Surgeon uses the SH-01A in what he calls his 'more abstract' (non-techno) live projects, like Anthony Child live and his part in The Transcendence Orchestra. > Currently this Soma Lyra-8 synth is quite important. [...] I'm using it along with the baby version of the Roland SH-101, which does arpeggiated melodies. Right now the melodies are stored into the sequencer's memory but if I have space I'll take an Arturia KeyStep for playing parts in live. Both the Lyra-8 and the the Roland are fed into this Electro-Harmonix 45000 looper, which takes either four mono or two stereo loops. Given the steady development of these performances, it's quite effective to layer sounds up into the looper and let them slowly decay as you build in new ideas. It's like this constantly evolving story that you get drawn into. [... The looper is] vital, it's the centre of this setup really. Whatever else I was using with it, I've always used this looper. With this one I can clock the arpeggiator of the SH-01A so it seamlessly overlaps. I don't really need it when I play with Paddy and Dan but it's essential when I'm on my own. ['The Art Of Production: Surgeon', Resident Advisor, October 2019](https://www.residentadvisor.net/features/3526) In an accompanying video (0:12) he demonstrates and describes his approach: > It works a lot with the tension and release between the more melodic element, which is the SH-01A [and] the more chaotic and noisy elements of the Lyra-8, which is a synthesizer that I'm a big fan of. [The Art Of Production: Surgeon's abstract live setup](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaeFyRTBXBo)more
It's perhaps something of a reflection on the poor state of internet discourse when Gordon Reid, a man who's been playing synths for 40 years and writing very eloquently about them for almost as long, has to say:
'So here’s the bottom line... I know that I’m going to get torn to shreds by some readers for writing this but, if I overlooked the inevitable aliasing at the highest pitches, I was usually able to make the two synths sound indistinguishable from one another. From the simplest leads and basses, to orchestral sounds, to more complex sounds and effects, the SH-01A handled almost everything that my SH-101 could throw at it.' https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/roland-sh-01a
Now, I may not be as experienced or as distinguished as Mr Reid, but I bought my SH-101 in 1998, so it's fair to say that I know this synth pretty well. And guess what? The boutique version sounds pretty damn close. Maybe lacking a tiny indefinable something in the 'organic warmth' department, perhaps? But part of me thinks that this elusive warmth is actually just caused by ageing resistors and capacitors, and that actually, this is what the SH-101 sounded like in 1982. It certainly sounds a lot better than my old SH-101 currently does, with its 60 Hz hum, hiss, tuning issues, crackling (and sometimes failing altogether) pots, and the boutique's tough metal top panel is obviously in much better nick than the original's cracked, dirty and stained plastic carriage - and broken keys, too! It might cost a small fortune to service and repair.
Furthermore, my SH-101 will never let me program a 16 step pattern with 4 voices of polyphony on every single step, create unison 4-voice patches, or create chords. It'll never produce Juno-like pads which sound gorgeous through delay and reverb when I tweak the PWM.
'But Bro, it's not analogue!'. No, no it isn't. And I'm starting to think I don't care when it sounds as good as this.
Downsides? Well, yes. No keyboard, bring your own. No proper power supply, and the USB power jack input is far from ideal. No CV in, which is a tragic oversight. The sliders are small and fiddly. And I've had preferred real wheels to the ribbon sliders, which don't seem to work all that well,
Maybe the true analogue power of the SH-101 would win in a live situation. But I'm almost certainly never going to take this unit out live, and once it's in your DAW, in a mix, I'd challenge anyone to tell the difference. Honestly.