Roland SDE-3000 Digital Delay Line


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Digital effects exploded onto the market in the 1980s and most of the early units were digital delay lines. Previously, delays had been tape-based, like the classic Roland Space Echo, or used Bucket Brigade Delay (BBD) devices and had very limited delay times. Digital delays brought longer delay times (>1 sec), better specifications and a wider frequency response

First out of the gate in 1981 was the Roland SDE-2000, still a formidable and great-sounding delay, followed by the SDE-1000 and 3000

The 3000 builds on the additional features of the 1000. It has user memories to store presets, longer maximum delay time (up to 4.5 seconds at 8 kHz bandwidth) and a CV output for linking multiple units. It also has Send & Return jacks for an external effects loop – handy for patching in an equaliser or other device

Digital delay lines might seem an anachronism in 2016, when every DAW & outboard gadget offers pristine delays of infinite variety, but the character and sound quality of these old units keeps dragging people back to outboard gear with real knobs & buttons

“The delays of the Roland SDE3000 have real character” – Chris Lord Alge

“I absolutely loved these units. No other delays seemed to be made with the care and attention to quality as these units. I used them ALL THE TIME” – Steve Vai

“A true classic from the 80’s. Along with the TC 2290 and PCM 42, this was the premier delay box at the time. Great build quality (especially from Roland) it uses all discrete opamps for the signal path” – Jim Williams, Audio Upgrades

“Oh man, I got it and it rules. I also love the fact that I can get a great chorus effect out of this thing, plus a cool vibrato. So basically, the cool thing with the sde-3000 is that I killed a few birds with one glorious stone”

The SDE-3000 has a fairly minimalist front panel with only one rotary control – the input pot. The rest of the controls are square pushbuttons or up / down rocker switches for editing. The bright fluorescent display is very readable and doesn’t need a backlight. The Delay section shows delay time (in milliseconds), feedback and output level and the Modulation section shows rate & depth. All the parameters have dedicated controls so there are no menu pages or encoder knobs that do 73,000 different functions

The SDD-3000 has a Time x 2 button to double maximum delay time and a back panel delay time control calibrated from 1.0:1 through to 1.5:1 so delay times can be lengthened by a further 50%. Maximum delay (before doubling & etc) is 3 seconds

Early DDLs had insufficient memory to allow really long delays so a technique of reducing the clock speed was used to increase delay time. This reduces the bandwidth, so the delayed signal is darker with less top end, and gets darker and more distorted with every repeat. In this respect it’s very similar to a tape delay. This is one of the reasons for the characteristic sound of early delay lines. Don’t view this as a drawback – the restricted bandwidth and limited processing power of 80s delays are what gives them their character & appeal. It makes them stand out from modern “perfect quality” effects

Please note:”Time x 2″ mode does not work as expected and output is low in level when x 2 is engaged. Base delay time is 3 seconds without x 2 mode so this is not a major drawback

220 Volt power input is via a fixed mains cable with a UK mains plug. Input and outputs are on jack sockets and operating level is switchable between -20 and +4 dBm. Four jack sockets are provided for various footswitch controls and there are modulation control voltage inputs & ouputs and a send / return loop
Standard 1U device suitable for all 19" racks. 220 Volt & fixed mains cable with a UK mains plug
Excellent used condition. Tested and working. "Time x 2" mode does not work as expected and output is low in level when x 2 is engaged. Base delay time is 3 seconds without x 2 mode so this is not a major drawback   All vintage gear will have case scratches and marks. It may also have, or develop, noisy pots and switches. I make my descriptions as accurate as possible and note any existing defects. I test each item before shipping but please understand vintage gear will not be perfect and adjust your expectations accordingly