Roland Space Echo

roland space echo

When it comes to tape-based echo units, the Roland Space Echo series is the undisputed champion. Sure, there are other notable offerings (we certainly wouldn’t turn our noses up at an Echoplex, a Fulltone or a Copicat) but there’s something uniquely appealing about the Space Echo.

The concept is simple: a loop of tape passes a record head and then runs across one or more playback heads. The incoming signal is recorded onto the tape, then played back shortly afterwards by the playback heads. When the signal from the playback heads is mixed with the original source, you get a uniquely charming result: not quite like any real-life echo or reverberation but instantly recognisable and, more importantly, incredibly effective in a mix.

Roland’s first tape echo units were released in 1972, but it was with 1973’s Roland Space Echo RE201 that they really hit the winning formula. Some might argue that tape echo units should be thought of as delays rather than reverbs, but the Space Echo in particular sits in the grey area between the two (and not just because most models also feature a built in spring reverb). Yes, it can do longer delays, but when the delay time gets shorter it can hold its own with any reverb you could name. Warm, gritty and unmistakeably analogue, the Space Echo feels somehow organic. It’s a true cult classic in countless genres, from dub through to house.

Later models offer slightly cleaner sound and, in the cases of the RE-301 and RE-501, additional chorus circuits. They’re all winners. Despite its apparent simplicity, the Space Echo is incredibly versatile. It’s amazing on vocals, great on synths and excellent for individual drum hits such as snares and claps, but for dubby spot effects it’s virtually unbeatable.

The original Space Echo series has been out of production since 1990, when the RE-201 was finally discontinued. Roland now makes the Boss RE-20, a digital pedal based on the classic sound, but we’d probably go for a software version instead. SoundToys’ Echoboy does a pretty good impression and GSi’s GS-201 is a reasonable option at a very low price, but the best of all is Universal Audio’s officially licensed emulation.

25th June, 2014


  • Excuse me but where is the Midiverb II at? What kind of dance music producer has a room for a plate reverb.

  • Lumping the Space Echo in with reverbs seems to be pushing it a bit. It’s a great unit, but…

    Also worth mentioning are the dirt-cheap plugins from ValhallaDSP (which borrow a lot of techniques from both Lexicon and Eventide), and the more expensive ones from 2CAudio.

  • makes me laugh how people always get so mad at these features. guys, they’re just attack’s choices. if you don’t agree, write down your own list on a piece of paper and look at that instead. it’s hardly as if it’s some kind of official ranking, plus there’s a lot more to read here than just the names of 10 reverbs. maybe if you read it you’d realise they actually mentioned the midiverb AND the fact that most people don’t have room for a plate so should buy the plugin instead.

    eric, i kind of agree with your point on the space echo but they are absolutely awesome for reverb as well as delay effects. even the delays are so messy and organic that it isn’t really delay as most people think of it these days. i got to borrow one off a friend for a while and what i actually liked it most for was a short reverb-style effect on vocal samples.

    i also agree that the valhalla reverbs are excellent

  • This is an unusually random feature from Attack…so few of these devices are really relevant to dance music eg the Lexicon 224…or EMT 140 (a vintage plate!)…’Acoustic space’ followed by a Bricasti! Its just all over the place…and honestly is that really relevant for dance music producers?

    Here is my list:
    2cAudio Aether
    Valhalla Vintage Verb
    Valhalla Shimmer
    Relab 480
    Eventide Black Hole pedal
    Strymon Big Sky pedal
    Eventide H3000 Rack unit
    Roland Space Echo vintage delay

  • Strymon Bluesky should’ve been in there


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