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Modern Takes on the Classic Space Echo Effect

Roland's Tape Delays Reimagined in Modern Pedals, Plugins, and More

Jacob Johnson · 07/11/23

Used by everyone from Nils Frahm to Radiohead, Roland's Space Echo, particularly the RE-201, continues to be one of the most sought-after delay effect processors of all time. From its crunchy preamps to the drippy spring reverb and warm yet ethereal tape delay, the Space Echo has added its signature sound to countless recordings for nearly 50 years.

Not too long ago, there was a time when if you wanted the Space Echo sound for yourself, you'd need to track down a vintage unit. However, not everyone wants to shell out big bucks for an original or worry about the inevitable service and maintenance. Additionally, a Space Echo isn't exactly the most compact or portable device—they'll occupy the better part of a desk or shelf's available space.

Thankfully, the Space Echo is such an influential piece of music gear that there's no shortage of modern pedals, plugins, and effects processors that effortlessly channel the magic of this legendary machine. Between these various formats, there's a way to bring the sound of the Space Echo into your music at any budget.

In our recent History of the Roland Space Echo, we dove deep into the rich history of these iconic effect processors. In this guide, we're looking at modern options for getting that classic tape delay flavor. We'll cover everything from modern tape units to pedals that offer guaranteed Space Echo-flavored delays, and we'll even touch on a handful of our favorite plugin options at the end. So strap in and get ready to blast off into orbit with cascading delay repeats and spiraling self-oscillation—we have a number of stellar Space Echo derivatives to cover.

The Real Deal: Echo Fix's Authentic, Modern Tape Delays

If you're chasing the sound of a tape delay, then it's hard to beat the real thing! Echo Fix, a company with a long history of repairing and servicing vintage Roland Space Echo units, introduced the first of their own tape delays back in 2019, featuring a number of custom parts specifically engineered to Echo Fix's exacting requirements. After all, extensively working on the original devices should offer some clues and insights into common points of failure, as well as spur some ideas for evolving the concept even further.

The EF-X2 is, essentially a modern reworking of everything that makes the RE-201 Space Echo great, while also improving some of the original's shortcomings and introducing its own new features. Everything you know and love about the Space Echo sound is here: the essential tape delay, a characterful preamp, and an authentic spring reverb. Best of all, the EF-X2 is engineered for reliability, so while some maintenance will be required on occasion (as is the case for any mechanical thing), it certainly beats rolling the dice on the condition of a vintage unit.

As far as the delay is concerned, you can expect the EF-X2 to do everything the RE-201 can do and more. Its seven head modes allow you to combine the three tape heads in any possible combination, affording a variety of rhythmic delay combos that are a signature element of the Space Echo sound. Additionally, Echo Fix added a fourth Sound on Sound head for even longer delay times, which can be engaged on top of any other combination of playheads. And if you're interested in more opportunities for dynamic control of your delays, the delay Speed and Feedback controls feature external inputs for expression pedals or control voltages from synthesizers.

Of course, the tape delay is nice, but Echo Fix went above and beyond with quality-of-life improvements to make the EF-X2 a more holistic piece of studio equipment. Want to color your tracks with its preamp without using the delay? Flip the Echo switch off and extend the unit's lifespan by disengaging the motor. Looking for even more character on your guitar or bass? The instrument input features a custom JFET preamp for juicier saturation. There's even a dedicated DSP section adding an optional digital chorus or reverb, which may be blended with or used instead of the internal spring.

Echo Fix also offers the EF-X3, based on the RE-301 Chorus Echo, which is available in a variety of configurations: desktop with wooden sides, tolex-wrapped desktop, and a 19" rackmountable version. Contrasting with the EF-X2, there are no DSP effects inside this model—the EF-X3, like the RE-301, is totally analog and utilizes real BBD circuitry for classic chorusing effects. Additionally, this model features the bonus of individual outputs for the playback heads, allowing you to set different volume or panning settings with a mixer or DAW for more immersive delay sounds.

Authentic Space Echo Emulations in Effects Pedals

Not everyone wants or needs a real tape delay, so if you'd be happy with a pedal that channels the vibe of the Space Echo, there are plenty of options available for you! Whether you need to fit that sound on your pedalboard or you're looking for a compact way to add that character to a cramped studio, more and more pedals are becoming available that are direct homages to the Space Echo.

