Roland SH-101 Synthesizer in Red

Roland SH-101 Red
Roland SH-101 Red

Well, I finally broke down yesterday and bought a used Roland SH-101 in Red from a good friend here in Japan. As many of you know I usually find pretty good deals in Japan on synth hardware and even find free keyboards. This allows me to save up a bit more for synthesizers that are quite a bit harder for me to find or acquire. Such is the case with the Roland SH-101. I paid a fair amount for this Red Roland SH-101 beauty. Actually for a red one I think I got it much less then what they are going for in mint condition so I think overall I did pretty well. I know I will never sell the SH-101 and will likely use it a lot with my other synth gear. I’m looking forward to also connecting it to my Roland SH-1 for some cool layering and to trigger the SH-1 with the SH-101 arp and sequencer via CV. That should be really fun.

Why buy the Roland SH-101? Well for me personally I love synthpop as someone who experienced and grew up listening to it in the 80’s. The basslines, melodies, and other sounds you can get with the Roland SH-101 work very well with synthpop and so I knew I had to have one. I bought the red version simply because that is what my friend was selling and the price was almost the same as what the grey version was selling for so I thought why not get the red. I actually like the red color and it will look nice up against my black Roland SH-1. I also have a Yamaha CS-10 too so it will be interesting to compare the sound. Furthermore, playing the Roland SH-101 along with the Polyphonic Roland Juno-6 and 106 will be a blast too. Creating some synthpop grooves and melodies should be loads of fun.

Another reason why I bought a Roland SH-101 is both my young daughters are getting heavily into synthesizers and synthpop in Japan. Synthpop is actually quite popular in Japan and I feel it will be unique and exciting for my girls to work with older and often easy to use analog synth gear. Note I have taught them well to respect the gear in case those cringe that I’m letting a couple of young kids use an expensive Roland SH-101…laugh. They love the Roland SH-1 because of all the buttons and sliders which allow them to learn and understand how to create the sounds. Synthpop is also rather easy to play for kids compared to classical or jazz keyboard so the kids can get into “band mode” rather quickly. Both my kids are in elementary school so I can only imagine what they’ll be doing once they hit Junior High.

The Roland SH-101 is a fantastic synth and I usually hear nothing but rave reviews about it. Sure the sound and style is not for everyone but I’m glad this Holiday season I’m finally able to pick one up. It’s kind of a dream come true for me. I’m just hoping it all works as advertised when I get the SH-101 early next week.

Here is Trans-X “Living in Video”. Later in the video you can see the Roland SH-101 is used by the lead singer. My daughters and I love this group and listen to their songs in the car all the time here in Japan. 3D Dance is another favorite by Trans-X.

Here’s a good video of the Roland SH-101 in action for those not familiar with it.


Well it seems I was sold a red SH-101 with a dodgy power switch. There is NO WAY the owner would not have known about this so I’m a bit disappointed in them and will not be purchasing from them again. Buyer beware when purchasing from “akahardoff” @ . I purchased an MKS-50 before and that transaction was good so I bought from him again, however, this power switch clearly is having problems. I should be able to fix it, but now I know why it was sold so cheap. There were problems and they weren’t clearly communicated. I’m batting 50/50 with this individual right now so buyer beware with akahardoff in Japan.


14 thoughts on “Roland SH-101 Synthesizer in Red

  1. Well it seems I was sold a red SH-101 with a dodgy power switch. There is NO WAY the owner would not have known about this so I’m a bit disappointed in them and will not be purchasing from them again. Buyer beware when purchasing from “akahardoff” @ . I purchased an MKS-50 before and that transaction was good so I bought from him again, however, this power switch clearly is having problems. I should be able to fix it, but now I know why it was sold so cheap. There were problems and they weren’t clearly communicated. I’m batting 50/50 with this individual right now so buyer beware with akahardoff.

    Now lets, see if we can fix the problem.

    I wrote a question over on the Yahoo Group “Vintagesynthrepair” as follows:

    Hello everyone,

    I recently purchased a red Roland SH-101 and upon receiving it, everything work fantastic. Then after a couple of days with it powered off, I turned it on and instantly it was all over the place with regards to tuning. I read up on the internet that it could be a power switch problem. I massaged the power switch without turning it off and sure enough tuning was being manipulated by the power switch movement.

    As a result I clean the power switch from the outside and then turned it on about 100 times with the power cord detached. This did seem to toughen up the switch a bit and when I moved it, the switch no longer affected the tuning, however, the SH-101 will not pop back into it’s original setting. It’s still out of tune.

    Sooo, does this mean that when the power switch kicks the Roland SH-101 out of tune, that you have to open the unit and make adjustments to re-tune the Sh-101 again? OR, should the SH-101 have kicked back into tune automatically?

