GOLD AWARD WINNER
Not too long ago, practice amps were about as exciting and satisfying as a mayonnaise on white bread sandwich.
About the best thing anyone could say about them is that they produced a sound that was louder than someone talking, but their tones and features (if they offered anything beyond basic volume and tone controls) weren’t exactly inspirational.
Enter Roland’s Cube series, which proved that tiny, affordable amps didn’t need to be boring. One of their latest products—the Cube 10GX—even allows you to customize it any time you want using an app for a smart phone or tablet. Surprisingly affordable and shockingly versatile, the Roland Cube 10GX is easy to use and so much fun to play that you may consider plugging into a bigger rig too much of a hassle.
FEATURES The Roland Cube 10GX has almost identical dimensions to the beloved tweed Fender Champ, but it’s probably 100 times more versatile. Power output is 10 watts, and a single 8-inch speaker is housed in a cabinet with a completely closed back to enhance bass response. A selection of three COSM amp models (Clean, Crunch and Lead) is accessible via a pushbutton on the top control panel, and volume and gain controls let users dial in a variety of clean, overdrive and distortion textures. The three-band EQ section provides the usual bass, middle and treble controls, and an Effect knob provides access to chorus, delay, reverb and spring reverb. Only one effect is available at a time, and the delay and reverb decay times are variable. The rear panel provides 1/8-inch auxiliary input and recording/headphone output jacks.
Roland’s free Cube Kit app for iOS and Android devices allows users to replace the COSM presets with custom COSM amps. Currently the app provides 10 different COSM amp types: JC Clean, Black Panel, Brit Combo, Tweed, Classic Stack, Orng Stack, Metal Stack, R-Fier Stack, as well as acoustic guitar and bass amps, allowing you to use acoustic guitars and basses. Any custom COSM amp can be assigned to any of the amp type presets. For example, you can customize the Cube 10GX to provide Classic Stack, Metal Stack and R-Fier Stack amp types or JC Clean, acoustic guitar and bass.
PERFORMANCE The most impressive feature of the Cube 10GX is its sound quality. All of the COSM presets and custom amp types deliver outstanding tone and responsive performance that simply feels great to play. While the effects are somewhat basic and limited, they sound great as well and add a nice touch of professional polish to the overall tones and textures. The EQ section changes depending on which amp type is selected, but the voicing of the EQ always provides a useful variety of tones that never sound artificial or unnaturally harsh. The high gain amp types have the fast attack and crisp articulation of a solid-state amp or distortion pedal instead of the softer transients of an actual tube amp, which is ideal for perfecting speed-picked metal rhythms and precise soloing. The clean tones are satisfyingly harmonically rich and expressive, providing ample body for jazz and percussive twang for country.
Loading new COSM amp types couldn’t be any easier, but note that the process requires a physical cable connection between the smart phone/tablet and the Cube 10GX amp. Wireless Bluetooth connection would provide the ultimate convenience for this application, but that feature would probably add quite a few extra bucks to the 10GX’s insanely affordable price, and most players will probably keep their three favorite COSM amp types loaded in the amp once they’ve narrowed down their choices.
STREET PRICE $129.00
MANUFACTURER Roland Corporation, rolandus.com
Three COSM amp types are available, which provide the tonal variety and functionality of a three-channel amp.
The free Cube Kit app for iOS and Android smart phones and tablets allows users to customize the amp by downloading new COSM models to the amp type presets.
THE BOTTOM LINE A fun practice amp and a versatile recording tool, the Roland Cube 10GX stands out from the usual compact practice amps with its amp type customization feature and outstanding tones.