Roland SH-01A Synthesizer Review

In his latest Sonic Lab review, synth guru and PWM connoisseur Nick Batt takes a look at the new Roland SH-01A.

The SH-01A recreates the Roland SH-101 using analog circuit modeling, but adds polyphony, new performance features and more.

Pricing and Availability

The Roland SH-01A is available now, with a street price of about $350. See the Roland site for more info.

19 thoughts on “Roland SH-01A Synthesizer Review

    1. I did a comparison to the SH-101 plugout vs TAL and TAL-Bassline-101 sounded better to me. the plugout was really close but a bit less lively..also raising the main volume did some weird saturation (roland does weird gain staging on their digital products)

      I dont know if this sh-01a uses the same dsp-code as the plugout.



  1. I have a D-05 in my sights, because as Nick says, they’ve gotten the code right. It’ll suit my goals just fine. I’m not wild for the Boutique line’s 1/8″ jacks and overall delicate builds, but its all about the sound in the end. I got to piddle around with a real SH-101 once and enjoyed it, but do you really want to struggle with maintaining a 30-year-old synth or would you prefer a compromise that covers 90% of the deal? Besides, this is a solid poly synth now, where it was monophonic before. I’ll take the vintage-gear wet dream in a 2-pound box and call it good.

    1. The Lush 101 sounds ALOT better ….. for the type of music I like at least. What miff’s me about the Roland Boutique 101 is it says VCO and a couple other V’s on the panel ….. making it look like its an analog synth when its not.

  2. Fiddled with the SH-01A. On this particular one the sliders were loose and not stiff, Probably to get to the sweet spots you need an external MIDI editor. Waiting for the System-4 rack and System- 12 keyboard. Roland always recycles and recombines old stuff in something similar but with just a little extra to frame buyers, should have something at NAMM.

  3. It sounds OK, although that aliasing on the high notes was a little surprising. I’d have thought they’d have found some method or other to get rid of that . Oversampling for example!

    The other thing which always gets me about Boutiques is the two touchpads on the left side. They seem to take up 1/6th of the limited control surface. Do people really need a touch pitch bend that much? Arent people using a real controller keyboard with mod & pitchbend with these? I’d rather scap those weird touch controls and use the reclaimed space for larger primary controls.

    Not gonna happen though eh?

      1. Oh yeah, riiight… I’m going to “rock out” physically on a 2-pound module’s vanity strips. Sure I am! It was meant to be played from a controller anyway, so the strips are a bit wasted. Its not a deal breaker to me. I heart tabletop synths.

        1. They are perfect for something like the Kawai VPC1 which have no controllers, Just set these little bad boy boutiques on top and wa la you have pitch and mod. Another time these boutiques control ribbons could come in handy is if like me your keyboard controllers are Rolands i.e. mine which include a JD-800, Jupiter 80, and RD-700gx, the mod stick on those always automatically snap back to center as soon as you let go ….. making them useless for alot of synths I own both hardware and VST. With the Boutique ribbon controller the mod will stay where you last left your finger. The only work around for Rolands keyboards is to map the foot controller to the mod axis .. maybe its just me, but my foot is nowhere as smooth as my finger for doing stuff like orchestral string swells .. and trying to do that with Rolands control sticks is just as bad ….. I can do much smoother orchestral swells (volume swells and fades) with the boutiques ribbon .. only thing smoother would be my Minimoog Voyager (which only has 3 and a half octaves and is nowhere near my main workststation) I say big kudos to Roland for including those ribbon controllers.

    1. Agreed. The pitch / mod strip are a strange use of space on an already small module. The drum machines and the tb-03 utilize the smaller form factor more effectively imo. I picked up the tb-03 the other day and I’m really impressed with it. Looking forward to getting the tr-08 as well.

  4. Still not too sure about the size of those faders. My go-to synth dealer here in Berlin told me how he spent half his youth working out all the subtle nuances of the SH-101 with microscopic fader movements and even thought the faders on the original were a bit too short to really go all in. I tried the SH-01A and for me, he really has a point there. You quickly get into the general direction, but with the tiny faders it’s difficult to really nail the sound you’re looking for. At least that was my impression.

  5. We need a really robust solution for sound card aggregation on Windows. Asio4all is a bit hit and miss for me (devices disappear, channels not all exposed etc). All these little boutiques have USB audio out, which is great, but I can’t reliably use that alongside my main soundcard (Motu 828 mk2) in windows, so,I end up using up another analog channel and introducing another stage of d2a and a2d. For that reason I prefer to use VSTs rather than the equivalent VA boutiques. I do compromise for the lovely A-01 though 🙂 So for me, the boutique would end up as a pricey dedicated midi controller for the Roland or TAL vsts.

  6. I have one. I like it a lot. It is probably my favorite boutique right behind the JX. You play with the sliders, you get great, classic sounds. The sequencers is great in it’s simplicity as well.

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