TP: Hi Shane, thanks for sharing your knowledge & providing the services you do – when did you first start working with the Roland Space Echo models?
EF: I started specialising in repairing the Roland Space Echo 3 years ago after I purchased an RE-201 that was faulty. I had repaired them in the past, among other vintage analog gear, but this was when I really decided to focus on Space Echos.
TP: When did you start Echofix? Is your background technical, musical or both?
EF: I started advertising parts and repairs in mid 2011, before that it was just word of mouth, people would just find me. My background is both technical and musical. I am the singer/songwriter in the Australian band St Leonards which is my main gig. We are currently signed to BMG publishing. I repair Space Echos because I really enjoy it and it helps me reset and get my mind away from music etc. I am a closet nerd at heart 🙂
TP: I’m about to ship you one of my 201s for maintenance, being based in Australia do you do work on many from outside your immediate Pacific neighbours?
EF: Yes, I receive Space Echos from all over the world. As there are not many people repairing them, I am pretty easy to track down by a simple google search.
TP: Are parts readily available?
EF: Most parts are no longer available but I have had certain parts manufactured to original spec like pinch rollers, bearings and even new plastic tape bay covers.
TP: I see you also sell replacement tape loops & advise against using old stock of the RT-1L, could you elaborate?
EF: After a while magnetic tape starts to deteriorate and the oxide on the tape surface starts to become sticky and smears across the tape heads. This is caused by the binder breaking down. This can also cause the tape to jam and can cause excessive wow and flutter which puts more strain on the drive motor. The more humid the environment is, the worse the tape will stick and shed as the tape absorbs the moisture from the air. As the original RT-1L tape is over 30 years old it suffers from the shedding.
TP: Whats your advice in terms of maintenance? How often should I clean the heads? How often should I replace the tape loop?
EF: You should clean your heads, tape path and tape bay quite often. I clean the heads every couple of days if I am using it frequently. Isopropyl alcohol and a cotton tip is the best, with a light pressure so you do not damage the heads. You also need to clean every surface that comes into contact with the tape. Replacing the felts every 2 or 3 tapes will do wonders in keeping your Space Echo clean and will even improve problems with wow and flutter.
TP: Do you have a favourite model?
EF: My favourite model is the RE-201. It has the tone control for the echo signal and they have a nice grainy sound to them. They are like guitars in a way, as each RE-201 sounds different to each other. This is from component value drift, head alignment etc. I like all of the different models though as they all have a unique sound.
TP: I’ve tried most of the attempts to emulate the Space Echo in software and none come even close – apart from the physicality in terms of intuitive use, am I imagining it or is there something magical about the spacing of the replay heads?
EF: I have the Universal Audio RE-201 Space Echo plugin myself which sounds amazing and it definitely has its uses, but you cannot go past the real deal. What I do like about the emulations though is the fact you can use as many as you like on multiple tracks and it allows you to revisit a mix and make changes etc. There is a time and place for both but I think all Space Echo fans would agree with me when i say that using authentic analog gear produces a truly unique sound.
TP: Are there any quirks or hidden features?
EF: Not really but I personally use the RE-201 to drive extra signal into a tube amp to get more gain like an overdrive pedal. It works really well and colours the sound in a nice way. To tell you the truth I run a Space Echo through nearly everything when I am recording with my band in the studio. If a track feels a little brittle and clinical, just run it through an RE-201 with very little echo and it instantly sounds better.
TP: Amen to that! Thanks again & much respect to Shane Fritsch & ECHO FIX for supporting such beautifully idiosyncratic machines! Do your Space Echo a favour & at least order a few sets of replacement tape loops