Roland SH-201 versus SH-01 Gaia. I own both of these synthesizers and here’s what I think.
First, I bought the Roland SH-201 used for $500 bucks over a year ago, so I definitely got it much cheaper than paying full price for the Roland SH-01 Gaia. Personally, for what you get, I think the price should have been the other way around to a certain degree.
For my purposes, I actually prefer the Roland SH-201 over the SH-01. Here are my reasons.
1. The Roland SH-201 has software that fully supports the creation and catalog of sounds on the computer. The software is really good.
2. Via the software, you can split the keyboard any way you like. This makes it great to play a bass sound on the lower part of the synth, while cranking out a lead solo on top.
3. If you plug in an iPod with backtracks, you can more easily create a sort of one man band using the Sh-201 since you can split the keyboard better.
4. You also can save your own created arpeggios to the user slots on the SH-201. This is what the SH-01 should have had and I’m mystified as to why they dropped it. User arps is a must for me.
5. You get an extra octave over the 37 keys on the GAIA. Yes, it’s longer but the synth is really not that much bigger and the SH-201 is still light weight.
6. If you only use two layers of sounds ( which most people will I’m guessing initially ), then the SH-201 will get you close to the great sound of the Gaia. Sonically, the Gaia is better, but not by a wide margin in my opinion. I also think the SH-201 is a bit grittier which I personally like for Rock oriented synth stuff I sometimes like to play. Some think basses are slightly better sounding on the SH-201 as well, but that is subjective I know.
7. You still get the D-Beam, Ext In, Phrase Recorder, and all the other bells and whistles that the Gaia has with the exception of the effects. Most will probably just plug in an external effects processor to compensate.
8. The Roland SH-201 can be found at blow-out prices if you act quickly. Later on, the demand might hike it up once people realize that “perhaps” it is a nice synthesizer after all.
While I slightly prefer and recommend the SH-201 over the SH-01, the GAIA does have some notable pluses. The sound is better by most accounts, you get the three tone layers and effects palette, plus it definitely is more portable if you need to hike around with it. It’s also arguably better looking. You also get the USB stick connection and it’s new, so support may blossom, although Roland so far has been very weak and slow with marketing this product.
All in all, if I could only choose one synth to buy, it would be the Roland SH-201. There’s just more functionality to it and sonically, not that much off the Gaia so far. Perhaps my view may change later on. Stay tuned..