IK Multimedia Space Delay by Sound-Guy
Space Delay from IK Multimedia
Back before many Gearslutz readers were born a young engineer in Japan, Ikutaro Kakehashi, started a little company to produce his tape echo designs – the little company is still around and named Roland. Why did Kakehashi give his company a “foreign” name? He was aiming for a worldwide market and figured an “English” name would sell better. He was apparently correct! Anyway, he came up with a brilliant design that used standard 1/4-inch magnetic tape formed into a loop and held in a small chamber with no need for reels or tension arms. The first Space Echo was available in 1974 in two models, the RE-101, a delay-only model, and the RE-201, a delay with a spring reverb. These units were so revered that you can still buy used ones made in the 70’s and 80’s, for big bucks!
The IKM Space Delay models the RE-201 with a front panel very similar to the hardware.
The IK Multimedia Space Delay looks a lot like its inspiration.
The real Space Echo hardware has input and output jacks below the control dials, but the controls on the upper part of the Space Delay panel are pretty much the same as the hardware units, and provide the same results. On the IKM Space Delay the lower section of the panel adds some very useful extra controls, LP and HP filters (affect post processing of both delay and reverb sounds), a “ducking” control that ducks both delay and reverb sounds while an input signal occurs, a Stereo Reverb switch (this affects only the spring reverb output – the original Space Echo was mono), an FX Feed switch (bypasses the unit in the off position), noise and tape age controls (the real units “suffered” from using narrow tape that wore out as it was used), a Sync switch to sync to a DAW tempo (there was no such thing as a DAW in 1974!), a window showing the delays for each head (this shows the time in msec or note values with respect to tempo if the Sync switch is on), and finally a pan control for each head output, something the 1974 hardware didn’t have.
Note that the delays are controlled by the RATE knob above the Tape Age control, which on the original hardware unit controls the tape speed, and the relative delay times are fixed since the heads are fixed in place. The relative times are always in a ratio of 2.75:1 and 1.9:1 and cover from the shortest delay to the longest, 69 msec to 489 msec. Using the Sync mode sets the delays to note values and runs from a dotted whole note to a triplet 16th note, although the longest I measured was actually a whole note (both whole and dotted full note delays produced the same delay – I’ve sent this observation to IKM although I don’t see it as much of a problem).
Space Delay has a good preset manager that includes 25 factory settings and enables the user to save as many original configurations as desired. Of course any settings used in an instance of Space Delay in a DAW will be saved and reopened in a project.
Preset Manager has some good starting ideas and can save any configurations you create.
How Does It Do It?
The original Space Echo used a tape loop that rotated past four heads – a record head, and three playback heads. A signal from the input was recorded on the tape as it passed under the record head. Then one, two or all three of the playback heads could read this signal, but since they were spaced out (get it? Space Echo!!) each produced a different delay time according to the position of the head and speed of the tape. The delayed signals could be fed back to the record head along with an input signal so that complex repeating delays could occur. Space Delay accomplishes the same effects without any tape, yet it operates very much the same and produces sounds that can be varied from clean delays and reverb to as gritty as a real Space Echo. In fact I was surprised at how “gritty” the sound was when I pushed the Input control up so that the Peak/Level light flashed on a lot – more so than I would ever use in a jazz or pop tune (but fun with grunge or heavy metal).
Since Space Delay emulates the Roland RE-201, it also has a spring reverb with the same controls as the hardware. There is reverb available with eight of the twelve Modes (see below), with the bottom position bypassing the tape delay and providing reverb only. The level and pan of reverb can be varied, and the LP/HP filter can be used to adjust the reverb tone over a wide range.
The Mode dial is worth a mention – since the original hardware had three playback heads and the spring reverb, the Mode dial selected which head was being played and selected reverb on or off. The first four modes were delay only and selected head 1, or 2 or 3, or 2 and 3. The seven modes with delay and reverb had these head configurations plus 1 and 2, 1 and 3, and all three heads. Since the reverb level can be turned off, any of the delay configurations available in Modes 5-11 can be used without reverb. This provides a wide range of effects with the ability to quickly switch between variations.
How Does It Sound?
In short, fantastic. If you want a real ‘70’s to ‘80’s hardware unit, there are a number available from used audio equipment dealers all over the planet, for US$1,600 to US$2,500 or more, and they might work pretty well. But I doubt they’d sound better (or grittier!) than the Space Delay, and you might need to spend a lot of time and effort keeping them running well (after all, they are 40 years old or more).
The Space Delay will get you that 70’s sound for a lot less cash outlay than a hardware unit, and is a lot more capable for use with a DAW – stereo reverb, panned heads, tempo sync, to name a few things. I have quite a few software delay plug-ins that provide good delay FX, but I found Space Delay is different. Even in its cleaner settings, it has something special (I’d call it tape sound), but push the input level up, add noise and tape age, and it provides a really unique sound. The ducking control adds useful space for the input sound, allowing delays and reverb that don’t compete as new notes are played and the HP/LP filter enables “tuning” the delay/reverb tones.
In short I’d say what I exclaimed when I first tried it – “Holy F . . . kn’ S . .t! This is fantastic!” My wife didn’t approve of my English, but thought Space Delay sounded wonderful.
Space Delay is available for the IKM T-RackS mastering module and when added to your T-RackS collection will also provide Audio Unit, AAX, VST2 and VST3 – for 64 bit OS only. In my test system (PC Audio Labs Rok Box PC running Windows 7 with 4-Core Intel i7-4770K, 3.5 GHz, and 16 GB RAM) a single instance of Space Delay used from 0.8% to 1.4% cpu resource depending on the mode used – reverb or delay only used under 1% and the delay plus reverb modes used 1.2% to 1.4%. Latency was very low, 3 samples in my system, but the PDC will use your buffer latency setting if PDC is active. With such a small latency (62.5 usec at 48k sample rate) you could easily turn PDC off if you want real-time operation, and if you didn’t have other plug-ins that add more latency. Space Delay supports sampling rates up to 192 kHz if your dog is a hi-fi aficionado.
Note, as with other T-RackS modules, you actually update your full T-RackS program rather than just add Space Delay as a separate plug-in. This may seem a little odd, but it’s the way T-RackS is designed. You also get the updated T-RackS user manual which adds the latest modules to its descriptions.
I’ve included a few examples and more are available on the IKM site. Mine have a dry sample play for a few bars, then repeat the same passage with Space Delay adding delay and in some cases reverb. I started with relatively clean settings and shift to more gritty ones in the last two examples.
WOW! IKM has nailed it. Every time I started to test/play with Space Delay, it seems the hours flew by! A lot of fun, a lot of realistic Space Echo effects, and I can use two or three of them in a project with different settings for much less cash outlay than buying three used units!
It’s as close to the real deal as you’ll get with software, and unlike the real classic hardware, without aging electronics, noisy switches, pots and jacks.
It expands on the capabilities of the real hardware with stereo reverb and panning ability for each playback head in addition to DAW tempo sync, ducking and other tonal controls.
Has that warm, saturated tape sound even in it’s cleaner settings and can go very dirty/gritty!
Comes both as a T-RackS module and standalone plug-in.
Much, much cheaper than a used hardware Space Echo and much cheaper (and more useful) than a modern hardware pedal emulation!
Can’t think of a one!