BOSS RE-202 + RE-2

Possibly no one knows the Space Echo better than Roland and their effects pedal division BOSS, so it would only make sense to include their Space Echo pedals at the top of this list! Though it's a digital pedal, the BOSS RE-202 is the heir apparent to the RE-201 Space Echo in name, model number, and sound. But the RE-202 manages to go well beyond what the original could do, furthering BOSS and Roland's collective vision to always move forward, even while paying tribute to their past.

The RE-202 sees some expansion in the Space Echo's delay capabilities by both doubling the maximum delay time and adding a fourth playback head. This not only affords new possibilities in rhythmic multi-tap sounds and cascading ambiences, but another setting is available that changes the distance between play heads to unlock even more options. And of course, the RE-202 is true stereo, unlike the mono-only RE-201.

There are also more ways to customize the sound of the RE-202 than were ever possible with the vintage Space Echo units. Between the Tape Age modes and controls for Saturation and Wow & Flutter, you can easily dial in your preferred Space Echo character, whether it's the clarity of a well-maintained device or murky, unstable washes. The reverb may optionally be swapped from an emulation of the original spring to other types such as hall, plate, and more. Best of all, the RE-202 may change itself in an instant with onboard presets, while Warp, Twist, and MIDI control features make it highly performable and flexible.

Alternatively, BOSS also offers the compact RE-2 in their iconic stompbox form factor. While it might be missing some of the added niceties of the RE-202, the RE-2 is a distilled emulation of the RE-201 that's every bit as convincing as its larger counterpart. It's almost hard to believe that BOSS was able to fit a stereo pedal with tap tempo into their signature compact stompbox package, but that's exactly what the RE-2 manages to do.

Universal Audio UAFX Galaxy '74

Universal Audio has long held acclaim for their astounding UAD plugins, emulating some of the most desirable recording gear to ever exist as a virtual library of DSP plugins. Recently, UA has been channeling the magic of their plugins into a growing line of UAFX pedals, bringing the sound of legendary hardware to a more portable, stage-ready format. Of course, it should come as no surprise that the RE-201 Space Echo is among these prized pieces, and UA's Galaxy '74 is one of the latest to make the jump from UAD plugin to UAFX pedal.

Galaxy '74's straightforward interface makes it easy to dial in Space Echo delay sounds to your liking. Playhead combinations are easily chosen with the left toggle switch, while a few key parameters needing less frequent adjustments are on the switchable Main and [Alt] layers. Notably, Tape Age allows you to dial in the stability and characteristics of your virtual Space Echo units (plural because Galaxy is stereo), so you can easily have crisp, stable echoes or murky, warbly repeats.

You can also tailor the Galaxy '74 pedal to your personal needs via the UAFX Control app. Here you can explore different configurations for the footswitches, including feedback and delay time ramping or allowing for the delay and reverb effects to be enabled independently of each other. Not essential for everyone, but a nice bonus to give a bit of optional customization in case you'd ever need it.

If you primarily work in the box don't worry—we'll touch on the Galaxy UAD plugin later.

NUX Tape Echo

Adorned in that iconic green and black colorway, it's not a stretch to think that the NUX Tape Echo is another take on the Space Echo sound—because it is! Indeed, this pedal employs NUX's Core-Image technology to create their own accurate model of the RE-201, while also giving the ability to tweak and customize the sound to your liking.

Tape Echo puts all of the essential Space Echo controls at the surface, with some deeper settings available in an ALT TWEAKING menu. One nice feature is the OLED display, which both illustrates the currently enabled playheads and displays the current delay times in milliseconds or tap tempo subdivisions. This display also hosts the ALT settings, available by holding down the Select encoder, and includes parameters for Saturation, Wow, Flutter, and options for kill dry and expression pedal assignment.

Additionally, the NUX Tape Echo pedal offers a Sound on Sound (SOS) looping mode, putting traditional looper pedal functionality in the realm of the characterful Space Echo. While this probably isn't the main feature drawing interest towards the pedal, it's a nice bonus to provide additional value in putting the Tape Echo on your pedalboard.

It's also worth mentioning that the NUX Tape Echo is the most affordable hardware option on this list, so if you're trying to add the character of a Space Echo to your rig while staying within budget, this pedal is worth serious consideration.

Space Echo Sounds in Multi-Delay Pedals

Crave the Space Echo sound but need something that covers other delays, too? Thankfully, there are a few options available that give you convincing coverage of the RE-201's character when needed, while also providing a wealth of analog, digital, and other types of delays to get you through any recording session or live performance.

