Roland SH-201 Synthesizer: Affordable Hands-On Synthesis
By James Grahame
I love Roland's new SH-201 synthesizer (yes, I know I'm going to catch serious flak for this). Why? Because its user interface is brilliant and it's affordable. Sure, the front panel is
a bit garish and Roland is trying to cash in on the resurgence of analog synthesis, but this SH offers a wonderful array of knobs and buttons that let you experience super-fast tactile sound creation -- instead of navigating through menus on an LCD, it becomes possible to reach out and tweak a sound in real time, just like the old days.
The SH-201 is a 10-voice polyphonic synthesizer capable of producing two different sounds at once. It includes USB and MIDI ports, so you can use the 49-key keyboard as a controller for MIDI gear or a computer-based music system. The synthesis engine digitally recreates the classic waveforms of analog synths - there are no wavetable-based pianos or flutes here. There are minimal effects (reverb and delay), along with nifty stereo RCA jacks on the back panel so you can plug in an external sound source.
Best of all, there's no multi-line LCD display (or even a 7-segment LED) to be found anywhere on the front panel, just like the analog polysynths of the early 1980s (the SH name is borrowed shamelessly from the ultra-cheap 1980s SH-101 monosynth, by the way). If you can get over its weird looks, this little virtual analog synth could turn out to be a bargain priced addition to your musical rig.
Roland SH-201 Analog Modeling Synth (Roland USA)