Roland’s PLUG-OUT introduces a new way to deliver electronic musical instruments. You get a plug-in you run on your computer, but then the same sound-making code can be loaded onto hardware – the AIRA SYSTEM-1 synth keyboard.

The good news is, the future-y stuff all works perfectly well. As we reported in our initial hands-on, when the installation works, you can use the software alone, the SYSTEM-1 alone, or a combination, which is a nice arrangement.

The bad news is, the old-fashioned “install the plug-in and it works in your DAW” part? Well, for some – not so much.

We’ve assembled as much information we can on what works, what doesn’t work, what Roland says we can expect from them by way of updates, and how to use free tools on OS X and Windows to get your SYSTEM-1 working right away.

The first problem is, the actual plug-in for the SH-101 “PLUG-OUT” has been built for only certain plug-in formats.

OS X: 64-bit Audio Unit, 64-bit VST3 (10.6 not supported)
Windows: 64-bit and 32-bit VST3

64-bit AU is now fairly popular (Apple’s Logic Pro X and GarageBand support it, for instance). But VST3, while released last year, is incompatible with a number of popular hosts (like Ableton Live on Windows, for instance). We’ve also heard from readers with older, 32-bit versions of DAWs running into trouble.

If your DAW doesn’t support these formats, the plug-in simply won’t show up at all – the DAW won’t know it’s there. (We’ve also heard scattered reports where DAWs that should support the above formats can’t see the PLUG-OUT, but I can’t yet confirm those instances. One variable appears to be OS version. So, if you feel like complaining in comments here, just be sure to mention what host you’re using, whether it’s 32-bit or 64-bit, and what version of the OS you’re on.)

Updated: We can verify that the AU plug-in was not built for OS X 10.6.x. VST3 may work on that version, but not AU – even if you have a 64-bit host (like 64-bit Ableton Live). You need a minimum of OS X 10.7. That’s not uncommon for a lot of music software today, however.

What does Roland say?

Brandon Ryan, a spokesperson for Roland US, has been in touch with CDM and with Roland in Japan all week to help us learn more. He tells us:

Roland realizes how important host compatibility is to SYSTEM-1 customers and we intend to support as many hosts as we are reasonably able. While compatibility is currently somewhat restricted (64-bit AU and 32/64-bit VST3) we are now examining options that would expand PLUG-OUT host support. One specific avenue that’s being considered is support for both 32-bit and 64-bit VST 2.4. That could theoretically solve the bulk of remaining compatibility issues. Along with that, we are diligently pursuing sporadic reports of some users having trouble with 64-bit AU in some hosts on some computer configurations. There is no specific time-frame for an SH-101 update yet, but it’s being actively considered at this time. Widespread compatibility and a smooth user experience are priorities to which we are deeply committed.

What can you do to make this work right now?

If you have a compatible host, you should have no problem. Some likely suggestions:

  • Mac/Windows – everything: DDMF wraps any VST/VST3/AU into whatever you need, with loads of bonus features – and for Pro Tools, supports AAX. Would you spend US$49 to solve Roland’s compatibility problems? Probably not. But then, you might find that you want this for other plug-ins, too, and it looks very powerful. (I haven’t tested it, but readers have.)
  • Mac: Logic Pro X (tested by CDM)
  • Mac: Ableton Pro 9 (tested by CDM, though make sure you have a recent OS X version and that you’re using the 64-bit version)
  • Mac/Windows: PreSonus Studio One Producer/Professional – deserves special mention, as this DAW has proven itself to be consistently modern and up-to-date, and we’re hearing from lots of happy readers. (Now I just have to put it on this machine I just got…)
  • Windows: SAVIHost – free VST host on Windows, though untested – would love to hear from readers.
  • Steinberg Cubase / Nuendo (of course, the makers of VST3 support their own format in the latest version)

One reader also reported using the Reaper demo on the Mac for the AU version. (Reaper doesn’t support VST3, or it’d be a great choice for solving this on Windows, too – and you might just keep it around as your DAW; it’s very nice.)

