New Roland Cubes: Guitar Practice Amps Tested

Roland have announced a new range of Cubes, we test them against each other   28-Jun-13

    MP4 19:54 mins    

Roland have announced a new range of Roland Cube guitar amps, five new additions to the squad of the existing line, which have gained a reputation as being pound-for-pound some of the best guitar practice amps on the market.

We have the Roland Cube 20GX, the Micro Cube GX, and the all new Cube Lite, which was unveiled at NAMM this year.

But if you are looking for a new guitar amp to use for practice or even for small performances, which of the new Roland Cubes amp would suit your needs best? They're all designed for completely different uses, and aimed at different players, so which one is aimed at you?

Well with the new Roland Cubes, each practice amp is a trade-off between tonality, portability, and flexibility.

i-Cube Link

The major update to the new range is the i-Cube link, this is allows you to dock your iPhone or iPad to the amps and to record straight from the amp using Roland's Cube Jam app for iOS.

You can also playback music through the amp from your iPhone using the same cable you use for recording, and the app allows you to load backing tracks, or load music from your iTunes library, and then record and mix guitar parts on top of the track.

Another great feature of the i-Cube link on the Roland Cube practice amps is that the Cube Jam app allows you to slow down music without changing the pitch, so you can rehearse complicated riffs, and also to change pitch without changing tempo, so your generic 12 bar blues backing track in the key of A could be easily transposed into the key of G, for example.

Roland Cube 20GX - £159 (street)

Out of these three new additions to the Roland Cube roster, the Cube 20GX offers more tonal choice than any of the others.

It has the biggest range of distortion tones, with two separate metal sounds, and an even higher gain 'extreme' distortion preset. It's a classic practice amp, the kind of practice amp that sits in your room, and you just plug into a play when you get a spare few minutes.

Occasionally you might take it to a rehearsal (it's just about loud enough), but the Roland Cube 20GX is very much a home-use guitar practice amp.

Effects include a phaser, a chorus, flanger, a tremolo, and an octaver, there's also two different delay types, and two different reverb sounds. On top of this, you get an acoustic simulator.

In terms of portability, it's not too heavy, easily portable, but nowhere near as light as the Micro Cube. In terms of its flexibility as a practice amp, it doesn't have a battery compartment, which means its not great for busking, but it does have lots of different effects and a very good tuner.

As with all of the amps in the new Cube range, it has the i-Cube link, which allows you to hook it up to your iPhone or iPad and record songs and practice over backing tracks on the Cube Jam app from Roland.

Roland Micro Cube £109 (street)

The Roland Micro Cube is now heralded as somewhat of a classic, a stalwart in the world of busking and street performance, it is widely known for being light, portable, and most importantly, for the ability to be powered from AA batteries.

Tonally, it has a lot to offer for such a small amp, a phaser, a chorus, flanger, a tremolo, and an octaver, much like its big brother the Roland 20GX.

So as a guitar practice amp, the Roland Micro Cube has much of the same offerings as the 20GX, although it has slightly less to offer in terms of the range of distortion tones it offers, there aren't as many different high gain amp models as on the 20GX.

The delay and reverb sounds are good, and considering it has a small 5 inch speaker cone, it kicks out your tone at a surprisingly high volume.

So, bottom line, it has very slightly less to offer in terms of tonal options, in comparison to the 20GX, but still offers good high gain distortion tones and shimmering clean tones. It makes up for this by being light and portable, battery powered, and it also has the i-Cube link, so you could take the Roland Micro Cube busking and play along to your backing tracks.

As a guitar practice amp, if you're just looking for an amp to use in your room, then you might be better off with the Roland 20GX.

Roland Cube Lite £129 (street)

The Roland Cube Lite is a completely new offering from Roland, unveiled in Anaheim at NAMM this year, it's a cross between a stereo speaker system, and a guitar amp.

Rather than just having one guitar speaker, it has a stereo pair of speakers with a sub channel, these speakers are more like PC speakers, and offer high quality audio playback from the i-Cube link.

That's the big point here, if you are looking for a small amp, that looks classy, and will also allow you to play your music collection and to be used as a stereo, then this is a good option.

It's perfect for just having on your desk, in your bedroom, or on your shelf, and docking your iPhone or iPod into, and then plugging in your guitar when you hear a track you want to play along to.

As a practice amp, the Roland Cube Lite offers much less in the way of modelling than the Micro Cube and the Cube 20GX. It only has three amp models - JC Clean, Crunch and Extreme. It also only offers two effects - chorus and reverb. So there's no delay, flanger or phaser.

But as previously mentioned, when choosing which of these amps you would go for, it's a trade-off between certain features. The Roland Cube Lite is blend between a practice amp, and a docking station, which means it's probably best suited for home use, rather than for taking out and about.

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