Hands-On Review:Small boxes, big sounds!

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By Chris Pearson

I had a love-hate relationship with my last guitar combo. It weighed about 200 pounds and was so overpowering that I couldn't turn it up past 2 or the paint would peel off the walls of the little clubs we play. It sounded good, but to give it character I had to add a bunch of stomp boxes-which added even more weight to my road rig.



Roland Cube 15 and Cube 30The bigger they are...

That all ended suddenly after the last gig. My amp, obviously tired of being subjected to nightly doses of blistering leads and pounding rhythms, mistook the "Freedom" sign on my pickup truck for a call to action and leapt out of the back. It tumbled down a rocky embankment and into a small pool of water. I knew as soon as I saw it that my amp had just gone down in history!




I needed a quick fix-we had gigs coming up and were about to cut a demo. I was strapped for cash (you don't think those little pubs pay big bucks, do you?) so I gave my bearded buddy Master J at Musician's Friend a call. He had two new amps he wanted reviewed- the Roland Cube 15 and its big brother, the Cube 30 -and with the gigs I had coming up, he agreed I'd be just the guy to do it. Score!


A couple days later, two mondo boxes showed up at my door. Inside the cardboard shell were enough Styrofoam peanuts to choke a horse, and inside those, a much smaller box with the Cube 15. (It was the same deal with the Cube 30, just fewer peanuts). Side by side, they looked pretty much the same, except for size. Their manuals are slim and easy to read, so I had them sussed out in no time. It was time to dig in.


The little guy
The Cube 15 is small but solid, like a brick. (My other amp was solid, like an anvil!) But unlike all the other small amps I've ever seen, this one comes loaded with features. In addition to the Clean and Lead channels, it includes three bands of EQ for lows, mids, and highs; a 1/4" auxiliary input jack (perfect for jammin' with my Walkman!); and a 1/4" recording/headphone output.


I plugged in my Tele and got to work. The Clean channel is just what it says- clean as a whistle. It's also incredibly loud and full! I know 8" speakers have become pretty efficient these days but this was truly impressive.


The next revelation came when I pressed the Select button and kicked in the Lead channel. Serious shred! I guess the guys at Musician's Friend were having some fun before they sent the amp my way-the gain and volume knobs were set to 10! After I peeled my ears off the wall, I took a closer look.


There are four flavors of distortion- Overdrive, Distortion, Metal, and Metal Stack-combined with a Gain control that lets you dial in a world of sonic mayhem. From honeyed sustain to glass-shattering shred, it's all there. The Volume control let me get all this tone at levels that ranged from "don't wake the baby" to "eviction notice"!


The big guy
The Cube 30 is a bit bigger than the 15. It shares the same EQ, auxiliary input, and recording/headphone output as the Cube 15, plus adds a footswitch jack so you can control both the Clean/Lead channel switch and effects bypass.


Roland's JC120 is the foundation of the Clean channel and has a smooth, punchy sound. I shouldn't be surprised -after hearing what Roland did with an 8" speaker, it was only natural that the 10" driver on the 30 would deliver! The Cube 30 also features an effects section that I know is gonna make my gigging life easier-goodbye, pedals and batteries! To make life simpler, only two knobs control the entire EFX section. One knob selects and adjusts the modulation effects-chorus, flanger, phaser, and tremolo-and a second knob controls delay time and reverb amount.


The Lead channel features seven COSM modeled sounds. Acoustic blends acoustic guitar simulation and amp modeling for a totally unique sound. Black Panel models the Fender Twin, while Tweed models a Fender Bassman head on a 4x10 cab. The Brit Combo delivers that Vox AC30TB sound that was the hallmark of the British Invasion of the '60s. Three Stack models are included-the smooth Classic (Marshall JMP1987), the high-gain Metal (Peavey EVH-3150), and the shred-worthy R-Fier (MESA/Boogie Rectifier).


Time to gig
I used both amps in the real world and am pleased to report that they were a hit! I used the Cube 30 at our last live gig and, because I was finally able to turn the volume up past 2, I got a much better tone than I ever did with footpedals. For our demo session, I used the Cube 15 and went direct to the board, taking advantage of the studio's gazillion-dollar reverbs and effects. The engineer said he'd never heard that much tone from such a small amp. Bottom line-if you want major attitude without breaking your back (or your bank), get one or both of these amps-you won't regret it!


Features & Specs



Roland Cube 15Roland Cube 30
  • 15 watts
  • 8" speaker
  • Clean and Lead channel
  • 4 lead sounds:
    -Metal Stack
  • Dimensions:
    13-3/16"W x 13"H x 9-1/2"D
  • Weight: 15 lbs., 4 oz.
  • 30 watts
  • 10" speaker
  • Dual footswitch jack
  • High-quality DSP effects:
  • Dimensions
    15-13/16"W x 15"H x 9-1/2"D
  • Weight: 20 lbs., 5 oz.
Shared Features
  • Compact size, big sound
  • 2-channel configuration
  • Built-in distortion effects
  • 3-band EQ for precise tone shaping
  • Recording/headphone output
  • Auxiliary input for connecting other gear