The Roland Gaia SH-01 Synthesiser: vintage Sounds with digital versatility
The Roland Gaia SH-01 Synthesiser had some pretty big shoes to fill, when it was announced at the Musikmesse in Frankfurt nearly two years ago. The name Roland is synonymous with the term ‘classic synth’, and the company is responsible for some of history’s most venerated synthesisers. The Roland Jupiter-8 is often referred to as the greatest synthesiser ever made. Add to that list the Juno-106, the TB303, the SH-101 and SH-09, and the weight of contribution to the synthesiser world quickly becomes apparent. Even the SH-201, the Roland Gaia ‘s predecessor, is held by many to be something of a modern classic. So, it’s fair to say that the Roland Gaia SH-01 has a family full of over-achieving siblings, but did it stay and uphold the family reputation, or did it run away to join the priesthood?
Huge Virtual Analogue Sound
Any synthesiser, the Roland Gaia included, will live or die by the quality of its sounds. To make sure any synth lovers are not left feeling short-changed in this respect, Roland saw fit to equip the Gaia with, what are in essence, three separate virtual analogue sound engines. These each feature a single oscillator, and complete signal chain, with filter, two envelopes and LFO. These can be treated as separate entities, or ganged together (to keep the same filter settings, for example) as required. This architecture alone makes the Gaia a massively flexible and powerful synthesiser, when compared to many of its piers. When a synthesiser offers three oscillators, compromises are often made in terms of the instrument’s maximum polyphony. This is not so, in the case of the Roland Gaia SH-01, which offers a generous 64-voices before notes begin to drop out.
The Key question of the Gaia, however, is ‘how does it sound?’ In a word, it sounds huge. From fat, earth shaking Dubstep bass tones, to thick warm pads, to screaming, cutting leads, there is very little beyond the Roland ’s sonic palette. And all of this is delivered via the synthesiser’s huge bank of front panel controller’s, for fun and intuitive sound creation and tweaking.
Whilst offering the sort of sounds you’d expect to hear from a vintage analogue synthesiser, the Roland Gaia offers a plethora of digital connectivity options, making it convenient ‘best of both worlds’ solution. Two USB ports feature, one that allows patches to be saved to USB memory sticks, the other, connection to a computer for MIDI control, or streaming audio data. And, for those who wish to connect the Gaia to other MIDI equipment, a standard MIDI in and out is included.
The Roland Gaia SH-01 is a mini powerhouse of a synthesiser. Lightweight yet astonishingly powerful, it may well be the most ‘fun’ synth you’ll ever play. It can even be battery powered. All of this power and flexibility is available for a current price of just £549. In addition, interest free finance is available on this item (subject to credit check).