Roland Intros SH-101 Plug-Out Software Synthesizer


Roland today officially announced the SH-101 Plug-Out software synthesizer – described as a complete reproduction of the vintage SH-101.

The SH-101 is a monophonic synthesizer launched by Roland in 1982 that features a one-VCO > one-VCF > one-VCA > one-LFO synth architecture. Now Roland has released it as a plugin for Mac & Windows, and a ‘Plug-Out’ for the new Aira System-1.

Here’s an official video intro from Roland:


  • Two envelope sections allow different settings for VCF and VCA while maintaining the option of classic SH-101 envelope behavior.
  • Reverb, chorus, delay and crusher effects that were not included in the original.
  • Run as many instances as your computer can handle.
  • Use SYSTEM-1 as a dedicated USB keyboard controller with lighted knobs and sliders that show only available parameters.
  • PLUG-OUT with SYSTEM-1 lets you take an authentic SH-101 wherever you go, from mobile production to live performance.
  • Transfer sounds between SYSTEM-1 and SH-101 with PLUG-OUT
  • Supports Macintosh and Windows, and AU and VSTi formats.

Note: The SH-101 PLUG-OUT Software Synthesizer is a free download for SYSTEM-1 owners. See the Roland site for details.

56 thoughts on “Roland Intros SH-101 Plug-Out Software Synthesizer

    • that “stream” is utter crap sir.
      poorly filmed and delayed forever.
      ntm the login process, and the fact that its not on youtube at all.

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      • Yeah I had problems too to connect.
        Didn’t watch it cause I was eating with the family, when I come back to see it I see Marshall Jefferson talking and I’m like oh cool and then the stream freezes!!!!
        Boh, if anyone got cool info out of it please share…

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      • Wouldn’t even let me in, kept redirecting to adobe site. These events are such a waste. Get a great review from nick batt and you’re set. Everyone gets to hear it see it and ask the questioned. Unlike these bullshit events which are more about massaging Roland’s ego. IMO they’ve messed up the whole aira promo, I was excited once upon a time, now I see it as squeezing blood out of a stone to get any decent info, hear the machines properly, and taking so long to get the gear out, I no longer care.

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  1. I think some, and I mean some of the recent emulations are great, but, and a big BUT.. Adding anything to an emulation is doing injustice. Yeh, add stuff, but don’t bundle it in, make it a separate download, a separate plug. It’s like Arturia adding poly capability to the Minimoog; A farce.

    If you want to emulate, do it, but don’t remove the limitations.. the limitations are what defined the sound. If some of the classic sounds relied on external EFX, leave them to EXTernal.

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    • The thing is though, you can turn all that stuff off if you want authenticity. You can limit yourself to one voice, or you can disable the effects if you don’t want to add them in.

      What I find absolutely staggering is that people like yourself are critical of the inclusion of these things when people like Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman and Wendy Carlos would have given their right leg for them. Authenticity is a noble goal, but when we have the ability to add capabilities that were beyond the scope of the original equipment, while retaining the wonderful sound they created then I say why on earth not?

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    • Totally in agreement, it’s the limitations that force you to work around and find interesting thigs, and make the machine what it is, if you have all options available all the time there’s less to distinguish it from other VSTs, yes you can disable the extra features but I feel it should be that way by default and not visible from the GUI unless you want it, may as well make a recreation accurate.

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    • Adding polyphony to a MiniMoog model is an excellent idea, as with the G-Force MiniMonsta. Its not just the polyphony per se; it also shows you why the fan-dream of a poly analog modular has certain physics issues that take some of the shine off of that Space Cadet Glow. 😛 A lot of mono patches sound like intermodulating mud when played as even 2- or-3-note chords. I once owned a real Mini and aside from that lost 5% you can’t get without actual warmed-up circuits and decent speakers, the general field of Moog emulators is pretty solid. The additions up the game. In my view, AIRA’s hardware limitations seem to preclude that kind of growth. I wonder if they can come up with new models that shift this their way before the system’s cost outstrips people’s enthusiasm? If they’d started with a JP-8, it’d be a different discussion.

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    • I used to dream of being able to play chords on my SH101. Instead, I had to multitrack them one note at a time by bouncing between two tape decks. Polyphony on a 101 is great IMHO.

      And if Roland come out with an SH09 plug-out, it will finally lend some credibility to A Flock Of Seagulls’ music video of ‘I Ran’ where every synth fan just laughs when they play chords on the monosynth.

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  2. It isn’t available independently of the System-1; so it’s basically a $600 plugin. I think I’ll stick with Togu Audio Line’s emulation. It’s way more affordable, sounds damn good, and doesn’t require an unattractive (in all respects) piece of hardware.

