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Roland RE-201 Space Echo tech question
Old 17th June 2008
  #1
Here for the gear
Roland RE-201 Space Echo tech question

I've got a 201 that came sans tape and I just put a replacement in. the reverb works great. The delay makes no sound. I've read a lot of posts suggesting a bias adjustment, but I haven't found anywhere that says how to do this.

I already tried the other side of the tape. This is the replacement tape I'm using:

1x ROLAND RT-1L QUALITY SPACE ECHO TAPE LOOP .Sub - eBay (item 250259445744 end time Jun-24-08 15:13:37 PDT)

Any suggestions?
Old 17th June 2008
  #2
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Mike6581's Avatar
 

Bias adjustment seems a bit intense to be honest. It can really open a can of worms and if you've never done it before, you could do more harm than good.

Before you go down that avenue, I'd suggest something a bit simpler (if you've not already tried it). I had a similar problem when I replaced a tape loop in my Korg SE-300 (shameless RE-201 rip-off). I got no echo whatsoever. I just gave the heads and the tape path a proper clean with iso-propyl alcohol and it worked a charm after that.

The type of tape your RL-1 replacement is made out of will probably be a pretty standard biased Quantegy/Ampex tape... perhaps a low print one, such as 478. I don't think the miltary a) use reel to reel tape anymore and b) if they did it'd probably be the same as everyone else's! Roland didn't specially make their own tapes for their echo boxes and they were fairly standard tapes, just packaged as their own. I'm also a bit concerned that the tape you bought on ebay was distributed in a tic-tac box! That'll give plenty of potential for lots of sugar particles to get stuck on the heads and in the tape path.

If you've got a reel of 1/4" tape lying around (such as Quantegy 478, 456 or 406) and a bit of splicing tape, try knocking your own up! You don't need to make a massively long tape. Even if it's just to test your echo box is still alive.
Old 17th June 2008
  #3
Here for the gear
Thanks! The boxes are quite clean, but yes, they could provide issues. I do have a bunch of 1/4" tape lying around (from an old AKAI 4 track). I also have the tape head cleaner from that machine. I'll give it a whirl with alcohol first and tape head cleaner second.
Old 17th June 2008
  #4
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And no dice on the cleaner. I'll try the other tape later tonight. Got a session comign in to do guitars in an hour.
Old 18th June 2008
  #5
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Mike6581's Avatar
 

By the way, careful if the tapes are 20+ years old as they'll start shedding their coating inside the tape echo. Should still do enough to give you an indication on whether or not the mechanism is working. Even if the bias is wrong (which I'm not sure will be the case), you should still get an output of some sort (even if it doesn't sound right), so too should your recently acquired tape loop off ebay.

If you still have no joy I'd suggest sourcing someone who can repair them in your area as I think the problem might be something more fundamental. Best bet is to go around the guitar shops in your area and see if anyone can service them. The big shops won't touch it with a barge pole and probably try and flog you the Boss RE-20! The little shops on the back streets on the other hand would be well worth a visit. You'd be suprised where someone with a great knowledge of echo boxes turns up and also how repairable they actually are.
Old 18th June 2008
  #6
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DaveUK's Avatar
it's not the old footswitch /bypass is it?
Old 18th June 2008
  #7
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Mike6581's Avatar
 

Good grief, that's a fair shout actually! The reverb on my Stage Echo (shameless Korg plagarism) will still function even if you turn the tape echoes off... and the tape will keep rolling too.

I wonder if the contacts in the switch on the 201 are gone? Might be worth using a footswitch to see whether or not it works. My Korg will take a bog-standard one as you'd use on an amp, so might be worth plugging one of those in and seeing whether or not you get some echoes when you press the footswitch a couple of times?
Old 18th June 2008
  #8
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man, these seem like a dream come true. I am begging you to tell me about it. I think we are all thinking: what is it like?
Old 18th June 2008
  #9
Here for the gear
It's not the footswitch. The VU meter is on and the tape is rolling. When I plugged in a footswitch and hit it, the VU meter stopped and the tape disengaged. Then when I hit it again it re-engaged.

And dylansmale: what's a broken space echo like? frustrating! lol.

