Roland Tape Echo
We love Roland Space Echoes and Chorus Echoes. We restore, service and sell a lot of Space Echoes every year and never tire of the joy of these incredible machines.
We are tape echo specialists with many decades’ collective experience working with and restoring these machines. We use them daily at work, in our studio, and at home. We have worked on many hundreds of machines encompassing not just Roland, but over 50 other makes and models of echo. These days we tend to focus mostly on Roland, Korg, Binson, Hawk and HH echoes. While our team has extensive knowledge, we are always learning and developing new techniques and modifications… Here’s a gallery of some of the many machines we’ve worked on in the past.
Our tech team is founded on the deep knowledge and experience of our BBC-trained senior engineer Dr. Huw. Huw has decades of experience coaxing the very best from these machines both onstage with the likes of Portishead, Massive Attack, and Robert Plant, and also in the studio. His constant drive to expand our knowledge and understanding has led to us developing our stereo Roland Space Echo RE-402.
Some years back we formed the Soundgas tech department and Dr Huw trained our first echo apprentice, Max Dawson, who is now the head workshop tech. He and Huw have subsequently trained Will Bateman and Ryan Hingley – who both started as apprentices and are now first class Soundgas technicians. Our ongoing research via our experience with hundreds of machines, has lead to many advances and improvements in our knowledge and processes. Soundgas engineers restore all our Roland echoes to as close to (or even beyond) factory spec as possible. Our machines are guaranteed to be the best you’ll hear and also to function reliably for many years: a Soundgas Space Echo is the gold standard in vintage tape echoes.
All Roland Echoes purchased from Soundgas carry our 12-month warranty and lifetime tech support thereafter for the buyer.
Looking for information about echo servicing? We offer limited slots to our mailing list subscribers first – be on the list to find out more.
A few Soundgas Space Echo highlights:
- We’ve supplied Roland and Boss with Space Echoes for exhibitions and shows.
- Dan and Mick of That Pedal Show chose one of our RE-201s for their own studio collection.
- The BBC hired six of our RE-201s for the Proms’ television performance of Daphne Oram’s ‘Still Point‘ featuring turntablist Shiva Feshareki at the Royal Albert Hall.
- We’ve serviced and supplied machines for many top artists and bands including Red Hot Chili Peppers, Arctic Monkeys and Sunn O))).
See our Instagram Live Q&A on Space Echoes.
Echoes Available Now
These are just what we have listed today. We have may have more machines being serviced (some sell on preorder). If you don’t see what you need here then get in touch now to discuss your requirements.
“If you're in the market for a Space Echo or any other type of vintage effect unit, look no further. Tony and his team were very helpful, answering all of my questions and finding the right RE-201 for my needs. The packing job to get it over to the US was superb, and the sound and performance of my Space Echo exceeds all of my expectations. I hope to do business with Soundgas again in the future. Many thanks!”
Not all Space Echoes are equal.
You will always find cheaper options online than Soundgas if you’re looking to buy a Roland Space or Chorus Echo, but you will not find any that have had the same level of expertise and attention as ours. And we back our machines up with 12 months warranty and lifetime tech support for our customers – something no other company or individual offers to our knowledge.
Why are Soundgas echoes more expensive? Firstly we are a business (not just some bloke in a shed, though that is how Tony started out – so no offence to anyone quietly fuming in their shed), providing employment and training for young people in a rural area, paying taxes, contributing what we can to important causes, and perhaps most importantly investing in training the next generation of echo techs. But we put a lot more into our machines – heart and soul – as well as the benefit of our decades of experience and knowledge gained working with these machines on stage, in the workshop, and the studio. When we say ‘serviced’ we mean completely overhauled, not just a squirt of switch cleaner and a new tape and quick factory calibration. When we say ‘tested’ we mean deep testing by human musicians who know and love their echoes, and listen and test carefully and attentively – only the best is allowed to leave our workshops as ‘Soundgas Serviced’.
You can read more about our servicing when we answer the question: Are Roland tape echoes reliable? But borrowed from that page is this time-lapse of Doctor Huw servicing a Space Echo:
Which is the right Roland Echo for me?
We get asked this question a lot – which is the best Roland tape echo? Which is our favourite? Which one do we recommend? This is a BIG subject with many factors to understand before being able to give a balanced answer. The short answer is that (as is maybe becoming clear) we love the RE-201: properly overhauled and set up to our standard, we believe it is unparalleled. But it’s a very subjective answer and rooted in our love of the sound (and flaws and foibles) of this machine. For example, one ‘flaw’ that Roland saw fit to ‘fix’ in the later RE-501 Chorus Echo was the RE-201’s famous ability to self-oscillate – so if you set one up according to the service manual, it loses that wondrous effect that has graced countless recordings. To each his or her own…
Each has its own particular design and character – the changes in circuitry between the various models means they are quite distinct from each other. Even within the many examples of a specific model, you are unlikely to find two that perform identically now – so there is no definitive, “ultimate” Roland echo that does everything. The right model(s) for you will depend on your personal requirements: the instruments you use, the sound you are seeking, and of course your own taste. What is noise to one person, can be texture to another; what one would describe as being clear, to another might be sterile.
Below are some – definitely not all – of the characteristics of the various models. For a more detailed look at this head to our Roland vs Korg tape echo page.
The Space Echoes...