On a Mac with a recent OS, your best bet is actually GarageBand 10, since that’s free. It’s just going to require some extra effort, but once you know what you’re doing, it works easily. (Apple’s developer tool AULab hasn’t been updated for some time and has problems of its own; it doesn’t work here.)

Apple has hidden how to use third-party plug-ins. You should double-check they’re enabled in Preferences > Audio/MIDI / Effects > Audio Units. Then, add a new Software Instrument track, select it, click the Smart Controls button, and then the ‘i’ icon at the bottom. Next to Audio units, there’s a drop-down, from which you can choose Audio Units > Instruments > Roland > SH-101. (It helps while doing this to repeat to yourself that Apple has hidden this stuff because it makes things so much easier for beginning users.)

Video explanation below.*

Just be prepared to authenticate once you see this warning:

Use of the requested audio unit(s) require lowering the security settings for “GarageBand”. Are you sure you want to proceed?

You do want to do this. Trust me, the SH-101 didn’t steal access to my bank account and start buying itself synthesizer friends on eBay.

Once you do this, at least, the solution works perfectly – and it’s free on every new Mac, so at this point, I stop complaining. The SH-101 even maps to some of the Smart Controls in GarageBand and Logic.

Why Roland Should Fix This

The absence of additional plug-in support is puzzling. While the VST2.4 developer tools have been deprecated, the VST3 SDK software Steinberg releases to those making VSTs still supports creating the older format. It’s likewise possible to create 32-bit versions of 64-bit plug-ins. It seems from the absence of these formats – and the warnings when you download the PLUG-OUT about which DAWs have been tested – that Roland simply hadn’t time to test other DAWs. But based on the deluge of feedback we got from readers, what they got instead was a bunch of unhappy SYSTEM-1 owners who couldn’t use the software at all.

Even stranger, Roland failed to release a standalone version. That would mean that SYSTEM-1 owners could install the new plug-in without worrying about starting a DAW at all.

In fact, even before adding more plug-in formats, a standalone version of the PLUG-OUT software seems a must.

Instead, if you install the SYSTEM-1′s 1.10 update, you get support for PLUG-OUT, but the firmware updater doesn’t add the SH-101 model.

Part of why I hope Roland solves this is that the PLUG-OUT functionality works beautifully on the SYSTEM-1 hardware. Once updated, you don’t need the computer, which is part of the appeal.

In the meantime, hopefully the information above does get you SYSTEM-1 owners up and running more quickly. Odds are you can find a compatible host, update, and get playing – and happily close your DAW, your laptop, yes, even CDM.

We’ll let you know when Roland releases additional compatibility, and now, having slightly delayed things while we solved this, will get back to our SYSTEM-1 review (and other reviews and news)!

If I had a Scottish accent and started talking about these things, I would sound like Malcom Tucker, so vendors, be glad I’m instead a mild-mannered Kentuckian.

  • sovskaya

    Trying to use Ableton Live 9 64-bit off Mac OSX 10.6.8 Snow Leopard to plug out the SH-101 AU plug in & stuck @ a stand still…
    Anyone have luck with these versions so far?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Won’t work. Developer looked at that plug-in for me and it wasn’t built for 10.6.

  • PanFried

    Nice effort, Peter. This one is a conundrum. Of course it’s reasonable for Roland to have a cutoff and say something like… this is a new product and it requires Windows 7 32/64 and VST3 or Mavericks or better, 64bit AU only. But doing so is like they pay no attention to what people are actually using. Mac audio guys generally agree that 10.6 was the most stable and best version of OSX for audio (also very popular with the hackintoshers), and of course most people on Windows are still using Windows 7 32bit and VST2 (and definitely there are still lots of people on XP). I guess it depends on what they think is economically viable to support.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Well, 10.7 is now not an uncommon minimum requirement – I’d go as far as to say *most* software now requires 10.7. I don’t agree with the idea that 10.6 was the most stable and best version of OS X for audio, and neither do a lot of developers fairly intimate with the OS. But it is useful on some hardware, and worth targeting if practical.

