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Roland Super Cubes & JC-77

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Article from International Musician & Recording World, April 1985

Costly but classy. Review by Paul Bacon


Super Cubes are metallic electric blue

Making small cube-shaped versions of things seems to be a sure-fire road to success. Take the diminutive form of the Auratone Cube monitor speaker: there's hardly a recording studio in the civilised world without a pair perched upon its mixing console. Then there's the Root cubed, the Rubic Cube, the Magic Cube, the Sugar Cube plus dozens of other examples far, far too numerous to think of right now, among which is to be found the near-mythical Roland Cube range of instrument amplifiers — and here we find a sudden and abrupt relevance to this review. We're looking at a new breed of cubic electro-acoustic couplers here in the form of the new Super Cubes. If you think the originals are loud for their size — they are; but these babies are a health risk, I mean we're talking... quite a bit louder. And no messin'.

We're also submitting the new JC-77 Jazz Chorus combo to the editorial erudition, but that'll come later.

You're So Cubic



Much of the original appeal of the Cubes was undoubtedly their unusual, neat appearance and their practical compactness. Opinions on their worth vary greatly from player to player. Personally, I've generally found the smaller 20watt version rather thin and disappointing, whilst the larger models were notably powerful and full sounding for their relative sizes.

However, cheap they never were, and in the face of stiff competition the Cubes were starting to look less appealing. For various reasons Roland have started shipping their amps over from the land of the rising sun in bits, to be assembled here in Blighty. One of the reasons is that this makes the overall manufacturing process considerably cheaper, and if you consider that a year ago the Cube 60 (lead) was retailing at £460.00, you will see that the current Super Cube prices represent a veritable bargain:

Super Cube Lead Range:
40watt — £245.00
60watt — £275.00
100watt — £375.00

Super Cube Bass Range:
40watt — £225.00
60watt — £295.00
100watt — £365.00

These new models are still marginally more costly that the standard Cubes which are to remain as part of the current range, but in general terms they are undoubtedly worth the extra.

The rather prosaic brown/beige finish of the original cubes was somewhat upstaged by the arrival of the silver coloured Keyboard Cubes, and now the Super Cubes present a still more assertive cosmetic with metallic electric blue. The quality of the ultra-tough vinyl covering remains admirably high and the black impact protectors are still in evidence on each corner.

The controls continue to be sunk into the top of the box, and the compact nature of the design means that they are small, neat and, for the less delicately endowed mitts, possibly a little fiddly.

All lead models feature Master Volume


All lead models employ a 'Master Volume' whereby the gain structure of the amp can be altered so that the preamp stage is driving the power amp stage hard so as to cause distortion, or leave the preamp setting low giving a clean, undistorted effect. There are actually three volume controls which can be seen as controlling a series of two preamps and one power amp respectively: Gain One, Gain Two and Master Volume. These relate to two inputs sockets: Normal and Drive. The normal input connects you straight into Gain Two stage which controls the amount by which the second preamp drives the power amp and is used for 'normal' clean sound; in this case Gain One and the first preamp aren't in use. The Drive input puts your guitar through both preamps, and Gain One determines the amount by which the first preamp drives the second, and hence it helps govern both the overall volume and the level of distortion. When connected via the Drive input, a footswitch can be used to kick the first preamp, and hence the extra volume and distortion, in and out of circuit.

At a price of £650.00, it is understandable that the standard Cube 100 was discontinued last year. However, its demise is lamentable in that it was the only model in the range to feature four volume controls: Vol One, Vol Two, Master Vol and Normal Vol. Though all the Super Cubes have the luxury of a three-stage system, the Normal control is sadly missing. This is significant in that it is therefore no longer possible to balance the volumes between when the drive is kicked and when it isn't; you are stuck with the amount of extra volume that goes with the distortion, whether it works musically or not. Another omission is that of the 'Pull Drive' facility, whereby if you didn't have a footswitch to hand you could simply pull the volume control/switch to bring the overdrive effect in. Now it's 'No footswitch, no effect'.