    It looks like I’ll have to tune the SH-101 again and this would make sense given the power switch messed things up. If I stabilized the power switch then it should be ok until I order a replacement. Otherwise, I may have a different problem.

    I can’t tell from comments here if the power switch fixes the tuning when working properly or it you have to tune the SH-101 all over again each time the power switch messes with the tuning.

    Thanks for any insight!


  2. Today I just purchased two Roland SH-101 Power Switch Replacement parts from Technology Transplant. They seem to be the only alternative for replacing the faulty power switch on the Roland SH-101.

    John from write a nice note about replacing the power switch from the Vintagesynthrepair Yahoo Group.

    Hi Jim,
    TT is pretty well the only alternative for power switches for the SH101.
    The replacement switch only has 6 pins whereas the original had 8, but don’t panic!
    It will fit perfectly and work fine.
    Almost every SH101 through here has needed a power switch replacement, and yours will never be right until it is replaced.

    Roland SH-101 Power Switch Replacement Part

    Roland SH-101 Switch Replacement Part

  3. The problems on my recently purchased red Roland SH-101 from Matt aka akahardoff on Ebay are mounting. I am getting things fixed fortunately, but all of these issues were never disclosed on the listing nor during our communication. We really have to be careful who we buy from these days on Ebay. Lots of shady sellers out there.

    Here’s an update to the issues on my newly purchases Roland SH-101. ( These problems were not disclosed when I bought the synth. Rather they were hidden. )

    First, I found that I had the classic power switch problem that when gently touched would cause my Sh-101 to lose it’s tuning. I cleaned the power switch and have temporarily fixed it. I bought a replacement though and will be changing that shortly. There is NO WAY this would go unnoticed with the seller. Anyone who buys an SH-101 with a power switch problem basically has been screwed by the seller unless they indicate in the listing. These power switches are extremely sensitive to the touch and will jolt your tuning in a split second multiple times. Be careful and most definitely ask about the power switch BEFORE purchasing.

    Second, I continued to experience fluctuations in tuning and had keys that were stuck at the same pitch. I later found that on the top right hand corner near the tuning area of the top PCB board, I had a missing screw. When I was adjusting VR1 and VR2 I noticed that any slight movement would cause tuning to deteriorate. After inserting a new screw and tightening the boards to the case, I found that my tuning popped back into gear. I was than able to tune accordingly. Again, MISSING SCREWS are very bad for a Roland SH-101. Make sure the Roland SH-101 has ALL screws in and outside the unit. Any movement in the Roland SH-101 may cause problems. In fact, I’m confident with my findings that any movement WILL cause problems in an SH-101 so get those screws!! Again ask the Roland SH-101 seller about the original screws and make sure they are all there.

    It appears these SH-101 synths are VERY fragile and sensitive inside. All screws need to be in place and tight. I had a lot of missing screws when I purchased mine last week which I didn’t know about. I’m finding those missing screws and the “play” among the PCB boards to be quite sensitive to tuning.

    There are some bad Ebay sellers out there trying to get rid of their broken Roland Sh-101 synthesizers. This is ok if they tell you it’s broken, but like in my case they just hid the details and hoped I wouldn’t notice.

    Again I have to warn anyone from purchasing from . This person sold me a lemon so buyer beware!!

    Luckily I am slowly but surely fixing the Roland SH-101 but these problems should have been listed as they were clearly visible on the unit upon inspection. Note that photos would not have detailed the problems.

    Stay tuned for additional updates as I progress with the repairs.

  4. Here is a message I just recently posted at

    I managed to temporarily fix my power switch problem on the Roland SH-101 until
    my replacement arrives. I basically just cleaned it and worked the kinks out by
    turning it on an off quite a few times. Now when I rub it, the tuning doesn’t
    falter. So I think that part is ok for now.

    I then found I continued to have tuning issues which was related to a missing
    screw for one of the PCB boards located over the VR9 tuning knob area. When I
    tapped with a plastic screwdriver on VR1 and/or VR2, the tuning would suddenly
    flip out! I noticed that when moving the entire corner of the PCB board the
    tuning would vary. So I found a screw and tightened up the boards. Amazingly
    this seemed to have stopped my SH-101 from getting out of tune. Wow! Sensitive
    is the SH-101!

    I then found that when tuning the keyboard I was able to get the lower and upper
    octaves in perfect tune using VR7 and VR6. However, I then found that the
    middle 3-4 keys centering around G were slightly sharp. I couldn’t figure out
    how to get them in tune until I started fiddling with VR4. I am not sure if
    that specifically did the trick, but I do know that after adjusting VR4 and then
    VR7/VR6 again, the entire keyboard was back in perfect tune! Awesome.

