Boss RE-2 Space Echo: What is it?
Given that the price of a vintage Roland Space Echo unit is around two grand, the news that Boss was to add an emulation of its hallowed tape echo to its Compact Series was greeted with much rejoicing by guitar effects pedal enthusiasts the world over.
There has been no shortage of emulations, over the years, of digital emulations of tape echo machines sitting side by side with other flavours of repeating effects in multi-functional delay pedals, but this? This feels authentic; the Space Echo is coming home or born anew for a new generation of guitar players.
The RE-2 looks the part, taking the green-on-silver livery of the original units and applying it to the ubiquitous Boss pedal housing, and the Japanese company has squeezed as many controls as possible to bring us those Space Echo sounds, with three of its dials pulling double-shifts and 11-way rotary Mode selector switch allowing you to access different tape-head combinations.
There are stacked dual-function dials with the outer dial accessing functions listed on the bottom (Reverb, Tone, Wow and Flutter) and the inner dial accessing those listed above (Echo, Intensity, Repeat Rate). It is an efficient and intuitive way of arranging things, providing the player with plenty of options for dialling in a sound.
And those sounds? Well…
Boss RE-2 Space Echo: Performance and verdict
There is a reason why the Roland Space Echo, even those ravished by decades of use, command such prices, and that is the sounds. There is something completely different and unique about the sound of their repeats, of the mechanical manipulation of your signal and the eccentricity of this, that makes it work so well with electric guitar.
What we’ve got here is not only more accessible financially, but the emulation route provides us with a consistency of sound and a unit that requires no servicing unless you choose to run it from a 9V battery rather than a Boss pedalboard power supply. And changing a battery is hardly what we’d call servicing.
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It takes seconds not minutes to get a great sound out of the RE-2. Weeks, not days to fully fathom all its sounds, and furthermore, to find a musical use for them. This is one of those effects units that inspire ideas as well as facilitate and flatter those you already have.
The Wow and Flutter accurately replicate the quality of a worn-in/worn-out tape, the aforementioned eccentricity of a mechanical device manipulating sound, and it is an incredibly musical effect – modulation meets performance art. Some of these sounds might strike you as extreme in the abstract, but they make sense through the speaker.
Naturally, the size means that there have to be some concessions to space, but Boss allows for extending the functionality with an input for a control switch or expression pedal.
Hook up a Boss footswitch (an FS-5U will set you back about £39 street) and you can set the tap tempo for your repeats, or press and hold for a Twist sound, a disorientating oscillated echo that adds another layer of three-dimensionality to your tone. The expression pedal can be used to control any one of the pedal’s control knobs – obviously, Mode selection excepted.
On the RE-2, the tone control is all-encompassing as opposed to the treble and bass of the original units, and of the larger COSM-driven RE-20 pedal Boss released some time back.
The advance of the digital delay pedal might have changed player expectations that it is worth noting that super-long delay times are not the Space Echo’s thing. But that said, Boss has doubled the max delay time for these units and that, perhaps, is another reason why your overdraft can sleep a little easier at night; this has all the Space Echo mojo that most players could ever need, without ever having to consider whether a backup vintage unit would be needed for live shows.
You might find more versatile delay and echo stompboxes on the market, some cheaper too, but when it comes to character and feel, there are very few sounds that can compare with the Space Echo, and this nails them.
MusicRadar verdict: Worth the wait and worthy of the hype, the RE-2 Space Echo faithfully translates the mojo of the original vintage tape echo units and presents it in a pedalboard-friendly format.
Boss RE-2 Space Echo: The web says
"The RE-2 responds well to distortion pedals in front, or indeed after it, and it’s less jumpy than the vintage originals, lacking a controllable preamp. Sound-wise our only complaint is that the reverb, like on the original RE-201, is a bit hard to dial in."
"The real advantage of a multi-head delay is being able to create dancing rhythms of repeats, and the RE-2 excels at bringing that extra complexity without sounding chaotic... All we’re missing here is some stereo ping-pong magic: while the RE-2 does have stereo outputs, the repeats from a mono source run straight down the middle."
Boss RE-2 Space Echo: Hands-on demos
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Boss RE-2 Space Echo: Specifications
- TYPE: Tape echo emulation pedal
- CONTROLS: Echo/Reverb, Intensity/Tone, Repeat Rate/Wow & Flutter, Mode
- INPUTS: Stereo In, Stereo Out, Ctl/Exp in
- POWER: 9V battery or DC Centre-negative power supply
- RANGE OPTIONS: Boss RE-202 (£339 / $419)
- CONTACT: Boss