Roland RE-3 Digital Space Echo

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I am a delay and reverb junkie. It’s a problem that I’ve lived with for most of my life. Over the years I have used taken just about every opportunity that I could to wedge in an extra delay line and a bit more reverb on every track I have ever written. Wet would not be the word for some of my tracks. Drenched. Deluge. Diluvial. All of these would be better words.

Now most delay/reverb junkies are all about analog and tape. But not me. I have a soft spot for digital. I like a digital reverb better than just about anything. From the classic EMT 25o digital plate to the Alesis MidiVerb series, and even the gritty little reverbs on the Zoom 1201fx. I love them all. The expensive ones sound great, and the cheap ones add a vibe and character that nothing else can match.

Now days my friend Sean Costello creates most of the reverbs that I use. His ValhallaShimmer has made the use of the venerable Alesis MidiVerb II completely redundant. VShimmer can create all of the Bloom presets (as used by every Shoegaze band ever) without breaking a sweat and can pull off a dozen or so other slow etherial spaced out effects. And, since it’s all software, I can instance several back-to-back and create sounds that you can’t make without owning six or seven MidiVerbs. ValhallaRoom has so many different modes of operation from super high-end classy and clean to lo-fi dark and modulated that I have retired a couple of my favorite cheap “character” reverb boxen.

But there is one bit of actual outboard gear that I have never been able to actually get my hands on, and if I ever do I will never let go. The Roland Space Echo. Not the fancy RE-201 tape delay that all the cool kids have, but its bastard little brother the RE-3 Digital Echo. It is my white whale. It is the effect that I have always wanted, and nobody has made a plug-in that sounds anything like it. There is a weird crystalline quality to its sound, but it still can sound warm if the right source material is run through it. Also, being digital, the delays can feedback indefinitely giving sounds the feeling that they are just hanging in mid-air. But then you can turn one knob, and the sample begins to get trimmed. And the trimmed sample gets fed back through where it can be trimmed again and again until it turns into an evil digital scream. Granted most early digital delays had this “flaw”, but few could slide into that glitch as gracefully as the RE-3. And the “Warmth” knob. It’s nothing but a (very bad) pitch mod LFO that was supposed to emulate the wow and flutter of tape delays. But, like all things on the RE-3 it can be turned on way too much and give things a sickening wobble. In a good way. A very good way.

This thing is just beauty all around. Used subtly it can achieve surprisingly delicate reverbs and delays, but if you crank the knobs past the safety of the 12 o’clock position the RE-3 becomes a completely different entity. An untamed beast of a machine. Listen for yourself. And make sure you watch the whole vid, because the digital madness is at the end…

Also, if anybody was still looking for a last-minute birthday gift for me, there is an RE-3 on eBay right now.

william parham

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Movere voluntatem montes. Sapientiam ut non desiderant.

One response to Roland RE-3 Digital Space Echo

  1. I’ve found it on my way, and I really love it! wicked tool (

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