Fun with the Roland Sh-01 Gaia

Roland SH-01 Gaia Synthesizer
Roland SH-01 Gaia Synthesizer

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.

PROS:

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.

CONS:

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.

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9 thoughts on “Fun with the Roland Sh-01 Gaia

  1. Some tidbits about the Roland SH-01 Gaia that I heard.

    The Roland SH-01 Gaia has 2 LFOs per tone. You can set different parameters for the mod stick/wheel LFO for each tone. That’s a total of 6 LFOs per voice!

    Set the flanger to the following settings for a nice chorus effect:
    Feedback = 0
    Depth = 2:15
    Rate = 9:45

    The pitch shifter has several “chorus modes”. If you detune just around the zero value, you will have 2-3 different chorus effects.

  2. scotty

    Konnichi-wa!

    Great review. I love mine as well. Lots of flexibility and layering options. The fact that it has 3 osc choices per osc type helps a lot. The “green” saw wave is very fat like an SH101.

  3. Gregg

    Thanks for the info. The Gaia is synth #14 in my setup.I just sold a Korg MS20 I’ve had for 30 years,and bought the Gaia, and boy am I glad I did. This is the synth I wish I had in 1979. I’ve programmed and stored more sounds on this synth than I ever have before. In the six weeks I’ve had this thing I have all the parameters down, and have used it on numerous recordings ( it blends well with my other synths) that have received positive comments.

  4. Jared

    Hello Jim. Love the blog.

    I just picked up a used Gaia for $420 over the weekend. I’m really enjoying it as it’s causing me to pay more attention to subtractive synth basics.

    Some things I’ve briefly learned:

    Keyboard velocity is set to a fixed value out of the box. Shift+ key hold unlit = real velocity. (Lit = fixed velocity)
    Shift+cutoff or Shift+Level will affect filter and amp velocity sensitivity.

    Shift+detune will pan the oscillator in the stereo field.

    Only rechargeable NiMH batteries are recommended, but the Gaia cannot recharge batteries. Alkalines or Zinc batteries are expressly not recommended in the manual.

    Osc sync mode appears to use osc1 to modulate osc2, which is opposite of the silkscreen graphic. Sync mode disables the use of PW waveforms or PWM (I guess the sync mod replaces this). And of course the synth becomes mono only. Does the SH-201 behave in the same manner when using sync?

    I wish I could find a table that describes all 64 arp patterns and their locations, as well as a table that only describes the functions of the shift key. Why Roland only labeled 3 alternate shift functions in the silk screen is beyond me.

  5. Did anyone buy their Roland SH-01 Gaia from Sweetwater? I’d love to buy the Sweetwater Gaia bonus patches from anyone who is willing to take them out and sell them to me. I’m more than happy to pay a fair amount for these. Please send me an email and we can discuss price. Thanks!!!

    Here’s a demo of the Sweetwater Gaia bonus patches. They sound very good.

  6. Looks like the Sweetwater Patches are now for sale on their website. The Sweetwater-exclusive Roland GAIA SH-01 Patch Bank with 64 Patches on a 2GB Thumb Drive with QuickStarts, Tips, and a Demo Video

    http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/SH01patches/

    No matter where you purchased your GAIA SH-01 synth, you can tap into this exclusive 64-patch sound bank crafted by our in-house Sound Design Team, led by Daniel Fisher. Go on and explore 64 expertly crafted sounds that cover everything from synth essentials to iconic sounds you’ve heard on your favorite albums. We include the patches on a 2GB high-speed thumb drive and toss in five pages of QuickStarts, tips, and patch lists for the Sweetwater Bank as well as the Factory Bank. You even get a letter explaining how to get 64 more “Fisher Bank” sounds from the Roland website. Just for fun, we’ve included our hit YouTube video, so you can get your ears on the full sonic potential of these patches.

    Here’s what’s included, in list form:

    * 2GB high-speed thumb drive with our 64 exclusive GAIA patches
    * QuickStarts, Tips, and Patch Lists for our bank and the Factory Bank
    * A letter explaining how to get 64 more “Fisher Bank” sounds from Roland
    * An instruction sheet showing you how to combine the banks to instantly access 192 unique patches (64 Factory, 64 Fisher, 64 Sweetwater Bank)
    * A movie on the thumb drive with a demo of many of the patches

    Here are the Sweetwater-exclusive GAIA patches:

    * A1 – Darkside (play Phrase Recording #1)
    * A2 – Baba O’ (play Phrase Recording #2)
    * A3 – Fooled Again (play Phrase Recording #3)
    * A4 – Fly Like An
    * A5 – Karn Evil
    * A6 – Lucky Man
    * A7 – Foolin’ Yourself
    * A8 – Frankenstein

    * B1 – B3
    * B2 – B3 w/ Perc
    * B3 – 16′ + 1′
    * B4 – House Rising Sun
    * B5 – Olde English Pipes
    * B6 – Bright Church
    * B7 – Pipe Org Flute
    * B8 – Pipe Org Coronet

    * C1 – Blues Harmonica
    * C2 – Jazz Guitar
    * C3 – Pedal Steel Guitar
    * C4 – Lead Guitar
    * C5 – Lead Guitar w/ 5th Harmonic
    * C6 – Analog Strings
    * C7 – Brilliant Pad
    * C8 – Talk 2 D Beam

    * D1 – Industrial Startup
    * D2 – Throat Bass
    * D3 – Super Phase
    * D4 – Cold Mountain
    * D5 – Super Soft Saw
    * D6 – Long Opening
    * D7 – Wind & Rez Chimes
    * D8 – Soft Anger

    * E1 – Dream Sequencer
    * E2 – Superior Sync
    * E3 – Fuzzy OSCs
    * E4 – Stomp Bass
    * E5 – Time Machine
    * E6 – Hi Pass Pad
    * E7 – Sinister Bass
    * E8 – Moogy Drops

    * F1 – Don’t Stand So
    * F2 – Your Destiny
    * F3 – Polyphonic Osc Sync!
    * F4 – Driving Force
    * F5 – Cacophony
    * F6 – Rhythm Quirks
    * F7 – Bit Crashers
    * F8 – I’m Peaking

    * G1 – Fighter Planes
    * G2 – Alien Song
    * G3 – Power Sync Lead
    * G4 – Welcome 2 Machine
    * G5 – Octivity
    * G6 – Majestic Sweep
    * G7 – Pulsing Pulse Waves
    * G8 – Air Burst Arps

    * H1 – Pshew Saw
    * H2 – Holding Theme
    * H3 – Synth Toy
    * H4 – Machine Awakening
    * H5 – Sprinkly Porta Pad
    * H6 – Big Ana Bass
    * H7 – Ripping Bass
    * H8 – Hidden Dirge

    Make the most of your Roland GAIA SH-01 with this Sweetwater-exclusive patch bank!

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