Roland JC55 Chorus Combo
The Roland JC55 is a stereo amp which uses two separate 25w amplifiers, one to drive each speaker. The stereo effect comes from the built-in chorus unit.
The JC55 and its colleague, the JC77, are two new additions to the family tree that has its roots in the huge JC120 combo. Professional gigging musicians like Kevin Armstrong (Propaganda, D. Bowie) and John McGeoch (PIL, Armoury Show) use the JCI20 as part of their standard stage set-up, in tandem with a Marshall stack. The Marshall is for the distorted sound, while the Roland provides the cleaner noises. Little brother has a lot to live up to.
The JCS5 is about as tall as a Making Music, and almost as wide as two copies side by side. It seems to be robustly made, with suitable protective edgings corners. Nice silver and black finishing, with a greeny grey control panel, and the aluminium speaker cones gleaming dully through the cloth.
From left to right, the knobs read Distortion, Volume, Treble, Middle, Bass, Reverb, plus Rate and Depth for the Chorus. There are two inputs, high and low gain, for guitar and keys respectively.
Round the back of the open cabinet are Roland's new design Heavy Duty 8in speakers, and a number of jack sockets. The three marked Reverb, Distortion, Chorus are intended for on/off foot-switches, which you have to buy; not good. The other sockets are two line outs for DI-ing in mono or stereo.
The manual explains the tone controls: for a humbucking guitar, full treble, and half middle and bass. There's no master volume, so what you hear is what you get. It's clean and warm at low volumes, with a genuinely surprising amount of bass from those 8in speakers - big tick in the margin for the new design. Turned up only halfway, the JC55 is BLOODY LOUD. Turn up further, and it gets louder still, though it begins to clip.
As for the amp's own distortion control - click that little knob on, and turn it up. The amp certainly distorts, but it's a peculiarly synthetic cloth-ripping sort of effect; maybe Roland expect us all to be using Boss overdrives (they're probably right).
The stereo chorus is wonderful - whether you use Roland's Fixed preset, or fiddle with the Rate/Depth yourself, it works beautifully. Even if the speakers are small and close together, you don't have to put your head between them to appreciate the difference it makes: the stereo swirls the sound far more than ordinary mono chorus, and gives the signal greater depth as well as adding richness.
Even though it's flawed, the JC55 is obviously an amp to persevere with, simply because it makes such a great noise: it gave as good a clean (and chorused) sound as any small combo I've heard.
On the negative side, I didn't like the distortion, and the reverb (which had added stereoness) was good, but quiet. And I was surprised that Roland don't provide footswitches as standard, when most other manufacturers do.
But if you want a clear and precise sound (with a hint of lushness from the chorus), this amp does it. Against that fact, my complaints are as naught.
Review by Jon Lewin
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