Softube Model 82: What is it?
When it comes to classic synthesisers, we are pretty au fait with the usual strong contenders, but what makes the original Roland SH-101 so interesting, is that it was never really a classic of its time, being a cheap and cheerful substitute for the more expensive machines.
Thankfully, time has been exceptionally kind to the humble 101, being quickly scooped up as a bargain-basement secondhand purchase, back in the late 80s, before becoming a firm staple in production sound, throughout the 90s and beyond.
Softube’s reworking of the 101 ignites a smile upon loading; admittedly, it doesn’t look as stoney-grey as the original we have nestling in the corner of our studio at CM towers, but you can switch colour schemes to red or blue, if desired. (Contrary to the urban myth, the red ones were never better for basses!)
The architecture is faithful, with source faders for square/pulse, saw, sub-oscillator and white noise. This feeds the frenzied 24dB filter, which also provides the modulation features associated with the 101, and its ability to sound similar, in some respects, to the equally legendary TB-303. There’s only a single ADSR envelope, like the original, but it’s that common simplicity that provides much of the 101’s character.
Softube Model 82: Performance and verdict
Sonically, the similarities to our original are pretty exacting. While 101s could provide ample amounts of bottom end to work with, they were never overblown in the lower echelons without equalisation.
This is where Softube has taken a degree of artistic license, by providing a more substantial foundation to the overall sound. Purists might feel the need to roll this off, but in reality, unless you are fortunate enough to have an original machine side by side with the software, you will simply never know, particularly because the rest of the package is so impressive.
The heart and soul of the Model 82 remains intact, even down to the inclusion of an onboard sequencer and arpeggiator. Why would you need these if you are working in a DAW, you might ask? The original sequencer allowed certain notable programming eccentricities, such as the ability to use the Random LFO, to the filter cutoff, in exact tempo with the sequencer. This was entirely due to the fact that the LFO clock-rate fader doubled as the tempo control for the sequencer.
Either way, Softube has made some exceptionally useful additions and features, beyond the original basics. The output section benefits from an overdrive, which nicely saturates the upper harmonic content, while a doubling feature creates a wonderfully textured stereo effect, mirroring the patch in both left and right channels. Velocity and aftertouch control can also be added, through the use of a bank of faders, allowing these elements to be dialled in gradually and sympathetically.
The sequencer employed on the SH-101, quickly became something of a hit, thanks to its incredibly easy operation. The basic concept was always to hit the Load button, enter any notes that you would like to play on loop, including rests, and induce immediate performance upon the pressing of the Play button. For some wonderful reason, only known to Roland, the sequencer only had capacity for 127 notes!
Softube doesn’t provide information on the sequencer’s upper note limit, but we would guess that it extends far further, while also providing the ease and ability to not only sync to your DAW, but choose a corresponding note value for the steps you have entered. This provides an incredible level of immediacy, which was one of the things we loved about the original.
Moreover, just like the original, you can press the Transpose button on the 101, and move your sequencer pattern around the keyboard, with a single note press. Just add 808 or 909 for instant nostalgia.
Back on the Block
The 101 was always a punchy workhorse, highly adaptable and usable in many different settings. What we like about the Softube re-write is that the company has given it a degree of production-ready sheen, which means that it just inspires from the moment that you plug it in.
The architecture was always a pleasure to work with, and that carries through to this plugin. It is packed full of factory presets, the vast majority of which show off the newer features, but creating your own sound is so easy to do, we can’t understand why you wouldn’t want to just get creative with it. Our only disappointment is that we can’t put on a guitar strap and jump around the room, while playing a bassline.
MusicRadar verdict: Softube’s production-ready software recreation succeeds in both sound and ease of use. It’s a future classic.
Softube Model 82: Hands-on demos
Softube Model 82: Specifications
- Mac OS X 10.13 up to 12, Intel Core i3 / i5 / i7 / Xeon / Full Apple silicon support (M1 or higher).
- Windows 10 and 11 64-bit, Intel Core i3 / i5 / i7 / Xeon / AMD Quad-Core or newer.
- Screen resolution larger than 1280x800.
- 8 GB RAM or more is recommended, as well as at least 8 GB hard disk space for installation (individual plug-ins take less space, while sample libraries may require additional disk space).
- Softube account.
- iLok account.
- CONTACT: Softube