MSRP: $799; Roland
Incredibly fun and easy to use, Roland's Gaia SH-01 analog modeling synthesizer has the straight-ahead, old-school "do what works" approach of analog tone shaping with all the modern digital treats. Plug the unit in (or run it on batteries!) and you can dial up synth heaven in pretty short shrift. With its simple-yet-powerful three-tone interface, useful effects bank, mono/poly modes, and intuitive arpeggiator, the Gaia lets you set the controls for the heart of the sun quicker than you can say "Kraftwerk meets MGMT." No extensive editing and scrolling through tiny screens here—just bold, hands-on interaction that has you conjuring up modern or vintage patches in no time at all. There is a lot of depth for the dedicated tweaker here as well, with an impressive 64 notes of polyphony and a handy USB interface on board. Highly recommended as an affordable home studio all-arounder and convenient battery-powered live sonic weapon.