Inside the Roland RE-201 Space Echo

The “Space Echo” is a immensely influential portable sound processing device used to create echo and reverb effects. This interactive, animated graphic tells you everything you need to know about its inner workings.

  • 1On/Off switch

  • 2VU meter

    A VU (volume unit) meter indicates the power level of audio signals. The reading is an average of the highs and lows within a short duration.

  • 3The peak level indicator

    The peak level indicator indicates the maximum input of audio signals (above what the VU meter can measure). It indicates an instantaneous level rather than the average.

  • 4Mic volume/instrument volume

    Controls the input and recording levels.

  • 5Mode selector

    The mode selector changes the combination of three playback heads and the spring reverb unit, achieving 12 different echo variations. It includes a “reverb only” mode.

  • 6Repeat rate

    The repeat rate controls how quickly the echo repeats by varying the tape speed. The slower the tape speed, the longer the delay between the original sound and the echo.

  • 7Intensity

    The intensity controls how many times the echo repeats. High intensity levels allow for the echo to self-oscillate (repeat indefinitely).

  • 8Echo volume

    This controls the level of the echo effect.

  • 9Reverb volume

    The reverb volume controls the level of reverb at mode selections between “5” and “11” and “reverb only.”

  • 10Equalizers

    Equalizers control the treble and bass parts of the sound.

  • 11Echo/normal changeover switch

    The echo/normal changeover switch controls instrument input alteration. At “normal,” the instrument input is unaltered. At “echo,” the instrument input is echoed 100%.

  • 12Output level changeover switch

    The output level changeover switch controls the output level (High, Medium, and Low).

  • 13

    The connections include a PA input, which connects to a mixer; two mic inputs; an instrument input; an output, which connects to an amplifier; and a foot switch jack, which allows foot control of the echo and reverb.

The inner workings of the Space Echo

Under the hinged lid is the tape transport system, while the cavity of the Space Echo contains the electrical system.

  • 1Variable Speed Motor

  • 2Capstan

    The capstan contacts and smoothly moves the tape through the Space Echo.

  • 3Circuit boards

  • 4Spring reverb unit

    The spring reverb unit adds a reverb effect to modes 5 through 11 and “reverb only.”

  • 5Tape loop & chamber

    The tape loop constantly cycles through the tape chamber in a freely moving cluster. This design cuts down on tape wear and playback speed irregularities. The tape chamber has a detachable plastic cover to protect the tape and allow easy access for tape replacement.

  • 6Pinch rollers & tension arms

    The rubber-coated pinch rollers and the tension arms maintain tension on the tape and facilitate smooth tape movement.

  • 7Erase head

    The erase head erases any previous audio on the tape.

  • 8Record head

    The record head imprints the tape with the new, incoming audio.

  • 9Replay/playback heads

    The 3 replay/playback heads read the imprint and play back the corresponding audio.

  • 10Transformer

    The transformer reduces the voltage of incoming power to make it compatible with the Space Echo.

How it sounds

Though there many different effects that the RE-201 can create, here are examples of no effect, echo, and reverb.

  • 1No effect

    For no effect, the echo/normal changeover switch is set to “normal,” and the sound passes through unchanged.

  • 2Echo

    With the echo/normal changeover switch set to “echo,” the mode selector set to “3,” and the repeat rate and intensity left in their default positions, a standard echo is added to the instrument sound.

  • 3Reverb

    For a sound with just reverb, the echo/normal changeover switch stays on “echo,” while the mode selector changes to “reverb only.”