RE-101 – a 201 without Reverb or EQ? Almost, but not quite: different circuitry means a subtly different sound. Fewer options with each of the three replay heads only available singly – no multi-head patterns
RE-150 – again no Reverb or EQ. Similar head options to the 101, but different head spacing means the repeats are not identical. However, much of the circuitry is quite different from the 101/201, (more akin to the RE-301) so the RE-150 is distinct sonically from the 101/201. It’s a sound we like very much, especially with beats and when slightly overdriven.
RE-201 – the Space Echo daddy for us – a magical combination of those Roland preamps (especially when modded with our early preamp mod), OC Electronics spring reverb (made by beautiful girls in Milton, Wisconsin), all-discrete circuitry, two band EQ, the head spacings and combinations, the musical heritage… we could go on and often do. We are huge fans of dub production and its wider influence across music and the 201 just gives the richness, warmth and delightful playability we seek. Not all RE-201s are up to our standard by any means (many people who’ve only experienced old, worn or poorly maintained machines think we’re quite wrong, that is until they hear one of ours). When you get a good 201 the only word for us is “magic”.
RE-301 Chorus Echo
No more all-discrete circuitry from this point on in Roland echoes, so there are immediate sonic differences from what has gone before. Different head spacings further move it away from the RE-201. The addition of the classic Roland chorus, and sound on sound makes the 301 a superb machine that stands apart from its “dubbier” relative. Versatile and inspiring – guitarists rarely seem to let them go once they get a good one.
RE-501 / SRE-555 Chorus Echo
These are the same machine, housed differently (555s housed in a heavy-duty rack case so often used for touring). Designed by Roland as their ultimate machine – high tech and hi-fi for the time. Seeking a cleaner sound, the men in white coats ironed out many “flaws” of earlier machines. This precision and clarity can immediately suit some set-ups and musical styles. FET-based pre-amps fit extremely well with some sources and are definitely favoured by many producers/performers (eg Nils Frahm’s live rig – he travels with five but has more than 10 in total) but can leave some people cold.
Chorus and sound on sound are both present and, along with the head spacings, are different again to the 301. The sound on sound is much improved with the extra head in a more useful position than the 301 (it’s effectively an extra long delay). However, some of the flaws as perceived by Roland engineers are the very features that made the earlier models so special, which is why when we service a 501 or 555 we always set them up with the ability to self-oscillate (‘beyond’ factory spec), unless otherwise requested.
Tony always says the 501/555 remind him of Wall-era Pink Floyd – that classic clean eighties chorused guitar sound whereas the 201 is more early seventies…
That’s just scratched the surface: read more on the Korg vs Roland echo page, and checkm out our “Tips and Tricks”
We only tend to sell low use Roland echoes (others are broken for parts) so Soundgas machines are not only in excellent cosmetic and physical shape (we only use the word ‘mint’ for truly factory fresh), but are backed by our twelve month guarantee against mechanical failure (non-smoking home/private studio use). Any problems within that period, we want to know and will take care of it. After that, as a Soundgas customer, you have access to our techs for any future servicing requirements. Given how many hundreds of machines we’ve supplied, we see very few returns, warranty or otherwise. Read more about our guarantee, and do get in touch if you have any questions.
We are human, and vintage gear is full of surprises: things can and do go wrong no matter how much care we lavish on these machines. So, beyond our attention to detail, what also sets us apart is how we deal with any problems that may arise in future. We aim to have machines repaired and returned with a minimum of fuss and inconvenience (and work with service partners in the USA to better serve our US customers). This means you can get on with making music, rather than figuring out how to fix your tape echo.
Tape: The Never-ending Quest...
We have sourced unused and dry-stored bulk reels of NOS tape from Japan which we understand is the original RT-1L tape formulation supplied to Roland for their original RT-1L replacement loops and our replacement loops are available now. There’s information about our quest to find the right tape (and splicing tape) in this article: which replacement loops to use in your Roland echo, and some thoughts on the misinformation and poor quality tapes that abound online. The most common cause of failure in Roland tape echoes is poor quality loops.
And here’s how to change the tape loop.
First love (by Tony)
I fell in love with the sound of tape echoes a long time ago, and over the years filled my studio with as many examples as I could lay my hands on. Initially, we had no budget for such luxuries and our first real tape echo was a very intermittent Melos: they use a small Apollon cartridge and (to be kind) sound ‘characterful’ – that is when they actually function! I recall working on a dub mix for my friend Tim ‘Love’ Lee’s Peace Feast label (hear it below) and using the delay in our state of the art Digitech Studio Quad when the Melos died (or just sounded too ‘characterful’) – running the wet signal hot on to and back off cassette to get the sound I was after. Later we joined the big league when I acquired my first Space Echo, an RE-201 which truthfully didn’t sound great and probably hadn’t been serviced from new.
The Melos was eventually replaced (and the 201 superceded) by a very clean RE-501 that worked beautifully; this was later joined by a second immaculate RE-501. Like many, I was of the opinion that 501s were far superior to 201s, but with the benefit of hindsight (and my current experiences with Soundgas 201s) I see it was because my mint 501s were much younger than my 201 and had seen little use. I ran both without incident for many years and although the sound of a 201 was undoubtedly what I was really after, the younger/cleaner 501s were a better bet for a studio without access to an echo tech. Both my 501s are now long gone – the first when I bought Dave Formula‘s lovely 301 (which he used on several Magazine and Visage albums) and the second only after I’d fallen for the sound of Doctor Huw’s amazing RE-201s here at Soundgas. I’ll never part with my 201s, nor the stunning Doctor Huw-modified early RE-200 which sounds very different. A Soundgas 201 (or two) are in permanent use in my studio, as well as a couple of prototype stereo machines – the forerunners of the RE-402.