      What is unusual is not providing 32-bit plug-in support or VST2.4. That’s a whole different story, because many users do run the 32-bit version of their DAW and many more run DAWs that don’t yet support VST3 (even in the latest release).

      I wouldn’t expect a developer other than Steinberg to insist on VST3.

      And then you do need to be clear about what’s supported.

      Also, a standalone version would solve all of this.

      My guess is, anyway, we’ll see an update soon… they’ll get the message. Hopefully this in the meantime helps people find a DAW so they can start using the SH-101.

    • Aaron

      People still using XP are people worth ignoring.

    • http://vrpr.org/ Henry

      Probably a matter of perspective. I do not make music for a living, so I can afford to fiddle with all the latest versions of whatever on my Mac, and I have never had any problems at all with any DAW or AU (not ever used VST since Cubase SX days) plug-in OS X since Tiger…

  • Grzegorz Bojanek

    The truth is that the only thing you need to know that there is one and only LuSH-101 by D16.pl :-)

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yeah, but ironically the differentiator here is that you can run Roland’s SH-101 on the SYSTEM-1 without a computer.

      So I would rather have just had the firmware installer just go ahead and let you install the SH-101 PLUG-OUT, rather than having to muck about in a DAW.

    • Grzegorz Bojanek

      Understand that. But to tell you the truth, I am really not sure about this whole new Roland System. For me it’s just another toy for rich hipster kids who want to have a new toy, play with it a few days and that’s it. So for me it is not an option at all…

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Well, but isn’t that why people like hardware synths? You live with them. You hopefully don’t just play with it. If they’ve ruined that somehow, I don’t think they’ve done it intentionally, and it is a significant problem.

      For me, that’s the test for hardware and software alike… well, apart from maybe a $1 iOS app. And that would be what I would hope to make the center of the review. Now whether this is the synth for you, that’s another question.

      (I’ve never heard “hipster” and “new Roland” in the same sentence, so maybe AIRA is accomplishing … something!)

    • Grzegorz Bojanek

      (Yeah :-) funny)

    • B.C. Thunderthud

      Requiring the plug-in to program the FPGA to run the plug-out is ridiculous. I imagine they’ll fix it though, for that reason. I don’t run a DAW that supports the plug-in, and I wouldn’t even care (much), but this situation seems to affect way too much of the userbase to ignore for long.

  • eXode

    From looking at the screenshot I see that Roland couldn’t resist adding a second envelope generator to their SH-101. :)

  • Mark B

    Got it working in Live 9 on Mavericks but it won’t authorise AND….one instance in Ableton takes up 15% on the CPU meter (with a brand new fast MBP Retina). So its back to the TAL emulation for me – big fail as a plug in from Roland.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Hmm, that’s peculiar. I have a similar machine and didn’t see that. But I do get the sense this plug-in isn’t really finished yet, all round.

    • Brandon Ryan

      FWIW: I’m not seeing particularly high CPU usage at all on 3.2gHz i7.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Ha! Maybe a poor example, higher-end processor… but it seems fine on some more modest i5s, too. I’m wondering if there’s another variable here.

  • aaron

    As much as I hate Roland – I would blame the lack of VST3 support on the developers of DAWs. Its already late in the game not to be supporting VST3.

  • votejoel

    REAPER does NOT support VST3. How did the reader get it working?

    I was considering a purchase, not so sure now.

    joel in Dallas

    • Michael Aldridge

      Hi Joel,

      When I used Reaper I used the Audio Unit version of the SH-101 plugin which seemed to work fine. To confirm my setup, I installed the 64-bit version of Reaper, and I’m running Mac OSX.
      @peterkirn:disqus you may wish to update that part of the post to be Mac OSX only, sadly.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Thanks! Still a great tip on Mac… shame about VST3.