BOSS DD-200

The line of 200 Series pedals from BOSS sits in an intermediate position between many of their compact stompboxes and the larger 500 effects models, often incorporating many of the same or similar effects algorithms in a more streamlined package. The DD-200 is a stellar digital delay with a number of BOSS' best delays packed inside, but you won't need to worry about getting lost in menus thanks to its straightforward interface.

BOSS explicitly states that the Tape mode found on their DD-200 is a recreation of the RE-201 Space Echo, fitting in among other flavors of delay. While you might not have as much control over the finer details of the sound, the essence of the Space Echo character is completely intact. So if you need to kick in a preset with Space Echo vibes for just one song, then switch back to a digital delay or luscious ambient trails, DD-200 can help you out.

Line 6 DL4 MkII

Line 6 has a longstanding history of including the Space Echo in their effects and modeler products, dating all the way back to the original DL4 in 1999. In the new DL4 MkII, you'll find not one but two Space Echo models: the legacy Multi-Head model emulating the RE-101, and the new Cosmos which recreates the RE-201. Given the DL4's usage of two macro parameters called Tweak and Tweez, you can quickly dial in either model to your liking, engaging different playheads and, in the case of Cosmos, adjusting the Wow & Flutter and tone of feedback trails. A bonus of the DL4 MkII is the optional hidden reverb, letting you complete the package of tape delay plus spring reverb, or optionally choose a different type of reverb as desired.

We should also mention: Line 6 often shares their models between all of their products, fostering a great ecosystem of familiar sounds across their catalog. Whether you want the dedicated delay package of the DL4 MkII, a collection of sounds in HX Effects, or full amp modeling in HX Stomp and beyond, you'll have the Space Echo vibe (and countless other sounds) with you every step of the way.

Empress Echosystem

Another option for capable multi-delays with a certifiable Space Echo vibe, the Empress Echosystem is a compact powerhouse packing tons of uniquely crafted delay engines. Even in the category of Tape delays, Echosystem features four different options emulating different devices and flavors of tape character. No surprise, the Space Echo is included as one of these modes—flip through Tape mode until LED shines yellow, and you'll conjure up Roland's iconic echo device right on your board. You can even dial in saturation and modulation via the Thing 1 and Thing 2 controls.

The Echosystem is unique among the other entries on this list in its flexibility to run two delay engines at once. That's right—you can Space Echo your Space Echo, or combine it with some of the more bizarre engines like Stutter, Reverse, and Whisky for a sonic collision of vintage and modern delay worlds.

Of course, there are tons of other great delay pedals out there with stellar tape-syle emulations, and even if they're not explicitly models of the Roland Space Echo, it's often very easy to get similar sounds out of them. Our top honorable mentions include Alexander's Rewind, the Head Space algorithm on Eventide's H90, and the combination of Tape type and Multitap structure on the Meris LVX—any of these are great options to indirectly bring you towards Space Echo sonic territories.

Space Echo Plugins

As a retailer of music gear, we'll be the first to tell you that there are tons of great Space Echo options available in hardware. That said, we all still use DAWs and software plugins all the time for our personal projects—it's hard to beat the immediacy and convenience of loading up a VST and instantly being treated to luscious sounds! We'll take this opportunity to list some of our favorite virtual Space Echo options, including both authentic emulations and more general delay plugins drawing serious inspiration from those legendary machines. These are all great options for a variety of reasons, so we're listing them alphabetically rather than in any other particular order.

Ableton Echo

Regardless of your preference, DAWs are shipping with stellar plugins these days—the days of lackluster stock plugins are behind us. In particular, Ableton has been stepping up their game for their own stock plugin in recent versions of Live. If you're using the Suite edition of Live 10 or higher, Ableton's aptly named Echo plugin draws a lot of inspiration from the Space Echo while introducing its own features and musical applications. But between its built-in reverb and customizable fluctuations via the Modulation and Character pages, there are plenty of vintage hardware vibes to found in Echo.

While it doesn't directly offer the multi-head functionality that the Space Echo does, Echo features optionally independent delay times for its left and right channels, which may be used for variable-width stereo, ping pong, and mid/side delays. There's also much more flexibility in the filtering of delayed signals in the feedback path, offering ways to shape your sounds that physical tape wouldn't be able to facilitate.

Arturia Delay TAPE-201

From historic analog behemoths to cutting-edge digital synthesis techniques, to call Arturia's catalog of plugins extensive would almost be an understatement. Even with authenticity in mind, Arturia isn't afraid to enhance the experience of using these legendary sounds with modern enhancements and flexibility that could only be available in software.

