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Rating and Reviews: Roland SH01 GAIA Keyboard

Tweak real knobs and sliders on the three-oscillator Roland GAIA 37-key synthesizer, and build huge virtual-analog sounds for a not-so-huge price.

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Sound
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The Wow Factor
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"Great Hands On VA Synth," submitted June 14, 2011

By a customer from yahoo.com
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Musical Background: Hobbyist
Music Style: House Dance Nu Disco
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Sound: It can sound like a top of the line VA synth with 3 oscs. The sound quality of the units internal modules and FX is top quaility DSP. The sound is very expressive and with a small amount of programming knowledge it can achieve just about any sound im looking for. As far as its pre-FX DSP engine, It kinda sounds like a mix between the V-synth and a JP-8000. Feature: The internal FX processor and the many knobs, sliders and buttons are by far the best features of this synth. This allows any user to quickly explore many potential sound by trial and error in a fraction of the time using an LCD and matrix edit table. I do wish this unit had an Aux in for atleast its FX processor in order to utilize it with other instruments. Ease of Use: By far this synth is the easiest and faster for me to sound design on. No tiny LCD matrix style editing or complex menus with hidden parameters only accessable via software interfacing. Just good ol fashion knob, button, slider for every tweakable parameter fun. Quality: Plastic case with plastic components along with a good looking screen print. Not the best , but byfar not the worst. Value: I beleive this item is fair in pricing and is worth its value compared to other mid range VA synths. Manufacturer Support: I have not needed to contact the manufacturer. The Wow Factor: Honestly, this is perhaps one of the most aesthetic and sexy looking keyboards out there. All those knobs, sliders and LED lite changing buttons really turn heads. Overall: It may be a good 6 - 8 years before I feel the need to replace this unit with different VA. I ended up choosing this product over the Novation Supernova and M-Audio Venom among other mid range VA's based upon its interface. If some novel form of digital sound was developed unlike anything DSP based can deliver, then I will consider seeking that particular product as a replacement or supplement to the GAIA.
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"Incredible Fun And A Must Buy" submitted March 22, 2012

By Paul H in Portland, OR
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Musical Background: Played Guitar for over 30 years. Jam for fun at home
Music Style: any and all
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Overall: Brand new to this. But I'm having so much fun, wow. Truly well worth the money. And zZounds makes it affordable by their 4 payments plan. Being disabled and in a wheelchair does not hinder at all. If I can use this and have way cool fun, so can you. Let the musician in you loose and the adventure begin.
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"Good, not great, real-time control synth." submitted June 19, 2011

By a customer from knight3d.com
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Musical Background: audio engineer and musician
Music Style: mostly electronic (any style).
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Sound: Like other reviews I've read, the presets this ships with are good only as starting points, so don't let those sounds dissuade you. Being able to layer 3 tones can create some massive sounds, and the process is fairly simple and quick. It's a bit lacking in the low end, and - being a VA - the stepping is pretty bad on some knobs. Combine it with some post-fx (either hardware or software), and you can avoid most of the downsides to this board. Feature: Despite there being dozens of knobs, buttons and sliders, nearly everything has a secondary function by holding down a shift key. This expands the abilities of this board significantly, but it means only one of these functions can be accessed at a time. The bank/preset access is, frankly, stupid, and will wear out the buttons very quickly. How hard would it have been to add a three digit patch number display (and allowing far more internal saved patches)? The Arp is not programmable out of the box (although there is a hack out there that allows you to create custom arps, and I highly recommend getting it). USB MIDI and audio sets up flawlessly in Windows 7 64 bit. A software editor would be nice (as of this writing, Roland still has not released it). It's not multitimbral, which is probably the biggest downside. Ease of Use: Ridiculously easy to use, even if you're new to sound design and synthesis. The manual walks you through the process of creating several different types of sounds, and that's really all you need. Quality: It's made of plastic, and weighs under 10lbs. Since the board was designed to be used hands-on, some of these buttons will start to wear out pretty quickly. If you plan on gigging with this, be gentle. Value: In this price range, the obvious competitors are the Novation Ultranova, and the M-Audio Venom. I believe the Roland is the easiest to program, and most fun to use. Whether you prefer the sound of one over the other is entirely subjective. Manufacturer Support: n/a The Wow Factor: This should be not be your only hardware synth, but something that compliments your array. It's capable of creating some unique (or "hey, that sounds like Jarre/Tangerine Dream/etc.") sounds, and manipulating them in real-time is the reason you should be buying this. Overall: I would hope Roland listens to user feedback and makes a sequel to this board. Despite a few missing features, it can truly generate some great sounds. For a few hundred more, you can get a Tetra, but at this price range, only the Novation Ultranova and M-Audio Venom can compete with it. And then it boils down to the sounds you can get out of them. For me, it was the sound, and the real-time control that made me pick this over the others. Not perfect, but damn good.
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"Great Synthesizer!" submitted May 22, 2014

