Space Echo Check-up?

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Space Echo Check-up?

Post by Grapejuice » Sun Feb 08, 2009 8:17 pm

I have always wanted a Roland Space Echo.

There are 3 of them sitting collecting dust in a vintage guitar shop in my town. There are two 201s and one 301. The owner of the shop claims they are all in 'working' condition, but that none of them have tapes in them, so they can't be tested.

Being the keener that I am, I was thinking of ordering a tape online and then taking it down there so I could try out the machines to see if they are indeed 'working'.

I know there are a number of common problems/maintenance issues with these beasts, and wondered if any experienced owners/operators could tell me a list of things I should be checking for on the units (and how to do so) so I could pick the one in best condition.


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Post by Gentleman Jim » Sun Feb 08, 2009 10:14 pm

In my previous life as a gear fiend I had, at different times, 4 tape echos. I had a Space Echo 201, a Space Echo 150, a Korg Stage Echo, and some small, off brand thing that seemed like it used cassette tape.

Here's my collected experience from all of them: only buy a tape echo if you're the kind of person who WON'T get bent out of shape when, (not if), your echo mysteriously stops working right when you need it. I wasn't that kind of person, and the frustration those things brought me was not worth the cool factor at all for me.

Now, if you're more serene than I was as a 23 year old, (which should include 98% of the world's population), then I would say that you should either be the kind of person who can and will learn how to repair the echo yourself, or you should buy it with the knowledge that you will end up paying 2 or 3 times the purchase price, over time, for repairs. Ultimately, if you can't repair it yourself you will probably sell it or store it broken in your basement awaiting the day you have $300 with no other purpose in your life.

It's like the musician's version of buying a boat. You'll love it.

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Post by roygbiv » Sun Feb 08, 2009 10:36 pm

Last time I was jonesing to buy my buddys Chorus Echo (Space Echo's big brother), an item for which I have many fond memories as he used it extensively on our self-released recordings ~ 20 years ago, I instead bought this:


You can read about it here: ... /top_M.jpg

Is it a Space Echo? No.

Does it come close? Yes.

Do you feel bad stomping on it? Not at all.

Check one out at a music store, it might be a good compromise for you, and help you avoid the headaches Jim mentions above.
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Post by saintcarquinez » Sun Feb 08, 2009 11:15 pm

I'd bring a loop of tape to the guitar shop (you can make your own loops with 1/4" tape, you'll need to learn how anyway), thread each Space Echo up, plug each one in, run 'em through their paces--see if all the modes work and if the engine runs smoothly (or smoothly enough for you). As far as easy maintenance, clean the heads, change the tape regularly, change out the little green felt pads inside.

I have an RE-201. I use it all the time. It sounds like the Black Ark, 'cause it is. I bought mine for $350 a few years ago (off'a eBay no less!) and everything works great. I understand the chances of one going haywire, and chances are something of this vintage is gonna have warts, but if you can get one in good working order for the right price, there's really no substitution. There's lots of info and tidbits on the google about what kind of tape to buy and stuff. The fact that you have several to choose from I'd think puts you at an advantage.

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Post by Grapejuice » Sun Feb 08, 2009 11:59 pm

Really sage advice from all three posters... thank you!

A very good point that I I'm at an advantage with there being a few available to pick the best conditioned one. I think I might be able to get a relatively good deal on it too cause it seems like dude has not been able to shift them too quickly. I'm only using it in my home studio, so it will be taken care of and not exposed to any road damage.

As for the pedal version, I have seriously considered it, but now I'm thinking that only the genuine article will suffice.

It is really the 'Black Ark' element of it that's making me consider it. I have a few delay pedals that can do a pretty close imitation of tape delays, but it's really the dub-y dirt box effects that i want it for. Also, that particular spring reverb sound is a real favorite of mine.

I've just ordered a tape from an online source, which also apparently comes with a pdf manual about maintaining/servicing the fella. We'll see how it goes.

Thank you for the advice... it was exactly what I needed to hear.


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Post by linus » Mon Feb 09, 2009 6:58 am

Buy a tape loop online and bring it to the store. Try it out. If sounds good and you can afford it, BUY IT. I don't think you'll regret it.

