Roland SH-09

Updated: 2004-04-05

Here it is - my first true love! ;) This was my first close encounter with a real synthesizer (and no disgusting keyboard) and it was in the middle of the 80's and I cannot say anything else but that I fell in love at first sight and touch.

At that time I didn't understand the difference between analogue and digital, but I easily noticed that it was a big difference in finding good sounds by turning knobs and moving sliders compared to pushing buttons and looking at a stupid LCD. You don't have to be Einstein to figure that one out!

The object of my affection was a Roland SH-09 which my beloved mother borrowed from her work as a high school music teacher. Already at my first encounter this piece was said to be old, unmodern and impractical (because it was monophonic - God forbid!).

Soon after this my mother got a more modern piece of electronics for the educational purposes (this was also a Roland but this time with the name D-50 *yack!*). The little SH-09 was abandoned in a cupboard and doomed to collect dust a few years until it was thrown out in a moment of cleaning paranoia. I wasn't late to save the old faithful worrior that also became one of my my first analogue synths.

Although it is monophonic and only has one oscillator it's one of my favourite synthesizers. The sound is somehow "organic" in character and in "minimoog mode" it's outstanding. Don't know what the "minimoog mode" is? Simply take a patch cord and connect the phones output to the extern signal input on the back of the synth. As you turn up the signal of the external in in the mixer section you get instant feedback mayhem. If that doesn't cut through the mix nothing does! =)

I owned two SH-09's at one point and playing them slightly detuned added thickness to the bass, but I decided to spend the money on a Pro-One instead so I sold the SH-09 to a friend.

The SH-09 is a scaled down SH-2 or even a SH-1 missing a few controls. It's basic and only has one oscillator, filter, LFO and envelope. But here are some cool sonic features under the hood. Many controls is a mirror of the SH-101 but when I stood between the choice of selling this or my blue SH-101 the latter went out the door.

The invertable envelope is cool  and so is the self oscillating filter for nice bell like sounds and it tracks the keyboard and external cv really well too. My SH-09 I've modified to accept filter control from one of my Kenton Pro-4s. It felt almost like a new synth when that mod was made. Inside all things are easily accessed so modifications like this is easily done. Roland always does a good job labelling everything for those who dare to look and work on the inside.

There are out there, but they still attract a lot of buyers so prices are still far from a bargain.

My fellow tech making some adjustments.

Roland SH-09 specifications;

Keyboard  32 keys, 2 octaves
Oscillator 1, switchable between sawtooth, square, pulsewidth, noise
Suboscillator squarewave 1 octave down or square or pulse 2 octave down
Filter Lowpass (24 dB) but quite thin and Roland-typical.
Envelope ADSR
LFO switchable sample & hold, sine, square
Connections line output, phones output, cv in, gate in, cv out, gate out, extern signal in (mine modified with filter cv in).
Housing Plastic and steel.
Dimensions 605 x 305 x 100 mm
Weight 6,1 kg
Released 1980
Quantity produced
approx. 20000 (fair guess?)
Pros Cheap, small, sturdy, good interfacing for such a small machine. 
Cons Only one oscillator, standard wiring.
Price? (bargain,
fair, horrible)
$300, 500, 700

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