Roland Aira SH-101 Plug-Out Synthesizer Official Premiere

This video captures the official intro of the Roland Aira SH-101 Plug-Out synthesizer.

The SH-101 Plug-Out synth is a new software synth that runs on on the Roland Aira System-1 synthesizer.

In the video, Roland guru David Ålhund demonstrates the software synth running on the Aira System-1 synth, giving attendees an exclusive first look at this new Roland hardware and software, demos the SH-101 synth running as a plugin and also as a plugout.

The Roland Aira SH-101 Plug-Out synth is a free download for System-1 owners. See the Roland site for details.

49 thoughts on “Roland Aira SH-101 Plug-Out Synthesizer Official Premiere

  1. “Cross Modeling”? – No that’s cross modulation.
    Very fast LFO? No, that does not go into the FM range, and you can hear a few discrete speeds that freeze near the top of the range. There are lots of LFOs that go faster.

    The System 1 is very capable and sounds fantastic, but this was not a good demonstration of the Plug Out.

    If you want a genuine analog synth that sounds like an SH-101, get a Bass Station II.

      1. You’re correct – it sounds 95% identical.

        While you’re complaining about that 5%, the BSII will be happy to kill time by dialing up dual detuned oscillator sounds, 7 filter options, built-in filter overdrive, post-filter distortion, FM-speed LFOs and filter mod, all sounds the 101 can’t do.

        1. I don’t think anybody’s complaining about the Bass Station 2, but if you compare the sawtooth waves or the square waves on any two synthesizers they should, by definition, sound fairly close.

          What’s interesting to me about this video, though, is that when you listen closely, you start noticing all sorts of little differences between the two synthesizers– even when you are just comparing the sawtooth waves and the square waves.

          When you start making patches, the Bass Station 2 is actually much more flexible synthesizer then the SH 101. So this comparison seems sort of pointless.

    1. I was with you until that part about the Bass Station II sounding like an SH-101.

      They sound nothing alike, other than they are both synths, and the BSII is way more powerful than the 101.

        1. An SH101 has character, a BSII is another middle of the road synth, have you ever listened to a song and thought “wow, thats a great Novation bassline” of course not….

          1. I realize this is all subjective, but I don’t think you’re winning the case.

            Explain what “character” is, how the SH-101 has it, and how exactly the BSII lacks it.

            When I listen to the video, I hear 2 synths that cover the same ground, with fairly subtle sonic differences. One filter has a little more zip to it – the BSII, but you can tame that.

            I’m just noting that the Roland System 1 is a nice 2-octave synth, but there’s already an analog that can get you into 101 territory and have features to spare.

            1. Just going from the video, the saw waves are similair, then from the square wave onwards they sound different, similair at times but not the same. Part of the character of the sound is the filter, the 101 filter is much cheekier, it squeals and squelches in a more organic fashion, the novation filter sounds totally different, definately harsher and the self oscillation isn’t as pleasant.

              I know what I like, I’d buy a 2nd hand 101 over the novation any day, purely because it sounds like a 101. It’ll be interesting to hear a 101 being compared to the system 1 which is actually the point of the system 1….

            2. There is no SIGNIFICANT difference in the sound of these two synths. The difference is that I would prefer a new synth with significantly more features and better reliability to an old one on its last legs. Of course, I would also use it to make music rather than an object of infatuation and adoration. To each his or her own.

              IMHO, that is.

            3. Comparing the SystemOne with any of the new analog synthesizers, is completely missing the point.

              The only reason the System One is interesting is because it can load of different synthesizers that have completely different characteristics.
              Roland will need to develop several more “plug-out” synthesizers for the System One to really deliver on that promise.

              But if they do, it will be something that no single analog keyboard can match. That’s why the jury is out on this thing!

              1. I have both, BSII and SH101 and they are definitely not the same synths. You can’t just watch a video and say that they sound the same. A lot of synth have similar oscilator sounds, but a synth it’s not just VCO or DCO. Filter, envelope, modulation… and the more important the amp. All of these are the identity of a synth. BSII is a very nice synth, but SH101 has an sound identity that BSII can’t do.
                Same thing for the system-1, sound close but not the same sound.

  2. This product appears to be an attempt to provide the “ultimate package”. In a sense, it combines (in an arguably unique way) a bunch of different existing technologies in an attempt to hit the “sweet spot” with young consumers. The features it includes seem useful and well implemented. I think perhaps more important are the features that are not included.

