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?