Roland’s SH-4d is a unique instrument that packs 50 years of the company’s history into a portable “future retro” synth

Roland has launched one of its more intriguing products in a while: the SH-4d. This “future retro” box of synthesis tricks offers 11 oscillator models, a multi-part sequencer and an interface that’s built for hands-on sound design and experimentation.

Full review

Roland SH-4d

(Image credit: Future)

Read the full Roland SH-4d review
Roland has released a lot of retro-inspired gear in recent years, but this is something truly new and exciting. A real sonic playground.

The SH-4d draws inspiration from the SH-1000, Roland’s very first synthesizer, and the many ‘SH’ instruments that have been released since. The oscillator models cover analogue tone generation (SH-4d, SH-3D, Chord, Ring, and Sync) and up-to-the-minute digital methods (Cross FM, Wavetable, and Drawing), while classic synths from the Roland archives - notably the SH-101 and Juno-106 - are also represented.

For completism, a sample-based PCM model is here, too - as is a drum synth that enables you to create your own kits from scratch.

Controls include 32 knobs, four sliders and a slew of multi-function buttons. The sliders, buttons and LCD screen all automatically reconfigure themselves depending on which mode you’re working in, and there are dedicated Filter, Amp and LFO sections. Modulation is covered off in the Matrix section, which enables you to route the output of the LFO or envelope generator to parameters in an oscillator model.

The SH-4d has a few more playful features, too, such as built-in motion sensors that spring into life when you pick the synth up and physically move it around. The D-Motion mode offers X/Y control over two parameters, and the Visual Arpeggio feature enables you to shape note patterns using interactive displays.

The sequencer, meanwhile, gives you 60 notes of polyphony spread across four synth parts and a customisable rhythm part, and offers motion recording and a range of familiar Roland effects.

You can play the SH-4d via a ‘two-plus’ octave button keyboard, and there’s also MIDI I/O so you can plug in something a little more practical or use the instrument in conjunction with other studio gear.

Oh, and the SH-4d also functions as a USB-C audio/MIDI interface with 12 discrete audio channels. It can be powered via a standard USB-C charger or with AA batteries for up to four hours.

One person who's already enamoured with the SH-4d is Detroit techno legend Carl Craig. "That machine is a little monster," he reports. "So many options to not only shape sound but to shape the musical composition too."

You can find out more about the SH-4d on the Roland website. It'll be available in March priced at $650.

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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