Roland SH-4d Synthesizer ‘With A Dash Of Groove’

Roland today introduced the SH-4d Synthesizer, a new desktop synthesizer, focused on synthesis and sound design.

The Roland SH-4d is designed for hands-on tweaking, with 11 OSC Models and a panel filled with knobs, buttons and sliders. It also offers a multitimbral sequencer, with four synth parts and a customizable rhythm part, letting you create patterns with motion recording, extensive effects and more.

Here’s what they have to say about it:

“Fifty years ago, Roland launched its first synthesizer, the groundbreaking SH-1000. The SH name has represented the company’s core synthesizer instruments ever since, merging innovative new technologies with tactile interfaces for quickly designing sounds in the moment.

The SH-4d opens the next chapter in the long-running series, offering Roland’s latest analog modeling advancements and a deep-yet-inviting panel that catalyzes creativity and rewards exploration at every turn.”

Eleven OSC Models offer a wide range sound design options, from vintage analog tones with SH-4d, SH-3D, Chord, Ring and Sync Models to digital textures with Cross FM, Wavetable and Drawing Models. Voices from Roland’s past include SH-101 and JUNO-106 Models and a PCM Model, with a large selection of sample-based sounds.

The SH-4d also features a flexible drum synthesizer, with rich tone-shaping capabilities for creating custom kits from scratch.

The SH-4d features 32 knobs, four sliders and a massive array of multi-function buttons. The LCD, sliders and buttons automatically reconfigure their functions to follow the selected mode, minimizing menu-diving. Dedicated Filter, Amp and LFO sections are always available. And with the Matrix section, you can create an even wider range of sounds by routing the output of the LFO or envelope generator to parameters in a Model.

Among its many tricks, the SH-4d also built-in motion sensors that allow the user to pick up the synth and adjust sounds with physical movements. D-Motion mode provides X/Y control for two parameters, while the unique Visual Arpeggio shapes note patterns via interactive displays.

The SH-4d sequencer lets you create sequences with up to 60 notes of total polyphony. There’s also a versatile selection of Roland effects.

Here’s a performance demo, featuring Detroit techno legend Carl Craig:

“That machine is a little monster,” says Craig. “So many options to not only shape sound but to shape the musical composition too.”

The SH-4d runs on a standard USB-C phone charger or AA batteries for up to four hours. There’s a two-plus octave button keyboard for self-contained composition, plus MIDI I/O, so you can use it as a sound module and controller.

The SH-4d also functions as a USB-C audio/MIDI interface, with 12 discrete audio channels for computer music production.

Pricing & Availability:

The Roland SH-4d Synthesizer will be available in the U.S. in March for $649.99 USD.

18 thoughts on “Roland SH-4d Synthesizer ‘With A Dash Of Groove’

  1. This looks cool. It’s like a mix of several of the Boutiques but with more pro connectivity, decent sized controls and a larger form factor which I like.

  2. I’m surprised at 256 presets. Understanding it may be difficult to navigate more, presets are “cheap” (few Kb at MOST?), and if engine is as interesting and powerful as it may seem, I can see creating / downloading / purchasing / trying a lot of variations quickly.

  3. It looks pretty good and is quite a good idea. When you think about iconic designs like the SH32 I do think they could have been a bit bolder rather than just boring old black. It will be interesting to see how this sells.

    1. Also like the concept a lot.
      True, while the multicolor led marbles buttons look fine – i would fancy a white one!
      or go sh-101 in red and blue even …

  4. The good: a very hands-on & accessible synth experience.
    The bad: way less powerful than Roland’s other groove-boxes, especially the MC-707.

    Would definitely be fun to play with!

