first Impressions - Roland MicroCube RX

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first Impressions - Roland MicroCube RX

Postby WeirdOlAndrew » Fri Oct 24, 2008 10:20 pm

Been looking for a small practice amp so I wouldn't be burning my rare and expensive (6gw8 - no longer manufactured) power tubes, as well as not so loud. Picked up a Roland Micro Cube RX last night. HAven't had time to play with it much, but here's a 'first impressions' report.

I won't detail the specs, there's lots and you can look them up, but its a little guy with 4 4" speakers, two 2.5 watt poweramps each drivng a pair of speakers. The usual lot of Roland effects and amp models, plus a tuner and what they call a 'rhythm guide". It's somewhere between a metronome and a drum machine.

Runs off of 6 "AA"s or a power supply like a laptop. There's an input for attaching something like a MP3 or Cd player, so you can play against a backing track, and a headphone/line out.

Out of the box and fire it up. I like the power supply, it doesn't take up 2 or 3 spaces on your power strip like a wall wart. I do wish it worked like my little Jay Turser, with rechargeable batteries that charged when the amp is plugged in and turned on.

The tuner sets for individual strings, using the amp model switch (useful if you've just restrung and are a bit lost) or chromatic. Works OK, although I wish they'd used the cost and circuit real estate for somethng else. How many tuners do you need?

Turn on the JC120 model and play a bit. The tone, with everything a neutral, is somewhere between bright and glassy edge. Somethng to do with the brand new and tiny speakers. Setting bass to about 3 oclock and treble to 9 or 10 oclock gets a pretty nice balance. There's a gain control, a volume and a "boost" switch. Boost seems to kick the gain up about 10 percent and modify the tone a bit, the mod seems to depend on the amp model. There's lots of volume, gain at about 11 oclock and volume at 9 seems to be just fine for the living room. You can play with the gain, volume and boost to get varying levels of distortion.
Overdrive sounds closer to a bit of early fuzztone than it does to an overdriven 6V6, but that's kinda expected. Its not a bad sound.

I played with the blackface and brit combo amp models, they don't really sound like any actual amp, but they're nice on their own, and you should be able to get a tone you like out of the thing prettty easily. There's a stack and a recto model, too.

The reverb is nice, not an Accutronics long tank through a 12ax7, but nicer than you'd expect. Tremolo gets a major FAIL, though, very square wave-ish, harsh, and strong. Unless you're doing Link Ray covers, you won't be using this. No depth control on any of the effects. Chorus, flanger and phaser all sound very good. They use some tricks with the two channels to increase the sense of depth and motion, like on early stereo LPs, so the effect is kinda surprising from this tiny box.

Played with the "Rhythm Guide" Its not quite a drum machine, but its a lot nicer to practice to than a metronome. Again there's lots of options for basic style an beat. Setting the tempo is done by tapping on a button and the machine attempts to match the rate of your tapping. It even sorta works. But if you want something specific, it s a bit of trouble. My class band will be doing slow blues this next Tuesday, so I need to practice at b=62. So I have to set off my regular metronome, and try to tap this silly button at a rate that matches the metronome, consistently enough that the machine picks up on it. Takes a bit of getting used to, at least.

At 14.2 lbs, tis a massive little fellow. The carrying strap isn't long enough to be a shoulder strap, nor short enough to give you tight control of it whilst carrying. Its likely to swing and bounce around and bump into things. A sturdy guitar strap on the strap pins (fits ok) is a great improvement.

All in all, I really like the thing, and with the "Rhythm Guide" and the source input,it'll make a great practice amp. Its good enough to take to a house party or jam, and there's lots of tones available. Batteries are rumored to last many hours, and it'ld be a good busking companion or backyard or patio player.

Downsides: I really wish the effects had a depth control. I'm one of those who keeps his 'verb and trem on at about 2 all the time, and trem's useless on this. There's so many options and adjustments that's its really easy to spend more time twiddling than playing, although that'll subside with familiarity. The tap setting for the rhythm, I wish it had a knob and numeric readout. That would be a lot more useful. The carrrying strap provided is a poor joke, but that's an easy fix.

Lots of fun, though, and I'm going to really enjoy this.

http://www.roland.com/products/en/MICRO_CUBE_RX/specs.html
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Re: first Impressions - Roland MicroCube RX

Postby grady » Sun Oct 26, 2008 12:53 am

Great review !!!

I'll be posting a review of the Vox Tonelab LE as soon as I get some clips recorded.
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Re: first Impressions - Roland MicroCube RX

Postby Derekslide » Sun Oct 26, 2008 2:51 am

WeirdOlAndrew, Nice review mate.

I need one of these for street busking and to bring over to a buddy's house to practice some blues.


Thanks alot WeirdOlAndrew.
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Re: first Impressions - Roland MicroCube RX

Postby slickcat » Mon Oct 27, 2008 11:43 am

Sounds nice.............do those tiny speakers buzz or can they handle some volume? :?
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Re: first Impressions - Roland MicroCube RX

Postby WeirdOlAndrew » Tue Oct 28, 2008 4:16 am

I hadn't tried turning it up, since I got it for being quiet! Just took it outside and had at it. With a decent amount of gain and the volume over 1/2 up, it distorts. Sounds almost more like electronic than speakers, kinda like a very early fuzztone, especially on bass. Oddly enough, it's cleaner with humbuckers than with a single coil, and cleans up a bit with the volume on the guitar rolled down a bit. Still, loud and clean don't go together with this thing. Tisn't a bad sound, especially for blues, but you ain't gonna comp the jazz with cleans, unless you do it softly.

Fine for me, my other amp is a modified Guild Thunder I and 12 -18 good tube watts firing through a pair of Weber Signature 12's gets a tad much for the living room, we're talking hearing damage, frightened cats and angry wife time. Now this one doesn't start to sound really good til its turned up at least halfway, so I rarely get to really enjoy it.

So the little guy is what it is, a nice little practice amp, that you can do a little more with, but not too much. Probably loud enough for busking, though, tilt it up a bit so its firing at the crowd. Too much loud will fetch the cops on you pretty quick, most places, you just want the folks to hear a bit of tone.
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