BY MICHAEL ROSS
A new Cube promises to raise your wattage
while reducing your load.
Roland Cubes are the underrated workhorses
of the amplifier world. Sure, real tubes sound
great, but if you live in an area where you have
to take public transportation to gigs, you can
easily grow to love the sound and portability of
these lightweight combos. I have an old recording of myself playing through a Boss Overdrive
into a mic’d 40-watt Cube, and you’d be hard-pressed to tell that it wasn’t a tube stack. A
prominent New York session player used to
have, “If you don’t like it, mic it,” stenciled in
old English lettering on the side of the same
amp. More recently, I’ve been bringing the
Micro Cube to gigs, either mic’ing it, or—
thanks to its COSM modeling and recording
output—running direct into the board.
The third channel, labeled Solo, is programmable. The EQ and Effects settings
are shared by the Clean and Lead channels, but you can program the Solo channel to call up a separate set of model, EQ
and effects settings. Saving these settings
is as simple as holding down the Solo
button for two seconds. This section also
has its own Volume knob, so I was able to
set different output levels for Clean, Lead
(or crunch rhythm), and Solo.
Before now, the highest power available in
the Cube line was 60 watts. Roland has now
upped the ante with the latest addition: the
80-watt Cube-80X. I tested the 80X with a
Fernandes Strat sporting DiMarzio Virtual
Vintage pickups and a Stromberg Monterey
semi-hollow equipped with DiMarzio EJ
Custom humbucking pickups.
Sound Clips to Go
Even if you don’t play raging, loud metal,
a high-wattage amp has the advantage
of gobs of clean headroom. The Roland
JC- 120 is favored by funk guitarists for its
ability to remain squeaky clean at a volume that can cut through horns and keyboards.
Check out Clip 1 to hear how the JC Clean
setting on the 80X delivers distortion-free funk,
at a little over half the poundage of a JC- 120.
Another type of picker that worships light,
high-powered amps is the jazz guitarist. Both
the JC Clean and Black Panel settings neatly
handled the low end of the Stromberg with
the neck tone rolled down, but I preferred the
warmth of the Black Panel (Clip 2).
The Final Mojo
Though it is hard to imagine hard rock and
metal players using the 80X on a gig (
recording and practice—definitely), gigging jazz,
country and funk guitarists are sure to appreciate the massive headroom and minimal
weight of the Cube-80X.
The Cube-80X delivers its power through
one 12" speaker and what amounts to three
switchable channels. The clean channel,
labeled JC Clean—after Roland’s famous Jazz
Chorus, sports a single volume control. A Lead
channel contains its own Volume and Gain
knobs, as well as a rotary switch that lets you
choose nine additional models: Acoustic Sim
(simulating an acoustic guitar), Black Panel
(Fender Twin), DLX Combo (Fender Deluxe),
Brit Combo (Vox), Tweed (Fender Bassman),
Classic Stack (Marshall JMP 1987), Metal Stack
(Peavey EVH 5150), R-Fier Stack (Mesa Boogie
Rectifier), and Dyna-Amp.
Switching back to the Fernandes and the
Classic Stack, you can hear the realistic dynamics of the COSM modeling on Clip 3, where
I set the amp for moderate gain, first picking
lightly and then with more attack. Following
that you will hear the distortion increase gradually as I build a chord and launch into an AC/
DC style riff. The Tweed sound captured that
Texas “thang” (Clip 4), but was smoother, and
handled the low end better than most models
(and many an actual Bassman).
you want loud and light.
tubes are your thing.
The Dyna-Amp model is touted as offering
“unprecedented tonal changes according
to your picking dynamics.” Of course, at
low to medium gain levels, any good amp
should respond to your picking dynamics,
and a large part of the appeal of COSM
modeling is that the simulations are realistically dynamic. The Dyna-Amp setting pushes
these dynamics to interesting, if unrealistic,
extremes. Once you get used to it, though,
you may find it to be an expressive tool.
For my Solo Sound (Clip 5), I chose the Classic
Stack, added a bit more gain, boosted the
mids, added a little reverb and delay, and
saved it. Though it is based on a Marshall
sound, the EQ—along with the slight compression that COSM modeling tends to add—gave
the tone more Dumble-like warmth.
Head online to hear the sound
clips of the amp in action at
I found that due to a significant midrange
bump in the speaker, single coils sounded
better than humbuckers. Running out
of the extension speaker output of the
80X into a custom 1x12” cabinet with an
Eminence speaker opened open a whole
new range of tones.