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Roland SH-201 Synthesizer

Put the fun back in synthesis! (35) Read 6 reviews for this product | Rate and review this product
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Product Description

Put the fun back in synthesis!

For musicians new to synthesizers, Roland announces the most friendly and fun analog-modeling instrument on the market: the SH-201. For synth pros, the SH-201 will remind them of why they fell in love with synthesizers in the first place. Simply, the SH-201 is a blast to play! It sounds great too, thanks to such features as Roland's famous Supersaw waveform, resonant filter, saturation control, and more.

Great Analog-Style Sound
Even though it's super fun and easy to use, the SH-201 is no toy when it comes to sound. With two beefy analog-modeling oscillators onboard, complete with Roland's famous Supersaw waveform and resonant filter, this little synth can blow down doors. It also comes with high-quality delay and reverb effects for adding depth and dimension to the sound, an overdrive control for adding a ripsaw edge, and an arpeggiator for instant rhythmic motion.

Ultra-Easy Operation
This is synthesis at its friendliest. The SH-201's front panel puts every control directly under the player's fingertips in a logically positioned signal path from left to right. No hidden menus, no nonsense. Just play and move the knobs and sliders. It's as simple as that. Students of synthesis will love the ease and immediate gratification of the SH-201. No other modern synth on the market is as fun, friendly, and inviting.

External Audio Input
Playing the SH-201 from its keyboard is only half the fun. External audio sources can be plugged into the SH-201's external input (CD/MP3-player, sampler,, etc.) and the sound can be twisted with the front-panel knobs and sliders. Wave your hands over the SH-201's invisible D Beam for dramatic modulation.

USB Connectivity
The SH-201 can be connected to a computer (Mac or PC) with one simple USB cable. Both MIDI and audio can be routed through the USB port. A VSTi software editor is included, which allows SH-201 sounds to be manipulated from within a VSTi-compatible host software sequencer.

Features
Great-sounding analog-modeling synth

Ultra-EZ front panel is logically designed to teach the basics of synthesis

External input for manipulating external audio from CD/MP3 players, etc.