    1. This is what I was thinking too.
      I have the MC-707 and it is indeed a very powerful bit of gear.
      Fine tuning the synth parameters on it though does require a bit of menu diving. It’s not hideous, but it isn’t immediate or particularly intuitive.
      I’m guessing this is a bit more “hands on” in terms of fine tuning / knob twiddling.
      I’m looking at this as less a groovebox and more of a synth with a few added groovebox elements as a bonus.
      I think I might end up getting a SH-4d at some point as I quite like the look of the layout and I’m impressed by it’s sound. However, it’s something I might pick up second hand to have a play with as I’m not sure it’ll get a lot of use in my current set up.
      That said, it’s nice to see Roland making a physical synth rather than trying to sell you digital versions of their drum machines for an astronomically high amount of money!

    2. Depends on how you define “Power”.

      As a synth the sh-4d is super powerful because more focused!
      Zencore hardware is way too entangled in details to make sound design fun.

      Don’t know if i will get a sh-4d, but i absolutely want to play it!
      Actually hoping for a sh-4 with keayboard and maybe even more performance controls.

  5. Ha ha, Fred said “Bad Gear!” I love those. He always shows you the bad, but also those second and third angles where something wonky is still useful. This one is almost designed for that as a new product!

    IMO, Roland gets a lot closer to The Mark here. Its broad enough that the price seems fair. I’ve owned my share of their TR-Xs and synths, so that feels right. (Hooray for Boss.) This will be popular with a basic crowd, obviously including EDM players, but the variety of “oscillators” and the tidy sequencer make it feel even more like a good all-in-one backpack solution for traveling.

    I give this release a B+ overall, for being honest about what it is and idly promising an upgrade in the future. I could easily see an SH-5x with individual outputs, a more generous PCM section and a slightly bigger display. Just a bit sequencer memory, too, while I’m daydreaming.

  6. This is the most interesting thing Roland has released is quite a while. Sounds good, clean and non-fussy design, attractive price. Reminds me of the MC-505 but without the cringe (though I laughed when I saw it still has a d-beam).

    1. Funny, since this unit has an actual parameter sequencer, it made me think “why use a physical gyroscope/accelorometer instead of a OG D-Beam??” I mean, the d-beam has been ever-useless as a performance controller but as a way to step sequence synth parameters… it could be quite musical (with two hands, you could easily do big jumps in values, for instance). Certainly more usable than lifting the entire box up and trying to tilt it around for the same purpose — this is far from a phone (size + all the potential cables).

    2. No “D-beam Laser” but “D-motion Gyroscope” – should be called “G-motion” then ?

      Humorous gimmick on a serious device is nice to see.
      Tho it would make much more sense when there would be a keytar grip and strap for it!

      … not so secretly waiting for the “SH-4” with keys and maybe grip and strap 😉

  7. Looks fun for live performance. Getting closer back to the mc-505 with more hands on synth features that were lacking the mc-707. More knobs = more fun to perform on. Wish it had more outputs, hopefully Roland does a new performance mixer that is at least 16 tracks and the audio over usb could be split out on separate tracks with effects sends for pedals and analog filters. The zencore engine would benefit from som external processing. Also hoping this has some classic Roland digital sounds from the d50/d05, jd800, jd08, Jp8000, & Vsynth. If I want analog I will use a modern analog synth, plenty available. Dbeam would have been nice it is old enough now that it is actually cool and plus useful for modulation.

  8. This is not really a groove box. It’s a five part multi-timbral synth with various synthesis types, and a nice sequencer as a bonus. You could call it a “Super Boutique +”, or just a synth. Any groovebox features should be seen as a bonus, not the focus. Even complaining about this as “not having enough analog outputs” is largely irrelevant because it holds it’s own as a single synth. If you buy a 5k analog synth you wouldn’t think twice about multi-tracking it;s 6-8 paltry voices. So… why bitch and moan about that at a fraction of the price? Compose onthe go using batteries, then multi-track it out for recording back in the studio. Or stream it all over USB in one go. Or take it live and get WAY more value thanks to it’s five part multitimbrality, where you would want stereo out anyway. This would be a killer companion box for a modular rig, for example. Drums and chords… sync it up…done.

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