The RE-201 unit is known for its incredible delay and reverb effects. This unit is a great example of the RE-201 - very clean overall and fully operational. The Roland RE-201 Space Echo is a tape echo effect unit featuring a built-in spring reverb tank. Manufactured from 1973 to 1988, the RE-201 runs a loop of magnetic tape across several tape heads to create its distinctive analog echo. It features 11 different repeat modes as well as a reverb-only mode, wet/dry mix for Echo and Reverb, Bass and Treble EQ knobs, Repeat Rate and Intensity, two mic inputs with volume knobs, one instrument input with volume knob, and dry and effected output jacks.
Over the years, Roland has created a significant number of products that have gone on to become legendary. One of the earliest examples is the Roland RE-201 Space Echo, a combination tape echo and reverb introduced in 1974. While Roland didn’t invent the tape echo itself, they took a fragile and often unreliable technology and turned it into something robust and roadworthy and the RE-201 immediately became the touring and recording studio standard in portable tape echo.
As anyone who sings or plays an instrument knows, the acoustic space you perform in has a huge impact on the sound. If you perform in a small, dry-sounding space—such as a heavily carpeted room—the sound is small and uninspiring. But if you take that same performance to a large space with hard surfaces, the sound becomes bigger, with the natural reverberation of the room making your performance feel more alive.
Since the dawn of sound amplification and recording, musicians and audio engineers sought a way to add the natural ambience of a large acoustic space to a sound in a controlled manner. This led first to natural echo chambers, where a sound was re-amplified into a large acoustic space and captured with a microphone. Later, electronic methods were developed to create artificial reverberation by amplifying sound waves through metal plates or springs. The spring reverb, first developed for use in home organs, continues to be a staple in guitar amplification.
Shortly after World War II, magnetic tape technology became the standard for audio recording. Audio engineers realized they could also use their reel-to-reel tape recorders to create an echo of a sound for a unique type of artificial ambience. The effect quickly became popular, particularly when a short echo was combined with reverb. This type of “slapback” echo was an essential sound component on early rock and roll recordings, and is still popular today.
Starting in the 1950s, various inventors came up with ways to create the popular tape echo sound in portable units that could be used by touring vocalists and instrumentalists. Basically, these devices were small, self-contained recorders incorporating a single short tape loop; while popular with musicians, they were quite fragile and didn’t stand up well to the rigors of the road.
In 1973, the fledgling Roland Corporation—now in its second year in business—added the very first “Space Echo” products to its lineup, the RE-100 and RE-200 tape-echo units. These were quickly superseded the following year with the RE-101 and the RE-201. In contrast with competitors’ echo units, both were affordable, built like tanks, and featured inputs for multiple types of sound sources. However, with its extended feature set, the RE-201 quickly became the Space Echo desired by musicians and audio engineers.
The RE-201 was an engineering masterpiece. 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.
4 pcs (for Mic (2), Instrument, P.A.)
FOOT SWITCH JACK:
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,
ROTARY 12-WAY MODE SELECTOR:
1 pc (incorporates lamp interlocking foot switch)
LED INDICATION TYPE PEAK LEVEL METER:
REVERB UNIT: (3 springs system)
(100V, 117V) or (230V, 250V), 50 / 60 Hz
415 (W) x 275 (D) x 185 (H) mm