Amplifiers

Roland Blues Cube Stage

  • By Fletcher Stewart @tonereport
  • April 09, 2015
  • 2432 Comments
Comments

2432

Old School Soul Meets New School Control

The first thing one needs to understand about these classy new Roland combos is that they are not the entry level, do-it-all-on-a-budget Cubes of yesteryear. These are completely gig-worthy amps that brazenly bring together attributes from the boutique, modeling, solid-state and tube amp schools of design. Roland has always been on the forefront of music technology and it is big enough to take risks and push products that aren’t just safe bets. I am here to tell you that, in tonal terms, with great risk comes great rewards. This new Tube Logic technology is no gimmick.

Upon unboxing the Blues Cube Stage, I lifted it easily out of the packaging and was pleasantly surprised to see creamy Tolex adorned with metal corner protectors and a matching badge. So far so good. Taking a peek into the open back of the combo, I checked for cheap particleboard and found only poplar plywood and clean, robust construction. I immediately plugged in my Reverend Hotshot Jr (armed with a Mojotone Gold Foil in the bridge) and got down to business.

Future Touch for the Real Deal Feel

With all the controls set to noon and the power control on the lowest (0.5W) setting, I hit an open G chord. A beautiful, silky clean tone emanated from the cabinet. As I edged up the clean volume, a tweed-like squidgy compression became apparent and my slide work was aided by the extra sustain. When I dimed it, I enjoyed a Keefed up grind of dirty-clean honkytonk skronk. Engaging the boost pushed the clean channel even further for a truly touch sensitive clean-to-grit dynamic.

Flipping over to the crunch channel, I was immediately reminded of Pete Townshend’s Bandmaster bashing early ‘70s era and found myself digging into the chord break bit of “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Speaking of getting fooled, the tube-like response of this amp is frighteningly real. This next generation of circuit modeling will be disarming digital amp skeptics if they give it a chance. The Tube Logic technology nails every idiosyncratic dynamic, right down to the cushy sagging voltage drop of a tube-rectified tweed Bassman—which is what the stock Blues Cubes are modeled after. If things get too furry for more complex chordal work, one can engage the dual tone switch and blend in some cleans to add sparkly definition to the fray. Did I mention this thing takes pedals like a champ (literally)?

What we like: Portability, expressively realistic tube response, and the onboard attenuator make for an amp that will consistently deliver the sonic goods in all scenarios. The onboard reverb is very usable with a perfect amount of pre-delay, so it won’t swamp out picking dynamics. Nothing was overlooked in development and there is even a headphone jack that works a treat for silent practice. There is also a USB connection feature for slotting right into your favorite DAW if you don’t want to wake the baby.

As luck would have it, I had rehearsal the night of the amp’s arrival, so I got to crank it against our hard-hitting drummer and there was more than enough volume on tap. In fact, most of the night I ran it on the 15W power setting. Perhaps the coolest prospect of this series is the Tube Logic Tone Capsule slot lurking under the chassis. This will enable modular tone transplants going forward. Eric Johnson has one coming out that he modeled after his favorite vintage Deluxe Reverbs and ’69 Marshall Super Lead—and I am all ears.

Concerns: I imagine that some potential customers will simply see the word Cube and look at the price and not give this thing a chance. The crowd that this creamy combo is aimed at can be a downright puritanical lot when it comes to tubes, but this is a real piece of kit, made of real materials, with real players involved in its development. Eric Johnson and Don Felder can play any amp they want, right?

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100 Comments

  1. lee

    I got turned on to cube amps by my brother who uses them at casino and bar gigs here in Oklahoma.  They’re rugged, never need maintenance, always sound great and are very cheap at the pawn shop. As opposed to his twin & deluxe amps which need occasional maintenance, are costly, and bulky & heavy. I can’t wait to try this new model out, especially being a bassman amp fan.

  2. Tom

    So is it digital reverb or spring reverb?

  3. JohnBurns

    This is a Great Amp. I am A White guy who Plays the Blues. I have a 1995 Fender Hot Rod Blues Deluxe amp, Blonde Tolex-Tweed grill cloth front. This Amp is all Tube thru—-out. This has 5 -12ax7’s, 1- 12au7 rectifier tube, and two 6L6’s. True 50watts. The Blues Cube Stage is Neck & Neck with the Deluxe. Both amps are single 12"spkr.open bank’s.  Blues Cub is a Vintage 30-Celestian. Fender is Brown-Label Fender- Jensen. I would use either Amp. Live or Studio. Really Cool man, far-out!

  4. Andrew Butcher

    I like this review. I bought one of these as soon as they were available and it really is brilliant. I have read people saying (who haven’t tried one) it’s just another modelling amp or that it can’t be as good as a tube amp. I think they are both wrong. Either plugged straight in or with effects it’s a superb amp and I have now ruled out ever going for a Deluxe Reverb. I am thinking about the tone capsule though. It sounds great at .5 watt and at a gig I too only used the 15 watt option so plenty in reserve. Really superb amp.

  5. Bundy

    Hi all, have had the BC stage amp for a couple of weeks now and since moving from playing Tube amps to SS, I’m impressed with its tone. You don’t need the EJ tone capsule to get good sounds out of it and if I had $400 to spare I still wouldn’t get it. I use a few pedals in front of the amp and I mainly use the clean channel and half watt setting at home. It has plenty of volume. The reverb is digital and does an ok job.  I got this amp because I wanted something mainly for at home and if the wife and kids give me some free time in the future, I will be able to venture back into the gigging scene with this very amp.

  6. curt miller

    i watched the eric johnson commercial video on these amazing sounding amps. after being sold on this amp, due completely to the fact that they reproduce eric’s tones, then the narrator announced that there will be only 300 of the eric johnson plug-in components made.  and then advised us to pre-order to ensure that get one.  what a high-pressure sale pitch!
    question:  why would you guys limit such a highly sought after sound to only 300 units?  bad idea!

  7. Ian Stannage

    There is no ‘clean’ sound on this amplifier. Everything, on every setting, is muddy and artificial. There is no ‘presence’ to the tone, no ‘attack’ to any note, and any sustain is gained at the expense of any expressive characteristics your playing may have. Any expressive characteristics your instrument may have are also ironed out by this amplifier. I simply do not understand the approbation this dreadful amp has received. It looks terrific, of course. Maybe the reviewers, like some guitarists, are listening with their eyes.

  8. David Ireland

    I have this amp, and going on comments above I’ll probably get the Kirk Fletcher capsule. For the last 20 years, gigging at least once a week on average, I have only used Fender tube amps (Princetons, Blues Deluxe mainly) and never thought solid state would be up to it. I was in a music shop and they had a Blues Cube so I thought I’d try it to show a friend that they were overrated - but I was so impressed I bought it. I have had it six months and other amps gathering dust. My head tells me it cannot be as good as a tube amp, but it feels great to play, especially at gigs (10 piece soul band, blues band, occasional dep work in other bands). The lower wattage settings mean I can get a much better sound at church (where volume has to be low) than I could with valve amp on 1 or 2.  When I A/B this against my Blues Deluxe at gigging volume there is very little difference - tube amp has a tiny bit more ‘life’ but in a gig nobody could notice. At quieter volumes the cube has more sparkle and life. Can’t quite believe I’m saying it, but I much prefer the Blues Cube now.  Only thing that lets it down is the functional but rather dull reverb - but this is easily fixed with a good reverb pedal.

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  10. Matt

    This is a flat out great sounding amp. The only “listening with their eyes” going on is being done by the people who must visually observe a vacuum tube before their ears are capable of hearing anything good.

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