Portable Sequencer for Roland SH-01 Gaia

Yamaha QY-10 Portable Sequencer
Yamaha QY-10 Portable Sequencer

Today I picked up an old Yamaha QY-10 sequencer from the local used music shop for $10. The case is an actual VHS case which I thought was pretty cool. I bought the Yamaha QY-10 because it was very small, takes batteries, and was a nice cheap solution use along with the Roland Sh-01 Gaia. I also know Yamaha Sequencers rather well owning an RM1x and RS7000. Actually you can use it with any synth of course, but because the Roland SH-01 is portable, it works best for me with the SH-01. There are probably better solutions, but I thought the Yamaha QY-10 would be fun to try. It’s a pretty old sequencer, but it seems to do patterns and songs pretty well. It’s just something to plug into the Gaia on the road and work with.

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Roland SH-201 versus SH-01 Gaia

Roland SH-201 Synthesizer
Roland SH-201 Synthesizer
Roland SH-01 GAIA Japan
Roland SH-01 GAIA

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..

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.