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Custom Sound Lead Combo


Article from International Musician & Recording World, October 1986

A carpet-covered Cub. But can it cut the rug? Jim Betteridge takes the floor.

Custom Sound have no shortage of experience in the manufacture of instrument amplification. The list of famous names with whom they're associated is as long as your arm, and some of the resultant sounds are twice as hairy. It was with consideration, therefore, that they launched their very own Custom Sound range. To say that their aim is to provide high quality at an affordable price might be to unnecessarily exhume one of the industry's more nauseating platitudes, but in this case they seem to have achieved their aim. Considering that the Cub 100 will probably be available in the shops at up to £20 less than the RRP, it is safe to say that it offers a great deal for the price.

In appearance the Cub 100 is not unlike a Roland Cube 100. It's a 1x12 and though not quite as tall, its depth and width are almost identical — even the names are surprisingly similar. On the other hand there are really only two basic shapes for a guitar amp and if it didn't look like a Cube it would probably have to look like a Session, etc. An unusual cosmetic feature is the use of carpet as a covering. No, really. It's a very hard-wearing dark grey cord with white specks and plastic corner protectors absent on previous Cub models. Also new to the Cub 100 is the uprated, tough handle — it's just a standard screwed-on plastic strap, but it is reasonably wide and comfortable. No one quite knew what to think of the use of carpet on an amp; is it really Rock 'n' Roll? Terms such as 'living room credibility' have been bandied about, but generally it's thought to be a reasonable idea. The only concern is if it got wet or if some ghastly oik such as yourself spilt a pint of sticky beer all over it. On the other hand it does come with a plastic cover, so a little rain shouldn't worry you. The baffle on which the speaker is mounted is painted red to give the amp a brighter appearance. Covering this is a very open weave speaker grille that isn't tough enough to be 'kick-proof' but should stop the casual nudge from a mike stand etc. It's held on by Velcro and can be easily removed to gain access to the speaker. Four screws can be quickly turned to release four retaining plates to allow the speaker to be quickly removed for replacement etc, should a particularly serious attack be too much for the fretting. The speaker is a 12" Fane built for the job but based closely on the Studio Series. It does the job extremely well, but it is encouraging that a full range of sounds can also be achieved with this amp through its DI output.

The control panel is recessed into the top of the amp at the rear, although the recess isn't quite deep enough to prevent the knobs being slightly proud, and certainly isn't deep enough to offer protection to standard jack plugs, thus leaving them prone to being clumped, or crushed in the case of stacking. (The plastic corners aren't designed to interlock for stacking purposes, but the addition of feet to the base would make a secure stack possible.) One silly thing about the panel is that as you face it from the front of the amp, the writing is the wrong way round — but I won't go on about it, because the chaps at Custom Sound have taken the comment on board and future production units will have that changed. There's a high and a low sensitivity input jack simply to match the output of your guitar and also to determine at what point you start to get overload distortion with the controls.

It's called a 'bi-channel' amp which might suggest to the uninformed an amp that offers two separate channels through which you can achieve individual control over the sound of two instruments. Wrong. Certainly, there are two independently controllable preamp stages before the power amp which allow you to set up two different sounds but you can only use one or the other; not both simultaneously with two instruments. (The possibility of making this latter arrangement possible is being considered for a MkII amp.) As it stands the idea is that you set up two types of sound, one in each channel, and switch between them with a footswitch for performance purposes. The classic application of this would be to have a clean sound for rhythm work from channel A and a louder overdriven sound for lead playing from channel B. In addition to each preamp's set of controls there is also a master volume that determines the overall level.

Top view: the controls

Stage A has a gain control and a three-band fixed eq — Bass, Middle and Treble. The gain control works in conjunction with the master volume control to set the tone (clean/overdrive) and overall volume; with the gain full up there is just a slight edge of distortion, but nothing severe. In this state Stage B is completely out of circuit.

By kicking the footswitch the output of your guitar is routed to Stage B which contains its own gain/master volume set-up within it allowing you to produce as much overdrive distortion as you like by cranking up the gain control and then balancing the level with that of Stage A using the master volume; it's actually only called the 'Volume' on the amp, avoiding the need to think of another greater term for the overall level control I mentioned earlier — 'Omnipowerful Volume' would have been suitable (would it? — Ed). The amp sounds generally very good and at its price it's exceptional. Mind you, I think that all amp manufacturers, including Custom Sound, should look at the advantages of having an angled baffle so that for practice and for studio work the player is more or less on axis with the speaker: it's amazing how much brighter and generally more impressive the sound is if you kneel down flat in front of the speaker — the only trouble is it tends to make you regurgitate your lunch, and so an angled baffle is preferable. It also means that for live work, the sound you're busy getting on stage will be the same as that picked up by the mike which is directly facing the speaker. But I digress. The overdrive on the Cub 100 is particularly impressive, sounding like a much larger, more expensive system. The use of Mosfets, as opposed to normal bi-polar transistors has made possible a valve-like overload effect that is more than just fuzz. It comes on gradually as you turn the gain up and you can actually play full chords with musical intelligibility whilst still having an impressive amount of raunch. I've noted in other amps that the use of Mosfets alone doesn't guarantee such a performance; Custom Sound certainly seem to be able to achieve a great deal for a very low price, and it's still actually quite a unique sound, not to mention a very loud one.

Channel switching is achieved via one half of a double footswitch and a status LED on either channel glows to show which stage you're playing through. The other half of the footswitch turns the reverb on and off, and next to the master volume control is the reverb level. It's a 14" reverb spring and produces a reasonable quality sound, but the decay time is something over three seconds, which to my ears is too long. Again the chaps at Custom Sound were very open to positive suggestions, and said that they agreed and that they were intending to have a shorter decay Accutronics spring on the next batch. Even the footswitch is worth a comment in that the two switches are far enough apart to make individual operation very easy but close enough to allow both effects to be kicked in simultaneously with the daintiest of tootsies. All switching is electronic and very quiet.

The rear panel includes break jacks for an effects loop, a 'power amp in' socket just in case you want to use a separate preamp to drive the Cub's power amp stage — it would be nice if this was pre-rather than post-master volume to provide some kind of control; a slave socket in case you wanted to connect two or more amps together, a DI socket for direct injection into mixers etc and a headphone socket. Connection of the headphones very reasonably disconnected the main speaker but the socket would be far more convenient on the top panel rather than at the rear. The DI output is taken after the master fader and, as the use of it doesn't disconnect the speaker, it's impossible to get a high level going to the desk from the DI without blasting the neighbours through the speaker. I suggested that it might come before the master fader to allow a better balance and once again the manufacturers were very receptive — it should be on the next batch.

The mains lead connects via a standard three-pin EEC socket, but one with a difference: the fuse is built in and until you remove the plug you can't get to the fuse. Okay it isn't unique, but it's nice to see such a high standard of safety at this price, and in this one the fuse carrier even contains a spare fuse. Very professional.

All in all the Cub 100 is a very good amp and extraordinary value at the price. The carpet covering, though possibly not everyone's cup of tea, seems to be something of a success, and when it comes to the choice of pile the hardwearing Poly Weave cord is possibly the best bet. Personally, I wouldn't say no to a shag.

Custom Sound Lead Combo - RRP: £299

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Casio CZ-1

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Remo Superbeat

Publisher: International Musician & Recording World - Cover Publications Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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International Musician - Oct 1986

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman

Gear in this article:

Amplifier (Combo) > Custom Sound > Cub 100

Gear Tags:

Guitar Amp

Review by Jim Betteridge

Previous article in this issue:

> Casio CZ-1

Next article in this issue:

> Remo Superbeat

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