Completing the controls is a three-band Eq section plus a reverb control. The built-in reverb spring is of a new and superior design giving a pure, full sound and being reasonably immune to going berserk when accidentally kicked. Wish I could say the same for the hamster.

The rear panel has all the facilities one might normally need, including 'Preamp Out' and 'Main Amp In' sockets allowing not only direct connection, but also stacking of any number of Cubes to form a latter day 'Wall of Sound'. There is also a reverb on/off footswitch socket, plus a headphone output and external speaker socket allowing you to couple any auxiliary speaker system with a total impedance of 50ohms or more.

Bass amp features a very musical three band Eq


Tough



Though they are now constructed in this country, the range is quite as sturdy as the Japanese-built models. One feature that continues to slightly baffle me is the use of soft, cloth speaker fret as opposed to a sturdier grille of plastic or similar. It wouldn't take much to accidentally ram the end of a mike stand through the fret and into the precious speaker beyond. On the other hand, you shouldn't be so flaming clumsy.

Whilst on the subject of speakers, the new range features some very obviously improved drivers which offer a wider dynamic range and a longer sustain characteristic. It may seem strange that the lead and bass ranges have the same speaker sizes fitted: 10", 12" and 15" respectively, but the design of the cabinet and the speakers themselves gives very different response characteristics, and so it isn't just a matter of using the same speakers for the sake of convenience.

The bass amps use a ported reflex cabinet design that manages to develop a lot of power down to a very low frequency. The only possible drawback with such a construction is that it has no long-throw characteristic, ie it will only develop a good sound in the close field, relatively close to the amp. For studio work this is obviously fine, and should you be doing any larger gigs you'll probably be going through the PA anyway. If, on the other hand, you want to blast out your bottom line to the back of a large auditorium from your stage rig, this ain't the one for you. Bear in mind, though, that such a mega-system will probably cost a small fortune and be a pain to transport. For their size the Super Cube bass amps are quite excellent. They offer a very musical three-band Eq with a sweepable mid band and all the same rear panel input/output sockets claimed by the lead range with the exception of the reverb on/off and the drive on/off but plus the advantage of a balanced 600ohm line output which acknowledges the very definite need of bassists to have a means of high-quality direct injection.

Rather than have progressively more facilities as the amps get larger, the whole range has been endowed with the same full set. Thus although it might be said that the 100 doesn't have a normal gain control, the lesser powered models have more facilities than the old ones ever did, and they're of a better quality. On the whole, then, the Super Cube range is looking and sounding very good, and probably represents better value than the standard Cube range, assuming you have the extra to spend.

For that full, clean Jazzy sound


JC-77



The new addition to the Jazz Chorus range features the original physical acclaim winning features such as four chunky castors and really sturdy studded edge protector strips, plus a pair of the same newly designed 10" speakers as seen in the Super Cube 40 and the new, improved reverb system.

At 80watts and £475.00, the JC-77 fits neatly between the current JC-50 and JC-120. The four-way Eq features bass, middle and treble plus 'hi-treble' to give that bright, biting edge. It isn't actually a Master Volume set-up, though the separate distortion control can be seen as similar to the drive gain controls on the Super Cubes. The sound of this amp is different. It can't develop the same heavy distortion sound of the Super Cubes, but it is great for a clean, full Jazzy sound, and of course the chorus effect is legend.

On previous models a fixed chorus effect has been accompanied by a fixed tremolo, but on this new amp the slightly outmoded tremolo effect has been binned to make way for a fixed/variable switchable chorus. In the fixed mode, it's the good old effect as ever was, whereas in the variable mode you are given control over its speed and depth. On/off footswitch jack sockets are provided for chorus, distortion and reverb, and either both mono and stereo direct line outs are provided to allow full benefit of the stereo chorus effect to be had. A very worthy addition to the line.

Roland Super Cubes and JC-77 — RRP: See copy


Also featuring gear in this article



Previous Article in this issue

Korg DW6000

Next article in this issue

Linn 9000


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

The current copyright owner/s of this content may differ from the originally published copyright notice.
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International Musician - Apr 1985

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman

Review by Paul Bacon

Previous article in this issue:

> Korg DW6000

Next article in this issue:

> Linn 9000


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