I was looking to buy a local Space Echo to fix and flip, but I didn’t because the erase head looked like this:
That line going down the middle of the erase head gave me cold feet, because if I learned anything from tape machines is that heads wear and eventually open up and the gap between the poles shows, and presumably that is what I was seeing here. So I started looking online for examples of RE-201 erase heads. Here’s what I found:
So as you can see, most heads have a line. The Echo shown in pictures 4 and 5 don’t have a line down the erase head, but these are also a bit blurry, so maybe I’m just not seeing it. So maybe all these are examples of heads that started to go, or maybe that’s just the design? I emailed the folks at soundgas.com to ask for their opinion. If you’re not familiar with them, they refurbish and sell a lot of different tape echoes, so I figured they would know. And they did. Here is their response:
A very thin vertical line should be there – it’s the dividing line between the two poles of the head. However you shouldn’t be able to feel it – if you can then the head is not right.
So indeed this is the line between the two poles, but IT IS normal for it to show. And there’s even a little method of testing it. I’m still a bit unsure about this being the design of the heads, but at the same time, the unit I was looking at was erasing, and probably so are all the other examples I found online.
Photo credits: First (Soundgas LTD), second (stuffandfood.wordpress.com), third (StudioRepair.com), fourth and fifth (stickylight.wordpress.com). I only download and re-upped these photos in case those sites ever go down.