Roland GAIA SH-01 Reviews4.6/5.0 based on 20 customer reviews
There are many reasons to love working at Sweetwater, but one of my favorites is being the first to play with and program the coolest musical toys, long before anyone else. So I find it amusing to read people's comments on internet forums that make definitive statements about a product they've never even had their hands on. The SH-01 GAIA Synthesizer is a good example of this. I can assure you that this *is* a virtual analog synthesizer, and that the oscillators waveforms *are* modeled (not sampled). This beast can get as big, and fat, and warm, and snappy as you want to program it. The most important part to understand is that it's not just an ordinary 3-oscillator synth. Most 3-oscillator synths mix down to one signal path and *then* go to a single Filter and Amp. This baby has a separate Filter, Amp, LFO, and 2 Envelopes for each and every Oscillator! Only then does it get mixed down into a powerful effects section. Real-time editing and tweaking is fun because you have a dedicated knob, button, or slider for every parameter. The very clever Tone Select buttons on the left allow you to quickly select which Tones you're tweaking. You can choose to edit any or all of the three Tones at once. By using the Key Hold button, you can play some notes and then let go; now your hands are free to go crazy on the parameters. This is so much more fun than dialing through Edit Menus! You can move multiple sliders/knobs all at once as fast as you want. It's a complete rush to synthesize on-the-fly while the Arpeggiator is going. Within a day or two you'll be making synth-based recordings that are far more interesting than most of the CDs or downloads that are out there. Get a GAIA, grab some sliders and go for it!
Being a hardware synth fan, the GAIA SH-01 synthesizer is definitely on my wish list. This has tons of synthesis possibilities, big sound, and I prefer the dedicated knobs, sliders and buttons. It's immediately a blast to play, inspires the creative side of me, and it's an instrument that gets you lost in the music, not lost in technology. Oh yeah, the fact it's very affordable certainly helps!
The SH Series lineage continues on with the Roland GAIA SH-01. The simplicity of this keyboard mixed with the sound really make this a go-to keyboard for electronic musicians who need massive leads, fat bass, and fresh arpeggios. The lightwieght nature and overall size of the GAIA make it a perfect keyboard for traveling as well. When you get your hands on it you'll immediatley notice that the keyboard exhibits sound similarities to that of the Roland JP-8000, the super synth from the late '90s and early 2000s.
The little Roland GAIA SH-01 keyboard sounds great! If you're looking for really nice fat synth sounds, this is the one for you. Even more impressive is the Sweetwater exclusive patches that'll get you up and running with a great variety of sounds right out of the box.
Wow! What an amazing synth! The first time I used a Roland GAIA SH-O1 was the first time I felt comfortable with subtractive synthesis. It takes all the confusion and guess work out of creating your own sounds and just lets you play! No more random knob turns and praying for a cool effect. The GAIA has every step of the snythesis process clearly displayed on its face. In addition to being easy to use, the GAIA is really a lot of fun! I could play with this synth for hours - and I have! The aux input is a great deal of fun as well. I just plug in my MP3 player and add my own creative genius to my favorite trance tracks. The big bank of presets will give you plenty to do once you've mastered your own creations, and with Sweetwater's exclusive patches authored by Daniel Fisher, you've got a one-of-a-kind snyth. Bottom line: the GAIA is the best digital snyth I've ever used. There's no going back!
from Redding, CA
December 4, 2012Music Background:
Professional - Musician - Composer - Recording Engineer
Roland GAIA SH-01 Subtractive SynthThis is the way a subtractive synth should be, in your face, tactile, instant creation of sound with a tweak. As a true starving artist, going without food in favor of music, this purchase is a 20 year dream. Ever since Roland introduced the JP8000 I have waited until funds were available. Rewarded for my patience the Gaia is like owning 3 JP8000's!!