Mike - thanks on the repair suggestion. There's quite a few repair places around DC that do vintage gear, the problem is, they're all so booked up it's almost impossible to get someone on the phone. I've got a bunch of outboard stuff I need to take in for hum issues (yay 80s gear!) and I'm trying to do it all in one fell swoop. But if I can fix it myself, all the better.

Going to try that tape stuff here in a bit and see if she plays nice (literally and figuratively). Thanks for the help so far!

Cheers
J
Old 18th June 2008
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dylansmale View Post
man, these seem like a dream come true. I am begging you to tell me about it. I think we are all thinking: what is it like?
Good grief...Space Echoes are good and fun but nothing to have a wet dream about.heh
(yes I got one and used to have 2!)
Old 18th June 2008
  #11
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GearHunter's Avatar
 

I have a cherry one, the previous owner never knew you could pop the top off, so when I did, it was spotless in there, with the original little booklet and everything. Problem is, the erase head's shot. (And it needs a new tape). Any ideas where I can get it serviced and the parts replaced?
Old 18th June 2008
  #12
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I have news for you...

The tape in a Space Echo is "lubricated" and if you put in regular tape you will wear down the heads quite quickly.

I learned this back in about 1977.
We put Ampex 456 in a Space Echo and it sounded quite good for a few days.
The 456 ruined the heads which were already quite worn.

I can't believe that any Space Echos still have any use-able heads!

The unit you are describing sounds like it has worn out heads.
Old 18th June 2008
  #13
Here for the gear
Well, the tape from the AKAI didn't improve things and i tried flipping the tape around again just to make sure. No. Hay. Echo.

So I'm going to take it over to Tim at MusicTechnology in Springfield, VA. Been playing phone message tag, but he said he's got quite extensive experience working on Roland Space Echo machines, so that gives me hope that this will be quick and cheap.

At least, done right.

For those of you in the mid atlantic (or who like to abuse UPS and FedEx accounts):
Music Technology
Old 19th June 2008
  #14
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Run the proper tape.

Interesting story:
Once while driving between Dallas and El Paso in a band (no, it just sounds like a ZZ Top thing) we stopped at a truck stop in Alpine, Texas.
There was a wrecked Ryder truck and we had to poke around.

The truck's box was empty except for some wrecked anvil cases and a brand new box of Roland Space Echo tapes!
We had a lifetime supply at this point!
Of course the Space Echo that we put the Ampex 456 in was already trashed.

The truck had been being used by the L.A. band Ambrosia and they wrecked it out there in west Texas.
Old 19th June 2008
  #15
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Mike6581's Avatar
 

Isn't 456 a Grand Master ("sandpaper" tape)? I wouldn't advise using that stuff for anything other than what it's name suggests as it is designed to be abrasive so that the particles make better contact with the azimuth head, it isn't designed to be used constantly. Not all the Ampex tapes are like this, only the Grand Masters. Something like Ampex 478 is perfectly fine as it's playback surface is a lot smoother. If all tapes were abrasive, the heads on all tape decks would be worn out by now!

Besides, seeing as the original Roland/Korg tapes have been out of production for 20+ years, they'll be shedding their coatings so they'll be absolutely useless now even if they've never been used. Not only would this cake the heads in loads of gunk, but it'd also mean you'd probably need to get the demagnetiser out (which is always fun).

As for replacing a head, the best bet again is to go to a bric-a-brac style side street music shop, those guys all universally seem to have a knowledge of them and know how to butcher parts for them.
Old 19th June 2008
  #16
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For one thing, Ampex/Quantegy 406, 456, 499 and the mastering tapes made by 3M as well as AGFA and BASF were 1 mil. thickness as opposed to other tapes that are/were .5 mil.

These tapes did have thicker oxide coatings, but they were polished.
They were a bit more abrasive, but not to the point that it would cause head wear any quicker on pro decks.

The material that the heads are made from also determines head life.
Roland heads never looked that robust to me.
Space Echo heads were made by Nortronics I believe.
Remember these were consumer devices and not really designed as pro gear.

The heads on pro decks really don't wear out any quicker because of using these tapes.
I presently own or have owned too many pro decks to even count (thirty?) and the heads lasted as long as any other decks if not longer.

At a bare minimum you need to be running /5 mil tape in Space Echos and Echoplexes.