    Most notably for me is the absence of velocity or after-touch. They can say, “Our target market doesn’t care about velocity or aftertouch. They want an ‘analog-like’ experience and a ‘driving’ sound.” Or who knows why they scratched it from the plan. Not everyone has that priority of expressiveness with their instrument.

    1. I think the System 1 has a lot to offer for new players. Sounds good, smooth filter cutoff, built-in delay. It’s biggest feature to me is the 1:1 controls. A great physical UI is worth shedding a few features for. I’ve been waiting for a realistic sounding VA with a 1:1 no-screen interface.

      However, it turns out that in order to tune the oscillators to a musical interval, you have to hold down 2 buttons and turn the scatter wheel. The actual tune knob only goes up or down a semitone. That seems like a mistake, something genuinely overlooked in the design phase. Only obscure functions should be hidden like that. Tuning a 5th is not obscure administration.

      The Volca Bass did it better with limited knobs – the first chunk of the knob’s degree range controlling fine tune, and then snapping to semitones up and down a full octave.

      1. Which two buttons do you have to hold down to detune the oscillator to a musical interval? And are there any other hidden functions you know of?

        1. I asked Nick from Sonic State about the oscillator tuning after he said it could only be a semitone.

          Nick said: “Press Ring and Sync, then twizzle the scatter wheel so yes it is absolutley possible to tune +/- octave in semitones plus the +/- detune knob.”

          So I’m sure there are more hidden functions, but not many people have the system 1 yet to find them.

    2. The originals that Roland is emulating didn’t have velocity or aftertouch, so that might be part of it. If they are mainly going to emulate their old-school sense, lack of aftertouch and velocity is no problem.

      Personally, I’d rather it not be as authentic but do things that you expect of modern synthesizers like polyphony, velocity sensitivity, etc.

    3. > Most notably for me is the absence of velocity or after-touch. They can say, “Our target market doesn’t care about velocity or aftertouch.

      I agree with you completely. I have gone back to analog not because of warmth but because of timing. CPU based instruments with buffers have severe latency issues that create problems for live real time playing. They often have severe jitter issues as well.

      Aftertouch and velocity I never had in the old days with my modulars. But I sure as hell have them now with my MIDI to CV converters which I designed and built myself because nothing else would have proper microtonal support that is necessary along with accurate timing for full, expressive and real music. Not robot sequences. Hey I love fiddling with robot sequences, it’s a total blast. But it’s cheating the audience.

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with routing velocity and full polyphonic aftertouch to a modular analog synthesizer. The argument that what we analog advocates want is “no velocity” and “no aftertouch” is completely wrong and is a fundamental inability to understand the market and customer base.

      1. I am too of the same opinion, you can always set velocity to maximum and be happy like that if you don’t want it.
        Plus the system1 has the velocity sensors inside, they just don’t use it. Maybe they’ll update???

  3. I owned an mc 202 for years. The plug out sounds like the 202/sh101 to my pretty good ears.A few lads I know of the same opinion.
    I have fallen for advertising over the years, prophecy and 1st bass station. (I own korg and novation synths)
    The tones in the plug out demo hit the spot for me.I wouldbe interested to know if people slagging the gear have actually
    owned roland sh 101s and mc 202s.
    The aria gear tb 3 vt 3 are very good simplebirs of kit.
    Keep at it Roland

  4. Why those demos of grear which is supposely cool are always done with the worst music ever ?
    who still plays this kind of horrible goa trance in 2014 ?

  5. I don’t understand. A Nord Modular is a pluggout, in it not ? And when I look at the knobs, they seem to have fixed parameters and architecture, so where is the flexibility for other synth models ?

    1. And a Nord Modular is a way better ‘plug-out’ than this. I wish Clavia would release a Nord Modular G3 soon.

  6. always funny to see that most “electronic musicians” can’t afford a keyboard stand with the right height so they don’t have to bend live their back over the machine like worms or ramping animals…..cheers !!

  7. Still not impressed with this – I guess I’ll have to try one for myself before I really know whether I’d want to part money on one. But at the moment, I think I’d prefer a Novation Ultranova and simply forget about ‘plugout’.

  8. I notice in his performance there’s essentially no live playing of notes happening. Everything is being triggered by the sequencer or arpeggiator.

    These software based virtual synthesizers all have deplorable latency and jitter. It’s simply awful. Not a problem if one is doing mindless push button DJing, but for live players these slaggy designs destroy the ability to play live with grooves and vibe other than sequenced presets.

    I really can’t stand the timing problems with these CPU and buffer based instruments with their horrific timing characteristics.

