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Roland SH-201 makeover

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Roland SH-201 makeover

Postby BillB » Fri Apr 30, 2021 11:54 pm

Hi folks

After some time of lusting after a Roland System-8 (I blame Elf) I started to think about, and read about, a synth I had in my ‘to sell’ pile, and realised that the SH-201 is a kind of poor man’s, 16-year-old technology, System-8.

It wouldn’t win in any head-to-head, but it occupies a similar retrospective territory. Nick Magnus’s SOS review https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/roland-sh201

stated

If the SH-201 could be said to have a 'signature' sound, it may be due in part to the 24dB/octave filter, which is similar in character to that of the JP8000. The overall sound is fresh, bright and typically 'Roland' — though that's not to say that it lacks warmth. Back in the analogue era of the 1980s, American synths were commonly considered 'fat', in contrast to their 'thin'-sounding Japanese counterparts. The original (and mighty) Jupiter 8 proved the exception to this rule, and I would venture to say that the SH201 carries on this tradition.

There is more. I won’t quote the whole review, but I would say that, despite its many detractors, and its obvious deficiencies, it can make some very worthwhile noises. Would not want it as my only synth, but as something that brings a specific character to the collection, it can hold its own.

However, two things that I don’t like about it could potentially be fixed with a makeover. The first is its paint job, which was not Roland’s finest hour.

Image

The second is that, despite the hands-on front panel, there are many useful but hidden parameters which need combined button/button or knob/button presses. Many of these could be shown on the front panel, at the expense of losing some graphic simplicity.

Something like this, white on black

Image

but with more detailed info.

I am already working on the artwork, lifted from a PDF manual, with the aim of creating a unique overlay. But it would be shame to spoil it with some dodgy laser printing. So finally the question.

Does anyone know of UK company who could take PDF artwork and print - I presume to thin vinyl with light-tack adhesive back? It would also be helpful if they could laser-cut the cut-outs (buttons, knobs, LEDs), although not essential as I could use a scalpel if needs be. I could just Google of course, but though I would ask here first.
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Re: Roland SH-201 makeover

Postby Martin Walker » Sat May 01, 2021 12:29 am

Hi Bill,

This sounds like a rewarding project!

I can't help with a printer recommendation, but do know of various vendors who do similar products for other synths/keyboards. The best known is probably OVERSYNTH Synth Panel Overlays, but they are based in the US:

https://www.oversynth.com/

You might glean some facts from their page though!

Synthgraphics are however based in the UK, so might provide some info:

http://www.synthgraphics.com/

I also stumbled across this US-based advice that might help (https://www.reddit.com/r/synthesizers/c ... r_overlay/)

"so I just called my local sticker printer and got the following advice:

the design has to be submitted as a pdf

the resolution has to be high enough so that the logos and font appear clearly - so they advice to make it with indesign or illustrator

if you want cutouts you have to submit a 2 layer (page) PDF - one layer with the print and the other layer with the cutouts. these have to be filled in with magenta (100%)

an overlay this size with cutouts will cost me around 60 bucks"

Hope this helps!


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Re: Roland SH-201 makeover

Postby BillB » Sat May 01, 2021 8:42 am

Thank you, Martin, that’s a useful set of links and suggestions. As you say, they will help me to understand the materials and approaches.

Artwork should not be a problem. I am using Affinity Publisher, which has opened and allowed me to edit the panel overlay from an SH-201 service manual - the graphic is much simpler than. I have been testing this and the other graphics titles (Photo, Designer) from UK software house Serif for my business. Very impressed with the quality and pocket money price - highly recommended.

I’ll check out the links. :thumbup:
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Re: Roland SH-201 makeover

Postby BigRedX » Sat May 01, 2021 10:34 am

Before doing any editing to the overlays, check that what you have extracted from the manual is the correct size or at least horizontal and vertical proportions compared to the actual synth. It is not unknown for graphic designers working on manuals to "tweak" the panel graphics slightly to make them slightly clearer when printed or to allow space for annotations.
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Re: Roland SH-201 makeover

Postby BillB » Sat May 01, 2021 10:42 am

Thanks BigRed, good point. I am pretty sure the proportions are correct but the overall size is not. I have enlarged it up to an A1 sheet in the software but will do some test prints to establish the correct size, then resize accordingly.
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Re: Roland SH-201 makeover

Postby BillB » Sat May 01, 2021 12:28 pm

Interesting comment in the http://www.synthgraphics.com/faq.html:

Q: Why are your products so expensive, isn't this just a “sticker”?
A: Our products use the highest quality lexan polycarbonate sheets and printing process available that will last the lifetime of the instrument, unlike a cheap vinyl sticker. We also don't produce these in mass quantities like big manufactures, so our cost per unit is higher.

Also, they will do custom orders - minimum 10-off!

Incidentally, there is no evidence on their website that they are UK-based, everything suggests US. Do you have prior knowledge, Martin?
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Re: Roland SH-201 makeover

Postby BillB » Sat May 01, 2021 12:28 pm

BillB wrote:Interesting comment in the http://www.synthgraphics.com/faq.html:

Q: Why are your products so expensive, isn't this just a “sticker”?
A: Our products use the highest quality lexan polycarbonate sheets and printing process available that will last the lifetime of the instrument, unlike a cheap vinyl sticker. We also don't produce these in mass quantities like big manufactures, so our cost per unit is higher.