    • Michael Aldridge

      You’re welcome!
      When Roland start releasing the next batch of plug-ins (that I hear will be available without the need for System-1 hardware), it would be nice if they released a tool that allowed you to “plug-out” without messing around in the DAW.

    • votejoel

      Michael — Thanks that makes sense. I mostly use Windoze 7 for music, but am running OS X too.

  • http://fkillmary.com/ Jason Duerr

    Anyone have experience using this on Mac with Ableton 8? If it doesn’t work in DAW, does the VST work in stand alone (like Arturia Spark) ?

  • Peter Kirns Sweaty Bollock

    This SH101 plug-in fail malarkey is just the tip of the iceberg with Roland. Firstly LIKE ALL previous software products from Roland it will be badly rolled out , plenty of evidence to support that already , secondly it wont sound *THAT GREAT* which again having heard the thing there is once more LOTS OF evidence that is the case. Finally just when you thought you had hit the home stretch and finally get the plug out working on your system with a degree of stability Roland will end of line it and abandon it just like they have with all previous software based products.

    I genuinely feel sorry for those hoodwinked into purchasing this AIRA nonsense.

    Its all universally quite awful. This ‘advanced analogue modelling’ marketing spiel is just a moniker for sample based product. Don’t believe me? Take apart an TR-8 and System-1. The truth will be laid bare before your eyes. It is about as ‘modeled’ as the Jupiter 80 series ‘super natural’ crap is modeled. Its all just sample based just like it was in previous incarnations. Roland Errorira

    • Strange Dr.

      Wow. Some serious hard trolling there. Are you constipated? Hearing issues? Do you even have fun?

    • Brandon Ryan

      Wrong – on each and every single “point”. ACB is not sampled and I fail to see how taking a TR-8 or SYSTEM-1 apart proves otherwise. Please please elaborate. I’m extremely interested to hear the logic as I happen to know 100% otherwise. Is there some clearly labeled sampler module or lack of DSP inside?

      Also very interested in where is the “lots of evidence” that the SH-101 doesn’t sound “that great”? The reality is that this “evidence” is nowhere whatsoever. In fact the initial reports are strongly in favor of the SH-101 being ground-breaking in its accuracy.

      And where’s the evidence of a bad rollout? Is it because, out of the gate, it doesn’t support a legacy protocol that was replaced 6 years ago and that’s not even supported by the maker of the SDK anymore? That’s your “evidence” of a bad roll-out? “Degree of stability”? Again, nonsense – the plugin is extremely stable.

      It’s one thing to not feel like something fits you musically or to critique its technical points from some realm of reality – but It’s quite another to spread categorically false information behind a fake, childish, and confrontational “user name”.

  • Strange Dr.

    This worked for me on a Mac as a host and to send 101 to the SYSTEM-1

    http://www.ju-x.com/Freebies.html

  • matt

    Just to let Windows people know, I didn’t have any luck with SAVIHost at all. BUT Steinberg’s VST Effects SDK (http://www.kvraudio.com/product/vst-3-plug-in-development-host-by-steinberg) does include a perfectly good (and free) VST Host that allows you to load up the plugin, thereby allowing you to transfer it to the System-1. It is in the ‘bin’ folder. OK the host does little apart from actually loading it – it won’t let you use an external controller, but it runs the plugin without crashing and you can hit the keyboard…
    Hopefully some help for people.

  • Me

    How stupid, sell a synth in a box with a voucher for a plugin that most can’t install. The plugin should have been loaded at the factory. We have already bought the fucking thing!

  • thattrumanguy

    won’t show up at all on Logic Pro 9 running Lion—– but I managed to track it down hiding in Maschine 2.0

  • Daniel O’Malley

    the best way for roland is to make the plug-out as stand alone and vst.. For those who bought system-1 no need to have a vst for recordind they have already inside the system-1.

  • http://www.deeflash.com deeflash

    Has there been any update from Roland about offering VST 2.4 versions of their plugins? They announced their next plugin/plugout and it is also only VST 3.6 right now. Do we think they will be offering VST 2.4 for either of them?