Product Feature

Roland Tape Echo

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We sell Space Echoes. We love Space Echoes. We sell quite a few Space Echoes, but that's OK because we love them A LOT and never get tired of testing and tweaking them.

We’re tape echo specialists with many years’ experience working with and restoring these machines. We use them in our studio, and we’ve worked on hundreds of machines encompassing not just Roland, but over 50 other makes and models of echo. Not saying that makes us “the” echo expert – there’s always more to learn… but we’ll just leave this here.

Our BBC-trained engineer Dr. Huw has decades of experience coaxing the very best from these machines and he personally oversees that all our Roland echoes are restored back as close to (or beyond) factory spec as is possible. Our machines are guaranteed to not only sound incredible, but also to function reliably and should continue to do so for many years.

All Roland Echoes purchased from Soundgas carry our 12-month warranty and lifetime tech support thereafter for the buyer.

A few Soundgas Space Echo highlights:

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Echoes Available Now

Note that these are just what we have listed. Many of our machines sell on preorder. If you don’t see what you need here then get in touch now to discuss your requirements.

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“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!”

Rhett Daily

Not all Space Echoes are equal.

A brief search online reveals that there are always cheaper options than Soundgas if you want to buy a Roland tape echo. Why are ours more expensive? Firstly we are a real business (not just some guy in a shed, though that’s 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 investing in training the next generation of echo techs. But also, most importantly, we put a lot into our echoes – heart and soul – plus a wealth of experience and knowledge gained over decades of working with these machines on stage, in the workshop, and the studio. When we say ‘serviced’ we mean thoroughly-overhauled, not just a squirt of switch cleaner and a new tape. When we say ‘tested’ we mean deep testing by human musicians who love these machines, listening carefully and treating each machine as unique.

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You can read more about our servicing when we answer the question: Are Roland tape echoes reliable? But borrowed from there (because it’s super-cool) here is a time-lapse of Doctor Huw servicing a Space Echo:

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Which model is the right model?

We get asked this question a lot – which is the best Roland tape echo? which is our favourite? which one do we recommend? As you can probably imagine this is BIG subject and we’re going to need a separate article to delve into it properly. So for now the short answer is that (as is maybe becoming clear) we love the RE-201. But that’s because it’s the right machine for much of what we do both functionally and sonically. And it’s also no doubt because we’re not forced to actually choose a single machine, as we always have a fair selection of other models here to use as needed.

Each machine has its own spec, electronics and character, and you can’t get one model to exactly emulate another – so there is no definitive, “ultimate” Roland echo that does everything. The right model(s) for you will depend on your set up, the kind of music you are making, and of course your ears.

Briefly, below are some – but definitely not all! – of the characteristics of the different machines. 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. It also has less options in terms of head patterns with each of the three heads only available singly.

RE-150 – again no Reverb or EQ. Similar head options to the 101, but different head spacing means the delays are not identical; but… on top of that most of the electronics inside are different from the 101/201 as well, so the end result is machine that does something different sonically. That “something” we like very much (magic with beats and when slightly overdriven generally) and we’ll be devoting a whole page to these machines soon…

RE-201 – for us this is the king of the Space Echo castle – a magical combination of the Roland preamps, OC Electronics spring reverb (made by beautiful girls in Milton Wisconsin), all-discrete circuitry, the EQ, the musical heritage of these machines, the head spacings and combinations… we could go on. We’re huge fans of dub production and its wider influence across music in general and the 201 just gives us the richness and warmth we are looking for. Every machine is different, but when you get a really good one the only word for us is “magic”.

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RE-301 Chorus Echo

No more all-discrete circuitry from this point on in Roland’s development, so there are immediate sonic differences from what has gone before. Different head spacings further move it away from RE-201 territory. The addition of classic Roland chorus circuit, and also sound on sound; a package that adds up to a superb machine that stands apart from its “dubbier” relative. Very versatile, and definitely recommended for guitarists who rarely seem to let them go once they get a good one.

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RE-501 / SRE-555 Chorus Echo

These are the same machine, housed differently (555s in a heavy-duty rack case and often used for touring). Definitely designed by Roland to be their ultimate machine – at the time high tech and hi-fi. 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 (we took a look round Nils Frahm’s live rig – he travels with five but has more than 10 in total!).

Chorus and sound on sound are both present but, along with the head spacings, these are different to the 301. The sound on sound is much improved with the extra head in a more useful position than the 301 (it effectively functions as an extra long delay). However, some of the flaws as perceived by Roland engineers are the very features that make 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.

That’s just scratching the surface: there’s more info on the Korg vs Roland echo page, and we’re also straying into “Tips and Tricks” territory…

Our Guarantee

Our machines are not only generally in excellent cosmetic and physical shape (if we say ‘mint’, we mean factory fresh), but they come backed by our twelve month guarantee against mechanical failure (for non-smoking home/private studio use). Any problems within that period, we’ll take care of it. And after that, as a Soundgas customer, you have access to our techs for any future servicing requirements (conditions apply). 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, how we deal with any problems that may arise is what sets us apart – we aim to have machines repaired and returned to you with a minimum of fuss and inconvenience. This means you can get on with making music, rather than figuring out how to fix your tape echo.

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Tape: The Never-ending Quest...

Which tape you should use is another big subject: one on which we have spent a lot of time, and had quite a bit to say. However, if you want the short version, the only new loops we use and recommend are from Echo Fix in Australia (though original Roland RT1-L tapes are usually fine if they’ve been stored well).

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’ – when they work that is. I recall working on a dub mix for my friend Tim ‘Love’ Lee’s Peace Feast label – hear it below! – and using the digital delay in our Studio Quad when the Melos died (or just sounded too ‘characterful’) – running the wet signal hot into a cassette recorder 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. For many years I was of the opinion that 501s were far superior to 201s, but looking back I see it was because my mint 501s were much younger than my 201 and had seen very little use.

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. 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 seemed a better bet for a studio without access to a good tape 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 301, nor the stunning Doctor Huw-modified RE-200 which sounds very different. If I didn’t have daily access to a ceaseless supply of freshly-serviced RE-201s, then a Soundgas 201 would certainly be in my permanent studio collection.

OUR GUARANTEE

We stand behind our gear with a guarantee of your satisfaction - see the FAQ section above for full details and buy with complete confidence.

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NEED HELP?

Get in touch via the contact page. We know & love our gear and we want to ensure you get something that matches your needs (that, and we just like talking gear).