So, lexan better than vinyl.

Also, they will do custom orders - minimum 10-off!

Incidentally, there is no evidence on their website that they are UK-based, everything suggests US. Do you have prior knowledge, Martin?
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Re: Roland SH-201 makeover

Postby BigRedX » Sat May 01, 2021 12:35 pm

Unless your test prints are being done on the printer that will ultimately be producing the new panels do not rely on them for accuracy of size.

IME very few consumer printers are accurate enough for this kind of work, and not only does the print out size vary slightly from what has been created in the program but it also varies between different programs. Print something out from Adobe Illustrator and you will need to apply one scaling function. Print the same file out after being imported into Adobe InDesign at 100% and it will require a different scaling function to be the same size at print. Print these files on a different printer and you will need to change the scaling function again. The easiest way to check the (in)accuracy is to create a ruler in the graphic program you are using and print out to then check against a good quality steel rule. Also don't assume that the horizontal and vertical (in)accuracy will be the same.
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Re: Roland SH-201 makeover

Postby BillB » Sat May 01, 2021 12:40 pm

Googling 'print lexan overlays UK' brings up a fair few hits, for example

https://www.ashfieldprinting.co.uk/prod ... ate-labels
http://www.screencraft.co.uk/Polycarbon ... erlays.asp

The latter has a mixer panel as an example, so pretty close.

But these folks use vinyl:
https://heinakroon.net/about-our-overlays/

It has also just occurred to me that I know a sign printer locally, so I should get in touch and pick brains, see if he knows anything about lexan polycarbonate.
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Re: Roland SH-201 makeover

Postby BillB » Sat May 01, 2021 12:48 pm

BigRedX wrote: The easiest way to check the (in)accuracy is to create a ruler in the graphic program you are using and print out to then check against a good quality steel rule. Also don't assume that the horizontal and vertical (in)accuracy will be the same.

Thanks, that is what I was thinking of doing. The overlay is an arbitrary size at present, so I'll have to measure a specific (longest) dimension on the panel, then resize the artwork to that, print and test with a ruler. Fortunately with the SH-201, it is possible to print off in two (left/right) panels so I can print a draft on my A3 laser printer.

But I was assuming that I would need to include a graphic ruler if i was sending it to anyone else to print, so that they could check the dimensions.

Thanks for the warnings - potentially 'many a slip' here.
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Re: Roland SH-201 makeover

Postby BigRedX » Sat May 01, 2021 1:48 pm

If you have created your artwork at the actual size required (obtained by measuring not through print-outs) any professional printer will be able to print them out at the right size so long as you give them the overall width and height of the printed area.

The big problem is always consumer printers are never good enough for jobs like this, where you are going to need to be accurate to at least 1/4mm particularly for the cut outs.

This is why I am always suspicious about the accuracy of panel layouts in a manual, because unless they have been created from the same file that was used to print the actual panel graphics, they will be someone else's interpretation of the measurements and may well have been done to make life easy for the graphic designer producing the manual rather than accurately reflecting the position of every element of the panel itself.
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Re: Roland SH-201 makeover

Postby BillB » Sat May 01, 2021 2:13 pm

Ahh, I see what you mean now. The front panel layout in the manual for the Alesis Micron bears a passing resemblance to the real thing, but you would not want to print it off and try to actually fit it. Actually that is another potential project, as I want to flash the Micron with the Miniak firmware, so that it responds better to the iPad Patchbase editor - which will mean that some of the button functions will be rearranged, thus the need for a new panel! That will be an even longer project, much careful measuring of the synth buttons etc.

In the case of the SH-201, though, it looks like the manual graphics are accurate to the actual panel, but I will be able to test with draft prints before getting anything made.
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Re: Roland SH-201 makeover

Postby The Elf » Sat May 01, 2021 2:24 pm

BillB wrote:After some time of lusting after a Roland System-8 (I blame Elf)
I was an almost innocent bystander... ;)
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Re: Roland SH-201 makeover

Postby BillB » Sat May 01, 2021 2:29 pm

The Elf wrote:
BillB wrote:After some time of lusting after a Roland System-8 (I blame Elf)
I was an almost innocent bystander... ;)

That hardly ever happens :D
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Re: Roland SH-201 makeover

Postby Folderol » Sat May 01, 2021 2:30 pm

BillB wrote:Ahh, I see what you mean now. The front panel layout in the manual for the Alesis Micron bears a passing resemblance to the real thing, but you would not want to print it off and try to actually fit it. Actually that is another potential project, as I want to flash the Micron with the Miniak firmware, so that it responds better to the iPad Patchbase editor - which will mean that some of the button functions will be rearranged, thus the need for a new panel! That will be an even longer project, much careful measuring of the synth buttons etc.

In the case of the SH-201, though, it looks like the manual graphics are accurate to the actual panel, but I will be able to test with draft prints before getting anything made.

It's a bit tedious, but at work when designing panels and sending to have the metalwork done we always did a second copy with just cross-hair centres, letter labels, and a table of dimensions (all references from a single point).
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