Tape: The Never-ending Quest...
All tape is not equal. One of the conditions of our guarantee is that you only use new Echo Fix tape loops - supplied by us (buy them here) or by Shane at Echo Fix in Australia. We fit new Echo Fix loops in all our machines - see our current stock of tape echoes here. Shane is, like us, somewhat of an obsessive echo perfectionist and his site is the number one resource in the world for new Space Echo parts: if you need something to fix your echo, head over to Echo Fix.
A couple of years ago, we suddenly had around a dozen of our machines stop working 2-5 weeks after we sent them out. We weren't selling as many back then and this occurred over the course of about 3 months. The cost of return shipping, re-servicing and re-sending hit us hard. By a process of elimination we narrowed the culprit down to sub-standard tape loops - they worked fine for a few weeks before they shed their coating, clogging everything up. At the time we were supplied by a well-known online tape echo supplier; I contacted them to explain that they appeared to have a bad batch of tape, but received a reply that they'd had no other complaints. Needless to say, that was the end of our association. Fortunately, Huw had found Echo Fix when on tour in Australia and we were soon up and running again.
This is not our only caveat regarding tape loops - many online 'experts' (including another European supplier whose loops also caused us great trouble) will assert that BASF LGR-50 is the best tape to use in a Space Echo. LGR-50 is a broadcast quality formulation and does sound very good, however the tape is much thicker than original Roland tape, and we have experienced problems with loops made using LGR-50 (I know it's possible for some LGR-50 loops to work well in a Space Echo, but we neither recommend nor guarantee it).
We also sell original NOS Roland RT-1L tapes, when we can find stock, and they do sound great, but we do not guarantee our machines if RT-1L tapes are used. This may seem odd, but tape stock is very susceptible to atmospheric conditions - unless it is stored in a cool dry stable environment, it can degrade over time. Given that the Roland loops are in some cases approaching 40 years old, we cannot be sure how well they have been stored and therefore cannot guarantee their performance. Echo Fix loops are the only tapes we recommend (and they'll also work fine in Korg Stage Echoes).
What tape did Roland use?
This is a question that remains unanswered - Tony has personally asked the CEO of Roland, Jun-Ichi Miki (who started his career on the RE-201 assembly line) but it appears that Roland themselves no longer have that information. One interesting fact that did come out of that meeting (at the Boss Cause & Effects exhibition in Sept 2017) was that Roland do not even know for sure who designed the RE-201. We're still investigating - anybody who has information, please get in touch.
Thanks for reading. This post is one of a series on the Roland tape echoes that we will be compiling into an online resource for tape delay fans and users. Other instalments will include talking about reliability of tape echoes, how to choose the right tape delay, care and maintenance, and some secret tips and tricks.