Thursday, September 2, 2010

Roland SH-101 brochure, 1982

Roland SH-101 brochure from 1982.

I know that the first thing I think about when it comes to making music with an SH-101 is hard liquor.

Wait. What?

Most of the Roland 'We Design the Future' brochures that I've come across from around this time period feature a front image that includes a stylish photo of the instrument(s) along with some mood lighting and an accent piece - something like plexi-glass cylinders, gray tiling, or even glass marbles such as can be seen on the cover of the Roland Rhythm Machines brochure (303, 606, 808...) I just blogged about.

But the photographer Roland hired for this photo shoot decided that nothing screams monophonic mini-keytar synth like wood flooring with what looks to be a bottle of J.D. in the background.

I'm not complaining - I'm a big fan of Jack. It's just an interesting choice.

According to the print info on the back page, the brochure came out only a month after the Roland Rhythm Machines brochure (see link above) . And like that brochure, this one also pulls in other Roland gear so the reader can get an idea of all the compatibility options available in Roland's gear-world - in this case some nice clean diagrams (with photos!) of the pre-midi sync options available with the TB-303 and TR-606, as well as cv/gate control options with the CSQ-600/100 and MC-4.

As for the synthesizer itself, it's tough to say whether or not Roland really knew what they were trying to achieve with the SH-101. On the one hand they wanted to shrink the hell of out it. But on the other hand, unlike the 303 and 606 that took shrinkage to a whole new level, Roland also wanted the SH-101 to be a performance machine - one that you could pull over your shoulder, slap on the optional MSG-1 controller, and give your guitarist a run for his money at the front of the stage.

And, in the end, it looks like Roland really pulled off that balancing act well. Julian Colbeck sums in up best in his Keyfax series of books:
"...the SH-101 clearly demonstrates Roland's change of attitude to what it thinks we need in this type of instrument. It's goodbye to all the 50 million routing permutations and modulation applications that were offered on the early SH models and hello simplicity, hello end-product controllers. By end-product controllers, I mean all those things you can do with a basic sound once set up. Not only does the SH-101 have a vastly expanded performance panel, but there's a multi-mode arpeggiator and even a small sequencer."
You just have to look at the excellent reference information included in this brochure to get an idea of what Julian is talking about. Those inside two pages are packed with great info, along with a really really large front panel shot of the SH-101 itself.

Roland was definitely changing things up from it's earlier synthesizers. We're talking a full monophonic synth (plus sub osc), arpeggiator, sequencer, two-and-a-half octave keyboard, great performance control, and a modulation grip/keytar option.

Now, pack all that into nine-pounds of multi-coloured goodness and give it a list price of just under $500 - that's quite the deal.

Compare it to the competition of the time to get a good idea of just what a great job Roland did.

The Moog Liberation (Wikipedia), has a full-size 3.5 octave after-touch keyboard with an internal monophonic synthesizer (and poly organ). But had a list price of $1395 at the time, and has been described by more than a few as bulky and heavy.

Sequential Circuit's Remote Prophet (Vintage Synth Explorer) brought the price point down to just under $900, had a four octave keyboard and was relatively light weight, but only worked with the Prophet.

The Yamaha CS-01 put Roland to shame in the shrinkage department (Vintage Synth Explorer). $295 got you a monophonic synthesizer with breathe-control and a very small, thin, and light weight package. But it's 32 mini-keys probably made it too small for professional multi-octave solo-riffs.

I think if you take the best of each of these machines, you pretty end up with an SH-101.

And I like it.


Anonymous said...

And the Dave Smith Instruments Mopho Keyboard uses the same keys configuration as the SH101.

Computer Controlled said...

A drunk SH-101 on what is one of coolest chairs i've ever seen. Must have one of those!

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