Synth Site: Roland: SH-3a: User reviews Add review
Average rating: 4.6 out of 5
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Wes a hobbyist user from California writes:
I had this synth for a year or two, and used it quite a bit. Has a distinctly warm, glowing discrete sound, similar to other of the early Roland SH synths. almost a "yellowed" sound compared to say, a roland juno. The mixable octave sliders w/waveform switches allow you to create somewhat bigger sounds than most other single osc monos which only allow one octave/waveform at a time. Good for big lead sounds. the filter resonance has a very shrill quality, which i sometimes liked. i also got (weirdly enough) a good acoustic bass sound out of it. The lfo options are also rather unique and make for cool sound fx/burbly sounds. I also loved using the pink noise.

But there were things I didn't like. Sometimes it needed time to "warm up" after I turned it on before it made any sound. and although it could do some mellow sounds, i sometimes found it a little too buzzy/shrill for my taste. (By comparison i found an arp axxe from that era much more mellow/dark sounding, and more to my liking. an ms10, on the other hand, could be more cutting/in-you-face sounding than the sh, and also sounded bigger). another big con for me was the bulkiness. the keyboard also needed to be re-bushed, playing the thing felt like punching concrete.

Rating: 4 out of 5 posted Wednesday-Jan-28-2009 at 19:00
Chris a hobbyist user from Canada writes:
The SH-3a schamatics changed a bit over its production years, accounting for some of the "fat/not fat" dispute. My dad's got one, and he's trying to get it fixed but Roland hasn't got a copy of the schematics of this serial number anymore (stupid). It's been in the shop awaiting repairs for 5 months. I've never played/heard it cause it's been broken for longer than I can remember.

Rating: 4 out of 5 posted Saturday-Jan-24-2009 at 08:55
Hajo Liese a hobbyist user from Germany writes:
Hello, the Roland SH3a was my first synth in 1976, I did made some modifications in the LFO area and also I did build an external CV/Gate in / out. I sold it in about 1978, as the sound was not state of the art at the end of the 70th.

In sept. 06 I found exactly my machine for sale. I bought it back for 350 Euro (sold it in 1978 for about 175 Euro). The SH3a was in perfect conditions. I guess nobody did use it in the last 30 years. Everything works as it was new.

Sound: copared with actual machines, it does not sound fat! it has only one OSC with a divider chip for 5 octaves at one time. All this sounds a bit organ like, not fat ! It sound a bit fatter with the chorus (PWM) on the 8 foot sound. But nothing compared with a real 2 OSC. synth.

The sample and hold is great, especially when routed to the filter mod.

At all the OSC are very stable, I did never had any problems. But it is not fat.

I got schematics an owner manuls.

Greating from Germany.


Rating: 3 out of 5 posted Sunday-Feb-04-2007 at 10:11
andrew cunningham a professional user from Austin, Texas USA writes:
I just got an SH-3 off ebay for 300 bucks, and I have to say it is amazing! It was in so-so condition when I got it, but a quick tune up at my local repair shop and it played like new. Its best quality is its ultra-fat bass; I've never heard a synthesized bass sound so warm, fat, and organic. The SH-3 is a really mean piece of kit. The sample and hold on it really makes for some glitchy background noise, or a quick bass line. The white/pink noise coupled with the awesome filter can make some very realistic snare noises, and you can get a pretty good bass and tom out of it too. The LFO on this thing is really flexible for an old organ top synth- you have a lot of modulation possibilities with it. The oscillator section on this synth is really cool. I think it's one oscillator spilt into separate channels with 3 waveforms to chose from on each channel. The ADSR is pretty good and tight. This thing is great for fat mean basses, organs, noise, i got a good violin/cello sound, flute, plucked bass, sub bass, dub, electro, kraftwerk sounds, and theremin sounds. It's not so good for brass, strings, pads, or anything polyphonic (it's monophonic). All in all, it's an amazing synth with basses that sound like my moog, modulation like my MS-20, and looks like a control panel out of the millenium falcon.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Friday-Aug-11-2006 at 11:46
Rick a hobbyist user from Lewisburg, PA writes:
Hi, I got my Sh3a in 1977 as a starving college student and have had it ever since. It's a great little machine you just won't let go. It has an initial learning curve phase. Although it takes a while to set up to get exactly the sound you want, it delivers a great range of variation with exotic flexibility in oscillation, reverb, vibrato, portamento (slide) tones and chorus combinations. But it makes you want more. Yeah, it's limited, but it's not conventional and I really like that. The Sh3a is great for an extra variant monotonic (one note at a time) keyboard, not as a main instrument. It's great as a right hand keyboard with a left hand piano or organ or strings behind it. In this way, I've used it to make up new instrument sounds for multitracking and had a blast. For the more complicated sounds, I would recommend it for studio recording - or for fun, not live performance. Mine still works great after I've had it nearly 30 years! It's definitely a 5/5 for what it is supposed to be.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Sunday-Jan-29-2006 at 21:03
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