As such, the Delay TAPE-201 plugin almost feels like you have a perfectly working Space Echo in your studio, yet simultaneously opened up on your workbench for continuous modification. You'll find a number of parameters within TAPE-201 that don't exist at all on the original RE-201. From extensive input EQ options and detailed control over Motor Inertia, Flutter, and Noise to a courtesy modulation LFO assignable to any parameter within the plugin, TAPE-201 pushes the boundaries of the Space Echo sound to totally new spaces. You can even dial in separate delay rates for the left and right channels of your audio, smattering the Space Echo rhythmic repeats across stereo space.

IK Multimedia Space Delay

Space Delay is, of course, IK Multimedia's plugin version of the RE-201, boasting the familiar interface of the original revamped in a bold, bright red. Focusing more on authenticity, Space Delay does bring some of its own features that make it a worthwhile addition to any DAW-based production. As a plugin, stereo operation is a given, however, Space Delay offers the handy ability to pan the three delay heads and the spring reverb independently of each other. Scatter rhythmic repeats across the stereo field or separate the delays from the reverb between the left and right channels.

For further separation in your mix, Space Delay also features input filters and ducking features—convenient for fitting Space Echo character into any production. Trim out low-end frequencies before they hit the tape delay or darken up repeats with the separate lowpass and highpass filters on the inputs. Ducking is particularly cool, dipping the delay level down while input signals are present and bringing it back up for increased clarity and distinction.

Soundtoys EchoBoy - Space Echo Style

One of two comprehensive delay plugins on our list, the Soundtoys EchoBoy packs no shortage of stellar delay sounds inside. As of EchoBoy 5, there are no fewer than 30 different Echo Styles, with plenty to offer from analog emulations to strange digital delays.

You'll have no difficulty finding the Space Echo sounds because that Echo Style option is called... well, Space Echo! EchoBoy also features a design where the character of the delay can be independently set from the mode of delay, with options for Single, Dual, Ping Pong, and a unique Rhythm Echo for getting the exact pattern of repeats that you need.

If you're feeling extra adventurous, EchoBoy features an in-depth Style Editor giving you more control over the delay's inner workings. This means if you like the vibe of the Space Echo but want to tweak it a bit more to your specific needs or bring any other mode into more Roland-like territory, these are the settings to dive into.

Universal Audio UAD Galaxy

Before the UAFX Galaxy '74 ever existed, there was the original UAD Galaxy plugin. As you might expect, this is pretty much the same algorithm as found on the pedal but simply lacks the physical form. It's a thoroughly impressive emulation of the original Space Echo units, with the benefits of stereo operation and tempo synchronization with your DAW.

If you've been thinking about purchasing an Apollo interface, keep an eye out for their quarterly plugin promotions. A handful of plugins are always included, especially with the Heritage Edition Apollos, but Universal Audio commonly curates an additional selection of their many plugins to be included as a free bonus. Galaxy is among the included plugins every once in a while, so timing your purchase to coincide with these deals adds some additional value to your interface!

UA has also made a selection of their plugins available as native versions, which don't require the special DSP hardware of an Apollo—these just run on your computer like any other piece of software. Galaxy is available on its own or as part of the UAD Spark subscription.

Valhalla Delay - Tape Mode

Designed by another company producing some of the most well-regarded plugins around, Valhalla Delay tackles the bold task of emulating a wide range of time effects within one coherent user interface. If you've used any of the other Valhalla plugins, it should come as no surprise that Valhalla Delay does a remarkable job of not only channeling the character of different types of delay but extending them with features to facilitate the exploration of totally new sounds.

Valhalla describes Tape mode as showing strong influence from not only the RE-201 but also the RE-301 and a teeny bit of EP-3 Echoplex. However, Valhalla Delay takes the interesting approach of decoupling the sonic characteristics of its delay types from the actual delay mechanisms themselves. For example, the Style control offers incredible variety in how sounds repeat, ranging from standard echoes and ping pong to ratio-based delay times and scattered multi-taps. Any delay type, including Tape, can also be subjected to Diffusion, which turns discrete echoes into smeared, reverb-like textures.

That's No Moon... It's a Space Echo

Whether you're specifically chasing authentic Space Echo delays or just hoping to bring a little bit of that magic into your music, there's no shortage of different options available to you. The Space Echo's influence is immeasurable, and it's certain to be considered a landmark achievement in the history of delay effects for years to come. We definitely wouldn't be surprised if we see more pedals, plugins, and more offering their own spin on Roland's classic delay in the future.

If you're looking for more general delay recommendations, be sure to check out our Delay Pedal Buying Guide for even more ideas.