It’s true, it’s here, it’s a Boutique version of that coveted acid classic, the Roland SH-101. We glimpsed it a few days ago in a very blurry video. We knew it they couldn’t keep it under wraps for long. The Roland SH-01A is here, in three colours, and we can all have one – hooray!
Roland say it’s an “accurate replica of the legendary SH-101.” The recent fully analog SE-02 raised our hopes for more genuinely analog Roland instruments but it was not to be. The SH-01A is built on Roland’s ACB (analog circuitry behaviour) modelling technology, like the other Boutique reissues. It makes sense, they already have it in software form and it will make it (hopefully) very affordable. We haven’t heard it in action yet but I imagine it’s going to sound bang on and will only be disappointing to the dourest of analog synth heads. Although, I think it’s important to point out that it does indeed deviate alarmingly from the legendary monosynth in one important aspect – this is a 4-voice polyphonic synthesizer.
They are calling it a “sound module” with a maximum polyphony of 4 voices in mono, unison, poly or chord modes. You can save 64 sound patches and 64 sequencer patterns with up to 100 steps to the internal memory. Going from left to right across the panel you can see the LFO section with rate and a choice of 6 waveforms including noise and random. In the VCO section, we find modulation depth, octave range and pulse width with a switch for manual, envelope or LFO control. The mixer lets us set the blend of sawtooth and pulse outputs, the sub oscillator and noise. Moving to the VCF we have the expected cutoff, resonance, envelope and modulation depth and key follow sliders. A simple VCA switches from gate to envelope and finally, the classic ADSR envelope finishes it all off.
In the bottom half, you have depth controls for the bender ribbon on VCO, VCF and modulation. There’s portamento, transpose and tuning knob. The only physical control differences I can make out from the original SH-101 (other than the ribbons) is the LED display and menu button, plus a couple more sequencer buttons. They’ve relocated the volume knob onto the back, added USB and MIDI of course. We do seem to have lost the CV/Gate inputs, but we do have outputs and the external clock input.
Whatever you think of Roland’s ACB technology the SH-01A looks like it’s going to be every bit as fun as the original SH-101. I am missing the keyboard though. Having played a lot with the K-25m keyboard dock for the Boutique range it does let them down rather – it’s just not a great keyboard. The SH-01A is crying out to be a proper little synth with a decent keyboard – and even a hand grip. Roland should release a K-25m Pro.
How does it sound? Check out the video below. I’m looking forward to hearing it in the flesh but for the right price, this thing will fly. More information on the Roland website. And check out the TR-08 while you’re at it.