As a recording engineer starting back in the early 80's, I understand the analog need of the synth musician (live performance). But as a recording artist, the purist analog sound never makes it to the digital track, so why handicap yourself with a mono analog synth? This synth is everything I thought it would be…simple. No menu's, just reach for the control to create the sound in your head. Then once you have produced the sound, reach out and tweak for the joy of it and discover an entirely new sound you weren't thinking of, but now are.
I have owned many synths over the last 30 years, but not one was a joy to this musician. Pages of menus, push, search, find, save, oh crap #$@%#$!!!!! By the time I produced the sound in my head on these menu synths, the freedom to create and compose was gone. I am not able to combine left brain right brain when in a creative spirit. But with this synth, there isn't a technological thought in my head, I use the buttons and sliders just in the same creative way I am playing the keyboard keys.
If you are one who can compose with creative spirit while using a mouse and computer keyboard; typing, using pulldowns, reading tech data, fiddling with tiny knobs and sliders with a mouse….then you don't need this instrument, buy a software synth. For any other musician that would like to make this statement - "I am in a creative zone while composing AND creating sound"…. then sell your menu synth and buy this one, I did and never regretted it.
from Gainesboro, TN
August 7, 2012Music Background:
Classic Rock Musician and Hobbyist
An excellent replacement for older analog synths!As the owner of an ARP Odyssey since 1973, I was looking for a synth that was a bit more up to date while still retaining the analog synth sound and programming feel. Being old school, there are a few nuances that the GAIA has that I’m still trying to get used to but nothing that cannot be worked around. I agree with Bob Manson about the keyboard consistency but that can be overcome by turning the keyboard sensitivity level to zero, which will make the keyboard respond like the synths of old.
Get into the manual editing mode and create a standard synth lead sound, copy it to the second oscillator where you can select it and detune it slightly or tune it an octave above/below the first oscillator. Select both oscillators then use the sliders and controls to put yourself in analog heaven! Everything about the synth will pretty well be old school from that point. It also has some very nice features that old school synths don’t have including the programmable user presets, which I highly recommend being used. Create the sounds you like and save them. No, it’s not cheating; it’s called saving time!
Also, I highly recommend getting the Sweetwater patches by Daniel Fisher. He has done a heck of a job recreating some of the synth sounds of old. Take these sounds, dissect them and you can get a good feel of how to use the features to program the synth.
If you want a true old school synthesizer look and feel, prepare to shell out a couple of grand plus for an old school style synth or for a vintage instrument. Otherwise, the GAIA will be an adequate replacement for a Minimoog or an ARP Odyssey at a fraction of the cost. Also, there is much more programming capabilities there than the average player will probably ever use, including myself!
from Murfreesboro, TN
April 15, 2012Music Background:
Best in it's price rangeI heavily debated between the Gaia and Novation's Ultranova. While both have a great sound, the shear amount of hands-on controls and lack of any screens/menus is what won me over. If you're looking for a synth to create your own sounds on, (you know, what synthesizers like this are meant for in the first place) then this is the best choice in terms of price range. I'm not saying it will compete with the likes of a Virus or Moog, but new-coming synthesists and seasoned synthesists alike will find this to be a great synth.
April 14, 2012Music Background:
Sound Artist, Composer. Experimental Electronic Music
Great synthesizerRoland Gaia is great - all parameters you can control from the front panel. You don't need screen really, because everything is on your hands. The sound is very clear, low boost makes your sound so deep! And nice to use also as midi controller too. It has 2 USB - one for computer connection, other for flash drive for extra space to store more own presets. Very light for traveling.
What the most I like it is really intuitive and "no diving menu". Superb
from klamath falls oregon
April 5, 2012Music Background:
Smokin HotI knew roland made awesome stuff and the roland gaia sh-01 is just that. It is a perfect match to my digital grand. The tones are awesome. And the special patches added by sweetwater are cool. This synth is beyond cool.
from Bedford, TX USA
April 4, 2012Music Background:
Electronic Music Composer and Keyboardist
Best synth under $1000If you are looking for an analog synth for less than $1000, with lots of hands on control, look no further.
