Roland SH-4d, new desktop multi-timbral Synthesizer with hands-on control

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Roland SH-4d, a new desktop multi-oscillator multi-timbral desktop Synthesizer combining synth and drum parts with hands-on control.

Roland has shaped the Synthesizer history with their iconic analog synthesizers. The SH-101, SH-2, Promars, Juno-60/106, Jupiter-4, 6, 8, or the System 700 modular system. These analog synthesizers have a legendary status for many musicians.

In recent years, however, the analog has been neglected by the Japanese developers. Roland currently focuses on digital concepts such as ACB modeling and ZEN Core. The all-new SH-4d Synthesizer, announced today, is also digital and continues the analog modeling area. Sorry analog friends

Roland SH-4d

Roland SH-4d

The SH-4d is a new desktop multi-timbral Synthesizer. It comprises 5 layers with up to 60-voice polyphony: four synth parts and a customizable rhythm part. The core is digital again. Whether the engine is based on ZEN Core or another engine is not communicated. Roland describes it in glittering marketing sentences:

The SH-4d opens the next chapter in the long-running series, offering Roland’s latest analog modeling advancements and a deep-yet-inviting panel that catalyzes creativity and rewards exploration at every turn.

Excellent marketing, blah blah, but it says very little. Not sure, but I’m assuming it’s ZEN Core. No guarantee!

Update: it’s based on ZEN Core but is not an official ZEN product. It takes bits and bytes of the technology. The concept goes towards SH-32 in new.

Roland SH-4d

11 Synth Models

Let’s start with the synth part consisting of oscillators, filter, envelopes, LFOs, and effects. Very classic subtractive synthesis. The oscillators are exciting here as there are 11 different models, aka algorithms, ranging from analog modeling to modern synthesis concepts.

  • SH-4d – a 4-oscillator algorithm inspired by Roland SH synthesizers from the past.
  • SH-3d – SH-4d algorithm with three oscillators and a second LFO
  • chord uses the SH-4d algo in paraphonic
  • ring – two oscillators shaped by a ring modulator
  • sync – two oscillators + sync
  • cross FM – 2-operator FM synthesis
  • wavetable – 31 wavetables for modern and futuristic sounds
  • drawing allows you draw custom waveshapes
  • SH-101 – emulation of the iconic Roland SH-101
  • Juno-106 – emulation of the iconic Roland Juno-106
  • PCM allows you to mix up to 4 PCM parts choosing from a wide range of sounds

Roland SH-4d Synthesizer

The LCD, sliders, and buttons automatically reconfigure their functions to follow the selected mode, eliminating menu-dive roadblocks that slow the creative flow. That’s very welcome. The concept with the numerous oscillator models is somewhat reminiscent of the Freak concept. Although, here less experimental but more bread and butterish.

Once set, the respective layer/part goes further into a filter, in this case, a multimode ladder filter developed by Roland. It has classic controls including cutoff, resonance, kybd, and drive, as well as a dedicated filter ADSR envelope with full hardware controls.  Also included is an HPF knob which is particularly important in the Juno-106 algorithm.

Beneath the filter, you have an amplifier section with a dedicated ADSR envelope, pan, and level controls. Next, you have a multi-wave LFO. Operation is also very hands-on here. The LFO can be mapped directly to the parameters in the section. There will hopefully be more mapping options deeper in the menu, otherwise, it’s a bit weak.

The engine is rounded off with a multi-effects processor that is very reminiscent of the latest ZEN Core synths. Each part has its own effect giving you in total 5 effects slots with various algorithms. Plus, a master effect that are send effects,  including reverbs, delays, chorus, and more.

Then you have the rhythm part. So basically a drum machine that turns the SH-4d into a portable groovebox Synthesizer. There are 26 assignable instruments from which you can create your layers and kits.

You get over 400 internal waves and PCM sounds to choose from. For each instrument, you also get a dedicated pitch envelope, and you can shape it with filter and amp controls.

Roland SH-4d


You don’t have to connect an external MIDI keyboard to make music with the SH-4d. Roland incorporated a two-plus octave button keyboard in the housing for instant playing.

There is also an onboard multi-type arpeggiator and a powerful sequencer. Each part has its own 64-step polyphonic sequencer with sub-steps, flam, probability, and motion recording.

In addition to the arpeggiator and sequencer, Roland has added motion sensors to the synth. This lets the user pick up the synth and adjust sounds with physical movements. D-Motion mode provides X/Y control for two parameters, while the unique Visual Arpeggio shapes note patterns via fun interactive displays.

According to Roland, the SH-4d runs on a standard USB-C phone charger or AA batteries for up to four hours. On the backside, you get MIDI I/O on standard sockets, an external clock input, a mix in, two 6.3mm outputs (stereo), and a headphone input socket. No individual physical outputs are a pity, but you use the SH-4d as a USB-C audio/MIDI interface with 12 discrete audio channels.

First Impression

At first glance an interesting portable Synthesizer. Yes, it’s probably ZEN core recycling at its best again. Not innovative but pleasing. Mainly because you get a lot of Synthesizer plus a drum machine in a portable desktop device with a lot of hands-on control.

And yes, it sounds great in the first demos. A lot was done right in the development here. I like the implementation here better than that of a Jupiter-X/XM or Juno-X. Easier to use and less menu-intensive.

Roland SH-4d Synthesizer will be available in March 2023 for $649,99/599€.

More information here: Roland 

Available at my partner 


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  1. very versatile sounding little thing. fits with the tr8s me thinks. thx to cuckoo for the gentle soundchecking too^^.

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