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 RE-201 was an engineering masterpiece for its time. It featured a sophisticated tape-echo effect and a built-in spring reverb, with different sound variations selectable via 12 different operating modes.

Front-panel controls included repeat rate (echo length), intensity (number of echo repeats), and separate levels for echo and reverb. Bass and treble controls provided EQ for the effect sound. The front panel also offered inputs for multiple sound sources, including two mics and an instrument (all with independent level controls), and a line-level device such as a mixer.

Lifting the hinged lid on top of the RE-201 exposed the heart of the machine, its tape transport system. Featuring a record head, three separate playback heads, and a variable speed motor, the RE-201 was capable of producing a unique range of echo effects. The delay time was adjusted by altering the tape’s speed with the Repeat Rate knob, along with selecting one or more playback heads with the Mode Selector (multi-tap echo patterns were created when multiple heads were selected). Along with the built-in spring reverb and the ability to feed the delayed sound back into the record head for multiple echo repeats, this allowed for a combination of echo effects previously unavailable in any single portable device.

A unique feature of the RE-201’s tape transport was its free-floating design. The single tape loop spooled freely into a tape chamber, with a plastic cover over the top to protect the tape. Previous designs used short tape loops spun over reels, like a miniature reel-to-reel tape recorder. The RE’s loose-spool, low-tension design created less tape wear, and also allowed for a much longer tape length; this long tape length let you create echoes over three seconds in length.

The RE-201 was an instant hit, quickly becoming the tape echo of choice for musicians both on the road and in the studio. Its rich and organic sound was a source of inspiration and creativity, and it’s been heard on literally thousands of popular records since its introduction. It wasn’t always used for straight echo effects, either—by manipulating the tape speed and intensity while signal was present, you could coax a Space Echo into oscillation and pitch shift for some unreal sound effects.

The RE-201 has been out of production since 1990, yet its warm, rich sound continues to make it a favourite tool for musicians. In fact, there are large numbers of original Space Echo units still in use today, a testament to its brilliant design.

RE-201 ECHO CHAMBER

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

OUTPUT JACK:
1 pc

FOOT SWITCH JACK:
1 pc

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

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

ROTARY 12-WAY MODE SELECTOR:
1 pc

LEVEL METER:
1 pc (incorporates lamp interlocking foot switch)

LED INDICATION TYPE PEAK LEVEL METER:
1 pc

REVERB UNIT: (3 springs system)
1 pc

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

POWER CONSUMPTION:
14 VA

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

WEIGHT:
9.5 kg

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