I've had a Roland Chorus Echo 555 for over 15 years. It was velco'd to the bottom of a 16 space rack that was filled with shelves of vintage stop boxes and a Ground Control GCX midi loop switching system. I gigged with that thing for years and years. It was on for HUNDREDS of hours. Now I reamp tracks through that rack and the tape echo is one of my AUX sends on my board. It is on for hours and hours at a time.

I've changed the tape loop when it broke (very rarely, once every couple of years), but I've otherwise done nothing. It still sounds fantastic. It seems well built.
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Post by chovie d » Mon Feb 09, 2009 8:52 am

I have one of the early models.
I love it. Its so nice hooked up to two amps.
I'd be sure that aspect of it was working. Hook it up to two amps.
I will defnetly cry when mine breaks down.
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Post by earth tones » Mon Feb 09, 2009 9:14 am

I own the RE-201 and previously owned a Roland SRE-555, which I bought to clean up and resell for profit. As stated previously, general maintenance will require cleaning the tape heads and other tape contact surface metals, changing the tape from time to time, changing the felt pads (I ordered a bulk amount of the felt pads direct from Roland...yes, they still stock many replacement parts).

One thing that I had not done until recently was to de-magnetize the tape heads and other metal components in the tape path. Borrowed a degausser from a friend, and let me tell you, I could not believe how the sound opened up following the demag. The high frequency detail came back in a major way. I also use light sewing machine oil to lubricate moving parts, like the pinch roller.

Depending on your level of comfort when disassembling electronics, you may find something like the RE201 to be easy to troubleshoot. They are quite beautiful inside...large components make it easy to trace pathways with guidance from a Roland service manual.

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Post by saintcarquinez » Mon Feb 09, 2009 9:38 am

Earth Tones:

I'm sure I could search this out myself, but in the interest of laziness, do you recall what the "official" name/part number of the felt pads are?

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Post by earth tones » Mon Feb 09, 2009 9:59 am

I don't recall the part numbers off hand. There are two different felt pad parts within the 201, although they only differ by a small measurement in dimension. When I get home from work today I will grab the service manual and PM you the actual part numbers.

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Post by teleharmonium » Mon Feb 09, 2009 10:11 am

My girlfriend has one of those RE-20 pedals. It's a decent effect, but not even close to a real one. I heartily second the heartache/insanity factor that goes along with vintage tape echoes - the pain of being a Binson owner makes maintaining a Space Echo look like nothing, I assure you - but, accept no substitutes.

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Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Mon Feb 09, 2009 11:27 am

i've had a 201 for almost a decade and it's been basically completely problem-free.

*knocks wood*

the main thing i would listen for is really excessive wow and flutter, or a really really dull sound in general, either could be indicitive of a machine that's probably more of a problem than it's worth. but they are pretty sturdy beasts IMO, if there's a few to pick from, one of them has to be good.

i haven't demagged mine in forever, and i'm not sure an 'open' sound is even what i want, as i often roll off some or all of the treble, but i am suitably intruiged enough to break out the old, neglected demagnetizer.

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Post by earth tones » Mon Feb 09, 2009 12:16 pm

I hear what you are saying about not necessarily needing an open sound. I am sure most people roll of the top end of reverbs and delays in an attempt to recreate a truly ambient environment, where HF energy dies out quicker (depending on the listening location). For the longest time after first purchasing this 201 space echo, I was conscious of certain audible anomalies, however chose to cherish the imperfections as the space echo's inherent sonic signature. In my case, the clarity derived from demagging the heads was a benefit to the RE201's utility. Wiped some mud off the windshield, so to speak. Sits better in a mix at lower relative amplitude than it would have required previously.

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Post by Trick Fall » Mon Feb 09, 2009 7:03 pm

I'm pretty awful when it comes to gear maintenance, but I've had a space echo for almost ten years without any issues. Mine does not see heavy use. I don't gig with it, but it had a gigging life before I owned it and they seem pretty durable for a tape echo. I think I'm going to have to try the demagnetizing thing though.

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Post by Paid In Full » Thu Apr 30, 2009 7:25 am

Still in the tape echo ballpark, I picked up a Korg Stage Echo SE-500 yesterday and am having a blast with it. Combining the playback heads is a very cool effect, and I'm amazed at the smoothness and sensitivity of the speed control. What a great 30 year old design.

I've cleaned the heads and might do a de-mag soon, but I'm wondering about replacing the felt pads, like was mentioned for the Space Echo.

Has anyone done this for a Korg?

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