New and Old Takes on the Roland Space Echo and Dimension D

Dan & Mick took TPS on the road. This week, they found themselves in the mix of countless other YouTube creators at Gearhead University 2018 in Treppendorf, Germany. With a warehouse of guitars, amps, and gear at their disposal, it was open season.

Sifting shelves loaded with the best of the best and newest of nouveau, Dan & Mick did what Dan & Mick do: they unearthed some iconic classics and paired them up with their modern pedal counterparts. The effects of interest this week? First up, a vintage Roland Space Echo RE-201 and its little brother in pedal format, the Boss RE-20. The second David and Goliath pair was a Roland Dimension D rack unit, and its stompbox variation, the Boss DC-2 Dimension C.

In hunting the halls for these delay and chorus effects, Dan & Mick picked up a guest, Matt Schofield, who joined them for part of the experience with these iconic items from Roland and Boss.

Space Echo Sounds and Tape Delay Typologies

A while back, Dan & Mick had the chance to test drive the big, beautiful, clunky, analog originals of an Echoplex tape delay and Binson Echorec. As Mick started the segment, he noted “the other tape echo that was used widely and is love equally is the Roland RE series.” This series rolled out over the years in different iterations, but the RE-201 featured this week had four tape heads for various divisions, tempos, and modes as well as an authentic spring reverb.

The sound of the original was both clean and warm, open yet focused. In a way, the sound of the Space Echo sat in between those of the Echoplex and Echorec. For Mick, “it’s almost like you get both of them in one box.” When dialing in the reverb with different combinations of record/playback heads, the pings took on a new dynamic and expressive quality. So how did the pedal version stand up?

One clear advantage of the peal format was that it captured the feel and tone of its bigger brother yet included modern appointments, such as tap tempo and input level adjustment. The former feature, Mick commented, will appeal “to fans of that whole self-oscillation thing.” After some A-B tests between the pedal and original, Dan & Mick broke from tradition and offered the unexpected conclusion. “I prefer the pedal, and we’re getting one,” noted Mick.

These days, you’ll find modern takes of the Space Echo sounds tucked away within the recently launched Boss DD-500.

Split, Flipped, and Cancelled: The Dimension Approach to Chorus

When it comes to chorus, the sonic legacy of the Roland/Boss Dimension effects is all but traditional. Whereas a chorus effect is typically created by a split signal, half of which is modulated, and then blended back in to create a liquid-like wave of tremolo goodness, the Dimension effects both add to and subtract from this equation.

As Dan summarized, “The idea with the Dimension D [rack unit], which later became the Dimension C [pedal], is you have two modulated signals [in addition to the original signal], but they are modulated out of phase with each other. This basically cancels things out and that is mixed back in with the original signal. So, instead of having a modulated signal that moves you just get this space.” Mick added, “Yes, you get this huge and wide sound but without that movement.” But where might you have heard that movement?

When Matt Schofield joined the episode, he shared a theory that the Dimension rack unit sound was what gave some space to the terrain of some of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s tracks on Texas Flood. “I remember reading some interview with Stevie and it got mentioned and I was always listening for it on the records…If you listen to the title track there’s this little bit of left and right separation on the sound.” The spread that seems to be there, to Matt’s ear, “is sort of chorus that isn’t chorus.”

The Dimension DC-2 is a take on this sound in pedal form. While it is the only Boss pedal to stray from the traditional knob-control design in favor of four push buttons, it did so in an attempt to retain the interface of the rack unit. For Mick, one of the real assets of the Dimension sound was that it can serve “as a thickener” for a pedalboard “without requiring that huge movement [of chorus].” It adds a fidelity with limited fuss. All agreed the pedal didn’t quite capture the brilliance of the big format rack effect, but for its convenience and size the sound of the Boss Dimension DC-2 was tough to beat. If you’re not a fan of traditional chorus, give this one a go or zap a similar Toneprint into your TC Corona Chorus and see how it sounds.

Whether you’re looking to capture the sense of a classic effect in a modern pedal or searching for a stompbox that will fast-forward your sound into the future, Riff City has you covered. And for more gear news, reviews, weekly takes on TPS, and our Sunday Papers blog features, be sure to bookmark and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

TPS Rig Rundown:

Guitars: Fender Custom Shop ’59 Telecaster Relic, Fender Custom Shop LTD ’59 Stratocaster Heavy Relic, SVL Guitars Reserve.

Effect Units: Roland RE-201 Space Echo, Roland Dimension D.

Pedals: Boss RE-20 Space Echo, Roland Dimension DC-2, Analog Man Bad Bob Booster, Mad Professor Twimble, Keeley D&M Drive, Mad Professor Dual Blue Delay.

Amps: (segment 1) Mad Professor Old School 21RT head and Harley Benton G112 Vintage cabinet and UA OX, Revv Dynamis head and Harley Benton G112 Vintage cabinet and Two Notes Torpedo Reload; (segment 2) Morgan SW22 head and Harley Benton G112 Vintage cabinet and UA OX, Laney GH50R head and Harley Benton G112 Vintage cabinet and Two Notes Torpedo Reload.

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