Roland continue to mine their considerable legacy with another Boutique module, this time based on the simple but much-loved SH-101.
Dumbfounding the critics who questioned their very existence when they were launched, Roland’s Boutique synthesizers have caused quite a stir and sold in significant quantities. I reviewed the first three of these (the JX-03, JU-06 and JP-08) in 2015 and was, to a greater or lesser extent, impressed by all of them. It seems that I wasn’t alone; now that Roland have discontinued them, second-hand prices are around the original recommended retail prices. I then reviewed the VP-03 and, while I found some significant errors in its implementation, liked this too. Most recently, I reviewed the D-05, which I felt was excellent. So I was keen to get my hands on the SH-01A, not least because I like the SH-101 in an ‘ahh, cute!’ sort of way, and have long been a fan of its polyphonic cousin, the Juno 60. Since the new model promises to recreate the monosynth and offers some intriguing possibilities with respect to the polysynth, this looked like it could be another good ’un.
The SH-01A looks like a miniature SH-101 until you place the two next to each other, at which point numerous differences become apparent. Nonetheless, the whole of the SH-101 control panel is present, although with a different layout to fit the rather constrained dimensions of the Boutique format. Of course, the large lettering that says VCO, VCF, and VCA is mere affectation because the SH-01A is digital, but I don’t give a damn what generates the sound as long as it sounds right. Other differences with respect to the SH-101 include the provision of the usual Boutique pitch-bend and modulation ribbons rather than the original’s left/right/push joystick, and the addition of a four-character screen with its associated Menu button and Value knob. But despite all of these changes, the SH-01A looks the part.
The SH-101 was based on a single CEM3340 oscillator, and the SH-01A emulates this with a virtual analogue oscillator that simultaneously produces...
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