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    • You do have a synth other than the sh101 plugin.
      If they keep on putting out more plugout to occasionally boost their system 1 sells I think many would be happy.
      I just would love it to 3 1/2 or 4 octave large.

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    • Roland has not done a very good job rolling this out. I could not tell from their site if the VST versions are going to be available for purchase separately or if you have to have the system one in order to purchase them. It seems very shortsighted to limit the audience to system one owners.

      Also, rolling out the keyboard without multiple synths is a mistake. Now people are going to think the System-1 is limited to monophony.

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      • On Roland’s page for the plugin/plugout click to the “Details” tab. There’s a footnote that reads: “* SH-101 PLUG-OUT Software Synthesizer (not available for sale) is available free of charge to SYSTEM-1 owners. Please use the coupon included in your product package to download free of charge.”

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          • Again, on the same details page: “Go beyond the original hardware with enhanced tone shaping options and seamless DAW integration via AU and VSTi plugin interfaces. Full PLUG-OUT support means you can use SYSTEM-1 as a dedicated controller and even use the SH-101 without a computer.”

            The AU/VST _is_ the “plug out.” My guess is, since I haven’t read any more on it that what I quoted, is that you load up the AU/VST and it looks for a connected System-1. If doesn’t find one, the plugin says “nope, not going to do it.” If it does find one, it probably sends a firmware blob over to the “synth” that will reside there until a new “plug out” is sent over. But once it’s sent to the synth, the only way to use emulation is by the AU/VST communicating with the emulation engine running on the System-1 synthesizer.

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  3. Much relieved to see that the system 1 tone knob will work on the sh-101 as that was always my issue, I hated the coldness and tin nines of sh-101. Also nice to see that the effects will work, bit crush in particular.

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  4. “lighted knobs and sliders that show only available parameters” but why? they could leave all functions in this sh-101, who wouldn’t want sh101 with 2 osc and shit… stupid, stupid, studpid

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  5. Man, they will do ANYTHING to avoid reissuing analog. Seriously they have been avoiding this longer than they actually built analog synths.

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  6. Even with two oscillators and filters, was the best Roland could open with was an emulation of such a minimal synth? If all you’re looking for is a basic boop-beep *starter* synth, okay, but neither the feature set nor the sound can hold their own against a legion of better instruments. I suspect a lot of people are hoping for a Jupiter-8 model, but the base unit doesn’t have half of the controls you’d need to keep it from becoming another idiot exercise in shifting and menu diving. Roland’s AIRA system in general is also really memory-stingy, even for a rig clearly aimed at live dance. The cost/benefit ratio just doesn’t hold up. The company makes some great gear, but recent decisions like this or the new FA workstations’ sequencers not being able to control outboard hardware via MIDI like everything ELSE in the world are real head-scratchers. Its hard to play a good game with a half-inflated basketball.

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  7. This to me, just seems like a Trojan horse to keep Roland’s plugins from being cracked, since you need the hardware to run them. Actually, a great idea from them (it’s why companies like Arturia and Native Instruments entered the hardware business) but I think poorly executed.

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 6
    • Yeah, cause none of Native Instruments plugins have been cracked.
      Oh wait, I meant ALL of them have been cracked….

      Like this comment?: Thumb up 0
      • Congratulations, the point has not only flown over your head but you then proceeded to storm over to the other guy and say “WELL MAYBE YOU SHOULD THROW THE POINT TO ME SOME TIME SOON” after it had fallen to the ground and gently rolled away.

        No one has cracked the Minibrute, or the Maschine controller.

        Like this comment?: Thumb up 5
    • you dont need hardware to run the plugin.
      You can even run multiple instances in your daw without the SYSTEM-1 connected.

      Like this comment?: Thumb up 2
  8. Complete reproduction of the iconic SH-101, except of course for the awesome step sequencer. Plus, if you’re going to leave the effects on, and tone, and bit crush, then why no leave the HPF, and Pitch Env? Still very undecided on this synth. It’s cheap though. Not sure the “more synths in the future” sells it for me either since I got burned by that promise with the VariOS/V-Synth. Two cards. This isn’t selling well. The end. I lived Roland in the eighties, but it’s been few and far between for a long time now.

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  9. The System-1 looks like a synth that we may have to wait for them to do a v2 to get it right.

    If this could host 3-4 software synths and you could flip a switch to choose between them, it could be a cool keyboard!

    Also, enough with the analog emulations, you can get an analog mono synth for $300! Why not do a cutting edge synth, more like Animoog or Wavegenerator?

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  10. It has a place in the market for many reasons.

    How many full knob synths, there are for $500?

