Many of Roland’s recent instruments, which aren’t just reissues of classic devices, take an “everything and the sink” approach. Sampling and drum synthesis? Why not. Presets Numbering in the Thousands – Plural? Naturally! A dedicated vocal effects section and phantom power to power a condenser mic? Would be stupid not to do that. The SH-4d follows the same basic formula, it has basically all the features you could want and few would ask who would want them, but it packs it into a box dedicated to synthesis and sound design (mostly) concentrated.
However, unlike most of Roland’s newer plans, the SH-4d has many handy controls. There’s a full two-octave keyboard, 16-step sequencer keys, four faders, and 32 knobs. It even has motion controls for some reason – you can actually lift and tilt the synth to change parameters. I’m not sure what the appeal of this is, but you know what, I’m just happy to see Roland adding controls instead of taking more back.
Under the hood is a robust sound engine with 11 oscillator types ranging from emulations of classic Juno-106 and SH-101 analog sounds to metallic FM tones, PCM samples and 31 different wavetables. There’s a multi-mode filter, amp envelope and LFO, and a multi-effects engine with 93 different options, including nine reverb types and five choruses. The 128 x 64 LED screen isn’t the sharpest, but it’s definitely an improvement over the somewhat archaic-looking displays on the Verselab and TR-6S
Based on the demo clips, it appears the instrument borrows heavily from Roland’s legacy as a cornerstone of techno, house, and other electronic dance music. But it will likely be versatile enough to work for other genres as well. As long as you pair it with other instruments.
But the SH-4d doesn’t stop at sound design. There’s also a five-track, 64-step polyphonic sequencer with motion recording and three different playback modes. The first four tracks can control any of the 11 oscillator models. The fifth is a dedicated rhythm track that can play a selection of 439 different samples and virtual analog waves.
The sequencer and rhythm section turn the SH-4d into more of a groovebox than a synthesizer, which has been Roland’s specialty in recent years. But its user interface definitely screams synth, which is a welcome change from the menu-divey affairs the company has been pumping out of late.
At nearly four pounds and over a foot wide, not to mention nearly eight inches deep, the SH-4d isn’t super portable, but it can still run on four AA batteries. You can also power it with a standard USB-C charger like you might use for your phone, which is nice. Plus, at least you know it won’t take up too much desk space. The Roland SH-4d will arrive sometime in March for $650.
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