    So, I’m curious. Does anyone know what VR4 does? Has anyone encountered a
    similar problem with the central keys not being in tune after making the
    adjustments as instructed in the manual? If I encounter the same problem, I’ll
    likely revisit VR4, but I thought I would ask here in case someone might know
    specifically about the problem or what VR4 does. Thanks very much!

    I can now finally start jamming on the SH-101 in a more consistent fashion.
    They sure are fun. Thanks again.

  5. Carl

    Found this randomly when searching for info on SH101 tuning. I recently bought a red (as well) SH101 from Japan (as well) but from a different seller. My synth doesn’t have the power switch issue but it does have what seem to be a much simpler but annoying problem. It is tune with itself from key to key but it when the tuning knob is in the middle it is sharp. And when the tuning knob is all the way to the left it is still slightly sharp. I have never gotten my hands dirty with old analogs so I am a little iffy on trying to fix the tuning. How hard is it to do yourself? The VR4 seems to be key?! Please let me know any insight you may have. I love the synth and am anxious to start recording with it more. Thanks so much for you time (and blog).

    1. Hi Carl! Thanks for the comment and sorry for the late reply. I’m curious how you are doing with your tuning. I’ll check mine and see if I can’t offer some tips. It’s sounding pretty good right now but I know it took me a while to tune it. I’ll update you shortly. – Jim

  6. Stewie

    “Well, I finally broke down yesterday and bought a used Roland SH-101 in Red from a good friend here in Japan.”
    A good friend one minute, a dodgy ebayer the next? Could it be that you was initially embarrassed about having bought the synth on ebay?
    I can honestly say that in my long experience of using ebay for such gear and other things that only a minority will be honest about the items they’re selling, and the penalties to them for not doing so are so minimal that this will never change, and in the case of rare times such as this where such a lot of money is to be had this situation will only get worse.
    Personally would avoid ebay like the plague (which I now do), stick to classified online ads which allow you to go see the items working and aren’t being overpriced to compensate for ebay’s excessive fees. Ebay has become a sweet shop for rich kids with little between their ears.

    1. Hello. Thanks for the comment but you sound a bit bitter if I may say so. I’ve only had one bad transaction although it was slightly an expensive one I admit. ( I’ve since gone on to completely fix my Roland SH-101 so all is now well with the synth. ) All of my other Ebay transactions have been perfect.

      The title of my blog is “Jim Atwood in Japan”. This means I actually live in Japan. There are no classifieds in Japan like Craigslist other than in Tokyo and there is virtually nobody selling on there. There are also no instrument classifieds in the newspaper. Thus for foreign people living in Japan it is most common to use Ebay, Yahoo Auctions, or simply to hit used music stores which I like to do. Embarrassed to use Ebay? No way. I actually really like Ebay and use it all the time. It’s actually a fantastic place to shop if you live in Japan for many reasons. Usually the best Ebay sellers for me are the ones who live in Japan because the shipping is cheap and I can speak to them on the phone. In some cases I can actually visit them. The person I bought the SH-101 from had a good record with me until he sold me a lemon. This was very difficult to forsee. It doesn’t at all mean I won’t use Ebay again. Rather, I just won’t be buying from this particular seller again and will warn people to be careful with this seller.

      Indeed many items are overpriced on Ebay, but quite frankly if I shop carefully and buy only what I really need and can’t find anywhere else, it’s not all that bad.

  7. Very useful!

    Couple of tips with the SH101 sequencer:

    To enter a new sequence (from scratch), there’s no need to clear the memory. If you press load while the sequence is not playing, the previous sequence is automatically cleared.

    To append, press play, then without pressing play again (i.e. without stopping the sequence), press load and the new notes that you enter will be appended to the previous sequence (i.e. the previous sequence will not be cleared).

  8. create1aday

    Hi Jim,
    Just a note in regards to the sh-101 power switch. Any sh-101 that hasn’t had the switch replaced must have it replaced. It is possible in the future that no more replacement switches will be avaliable from technology transplant, but it is still possible to fix the switch by disassembling it and cleaning the connection points where the metal has oxidised (the cause of the problem). Disassembly and reassembly of the switch is fairly difficult and requires a fine hand and concentration but as a last resort is still possible (something to think about 15 years down the track when the same problem will happen again). The only way to avoid the switch problem is to use your synth regularly.

    1. Hello! Thanks for the comment. Shortly after buying the SH-101 I found and bought a couple of replacement switches but have yet to install them. So far the Sh-101 is running pretty well but that’s probably because i have been using it regularly. I still think the Sh-101 feels fragile so I’m a bit reluctant to take it out of the studio. It’s nice to have extra power switches though just in case. I think you are very correct. Thanks!! – Jim

      1. Tony

        Would be interested to know if you do replace the switch Jim, just picked up a second hand 101 so might think about doing it myself if it’s not too tricky. have to fix the dead key that wasn’t mentioned by the seller first 😦 Love the blog though, keep up the good work.

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