    I am most certainly testing the hell out of it, when I see it with my own eyes…well, for that price I may not even need to test it. I have already heard good sounds from it.

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  11. It’s an emulation. I don’t expect it to be the same thing. If you can make a great song out of it and it provides hours of pleasure, why not use it? No one except a bunch of haters is going to care.

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    • Yeah and heck, if you can get by with spam on toast and a multivitamin why would you bother eating real food? No one except a bunch of haters is going to care.

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  12. i don’t see how any one can pass comment on that, you have to have made your mind up a long time ago to decide from that.

    i can only pass comment on the worst demo for any synth i have ever heard. I will await a full demo from sonic nick or some hairy biker from clearwater.

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  13. I’m already sold on the System 1 default sound and specs.

    The native System 1 synth engine is bigger and better than the SH-101 emulation. All of this anticipation to see half the lights of the System 1 go dim, with a slightly different filter sound.
    Oscillators are oscillators. Ask the M-Audio Venom if having a dozen different Sawtooth made a difference.

    The Plug Out concept would have made more sense as a “get a free emulation softsynth for your DAW, and load that softsynth’s distinctive filter into your synth for even more tonal possibilities.”

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  14. Just saw the demo (interesting part is in the first 15 minutes and the Q&A session, you can skip the awful 1-hour long talk) and I liked the overall sound of the SH-101, never mind the level differences with the real SH. Still I would have to hear how the filter overdrives and how the envelopes and LFO behave, it could be close enough or just fall apart.

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 1
    • Yeah they don’t have audio for the interview part, then they cut out, then they start talking and they all look completely bored and they’re talking about lego.

      The only new feature in the initial demo is actually seeing the scatter and arpeggio working.

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  15. Dammit Roland – stop this VST nonsense and just re-release the SH-101 for real. Roland made some truly great synths in the 1970s and 1980s – the System 100 and 100M, the SH-5, SH-7, the SH-101, the Juno 60, the Jupiter 8. Instead Roland release a sub-par monophonic synth – the System 1 – and then justify it because its also a glorified MIDI controller. Why don’t Roland get it???

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  16. Maybe it will be “broken” in a good way a flop like the TB-303 and sells for really cheap until someone discovers it accidentally does something awesome that nothing else does?

    I’ll be the first to admit I am not at all a fan the majority of Roland’s decision making over the past 20 years, but at least they are trying something new(ish) by trying to satisfy both the old and new crowds. It would be terribly boring and quite frankly an insult to innovative/creative types to just see constant re-releases of old kit.

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    • Wishful thinking, accidents are never planned and that’s Roland’s curse: they invented modern electronic music by a series of accident they will never be able to repeat.

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  17. Honestly, this thing is going to sell and I have no idea why… ms20 mini, mini brute, bass station 2, hell even the minitaur is a little bit more expensive but with the last firmware update it is well worth ithe money! This crap doesn’t even have a vst editor… good luck using automation in a daw on the aira stuff. (I have tried and it is extremely unreliable). But kids and uneducated people will still buy this. I am still shaking my head at the sh 101 vst”we didn’t add polyphony because that would be unfaithful to the original hardware”ten seconds later…”here you can find the bit crusher and delay for the sh 101 vst” bahaha.

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    • The bit crusher is for people who have no concept of sound design. It’ll cover up a weak patch and make it interesting.

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  18. Is the 101 sequencer implemented as well? i really hope so, can´t imagine why they wouldn´t do it. fingers crossed.

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  19. So many negative comments on here without any experience even playing it. I had the chance to play a System 1 in Sam Ash LA yesterday. Hands down the most inspiring new synth I’ve played in the past few yers, maybe longer. I wouldn’t think twice about spending $600 on it, even without plug out option.

    For all the people on here complaining about Roland not doing analog, there’s a good book worth reading on the founder of Roland, Ikutaro Kakehashi. If you read it, you’ll see that Roland has always been more interested in the future than living in the past (while having a lot of respect for the past too). Aira is very Roland in this regard. Just as v-synth, vp-9000, and jp-8000 were before it. At least try it in person before you bash it.

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  20. Just suck it up and manufacture the original. It’ll cost nothing, no R&D, you own it. ANd you can pull it off for cheap. Case in point, novation bass station.

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  21. I have the system 1. It’s amazing. There’s no doubt about it. A very powerful “modern” synth. It’s not a polymoog or a korg trident. It’s a 2014 synth that has flexibility power and sounds incredible. I’ll be looking forward to the SH101 but, as I never owned one, I’ll take the freebie.
    Analogue/digital/FM/hybrid/sampled… Who cares if it sounds good?

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 4

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