An surprise success in its day, the 101 still has the weight and flexibility to cut through today
Use in music
Released when costly digital workstations were the preferred tool of the day among the big names, the SH-101 didn’t make a big impression on the charts the first time round. It would be secondhand users such as 808 State, whose trio of 101s provided lead lines and bass sequences during the sessions for New Build. Other notable users include The Prodigy, A Guy Called Gerald, and more recently Xeno and Oaklander.
How it works
The SH-101 was Roland’s last classic monosynth, coming to market when polyphony and programmability were all the rage. With a price of £249, this garish, guitar-handled instrument was priced to sell, and sell it did, with a whopping 50,000 units hitting the streets during a production run that spanned from 1982 to 1984.
A surprising hit at a time when digital synths were ‘the next big thing’, the SH-101 packed a ton of power beneath a plastic case that came in a choice of red, grey, or blue. One would have expected a flimsy sound from this single-oscillator synth, yet the SH-101 sounded thick, full and punchy thanks to the inclusion of a sub oscillator. Additionally, though it produced only saw, pulse and noise waveforms; they – along with the aforementioned sub oscillator – were accessed not by a switch, but by a mixer panel that allowed any and all to be mixed into a single, complex waveform.
This composite waveform was plumbed through a squelchy, selfos cillating 24dB resonant filter that could be modulated by a single LFO, the lone ADSR, and the keyboard.
The intuitive built-in sequencer was a gem, allowing users to step-enter notes to be played back at the LFO’s clock rate. Sequences could be transposed from the instrument’s keyboard. Cool.
Great for leads and not bad at sound FX, the SH-101 is most famous as a source for solid bass sounds and engaging sequenced passages.
Get the sound
Today’s would-be 101 user can go directly to the source. Roland themselves offer the SH-101 among their Synth Legends series. There’s also D16 Group’s LuSH-101, Togu Audio Line’s TAL-Bassline-101, or their free version, TAL-Bassline.