Built-in delay, reverb, and saturation effects

Arpeggiator adds instant rhythmic motion to sounds

USB port for audio/MIDI connection to computer

VSTi Editor software included for computer integration

Invisible infrared D Beam controller

zZounds is an authorized dealer of Roland products.
If you have additional warranty questions, please contact the manufacturer at 323-890-3700
Customer Reviews
4.5 out of 5 (35 ratings) Rate and Review This Product
This review has been selected by our experts as particularly helpful. "SH201, the simple sum of 80s Roland synthesis...."
Sound: While a somewhat simple synth, especially compared to virtual synths (VST, DXi, AU) the RH201 is a killer at what it does, which is emulate 80s style polyphonic synthesizers, particularly Roland favorites like the Juno 6 and Jupiter. This makes sense as the circuitry has been borrowed from the V-Synth model of the Jupiter and supersaw oscillator. What you get at it's modest price is a nicely editable, very good sounding synth. It is not a powerhouse type of synth such as the similarly priced Alesis ION. Some find the ION difficult to get good sounds from which is understandable as it incorporates a complex synth engine that has a substantial learning curve. Beyond price there isn't much to compare. The ION is deep and not as direct as the vastly simpler Roland SH201. Also, LISTEN to the SH201 as it is nothing like the SH101 that shares it's name. The original SH was a - IMO - cheesy sounding, squelchy synth that has a large audience; however, this SH is more useful as a warm analog-clone, vastly more worthy of the Juno name than the sample based synths that inherited that name. You can get some nice sounds that move thanks to a 2nd LFO, although I wish there had been a second filter as well. Also, it's nice to see a few routings for what the LFO affects. It's not a modulation matrix, but it does give some additional capability to the SH201. With the distortion and choice of reverb or simple delay I'm somwhat surprised a chorus effect wasn't added. That noted, it's very easy to get that type of sound. It's just nicer when you can use the synth for different programming purposes AND have chorus available. However, it is a minor desire. I wanted the SH201 for its simplicity, not it's depth of programming possibilities. Using the ION as a comparison again, and doing so as it has the exact oposite kind of design, being capable of many analog waveforms, simple FM synthesis, 3 oscillators, a noise oscillator and sub oscillator along with several filters available to all three oscillators. Even it's two effects are complex, with EQ parameters on it's reverb algorithims. Now; if that makes you drool, you should listen to it. I think it's presets are hit or miss as the synth can do so many things and the presets set out to proove it. Also, it has 500 some-odd spots for presets and combination presets. It can make drum kits, it can do very complex arpeggiator and phrase sequencing, and can do it over 4 channels for sequencing or on one patch with one massive sound or super-complex patches that move all over the place and throughout the stereo field. Also, there is a lot of formant and complex filter types, one per osc as well as amplifier section. Sound a bit complex? It is. And if you don't want to deal with that but want outstanding sound quality the SH201 is, as far as I'm concerned, the king of warm VA synth sounds. There's the Novation gear, but it's neither easier to use than the SH201, nor better sounding or substantially fuller featured. It does sound good, but it has less capability and much less fun factor than the SH201. Feature: Remember; this IS a simple synth! Two oscillators capable of synching. Actual sliders for amp, filter and pitch envelopes! Sliders are very nice controllers which you'll love when using VST instruments. In fact, the SH201 is a great controller besides a great synth. From the oscillators you see the mix/modulation controllers followed by the filter. There are several filter styles with resonance. They are excellent sounding filters that have very musical frequency points. This goes to the simple amplifier control and finally the effects. The amplifier section has it's ADSR (attack-decay-sustain-release) slider controls below it which is a smart way to design the synth's interface. The only control beyond level in the amp section is the distortion effect. In the effect section there's an on/off switch, filter type which is a rotary control and nicely responsive along with depth and button for choice of reverb or delay. The actual synth interface doesn't have a single menu or LCD - it is a breath of fresh air! No menus, no crazy controls that require months to memorize the name of let alone it's function. I should note I'm a great fan of complex synths but longed for the day I'd find something as simple as my Juno 6, and it's in the form of the SH201, although the SH is more complex than the Juno. The one slightly complex feature is the LFO. You have several waveform choices to make along with a rate button and red blinking LED. There are several destination points for the LFO wave shapes including rates. These are placed below the mix and filter sections and again have the look of a signal flow diagram. It is a great way to learn what a synth does and how the signal flows. the GUI is smartly designed and near impossible not to learn from, in spite of those that hate manuals. I almost forgot, there are internal filters and the ability to modulate through the LFO. So you can put a mp3 or CD player into the SH201 and effect the sound. You can do so in time to your synth patch. You can even set it up so you play the input source like a patch. Watch the demo videos, they show how it works. DJs and progressive players will love this feature. Lastly, the patch structure is set up so you can have a left keyboard assigned patch and a different right sided patch. You can combine them should you choose. Patch memory is 32 factory presets and 32 of your own presets. It isn't as huge as many other devices, but if you need more you should question why. This isn't a preset synth. It's far to simple to worry about losing your sound. Should you it shouldn't take more than a couple minutes to half an hour according to your synth experience. Ease of Use: With the blueprint for basic synthesis printed right in front of you as part of the synth's interface you will learn if you don't already understand programming. If you are accomplished you will freak out at how fast you can get things done. People don't mention this but on complex synths it has been my experience that folks get lost in their cool features and sound creation abilities. I've seen others as well as myself, waste hours noodling on a patch that ends up not working within the song or band! Because there is a fixed amount of things you can do with the SH201 you'll find out what can and can't be done quickly and because time matters, you'll find it is wonderful to be able to edit in real time and saving what you need - if you even bother. Edits can be as simple as changing the filter's resonance to create major new sounds. Using the Alesis ION and less capable to program micron, you can tweak forever and get insanely complex sounds, on the micron you can literally make programs with a drum beat, saved phrase or arpeggiation, synth timbre and 2nd synth timbre that can be phrased in real time. It's powerful, but it is a long learning curve. btw, the ION has 8 note polyphony while the SH201 has 10 notes. You can do on the fly phrase synthesis on it too and all of it