Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus 50th Anniversary

Mr. Clean
Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus 50th Anniversary
Price: $1,999.99

The Roland Corporation was born in 1972 and just a few years later introduced its landmark Jazz Chorus JC-120 amplifier. To celebrate the half-century mark, the company has reissued a 350-piece run of the amp with an elegant cherry-wood veneer cabinet.

In contrast to the muscular overdrive of Marshalls or bark of Fender Twins, the JC-120 promised a clean, high-tech future for guitarists, thanks to its stereo wiring, ample wattage, and groundbreaking built-in chorus (the effect was later ported to the Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble pedal).

If you’ve ever plugged into a JC-120, you know it’s a memorable experience, and the Anniversary version nicely aids in flashing back. A 2×12 combo, it’s the size of a large suitcase and packs considerable heft at just over 63 pounds – obviously, this is no lightweight transistor box. The front panel has two channels, the first with just a Volume knob, three-band EQ, and Bright button. The other is the stereo JC experience, with EQ, distortion, reverb, and a vibrato/chorus section called Dimensional Space Chorus. Today, chorus is a garden-variety effect, but 45 years ago, putting it inside an amp was seriously radical.

As on the original, the JC-120’s channels are not footswitchable. While you can turn distortion, reverb, and chorus/vibrato on and off with third-party switches, you can’t jump between channels 1 and 2. Think of it as having two guitar amps in one; as a workaround, you can use an external A/B switch to activate each channel, along with different pedals or EQ settings (an effects loop is also provided).

Cranked up, the JC-120 sounds big and beautiful; plug into the High input jack and it’s loud! With 60 watts pumping into each speaker, it’s stage-ready and will cut through the muddiest mix, with sparkling top frequencies and tight bass, all the more gorgeous with a splash of stereo chorus on top. The so-called Distortion knob adds only a smidge of grit instead of true dirt; tested with a Boss SD-1 Overdrive pedal in front, the JC-120 conjured simply glorious distortion.

All told, Roland’s JC-120 Jazz Chorus 50th Anniversary is a big, bold amplifier with clean tones reminiscent of The Police, Rush, and a million ’80s albums. Dial in that magical chorus and the stompboxes of your choice, and you’ll own the stage.

This article originally appeared in VG’s February 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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