The Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus guitar amp is about as near to perfection as one can get when it comes to immaculate clean tones and lush built-in stereo chorus effects, which is why it has remained virtually unchanged over 40 years of continuous production.
However, some players don’t need an amp that big, heavy, powerful, and loud for everyday recording and club gigs.
Roland’s new JC-40 Jazz Chorus, introduced this year in celebration of the JC-120’s 40th anniversary, is the perfect alternative for guitarists who can’t live without that stellar Jazz Chorus sound but need a smaller, more portable package. The JC-40 offers most of the same features—and a few entirely new ones—as the JC-120 in a compact combo format.
The JC-40 is a 40-watt solid-state combo with two 10-inch speakers. Instead of the traditional two-channel Jazz Chorus design, it offers only the chorus/effects channel with a bright switch, volume, treble, middle, bass, distortion, and reverb controls. There’s also a rotary switch for engaging vibrato and manual chorus effects, which can be adjusted with the front panel’s speed and depth knobs, as well as a new fixed chorus effect mode. The front panel also includes a pair of stereo inputs—another new addition—for connecting stereo effects, amp modelers, or guitar synths to the amp and maintaining true stereo operation.
The rear panel is similarly laden with features, providing a 1/4-inch headphone output, stereo line outputs, and effect loop with a single (stereo TRS?) send, pair of stereo returns, and series/parallel switch. Individual 1/4-inch footswitch jacks are provided for manually engaging the chorus/vibrato, reverb, and distortion effects separately with optional footswitches.
Instead of using a spring reverb tank, the JC-40 is equipped built-in digital reverb to create its luscious reverb effect. According to Roland, the distortion and chorus/vibrato effects are “newly evolved for modern styles,” but fans of the signature JC stereo chorus effect have nothing to fear as the JC-40’s chorus still retains the same vibrant, lush, and three-dimensional character. The only thing missing is the noise often encountered in older analog chorus circuits.
The JC-120 set a new standard for clean tone upon its introduction in 1975, and the JC-40 lives up to that reputation by providing simply the most stunning clean tone I’ve ever heard coming from a sub 50-watt 2x10 combo. Notes across the fretboard’s entire range have depth, dimension, and balls, the attack is punchy and instantaneous, and the tone remains crystal clear even with the volume control fully maxed. The bright switch generates slinky, razor-sharp treble that evokes the heyday of disco-funk or Jamie West-Oram, and the EQ section is versatile.
I’ve already raved about the stereo chorus effect, which can be downright hypnotic, but the reverb deserves similar praise as it produces a spacious effect that combines the best of both genuine spring and digital hall reverb without getting in the way of the dry signal’s clarity and definition. The distortion effect, as always, is a love-or-hate affair, but if you’re a fan of modern solid-state distortion (a la Dimebag or Wayne Static) you’ll probably love it. I preferred using a clean boost overdrive instead, which retained all of the JC-40’s wonderful clarity and articulation while providing added sonic punch, sustain, and just a hint of crunch.
The JC-40 is an ideal platform for a modern pedal or rack effects rig, as well as the latest amp modelers, guitar synths, or even acoustic-electric guitars. Even if you’re a tube distortion purist, the amp is small enough to fit into any rig without sacrificing portability or those alluring JC clean tones.
LIST PRICE $799
MANUFACTURER Roland Corporation, rolandus.com
• The two 10-inch speakers are driven individually by separate power amps (40-watts total) to provide true stereo effects.
• A new stereo input section preserves true stereo performance when an effect unit, amp modeler, or guitar synth is plugged into the amp.
• Built-in effects include Roland’s legendary stereo chorus/vibrato, digital reverb, and distortion, which all can be engaged individually via optional footswitches.
THE BOTTOM LINE: With its world-class clean tones, legendary stereo chorus effect, and new features like stereo inputs and digital reverb, the JC-40 is the ideal Jazz Chorus amp for modern players who prefer a compact, portable rig.
These videos and audio files are bonus content related to the November 2015 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now or at the Guitar World Online Store.