is so simple it will scare you, especially since it sounds so damn good. Quality: It feels a bit flimsy, not that the SH201 isn't gigable. I'd use it without worry, but I would be careful. Fit and finish is good although I wish rotary encoders had been used. They are endless and remember where you were on the last edit. Still the feel is good and the faders used for controls are useful and gig-safe. Value: If I had to I'd have paid list as I love how this synth sounds and plays. The pricing isn't especially discounted, but it's not surprising. Roland knows they have a hot product and though there isn't anything remotely new in the SH201 you have to credit Roland for good packaging of older technology, something they seem to have mastered, usually to my distain. In fact, the SH201 is the first Roland product I purchased in a decade. I have no problem with companies making money but Roland recycles gear so quickly it is shameful. That said, I like what they did with the Juno G and "inexpensive" Fantom series, the one without the nice GUI. That said, try a Korg KARMA if you like lots of movement in your sounds. The KARMA is a fully programable section within the original Triton synth engine. It has been on the market for 5 years and other than a $300 drop a couple years ago there's been no publicity stunts or use of the KARMA system other than making it available to all Triton users for $150 via software. Try some of the patches and try the KARMA controls. It will change some opinions on the animated sounds of the Fantom. As for the SH201, it's brilliant! Essentially, it's the V-Synth's Jupiter engine with supersaw oscillator. I'm not completely sure if all the Jupiter features are part of it but the synth really sings, and with the VST interface that's available for PC and MAC you can work in your favorite sequencer and use the USB connector as a audio input and midi input - this is slick and noteworthy as only Roland and Korg really take advantage of making keyboards virtual instruments and the reverse. I still think Roland could have comfortably allowed this synth to sell for $400 - $500, but at it's current price I'm still happy but expect to see it at the $400 price range when they decide to replace the SH or get rid of it from their catalog; which is another reason I don't get Roland gear as much as I used to. Manufacturer Support: I made a pre-sale call and got a great deal of help without having to go through much telephone-bot hell. The Wow Factor: If you like analog-like sound you should have this bad boy in your kit. If you are learning you'll get off to the best possible start with the SH201 and if you are experienced you will appreciate it's fast interface. I hate ads for the most part but Roland is telling the truth here. It is rare for me to agree with commercial synth ad campaigns, but I think this is a really fun, if almost too simple synth. There are features that would have been fun and cost minimal to add. OTOH I love the USB use and two steps backward in sound style, three steps forward on technology. The JP8000 had a lot of the technology as the SH201 but cost $1000 street price. I don't remember it well enough to know if there's a whole lot missing though I do seem to remember more knobs. Then again, the synth had a smaller keyboard. One certain difference; it doesn't do vocoding. Still, you have to love how simple the SH201 is and how fat and good sounding it is. The sound is somewhere around the Juno, JX3P, Jupiter area. If that isn't a good pedigree, and depending on what you want to do, it may not, but this really is a slice of the past and the kind of sound you'll be able to use on many, many projects. Overall: It's not the best thing out there but the SH201 is as good as it gets for a simple synth. Of the similarly priced VAs out there I'd say the more complex, less polyphonic Korg MS2000 is close in purpose and though more complex is a bit more capable. Things against it are 4 note polyphony, a somewhat messy interface and cheesy feel of the knobs. However, it's 3 track sequencer allowed for real time editing and could be arpeggiated at the same time. The MS2000 IS a great synth but is a bit more noisy and kind of dark in an industrial kind of way. It has balls that the SH201 can equal but in terms of the wild and unique the MS2000 has it over the SH201. If you want simple and effective this is your synth. If you need more complexity the MS2000 would be tied with the ION as second choice. In fact I could see a nice and inexpensive system set up on the SH201 with an ION or micron and MS2000BR, the rack unit of the MS2000 synth. If you have $1000 definately consider the Nord Lead 2X. It is deep and will make you have to learn a more difficult synth system, but it's worth it for it's classic sounds you've heard on lots of albums. Even the other synths are more complex, but if that's what you want it's hard to know how you'd react to the SH201. I thought I wanted the MS2000 going into my purchase. I was also considering the Nord as I have great respect for their synths. Ultimately, I chose the SH201 as it reminded me of so many great sounds that were simple and direct, if not visceral. Like every other instrument you think of, all have special features that make them wonderful choices. For me the SH201 was so appealing in it's simplicity - a result of spending too much time using complex VST instruments, I suspect. Playing a reasonably programmable, easy to set up, use and be expressive on synth was just what the doctor ordered. It was a thrilling choice for me, but I loved my Juno 6 which only had one oscillator and a sub. The SH201 has that beat, and I would have gladly paid a bit more for a simpler to use JX3P or JX8P.
Style of Music: Post Rock, Film, Progressive Rock, Krautrock
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This review has been selected by our experts as particularly helpful. Roland SH-201 Synth Customer Review
Sound: sound quality is amazing. despite only 32 presets and 32 user patches, the flexibility of this machine is ridiculous. couldn't ask for anything more. Feature: some very interesting arpegiators, along with the basic ones. for me, the only feature for this that i don't use is the built in recorder. everything else is perfect. Ease of Use: couldn't be easier. my first thought when i saw this was, "where's the screen?" i went ahead and bought this without a clue on how to play or use a synthesizer. this machine taught me everything i know about synthesizers. as far as creating sounds, everything is perfectly mapped out for you right on board. very simple. best synth out there for beginners, in any price range. Quality: overall pretty sturdy. making it a little more heavy duty wouldn't hurt. i constantly play shows with this bad boy, and no problems yet. Value: if i could go back, knowing everything i know now about keyboards and synthesizers, this would still be my number one choice. i bought this for a little under 500 dollars... best spent 500 dollars yet. Manufacturer Support: haven't had to deal with roland yet. right now i can't save any new sounds i make, but my guess is that the save button is just stuck. no big deal to fix. the manual gives a lot of helpful pointers too. The Wow Factor: very impressive layout. keys feel great. my first synth, soon to be paired up with a microKORG. Overall: i plan on using this powerhouse until i can't use it anymore. at that point, i'd get it fixed. if it couldn't be fixed, i'd buy a new one.
Style of Music: hardcore/electronicore, pop, hip hop, techno
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