Once upon a time, an amp was just an amp. You plugged in. It raised hell. Everybody cheered and you got a record contract. But look around you. The game is changing. Music pings down the wire, songs recorded in bedsits eat the world and gigging is king. As such, the musicians who thrive are the ones who can do it all, combining the old-school skill-set – great songs, killer gigs and retina-burning star quality – with the net-savvy ability to get their music out there and into contention. It’s not enough for an amp to just be an amp anymore. Maybe you’ve struggled to find gear that can ride shotgun as you navigate the uncharted waters of the evolving industry. If any of this is striking a chord, then call off the search and meet the new Roland CUBE-GX range: three guitar amps that think outside the box.
Upgraded features for stage and studio
You already know the existing CUBE amp series: those bulletproof battleships whose tone and performance have helped propel the range to a within a plectrum’s width of two million sales. So let’s call the GX series the next evolutionary step. In 2013, the CUBE-20GX, CUBE-40GX and CUBE-80GX grab the baton, retaining all the best features while rocket-fuelling the spec sheet for the modern era. You’ll still find the CUBE calling-cards – from the COSM amp modelling to the switchable channels – but now the blueprint is boosted by the i-CUBE LINK, allowing connectivity to iOS devices like the Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
Three formats to fit your budget
We’re all at different points on the greasy pole of the music business, so from the gigging pro to the bedroom dreamer, the CUBE-GX series offers three different jump-on points. The CUBE-20GX is a practice amp par excellence, punching a useful 20-watt output through an 8-inch custom-designed speaker, tailoring your tone with a three-band EQ, and built like a tank. The CUBE-40GX builds on that spec and dangles the option of intimate gigs with its 40-watt grunt and 10-inch speaker. Head of the family is the CUBE-80GX, packing an 80-watt output, 12-inch speaker and additional Presence control that will scorch the eyebrows off the front row. Two minutes with these amps and you’ll realise they’re made for real-world performance, lapping up the blood, sweat and beer of the road. Five minutes later, and you’ll see exactly what they’re capable of…
No need for pedals or tuners
They might have different dimensions and power outputs, but the Roland CUBE-GX series amps are united by common features. In each case, there’s the lifesaver everyday stuff like a chromatic/manual tuner, plus a Line Out for hooking up to outboard speakers and a headphone jack that doubles as a Recording Out.
Practical stuff – but let’s hear about the exotica. Us guitarists are tinkerers by nature, and each CUBE-GX has three effects sections, offering five stompbox-type effects, plus two types of Reverb and Delay (the 40GX and 80GX also include a ‘Tap’ button for setting echo rates). Further boosting the sonic options are three separate channels. For your sparkling verse riffs, there’s ‘JC Clean’, which bottles the iconic Jazz Chorus tone employed by everyone from Andy Summers to Kirk Hammett since 1975. ‘Lead’ gives a choice of nail-on-head COSM amp model simulations (the 20GX includes six; the 40GX and 80GX have ten), while Solo is a tonal piggy-bank, storing the bespoke sounds you’ve cooked up between the amp models, effects and EQ.
The options might sound head-spinning, but with the GX’s no-brainer operation, you’ll be able to hop between all these settings and channels even on a darkened club stage. The dashboard is intuitive, but road warriors know it’s even cooler to do it all with a casual tap of your snakeskin cowboy boot on a foot controller, leaving your hands free for solos, high-fiving bandmates and throwing the horns. If you’ve chosen the CUBE-40GX or 80GX, then the optional GA-FC gives complete control with its six switches and two expression pedals, while either the BOSS FS-5U or FS-6 make a perfect wingman for the 20GX.
i-CUBE LINK: A simple way to jam and record
By now, you’ll have acknowledged that the new CUBE-GX series amps are tough, toneful, versatile and intuitive – but you’ll still be wanting to hear about the great leap forward. Listen up. Reflecting the rise of home-based recording over boutique studios, the CUBE-GX20, GX40 and GX80 all feature the game-changing i-CUBE LINK interface: a feature that allows two-way connectivity with an iOS device and turns your amp into a gateway to the world. Forget the clumsy and cumbersome guitar interfaces of the past. In this case, the CUBE-GX amps include a cable, which simply runs to the audio jack of your Apple iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, letting you export your signature amp tones and use them in your recording apps.
Seasoned pros will already have their choice of recording apps and they’ll be all over the i-CUBE LINK feature. But if you’re taking your first tentative steps into this gleaming future-world, you won’t find a more intuitive platform than CUBE JAM: a free app that represents a playground and virtual studio for guitarists. Available from the App Store, CUBE JAM lets you record direct to an iOS device, tweak the mix, turn the song into a 16-bit WAV file and fire it onto the Internet. It’s also a great tool for downtime and practice, letting you jam along with your favourite songs, and break down the guitar parts with the speed and pitch-adjustment features.
So if you’re still reading, you might be looking at your existing guitar combo with a mixture of regret and loathing. Don’t sweat it. The new CUBE-GX series is the best of the past as well as a signpost to the future – and launches in the UK this September: just enough time to get on eBay and make some room in the studio.
If you want the acclaimed Cube power in an even smaller format, check the new Micro Cube GX.