It looks and sounds amazing. I only wish the keyboard was larger (only a very minor complaint). The keys are well constructed and very solid feeling for a synth action keyboard. The effect section is comprehensive, and includes several distortion and amp models for a wide variety of sounds. I have been working with electronic music now for about 15 years, and this is one of the most effective tools that I have to work with. I am able to create suitable copies of the synth sounds from my older material with relative ease.
The key benefit of this synth is the hands on control. There are many synths in the price range that are comparable or even better sounding than this (such as the Alesis Micron), but none that match the level of instant control that this one does. There are no screens and no menus. None of that "select this button and then you can move this knob for cutoff and then you have to select this button to access the other knobs" you see in so many other synths in this price range. You can access some deeper options by hitting combinations of buttons, but pretty much everything you need is clearly labeled, and the most you usually need to press is the shift key. In any case, it's very easy to work with.
I have played this keyboard at live shows on a number of occasions, and it worked great. The key quality makes this a joy to play. Sometimes I will need to come up with a preset on the fly, and in about 2 minutes I can get any sound that I need.
from Staten Island, New York
March 26, 2012Music Background:
DONT SLEEP!!!!!!Man this little synth adds flavor on he fly once u get to know where the sounds in the banks are!!!!! man i used it in church and the crispness of the sounds and the additional organ sounds have my church and gigs bouncing. The price is right and the little synth is dynamite!!!!!!! did i forget no taxes and i live in the big apple!!!!!!!
from Bakeersfield,CA USA
October 20, 2011Music Background:
The GAIA SH-01This is one of the best synthesizers out that you can get for the buck.
You can DESIGN a sound pacth and save to a USB memory and more.
Be sure that you get the GAIA SYNTHESIZER SOUND DESIGNER!
from Springfield, Mo
September 9, 2011Music Background:
Been playing since I was 4 1/2 years old, and Im 62 now. Part of my life..
Roland GAIA SH-01 is GreatI purchased the Roland GAIA SH-01 a few months ago. It is a very programable Synth. I have several 2Gb USB memory sticks to expand the sound and I just ordered the software for it. I will get to see every parameter to change and make my own sounds easier than without the software. I also bought a case that is for the GAIA exclusevly. Its a great synth and if you want some beautiful analog type sounds this one is hard to beat. Has a very nice Arpeggiator built in also. I really like having it with my Keyboard setup. Play one and Im sure you will like it.
from Raleigh, NC USA
March 11, 2011Music Background:
Canterbury Scene style synthesist
Inexpensive Synth, Serious InstrumentI just put together a drone patch last night on the GAIA: one sawtooth oscillator with very slow LFO modulating filter cutoff, second square wave oscillator with not-quite-so-slow LFO modulating pulse width, each oscillator running separate filter cutoff and resonance. The interaction between the different modulations and LFO rates keeps the sound in motion and alive, and you can further evolve the sound during performance by sweeping the resonance of the first of those filters by hand to suit the music.
That's the GAIA in a nutshell: before the the GAIA, you'd need a $4000 modular synth to do this. No, it's not a full modular, but with three full signal paths opening up the possibilities, you might just find you don't need a modular after all.
There are still things I can do on my Minimoog that I can't do on the GAIA, but at the GAIA's price I can afford to have both. The GAIA is blissfully free of menu-diving, but it still isn't quite as amenable to real-time playing the panel as a true analog -- although vastly superior to the recent trend of handful-of-assignable-knob synths.
There are a few things I'd like to change if I was designing a mark 2 version, but they're mostly nitpicks about the button interface that familiarity is already pushing into insignificance. My biggest gripe is that the output level seems low -- I have to turn the gain way up on my mixer to balance it with my Minimoog and Korg Z1 and still have the output knob on the GAIA in a usable range. But that's something I can live with. I'm also accustomed to a mod wheel that you can leave in position rather than the spring-loaded lever, but with Key Hold and a playable front panel I can live with that too.