    1. I agree this “performance” is not really interesting since it’s only triggering.

      However, the whole CPU/Latency/jitter thing is from the past. If you still have this kind of problem, you probably haven’t use any recent modern system for a while.

      There’s no more “latency” than most of the digital synth from the past. And yes, they also had latency, this problem didn’t occur with computers only. Any acoustic instruments or electronic instruments with ADC/DAC will have latency. Please do some search if you don’t believe me (you don’t have to).

    2. Yeah, those darn virtual analogs. Press a key and there’s no telling when you’ll hear the note. It could be up to 24 hours later. Who can rip a hot live jam with that kind of latency? We’re far too skilled to put up with virtually instantaneous imperceptible latency which is actually within the range of an analog envelope trigger event.

  9. system 1 aira is false good idea …
    good idea is :
    tablet pc
    with synth templates as vsti
    on a dock for tablet pc with keybd , wheels ,i/o usb and midi cv etc
    these knobs stick on tablet screen !
    alesis i/o dock + arturia modules from origin + decent control kbd +sticky knobs and sliders on screen .
    just must have an android os optimized and standardized connexion from tablet (mini usb ? ) .
    Oh wait …
    iz not OpenLab Neko returns ?

  10. Idk man. This thing is just not doing it for me. I have zero interest in obtaining one and trust me the GAS is strong w/ me. I own the tr-8 and I absolutely love it but I really have no desire to get any of this other AIRA stuff.
    Coincidentally I also own a Bass Station 2 and a Novation Ultranova. Both amazing synths. I also used to have a Roland GAIA, and while I loved the 1 to 1 interface, it sounded truly awful! Ithe oscillators were poorly sampled waves and I couldn’t stand the way it sounded.

    The plug out thing is not a good enough reason to spend $600 on a shitty synth.

  11. it is a shame none of the AIRA stuff has gotten an impressive sound quality at all… i guess we can wait another 3-5 years for next wave of products from big brands, or will the companies even last that long? maybe Roland is next Yamaha and will just relax into home piano and various small stuff markets? home piano seems like the only thing they can actually do well in last decade!

    1. I agree – Roland is fast heading into Yamaha territory unless it pulls its finger out and gets something special done. Every company can produce crap products – but lately, Roland seem to have done nothing but crap products. I’m still amazed that they feel they can expect us to pay $4000 for a Jupiter 80 which is nothing like the Jupiter 8.

  12. I’m wonder which piece of Roland gear that is hated on here will one day be desired and cherished like the TB303. It wasn’t a big hit either when it first came out.

    1. I doubt any modern Roland gear will ever be worth much, rare, etc.

      The original 808/909/303/101 era was unique. There was a high entry point to being able to make and release music, you needed either a ton of expensive gear at home, or expensive studio time, and to be able to press records and duplicate tapes. Production gear was built in smaller runs for semi-professionals and pros.

      The fact that a TB-303 or SH-101 now costs thousands for a clean high-condition specimen has nothing to do with it being a semi-flop. Even if there were 10 times as many 303s produced, demand still outstrips availability.

      It has everything to do with being a key sound during a centralized media era where not everyone could make and release songs. If 3 different guys said the 303 was “the sound,” it was law. Subsequent generations look back at that era and want that same gear. That’s why there a huge clone kit market.

      Roland’s 80s analog was made cool by tastemakers, coolness plus out-of-production status equals a hot aftermarket life.

      I can’t think of a single piece of digital virtual analog that was a cheap flop and is now traded for over a thousand dollars. Some of those VAs are over 15 years old now, still plentiful and cheap.

  13. The TR-8 is so much fun and sounds amazing.. As an owner of a real 909 and a real 303, 606 .. I’d say in a way I love the tr-8 mostly because I’m not afraid to play my ass off on it and shred up the buttons with it because I’m always worried about buttons breaking on my older gear.. The tr8 sounds authentic, and from what I’ve seen so does the sh-1, we’ll minus not having the stepable sequencer on board, which is what the sh-101 is really all about.. Let’s just see what plugs they release .. The sh1-101 plug sounds authentic, if they drop a Juno 106 plugout .. maybe a juoiter4? I’m in! last time I had to move my Juno I was wishing it wasn’t so heavy and the sliders are starting to crackle..
    Anyway, I don’t hate the roland stuff as much after getting down with my new buddy the tr-8.. the green hulk colors are even starting to grow on me a bit..

  14. I love Roland. I have been a fan for years and own several Roland synths.
    I was really excited about this System-1 and was 99% sure I was going to buy it… until I played it yesterday at Guitar Center and was thoroughly disappointed.

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