Roland’s tape echoes are a range of vintage tape delay units that were first introduced in the early 1970s, the most famous of which being the RE-201 Space Echo. Even with the advent of less noisy, more reliable and more flexible delay units, the Roland tape echoes continue to be held in high esteem by modern engineers for their trademark ethereal repeats and ability to create esoteric effects.

The first units in Roland’s tape echo line-up were the RE-100 and RE-200 models. These were released concurrently in 1973 and mostly the same, aside from the RE-200’s inclusion of on-board spring reverb. The following year, these models were updated to the RE-101 and the celebrated RE-201 Space Echo, again primarily distinguished by inclusion of reverb in the 201. These units marked a significant breakthrough for Roland’s tape delay design, implementing a newly-developed ‘free-floating’ tape transport. This replaced the traditional ‘reel-to-reel’ mechanism and allowed lower noise, extended tape longevity and longer delay times. The RE-201 also features three playback heads, allowing multi-rhythm patterns of delay repeats. Following this, the RE-101 was updated to the RE-150, adding a second playback head and a separate output to isolate the wet signal. With the next update, the RE-301, Roland began to include an analog chorus circuit into their tape delays, as well as the capacity for sound-on-sound recording, meaning it could be used as a looper. In 1980, the final of Roland’s tape echoes were brought out – the RE-501, which added XLR inputs to the RE-301’s feature set,and the RE-555, which offered the 501 design in a rack-mountable chassis.

While the various models of Roland’s tape echoes vary in their features, at the core of all of them is the unique ethereal, slightly chorused texture of their delay repeats. While all real tape echo devices produce a degree of modulation over the delay trail, the Roland units do this in a particular way, with a more pronounced chorus effect. This can create an almost pad-like effect underneath a guitar or synth line when set to longer delay times (especially when combined with the spring reverb on applicable models) or give an added sense of depth and character to shorter ‘slap back’ settings. More complex effects can be achieved on models featuring multiple playback heads. These feature a Mode Selector control that adjusts between pre-set configurations of playhead head/reverb combinations. Use of multiple playback heads creates a denser delay trail with varied rhythms playing against each other.

The Roland tape echoes are also known for the sound effects achievable by pushing the units into self-oscillation – even without an input source connected. With the feedback set over a certain point, the unit will start to self-oscillate, resulting in a sustained ‘screaming’ sound. As other controls are manipulated, this sound can turn into an array of unpredictable pitched effects that, while not necessarily ‘musical’, are loved by many seeking unconventional and experimental sounds.

Based on RE-201:

4 pcs (for Mic (2), Instrument, P.A.)

1 pc

1 pc

9 pcs (for Mic Volume (2), Instrument Volume, Treble, Bass, Reverb,
Volume, Repeat Rate, Intensity, Echo Volume)

3 pcs (for Instrument Echo – cancel Switch, Output Level 3 – Step Changeover,
Power Switch)

1 pc

1 pc (incorporates lamp interlocking foot switch)

1 pc

REVERB UNIT: (3 springs system)
1 pc

(100V, 117V) or (230V, 250V), 50 / 60 Hz

14 VA

415 (W) x 275 (D) x 185 (H) mm

9.5 kg

The Gear Rack

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