By Josh W in Tempe, AZ
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Musical Background: I've played piano and keyboards for 14 years now and I am working on getting my music out to the public
Music Style: Electronic, Chillstep, Trance
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Overall: As an experienced composer, but beginner to synthesizers, I was looking for a new synthesizer that would give me a good entry into the world of building my own patches without overwhelming me with complexity. Also, being on a budget, I was looking for something that could give me some modern sounds without breaking the bank. The GAIA SH-01 fulfilled all of those needs. The preset sounds gave a good representation of the vast capabilities of this keyboard, but I didn't really see a way to actually incorporate a lot of them into songs. Luckily this keyboard comes equipped with a USB port so in no time I was downloading and playing around with all kinds of different sound packs directly from the Roland website. The best part is, if you can't find a premade patch to fit your needs, you can easily and quickly whip up your own custom sound from scratch. The array of knobs and sliders looked daunting at first but a few YouTube videos later I had a full grasp of each one's function. I get bored of patches easily so the ability to create and work with a virtually infinite number of complex sounds is what really sold this synthesizer to me. I'm very happy with the purchase and would definitely recommend this synthesizer to anyone.
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"I bought one" submitted July 7, 2014

By James E in Hayden, CO
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Musical Background: Hobby
Music Style: Rock
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Overall: The factory programming is inadequate. Once you either download some patches or fix it yourself, you can get it sounding decent. I've played and owned some of the analog synths this tries to recreate - back in the day, so in comparison I'd give the sound a 7 out of 10, and the playability a 6 out of 10.
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"GAIA Synth great for classic rock cover band gigs." submitted April 16, 2014

By John W in Trinity, FL
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Musical Background: Been playing in cover bands professionally for the last 20 years.
Music Style: Melodic rock and new wave primarily from the '80s, Night Ranger, Journey, INXS, The Cars, Loverboy, Foreigner.
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Overall: Everything on it is very old school so you can get a majority of the vintage synth sounds and/or build them easily.
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"An almost perfect synth." submitted September 27, 2010

By a customer from waterdogstudio.com
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Musical Background: Professional Composser & Sound Designer
Music Style: Multiple genres
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Sound: Amazing sounds - really rich and evocative - and so easy and fun to tweak them. Great for leads, basses, pads, all that great analog stuff - but where the Gaia really shines is sound design. I could lose DAYS working with it. Pack a lunch! You'll get lost, and happily so. Feature: The Roland Gaia wins MAJOR points for not making you scroll through menus and squint at a tiny screen in order to make your own sounds, or manipulate existing patches. I LOVE the ability to access parameters with sliders and buttons. As much as I love my MicroKorg, I hate programming it. But I LOVE programming the Gaia. The presets are great starting points, but once you start altering them, you won't be able to stop. I only played it for about 45 minutes in the store, but the only thing I had a little learning curve on were the bank select controls. This was also my first experience with the Roland D-Beam, and it seemed to be assignable to some degree. I couldn't always tell. But it was fun to be able to wave my hand and change the sound. The only drawback - and sadly it's a big one - is that you cannot route external audio through the Gaia's filters. (Even the $60 Korg Monotron allows you to do that!) Instead, Roland has tacked on a 1/8" input jack - and level, mute and "center cancel" controls for it - at the upper right of the main panel. This is so you can play an MP3 player or other external audio source through the outputs - but I repeat, the signal will NOT go through the Gaia's filters. Is this something people were clamoring for in a higher-end synth? I don't get it. And why the center cancel? Isn't that a low-end karaoke feature? I'm also not sure if Tap Tempo is the only way to set the tempo - pretty sure that when the Gaia is locked to a computer via USB you can enter in exact tempos and slave it to a master clock. Still researching that! Honestly, this is the one reason I'm holding off on purchasing a Gaia. Ease of Use: Easy from the get-go, super intuitive interface, controls are all right there. I didn't look at the manual. Quality: As far as I can tell, it's a well-made synth for the money. Value: Add the ability to route audio through the filters (and ditch the 1/8" "pass through" input jack and it's silly controls) and and it would be a solid 10. Manufacturer Support: No idea, I just played it in the store. The Wow Factor: Super sexy. I am trying to find a good reason to buy it. Almost there! Overall: This would be a keeper. But if a similar synth came out that allowed you to route audio through the synth filters I would trade in a heartbeat.
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