To coincide with the release of Ultimate FX 3, we caught up with SM producer Richard James to chat about his favourite piece of studio gear.  For someone with an abundance of analogue gems it wasn’t an easy choice.  But after some deliberation he settled on his Roland SH-101 – and here’s why…

SM: Richard, knowing you’ve got a lot of kit, your choice seems like one of the less glamorous options you could have gone for?

The SH-101 was Roland’s last ever monophonic analogue synthesiser, released in 1983. Whilst not as complex as other models of the day, it was far less expensive and was therefore perfectly positioned to give a new, eager generation of users – including myself – a chance to get their hands on a real synthesiser.

But the great thing was that it still had lots of the features from the rest of the SH line: a single oscillator with various mixable waveforms, a sub oscillator, a combined pitch bend and modulation control, a noise generator, sample & hold modulation, an arpeggiator and a 100-step sequencer – so there was plenty to get to grips with!

Whilst it has no MIDI, it’s fairly easy to sync up using the +5v Trigger Input function. This means that with a little setting up, say with a TR707 for MIDI, the it can be run in sync with any sequencer pretty easily.

SH101 with TR707 (1)

SM: What do you love about it?

Aside from the fact that it was my first synth, it’s the distinctive sound of the SH-101 that makes it so appealing. As I mentioned already, it only has one oscillator, but it’s capable of producing a wide range of great tones, sounds and effects by blending the waveforms through that classic Roland filter.  Beyond that, I just find the layout brilliantly simple, intuitive and inspiring.  Even though I’ve had it since it was first released, I can still coax interesting new combinations out of it.

SM: So what do you use it for?

For me, it excels at both deep and tight bass sounds, thanks to its distinctive Pulse Width Modulation which instantly says “Roland synth” to me.

it’s also my go-to synth for all manner of crazy effects – risers, whooshes, lasers and even quirky percussion – especially when using the noise oscillator with the snappy envelope. I actually like the fact the the envelope is shared between the amplifier stage and the modulation section.

SH101 with TR707 (2)

SM: Which sample packs have you used the SH-101 to create?

It was the central focus of my first ever SM pack, SH-101 Acid Lines.  It’s a pack loaded with evolving leads and bass which utilise the onboard sequencer and glide functions – in combination they’re great for creating that classic resonant filtered acid, house and techno sound.

Most recently, I used it extensively in the brand-new Ultimate FX 3 pack.  I used a bunch of different analogue synths on that one but virtually all the single shot effects in there are processed SH-101 sounds, which I hope shows just how versatile it is.  The FX builds and falls are also largely SH-101 sounds, where I was manually changing the LFO speed, modulation depth and filter cutoff whilst recording.

You can check out more of Richard’s packs in the Sample Magic store.