The Roland SH-201 Synthesizer

The Roland SH-201 synthesizer is a relatively inexpensive keyboard (it sells for $500-600) that still offers some classic Roland synthesizer sounds, including features like Roland’s Supersaw waveform, a resonant filter and saturation control.

If you’ve had a chance to use the Roland SH-201, leave a comment with your thoughts!

Features:

  • Great-sounding analog-modeling synth
  • Ultra-EZ front panel is logically designed to teach the basics of synthesis
  • External input for manipulating external audio from CD/MP3 players, etc.
  • Built-in delay, reverb, and saturation effects
  • Arpeggiator adds instant rhythmic motion to sounds
  • USB port for audio/MIDI connection to computer
  • VSTi Editor software included for computer integration
  • Invisible infrared D Beam controller
Resources:

12 thoughts on “The Roland SH-201 Synthesizer

  1. I had one for a while, but I sold it recently. It was way too expensive for what it sounds like. Very thin and digital. I have an Alesis Micron and it blows the SH-201 away. And it’s $200 less. The SH-201 isn’t great build quality either. It’s made almost entirely out of plastic and feels very toyish. You’re better of getting an R3 or a Novation KS4 in that price range.

  2. I also had one of these for a little while. I wanted it to be my first synth, I wanted to “learn the basics of synthesis” as the product descriptions say… but at the time I just thought all the sounds were cheesy and I was too lazy to really learn it. Sometimes I wish I had kept it, most of the time… not so much.

  3. I agree with Mr. Goya on this. The SH-201 is at a good price point for an entry level synth, And I dig a lot of the features, but the sound engine just doesn’t have enough bite to make me recommend one. I also think that the R3 is a better deal, one of the bands we play shows with has one & I was very impressed with how much potential that little synth has. The R3 has a great vocoder too, BTW. I might even recommend the Xio Synth over the SH-201, it’s a freaky little synth and controller at a great price point.

  4. i don’t know why so many people dog the 201…or why they compare it to boards like microns and r3s, i’d take a roland over a korg (and especially over an alesis) any day. and who wants to play on a dinky little keyboard…talk about a toy. with some tweaking and experimentation, you can do anything on a 201 from pads to strings to percussion. run through some good effects (compression, eq, etc.) it can sound just as professional as any other va synth. i think the trouble is that no one wants to take the time to learn how to use a synth, they just want to dial in a preset and record another halcyon rip-off. i have had my 201 for several months now and i can still pick it up and create something new whenever the mood strikes. this is nowhere near my first or my only synth, but it will always have a place in my studio.

  5. Every synth mentioned on this board is capable of great sound if the operator devotes the proper time to explore it. And please – the act of calling the R3 a toy is far more childish than any aspect of the synth itself.

  6. I'm totally new to synthesis. I'm actually a guitarist and worship leader at my church and I figured I'd like to get into keys, but (until recently) was more into electronic sounds than actual piano sounds.

    So, I bought myself an SH-201 and holy cow am I ever glad I did. Someone like me who is new to synthesis would have one heck of a time using menus on a Juno or an X50 or a Fantom to tweak their sounds. With the 201, you can actually LEARN synthesis. Anyone who learns on the SH-201 actually learns to create sounds from scratch (just like the old school synths), instead of just having a thousand presets that you can tweak in minor ways (Juno series, RS series).

    I did just recently order an RS-70 from eBay (for the piano sounds and the sequencer), so we'll see how that goes.

    But really, if you want to learn all of the workings of synthesis, this thing will be the instrument to do it. Think of it as a Synthesis for Dummies. The sounds are good for how much it costs. This thing shouldnt be compared to synths that aren't intended to do the same thing.

  7. I'm totally new to synthesis. I'm actually a guitarist and worship leader at my church and I figured I'd like to get into keys, but (until recently) was more into electronic sounds than actual piano sounds.

    So, I bought myself an SH-201 and holy cow am I ever glad I did. Someone like me who is new to synthesis would have one heck of a time using menus on a Juno or an X50 or a Fantom to tweak their sounds. With the 201, you can actually LEARN synthesis. Anyone who learns on the SH-201 actually learns to create sounds from scratch (just like the old school synths), instead of just having a thousand presets that you can tweak in minor ways (Juno series, RS series).

    I did just recently order an RS-70 from eBay (for the piano sounds and the sequencer), so we'll see how that goes.

    But really, if you want to learn all of the workings of synthesis, this thing will be the instrument to do it. Think of it as a Synthesis for Dummies. The sounds are good for how much it costs. This thing shouldnt be compared to synths that aren't intended to do the same thing.

  8. its one of the best keyboards in its price range!!! i own 2 of SH201 and i wont never sell them as its a killer synth. run it via outboard efx and you will get everything you need.

  9. First of all I don’t know much about sound programming and I’m new to synthesizers but I have this to say. If you turn on the SH and just start playing you probably won’t be impressed by the presets except for the Supersaw. However, if you know how to program sounds or at least put some effort into tweaking the sounds then you’ll find that this synth is capable of making some really impressive sounds. Reading all the comments about how “thin” or how “bad” this synth sounds makes me deduce that the posters don’t know crap about programming synth. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Those are guys who are used to turning on a board and just playing. Like I said, I’m not a sound programmer or nothing but even I could make the fattest Supersaw sound that even other more expensive and “professional” synths couldn’t make. This synth is capable of layering 4 Supersaw waves together. I’ve read about many people not being able to get the same Supersaw (fatness) from Korgs or even Virus…
    If this synth is a “toy” or if it sounds really bad, I wonder why some of the most famous musicians/sound programmers/keyboardists use it. Even Madonna’s keyboardist has one. Milk Inc. uses one. Jordan Rudess, Jean Michel Jarre, Richard Barbieri…well, there’s a list of those who use it on Wikipedia, which makes me wonder why would all these people use such a “bad sounding” synth.

    Take a listen to some of the patches released by Roland and tell me what you think. I couldn’t believe how good some of those sounds were. You probably won’t be able to listen to all of them unless you have an SH-201 though.

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