I haven't tried the computer software interface. I'm a hands-on analog synth kind of guy, and the patches I've done on the GAIA have been put together entirely from the front panel controls. Just the fact that you can do that says a lot about this synth.
Likewise, presets aren't why I bought this synth, but I'll mention them anyway. Roland's presets are a total waste of patch memory, uniformly awful. On the other hand, the Sweetwater bonus patches that Daniel Fisher put together contain some excellent party tricks and some very good illustrations of the capabilities of the GAIA. Among them is the first of any preset synth patches I've ever been happy with straight up without modifying, a truly brilliant analog string machine patch. Even if you never/rarely use shipped presets, like me, I'd call the Sweetwater patch pack an essential accessory.
And it sounds great. I'm making some excellent sounds with it, it's complementing my other synths extremely well, and expanding what I can do with music. I expected good. This is better.
To be honest, I'm seriously thinking that a year or two down the road I might just add a second one of these to my rig as well. You can't get a higher compliment than that.
from Portland, OR USA
September 28, 2010Music Background:
Composer, Sound Designer, Mad Scientist
A beautiful thingOK - let's get this out of the way first - I want it in my studio. The Gaia brings me back to my first analog synthesizer, and the joy of running faders and hearing the results.
Don't get me wrong, I love my software synths, and I love my MicroKorg - but it's so satisfying to be able to PLAY a synthesizer again, without clicking through menus or paging through cryptic displays on tiny screens. Yep - no numeric display, no screen. Just knobs, buttons and sliders. Joy!
This thing is a monster - great sound, intuitive interface, tons of features. I did cut my teeth on analog, but this thing sounds great to me. I played one for about an hour in a local store, without looking at a manual, and got into it right away - the time flew by. I feel that it would be equally great for sound design, on-the-fly sonic improvisation, live work, and studio sessions.
Keys felt solid, all controls too. I loved the D-Beam and the combination Modulation/Pich control - although I would have loved to be able to assign the Mod function to different parameters. (Maybe you can, and I just couldn't figure it out in my limited time on the synth.)
It was REALLY hard to walk away without one.
My only disappointment was the omission of an external audio input. I know, I know - it has an 1/8" input at the top right, but was anyone really clamoring to have the ability to "jam along" with an MP3 player? Aside from some karaoke-style cancellation controls, the external sound input is (as far as I could tell) unaffected by the Gaia. I would MUCH prefer to have the ability to route an external audio source through the Gaia's filters. The karaoke style input feature seems out of place on this otherwise pro-level synth.
All that said - I still want a Gaia. It's a pretty amazing insturment.
from Concord, CA
July 24, 2012Music Background:
Good, but could be betttterI've owned mine for + years now, and yet I hadn't played with it very uch until the last -3 months.
My one complaint is that the keyboard isn't consistent. I find that sometimes a small movement results in a note being played, but other notes require the key to strike bottom before they'll sound.
I admit that the whole architecture is a litttle screwy (threee synths playing one note) but that just adds a bit of challenge. The keyboard issuw is almost disastrous.
I also dislike the fact that a separate program is really needed to do any serious patch programming. It's that "three synthesizers in one" thing again. You get used to the architecture but I keep wishing for motorized knobs and sliders...
Given the battery support it's a fun gadget to take along with a mobile cube and just play... but it'll never be a JP-8000.
ron poole AKA atomic rooster
from Lexington Ohio
March 7, 2012Music Background:
part time fool and music nut musician, hobbyist
Sweet&FAT!!I bought this little jewel when it first came out,,,,and have been delighted with its sound and performance. It can't be beat for the money. And would buy another one if the need arises. My sales engineer; Greg Baum, has always been varey helpful in guideing me in makeing the right buy, Sweetwater is outstanding! I am a long term customer and have been loyal for aprox 10 years they always treat you with respect and care. Best of wishes thanx
from Indianapolis, Indiana
September 28, 2011Music Background:
Great looking and Great Sounding!This synth is great! So much fun to play. Love that they chose white for the synth . This synth really stands out.. Easy to create new sounds also. Wish there was an expresson pedal option and maybe a small screen too. Other than that this thing is really cool.
