The Roland SH-7 has been the cornerstone of the Rhythmic Robot studio for several years now. We love it for a lot of reasons: the almost modular level of modulation control; the raucous oscillators and slightly insane ‘organ stop’ additive layer; its unpredictable forays into Radiophonics Workshop territory. It’s a little sound sculpting paradise in khaki green and black.
SH Studio is the culmination of a longstanding ambition on our part to transform the SH-7 into a fully polyphonic analogue monster. We dipped our toes in the water with the fun, friendly SH Poly, but this is a whole different beast: powerful, flexible, with almost endless possibilities. It can be as simple as clicking the Glitch button, or as complex as you want: withfour Envelopes, three LFOs, switchable Low-Pass and twin High-Pass filters, Pulse Width Modulation on both main oscillators, and access to forty hand-picked External waveforms (from some pretty cool synths), you can take this machine into any soundspace you want. (And sometimes it’ll take you to places you’ve never even considered…) The core sound of SH Studio comes from the SH-7’s two principle oscillators. VCO-1 and VCO-2A offer up the classic analogue waveforms: Triangle, Ramp, Square and Pulse. You can dial up a pulse width of your choice or put the Pulse wave under the control of an LFO for lovely lush pulse width modulation. The samples for VCO-1 and VCO-2A aren’t just duplicates of each other: we actually bothered to sample the SH-7’s two oscillators separately, because there are some lovely (and very analogue) variations between them which you’d miss otherwise. So simply layering a VCO-1 Ramp with a VCO-2A Ramp already gives you a wonderfully warm, rich sound. Each main oscillator has its own LFOs, which offer waveforms from sine to random, and can be assigned to amplitude or pitch independently; and they can be detuned against each other for subtle or extreme wonkiness. VCO-2A also has a coarse tuning control in addition to its main Range knob, so you can get fifths, fourths and other intervals going.
In addition, there are three further oscillators: VCO-2B gives you five footages of ‘organ stop’ waveforms. On the original SH-7 this is square-wave only, but here we’ve expanded things a little, giving you the choice of Ramp or Sine as well – since the Sine wave doesn’t feature on the two main oscillators, it’s useful to have it here. (This is an analogue sine wave sampled from the Yamaha CS-30.) You can use these to add glimmer, or a sub-bass, or whatever you like. They follow the same envelope contour as VCO-2A, but can be mixed independently. Noise comes in three flavours: White, Pink and (Korg 770) Scale, which has a pitched component and which we really dig. And of course the External wave input allows you, from the second pane, to choose one of forty External sounds, which cover both further useful synth staples (SuperSaw from the Jupiter 6, for example, or wind noise from the SH-2000) and fully-fledged patches, complete with filtersweeps and other goodness. These have their own Envelope Generator and a dedicated High-Pass filter circuit to help them blend seamlessly into whatever you’re dialling up with the main controls. The External waves are an extremely powerful weapon in SH Studio’s arsenal: if you’re reaching for a bass patch, you can bring the Jupiter 6‘s hefty waveforms to bear on it; if you want strings, you can rope in the Logan String Melody II to help you out; if you’re after something swooshy and ethereal, why not add a splash of the Korg Lambda‘s stereo ensemble to the mix? In fact, the external instruments available via the External pane also include the Jennings Univox, Korg 770, Korg PolySix, Roland RS202 and Roland SH2000… all available at the twist of a dial to add their signature sounds to your creation!
Once you’ve got some waves cooking, you can get creative with them: the main Filter circuit offers both 2-pole and 4-pole variations, plus a High Pass dial for thinning out the low end. The filter has its own LFO plus an Envelope Generator. Sweep away!
Round the back are some classic Effects – Reverb, Chorus, Phaser, Delay, Rotary Speaker and an Amp Cab sim, plus extra ‘performance’ modulation controls. These route MIDI Velocity and your keyboard’s Mod Wheel to either or both of Amplitude and Filter Cutoff, which makes it a breeze to dial up sounds that get louder and brighter the harder you play, or which can be solo’d with one hand and swept with the other riding the mod wheel. We’ve put these to good use on some of the factory patches: Mod Wheel Leads do exactly what you’d think, while various brass stabs, keys, synth textures and basses behave in a really dynamic way depending on how hard you thump them!
The Glitch button of course sits proud on the front panel, allowing you with a single mouse-click to generate random but musically-sensible new patches. Working with five oscillators, four envelopes, three LFOs and all the rest, the Glitch really has a lot to dig its teeth into, and turns up both finished sounds and intriguing starting-points with surprising regularity. (We’re hoping one day it will replace Mongo.)
The end result of weeks of sampling and editing, followed by further weeks of programming and refining, SH Studio is designed from the ground up to be – as its subtitle suggests – a Vintage Analogue Synthesis Station: the equivalent in software of a pride-of-place vintage synthesiser CV’d and audio’d up to a studio’s worth of additional gear. Not so much a single synth as a whole roomful, SH Studio has everything you need to be the centrepiece of your virtual music making.
SH Studio ships with a factory sound library of over 150 patches, many of which were designed by our good friend Anatol Locker. You can hear some of Anatol’s tracks here, and if you want to print your own synth, have a look at his day job here.
(All our Kontakt instruments require a full copy of Native Instruments Kontakt v4.2.3 or higher (including all versions of Kontakt 5). Kontakt Player is not supported: instruments will load, but will time out after 15 minutes.