My Roland SDE 3000’s

Hey folks, 

In 1985 the Roland company came out with the finest digital delays I believe have ever been made, the SDE 3000. I was 24 at the time and saved to purchase two of them. 

This was literally my full rig, with the exception of a few stomp boxes. I came out of the send in the back of the amp and went into the first SDE 3000 and used it mainly for delay. Then the output of that unit went into the input of the second SDE 3000 which I used mainly for stereo chorus. Then the stereo outputs that came out of SDE 3000 number 2 were sent to the return of each amp. This gave me a wide range of various delays and stereo chorusing. 

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. This was my rig through my band days after the release of Flex-Able, and all the way to Passion and Warfare. They were used on virtually every recording I’ve done up to The Story of Light (my last record). They were in my live guitar rig all through Alcatrazz, Roth and Whitesnake and beyond and can be heard on all those records. 

Some months ago I had a meeting with Roland about some gear ideas and I met a gentlemen, Mr. Yoshihiro Ikegami. He is posing with me in the photo below. 

I immediately took a liking to this soft spoken man and then half way through the meeting I was told that he was the inventor and builder of the original SDE 3000. 

Well, you can imagine my surprise and delight to finally meet the man that created the gear that was my signature sound for all those years. It made me love the gear even more. 

Just the other day I came across those two SDE’s that I purchased 30 years ago and they lit me up again. And then a thought crossed my mind. It was more of an inspiration.

I had another meeting with Roland scheduled for earlier this week and Mr. Ikegami came to my home. When he left I presented him with my original SDE 3000’s.

I just thought, how appropriate would it be for the guy who made these units, to own my original ones. It’s sort of a thank you for making them in the first place. 

In this photo I’m presenting them to him. 

And once again, Thanks Yoshi. 

Steve Vai. 


We dug trough our photo library and found a number of images that show these units in various settings.

This rack is from the Alcatrazz US en Japan tour:


Later on the units got built into a proper rack, along with a Lexicon PCM60 digital reverb, a 6-channel mixer and a Mutron Bi-Phase pedal.


This particular rack below was used during the 1988 David Lee Roth & 1990 Whitesnake world tours. From top to bottom, it includes a Furman PL-8 power conditioner, a Roland SDE-3000 digital delay, 2 Yamaha D1500 digital delays, Yamaha SPX90 multieffects, Ibanez SDR1000 digital reverb unit, Eventide H969 Harmonizer (changed to WOMANIZER as a joke), Eventide H3000S, a Lexicon PCM70 digital reverb, P/SSAC mixer, Drawmer Dual Gates noise reduction unit, an Alesis Data Disc, Eventide H3000, and a Bradshaw switching system.


Here you can see both units used in the Sex & Religion Tour rack. Much simpler than the racks Steve used with David Lee Roth and Whitesnake, this rig included an Eventide H4000 Harmonizer, a Digitech DHP-55 Harmonizer, the rackmount custom Rack Of Wham by Digitech, 2 SDE-3000 delays, and a Custom Audio preamp. The roll-out shelf (on the right) contains a BOSS DS-2 Turbo Overdrive pedal, a Mutron III autowah, and an MXR Phase 90 pedal.


Below is the Fire Garden and G3 1996 tour rack, It includes a Furman PL-8 power unit, an Eventide H3000S Ultra Harmonizer, 2 Roland SDE 3000 delays, a Digitech DHP-55 harmonizer, and the Digitech Rack Of Wham. The roll-out drawer in the bottom held a Sobbat Glow-Vibe churus unit, an MXR Phase 100 pedal, and a Digital Music Corp 8-channel switching systeml.


Below we have the rig as used during the 1999 Ultrazone tour. This very simple rack contains a Furman PL-8 power unit, an Eventide H4000 harmonizer, one of the Roland SDE-3000 units, a TC Electronic G-Force, a custom wireless unit, the Rack Of Wham and a CAE switcher.


And finally one of the units located in the Mothership Studio Rack. This picture was taken during the early stages of the recording sessions for Real Illusions: Reflections. .