from westmont, il usa
August 29, 2011Music Background:
Great QualityI love it and have no complaints as of yet. Makes beautiful sounds and is easy to manipulate for my own preferences. All around great quality!
from Acton, MA
January 8, 2011Music Background:
Obsessive hobbyist =
FinallyIf only it had aftertouch - but the D-beam makes up for it. This is a beautiful synthesizer, so easy to use, no LCD menu diving, just hands on fun, fun, fun. Finally I have a nice machine to really teach my six year old son all about synthesis. You can't beat the price. Thank you Sweetwater for always being there, and I mean ALWAYS being there, since I bought my original Kurzweil K2000.
February 28, 2013Music Background:
Amazing synth!It is so great to have all functions in front of you! I bought this baby and since then I am so in love with it!
But I don't understand why Roland didn't made the keyboard with after touch.
Because I am a beginner in sound designing and I didn't liked the factory presets too much I recently bought some Alba Ecstasy patches (which are very good) and now my Gaia is more amazing!
Would be more great to can access multiple banks from one memory stick (the software interface is to expensive).
from Spring Arbor, MI USA
June 27, 2012Music Background:
It'll Do Quite Nicely, Thank You ...Having taken a while to warm up to this one, I must say now that I've got it at home, I'm quite impressed with its capabilities. The layout reminds me of my (sadly, long-gone) Jupiter 6 (sliders) and the sound fits nicely in the mix. Get past the presets and tweak your own; use Daniel Fisher's excellent soundset as examples and dig in deep and you'll find yourself grinning from ear-to-ear in no time. It's really a fun synth!
from San Diego, Ca
May 28, 2011Music Background:
An overall good synth to useThe Gaia is a wonderful way to get the sounds you want and tweak them to your delight. The knobs and sliders give instant access to parameters. There are some hidden parameters which means that you'll have to crack the manual. Old timers will have no problem diggin in to this synth. The sound quality is on par with its price tag. The effects section can provide further tweaking to beef up the overall sound. My only beef with such a visually oriented instrument is the fact that only one sound layer is "visible". Putting a display in the machine would have upped the price. Other features include a USB and MIDI port. Roland supports current products.
February 21, 2011
White Stag of Digital SynthsThis is hands-down, the perfect instrument for a person starting out to really get under the hood and understand what synthesis is all about. The controls are right in front of you, allowing you to design whatever sound you might be looking for. This can be done quickly because there are no obscure menus to dig through. The ease of use is probably what will attract most people to the synth. I've read others describe this as a “my first synth” solution...and really that is what it is. More experienced users will enjoy the ability to have everything at their fingertips again, which is sort of a white stag in the digital age.
The overall construction and appearance is a preference thing. It's designed to look vintage, so that route could be hit or miss for some people. The biggest concern I have with the vintage style design of the synth, is that there is is no display. This means that the patches and banks are selected by buttons, and there is no way to tell what patch you're using unless you have a sheet of paper with it written down. Another problem is that Roland sells the sound designer for an additional $99 ($89 on Sweetwater), which means you'll be spending additional money if you intend on getting any real use out of this with the computer. There are also a few features I would have liked, such as an input to use this as a vocoder, and the addition of aftertouch would be useful. Again those are just preference things...some people will never make use out of a vocoder but at this price range it's normally expected. I also think it's priced pretty high for what you get out of it.
Now, all things considered it is fun to play. It's very easy to make quick changes that I've noticed most of the time I wasn't even using the patch buttons because I could quickly change the sound real time, and morph one sound into another. It's a synth that really grows on you too.
I really can't give it 5 stars because I reserve that for the things that really impress me. I couldn't give it 4 mostly because you have to purchase the sound designing software separate.