhythm sets.
  • Multitimbral - 4 parts (or 3 + 1 Rhythm)
  • LFO - 2 x LFO (7 forms)
  • Filter - 1 x Filter: low, band, high pass, PKG; 12dB or 24dB; cutoff and resonance knobs, ADSR, Envelope, Key Follow sliders.
  • Envelope - 1 ADSR envelope for the Amp
  • Memory - 128 User Patches, 128 Preset Patches. 4 drum sets including TR-808 and TR-909 sounds. 64 Performance patches.
  • Effects - 10 types of reverb/delay and 35 insert multi-effects.
  • Arpeg/Seq - Arpeggiator: 32 step with 128 patterns (64 arpeggiations, 64 rhythms), Style Programmable (Step/Realtime Input Modes)
  • Keyboard - None (has 13 preview buttons)
  • Control - MIDI In, Out
  • Date Produced - 2001
  • Resources & Credits
  • Images from Roland

    Reviewed December 2007.

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