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Roland Micro Cube

Mighty Mouse
 

ROLAND_MICROCUBE_01

Roland Micro Cube
Price: $130 (street)
Info: www.rolandus.com.

Every once in a while you have to pinch yourself and thank your lucky stars to be a guitarist in the 21st century. The Roland Micro Cube is a good illustration of this phenomenon; a dinky, portable amp that runs on AA batteries, it weighs just over seven pounds and measures less than 10″ x 10″ x 7″. But why such jubilation? Let’s find out.

We all remember the venerable Pignose from 40 years ago – a simple one-knob mini amp that virtually invented the portable-amp category. Today, Roland takes the concept of the portable amp and adds oodles of features that would have been unimaginable all those decades ago. For basic specs, the Micro Cube is a two-watt amp with a 5″ speaker that runs on six AA batteries (20-hour life span) or the supplied AC adapter. To make things interesting, the designers also put in DSP effects and a few of Roland’s noted COSM amp models. There’s also a digital tuning fork that provides an audible A, Ab or G note through the speaker for tuning, as well as line in/out jacks (including headphone outs), and a cute little carrying strap. The amp also has heavy-duty plastic corner guards and a metal grill, giving it something of a military vibe, but also plenty of toughness for bringing it outdoors to jam. The Micro Cube is available in black, red or white finishes, but again, given its Army-radio feel, an olive-green or camouflage finish might be a cool idea down the road (think “Combat!” or “Rat Patrol”).

For amp models, Roland provides you with seven sonic choices, including Acoustic, JC Clean (for a Roland JC-120 sound), Black Panel, Brit Combo, Classic Stack, R-fier, and Mic. As you might guess, these presets go from clean-and-sweet to progressively dirtier degrees of overdrive and crunch. For effects, you’ll find an EFX knob offering your choice of chorus, flanger, phaser, and tremolo, while the Delay/Reverb knob lets you set the amount of each of those effects. The Micro Cube’s top panel is completed with Gain and Volume controls, letting you set the amount of grit you want.

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The amp emulations, in particular, are a blast. An acoustic/electric guitar sounds really good through the Micro Cube – almost shockingly so, especially when you dial in some sweet chorus and reverb. On the other end of the spectrum, the R-fier heavy-metal crunch is too much fun in an amp of this size – you can easily do a full Metallica set while sitting on the beach and that’s not an overstatement. Or dial down to Brit Stack for a medley of Kiss or Zep favorites while camping or hiking. Then again, there’s a line-out jack, so if you’re playing a real gig, go ahead and send that output to the P.A. and you’ll be in business.

At the end of the day, the Roland Micro Cube is a small miracle of 21st-century gear technology. With so many features in such a tiny package, the Micro Cube will make any guitarist glad to be a living, breathing picker.


This article originally appeared in VG November 2012 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.


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5 Comments

  1. AlanIglesias
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    This is a great article Pete, thanks for writing it.

    It’s really true – this thing is everything we wished the Pignose could have been all those years ago (I got mine in 1974). I have like four of these little beauties – one in the studio, one in the living room, I take one on the road in the van and there is always one in the dressing room and motel room. My band played in Japan a few years ago and there it was, right in my suitcase. The batteries last longer than you might think and the overall convenience is really something.

    The biggest thing for me is that, as an “old school” player, I use old amps on stage (well, they’re nearly as old as I am anyway!) and crank them up, creating varying amounts of drive and crunch with the guitar’s volume knob and my right-hand attack. On the Cube, I simply set it to the “Classic” amp model, turn the gain to halfway, then the volume and tone to taste for the “room” – and then perhaps a little reverb. Sure enough, with the guitar’s volume turned down it is sweet and clean, and as I turn it up here comes the crunch and distortion and everything in between – just like (well, very nearly like) my 1965 Vibrolux-Reverb!

    Not only that, but a young friend visited with a strat/humbucker/floyd Kramer, and we quickly dialed in a very convincing Van Halen sound. Very cool.

    My only complaint is perhaps a lack of high-end frequency response at very low volumes but it is no big deal when you consider the price and versatiliy of amazing little amp. I’ve told all my player friends about it and now they all have one too!

    Thanks again,

    -Alan Iglesias

  2. macwiz107@aol.com
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    I’ve had one for 5 years and it’s still rockin! Great sound. Great effects and it’s portable! Great practice amp or for gigging through another amp or PA. Get one now!!!

  3. brucemonster@gmail.com
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I originally bought one a few years ago when they first came out just to have a small sized practice amp that could be “cordless” for easy portability; I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular. Thus, I was quite surprised when I actually got it and it sounded so good and had so much versatility. It immediately became a permanent resident of my living room coffee table. I had an out-of-state gig and took it along to show a friend. when I arrived though, my regular amp suddenly had a big problem during soundcheck and my usual backup amp had been lent to a friend who had a gig. So, without another option, I put this little beast on a stool next to me and ran the line out into the house PA. I didn’t even bother with my pedalboard. Much to my and everyone else’s shock, it sounded utterly great, plus it was liking having several different amps I could switch to instantly with the flick of a knob. Even the onboard FX were quite decent. Ever since (mainly because I’m lazy and old and have a bad back), this has been my gig workhorse. Combined with my modest pedalboard, my gigs have sounded better and it’s been far easier to get a variety of good sounds. The various folks I play with usually make fun of it until they hear it. It’s worked out so well, I bought Roland’s Micro-Bass amp (4 little tiny aluminum speakers in a similarly tiny,battery powered cabinet) for bass gigs – it has a thoroughly wild array of sounds and is equally wonderful.

  4. timonvh@planet.nl
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Very much the same here. Had it for five or six years, been carrying it around for rehearsals mainly. Batteries just died on me last month (after more than 20 hrs, anyway). Only downside: lows make it fart a little. But rehearsals (living room style) are rehearsals. The included wall-wart adapter (never used with the Micro Cube) has saved our ass as a band a couple of times!
    Have to try the Micro-Bass version yet, but it should be just as handy a little thing.

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