I just can't see how any of the decks except one that was hardly ever used could have decent heads.
We wore out an RE-201 by 1978!
Of course that band played five nights per week and that unit was running the whole time.
Old 19th June 2008
  #17
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Mike6581's Avatar
 

That's a fair point with regards to the Space Echoes and the thickness of tape. However, I've been running my Stage Echo with some 478 (bought from a dealer in replacement tape loops on the web) for months now and it's fine... Admittedly not every day of the week mind you! Finding decent tapes that are a 100% match for the original is going to be nigh on impossible now though... Especially as the only company in the world to manufacture magnetic tapes today is RMGI (with their tapes being as rare as hen's teeth).

The heads on my Stage Echo seem suprisingly good considering it's age and the overall age of the unit. I'm not sure if Korg made better parts than Roland, though seeing as it's virtually a carbon copy I wouldn't be suprised if it was all the same stuff. Does using the device on a faster tape speed affect the head-wear signficantly by the way? I tend to run it exceptionally slowly, to get a warmer sound (and longer echoes).
Old 23rd August 2009
  #18
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sonichermit's Avatar
 

RE-201 space echo question

In regards to the Space Echo. I have one I bought new in 1975 and still use it everytime I plug in my guitar. Have no idea how many hours are on it, thousands to say the least. The heads on mine are pretty worn but it still works.
If your heads are worn out, you can possibly have them relaped if there is enough left of them. Contact JRF Magnetics they can relap them for you.
I doubt that the problem is worn heads. Have you made certain signal is going into the unit. Does the meter react when you play or send signal into the unit?
I had another problem with mine in that the output jack housing was cracked. This is inside the panel where the jacks and controls are mounted. The jack is a plastic enclosed 1/4" mono jack. I picked up a replacement and will be installing it soon. In the meantime I merely super glued the housing of the jack.
Your problem could be a number of things but frankly I really doubt your heads are so worn they will not put out.
One other thing to check is the alignment of the tape as it crosses the heads. Check to make sure it is about centered across the pole pieces you can see when you look directly at the head. If the tape is not crossing the head properly you won't get much in the way of clear echo.
Finally, it could be an electronic problem such as the Bias control board that biases the heads. If this is out the heads will not be working properly. I would look at the simple things first before I assume it is an electronic issue.
If none of the above mentioned things turn out to be the cause you may need to take it into a shop.
There are several places on the internet that claim they service these units. Try orbitelectronix.com
Forgot to mention this one. Are you positive the tape is actually moving across the heads ie: obviously if the tape is not feeding you are not going to get any echo. I had a motor problem with mine a few years ago. Had it cleaned and lubed and it is working still. Keeping my fingers crossed. But hey I have had this unit for 34 years and I guess I can assume I got what I paid for and then some. If only companies like Roland still built things to this level of quality.
Old 23rd August 2009
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike6581 View Post
That's a fair point with regards to the Space Echoes and the thickness of tape. However, I've been running my Stage Echo with some 478 (bought from a dealer in replacement tape loops on the web) for months now and it's fine... Admittedly not every day of the week mind you! Finding decent tapes that are a 100% match for the original is going to be nigh on impossible now though... Especially as the only company in the world to manufacture magnetic tapes today is RMGI (with their tapes being as rare as hen's teeth).

The heads on my Stage Echo seem suprisingly good considering it's age and the overall age of the unit. I'm not sure if Korg made better parts than Roland, though seeing as it's virtually a carbon copy I wouldn't be suprised if it was all the same stuff. Does using the device on a faster tape speed affect the head-wear signficantly by the way? I tend to run it exceptionally slowly, to get a warmer sound (and longer echoes).
Not true. Quantegy is back in production and there is one other company (whose name escapes me) that I've heard is producing tape.

Space Echo tapes should be made with lubricated tape out of 8 track cartridges or radio carts.
Old 24th August 2009
  #20
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&#9835 StringsReunited - getting your sound back!

This guy is Radiohead's tech so presumably he knows what he is doing. Other than that he talks about 201s somewhere in his blog, saying that replacement motors for them are becoming almost impossible to find. Coming from someone that well connected suggests that for those of us without superstar clientele it may well be nigh on impossible.
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