By Terry Buddingh
While Roland has been at the forefront of cutting-edge music technology for more than three decades, it has also produced some enduring classics. Take, for example, the venerable JC-120 Jazz Chorus, which has remained virtually unchanged since its introduction in 1975, and is still favored for its crisp clean tones and spacious stereo chorus. Debuting just three years after the JC-120’s introduction, Roland’s small-but-serious Cube series amps delivered big-amp punch in a portable package, and were an immediate hit with working musicians. Drawing from this legacy of successful amp designs, Roland’s Cube-30 and AC-60 amplifiers pack an abundance of innovative and useful features into compact, affordable, and easy-to-use packages.
While its control-panel graphics and knobs reveal some JC-120 influence, the Cube-30 ($225 street) offers a far greater variety of tones, thanks to its eight COSM (Composite Object Sound Modeling) simulations. One of the channels features a JC-120 model exclusively, and the other sports an acoustic amp/guitar simulation, three classic combo amps, and three high-gain “stack” models.
The Cube’s digital effects are controlled by two knobs—one that adjusts intensity and rate on the chorus, flanger, phaser, and tremolo, and another that provides several delay and reverb options. Other functions include a recording/headphone jack, a q" auxiliary input (to accommodate a CD player, drum machine, etc.), and a q" TRS jack for the optional channel-select and EFX footswitches.
Tones. Considering its modest 30-watt power rating and single 10" speaker, the Cube-30 is surprisingly loud. The amp models sounded very natural and authentic with humbucker-equipped guitars, though single-coils tended to elicit strained and overly bright sounds. The thicker Blackface, Tweed, and R-fier models sounded the warmest with a Strat, but I still had to reduce the treble considerably to mellow the Cube’s top-end bite.
The Cube-30 packs an amazing amount of sonic versatility into a portable, affordable, and just plain fun package. It covers the full spectrum of essential tones, and it absolutely wails at low volume. The Cube-30 also provides a great introduction to classic amps and effects, making it a great choice for first-time amp buyers, songwriters, demo recordists, and anyone who practices in a bedroom. Kudos to Roland for making a modeling amp that’s so user friendly.
Roland Acoustic Chorus AC-60
Intended for small acoustic gigs, The AC-60 ($499 street) features two independent channels—one designed specifically for acoustic guitars, the other to accommodate mic or line-level signals. Each channel has its own Volume, Bass, Middle, and Treble controls, plus an on/off button for the chorus. The guitar channel can be optimized for either piezo or magnetic pickups, and a Shape switch provides a preset midrange dip with boosted bass and treble. The Mic/Line channel even sports switchable phantom power for your condenser mics. Very thoughtful!
As with Roland’s classic JC-120, the AC-60 offers true-stereo chorus. Separate 30-watt power amps drive the two 6w" speakers, but unlike a JC-120, you get to choose between three chorus types—Rich, Space, Wide—on the guitar channel only. The AC-60 features a separate control for delay and reverb, and Roland also included an anti-feedback circuit that suppresses offending frequencies either manually or automatically.
Tones. Auditioned with a Martin D-28 equipped with a Sunrise soundhole pickup, the AC-60 sounded remarkably smooth, sweet, and evenly balanced with its EQ controls set flat. The two speakers provide plenty of bell-like top-end clarity, and the stereo chorus does an amazing job of expanding the perceived sonic dimension—especially in Wide mode.
With its separate Mic/Line channel and Sub out, the AC-60 can serve as a complete PA system, and it’s loud enough to cut a coffeehouse or small club gig. For low-volume acoustic performances, the affordable and impressive sounding AC-60 is a potent little package that’s hard to beat.