Roland SH-5A Synthesizer

When the Roland SH-5 suitcase synth was launched it was quite a different machine from the standard MiniMoogs, Micromoogs and Arp Odysseys of the days. It owned and used the SH-5 for a long period, and looking back I should never have parted with it.

Expanded feature set

The SH-5 builds on Roland first professional synth, the already well equipped Roland SH-3A, with additional modules thrown in. It can produce sounds that the existing more traditional synths of the time could not.

  • The dual LFO’s and the Sample & Hold modules makes it well suited for more complex synth FX and sound design.
  • The Ext.Input, Band Pass Filter (BPF) section and Ring Modulator extends the potential as effects processor also.
  • The comprehensive Mixer section enables more advanced signal flows
  • And the CV routing system makes it almost semi-modular, with proper CV/Gate control possible from rear jacks.

The synth is built into a flight case that makes it very portable and sturdy, while stile maintaining a slick and professional look. It is rather heavy, though.

The VCO Section


The VCOs offer the standard subtractive waveforms, octave switch, pitch detune and Puse Width (PW) of the square wave.

Each also sports a variable mod input for the input from the modulation bus system. With different modulation source for each VCO this allows for more complex pitch events.

VCO-1 has a Sync switch with option for Weak (Soft) or Strong (Hard) Sync to VCO-2, which provides for additional waveshaping.

You don’t get audio rate Frequency Modulation (FM) on the SH-5, but you may obtain some similar timbres with the Ring Modulator.

The Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) can be controlled by LFO (VCO1) or ADSR (VCO2), adding to the perceived size and width of Pulse wave based sounds.

You can disable keyboard control on VCO-2 which enables you to use this VCO as a drone, while performing with the keyboard on the other VCO. In the mixer the VCOs can be routed to different destinations.