A little over a month ago I picked up a brand new Roland SH-01 Gaia Synthesizer at Shimamura Music Store in Nagano City Japan. It was the very first model they received and the owner whom I know well was kind enough to hold it for me. Why did I buy it and what do I think? Here are some initial thoughts.
1. The Sh-01 is compact, lightweight, sleek, and battery powered which means it will be the synth I pack with me to my daughter’s dance and skating events. I can sit on the bleachers and jam away for a couple of hours.
2. You can save all your work on a USB stick plugged into the back of the unit. Data can be transferred to and from the computer. This is great.
3. There are knobs and sliders for everything on this synth. Much like my Juno-6 and Juno-106, I’ll be able to adjust all the needed parameters three fold!
4. The three tone layers are fantastic. I can layer motion sounds over static synth pads and then even have a third layer for additional elements over that. Getting a nice thick and layered sound should be easy.
5. The on board effects are outstanding thus far, especially the Bit Crusher effect which I use quite a bit. There are reports that Chorus is missing, but I should be able to create that by other means.
6. The sound DOES live up to the hype. It’s a great sounding synth which is why I’ll definitely be keeping it despite the many CONS written below.
7. Has an audio Ext In which is great for attaching my iPod with backtracks and audio tutorials.
8. The D-Beam Controller is surprisingly good and usable on the Gaia. I really like it so far, especially when use with effects.
9. Easy to shift the keys down an octave or two, so having only 37 keys is not that bad. The keys are full size and great by the way. You can definitely “run” fast when soloing.
1. The SH-01 is Polyphonic BUT not multitimbral. This sucks in that I really wish I had at least two to split sounds with.
2. There is no way to split the keyboard probably due to point #1 above.
3. You cannot create user arpeggios or save them as there are no user slots.
4. You can create and save real time phrases using the built-in recorder, BUT, once you change the patch, the sound in the phrase changes too. This really sucks because it means you can’t layer a solo over a background patch.
5. USB storage capacity is fixed which means you can’t go any higher than 1GB. This is ok, but you would think it would be possible for more, but nope!
6. Roland still has not released the CB-37SY case for this synth yet. They’re late!! I have one on order at Shimamura but no word yet on it’s release.
7. No software available for the Roland SH-01 Gaia yet. Is there one in the works? Not sure, but I think a librarian will be needed with how easy it is to create new sounds on the Gaia.
8. Some might not like that fact that the board is only 37 keys. See my “Pro” point #9 though.
9. Despite the nice feel and sound, I do think Roland over priced this unit a little bit.
Overall, I am happy I purchased the Roland SH-01 Gaia. It is hard to get one where I live and not many appear to be arriving in stores. I would like to see Roland support it more with software, extra sounds, and perhaps some additional sound creation tutorials. In the end though, I am very happy with the board for the main reason of being able to carry it around and playing it while on the go. Ultimately, the Roland SH-01 Gaia makes for an excellent synth to create new sounds, but also as a lead solo synth on top of your other gear.