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Quick Review: Roland Blues Cube Artist and Eric Johnson Tone Capsule

Fusionshred

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,115
This is a quick review because I could go on and on and on but I will try and keep this concise. Also, I could have put this in the Effects section or the Modeling section but since this is primarily an amp review, I'll post it here.

I've played dozens of amps from very cheap to very expensive and pretty much everything in between. I've only had the BC for a few days and have not had the chance to crank it. So, keep in mind, to the extent that there is a preconception that SS amps sound better at low volumes but might get hairy when pushed, I don't know that yet.

The rig is assorted guitars (Ibanez AS200, Carvin DC600, Fender Am. Std Strat, G&L Legacy Special) through a Mini Cry Baby into the amp, with a Hardwire Delay and Phaser in the loop.

I'm also using the Roland foot controller for this.

Now, before we go any further, I will concur with those who have said that it would be nice to be able to footswitch the Tone Capsule in and out. It's not THAT difficult to insert and remove, but at the obscene price of $300, I don't want to break it.

The amp weighs in at 35 lbs, which feels lighter because it's fairly large and one would expect it to carry a certain weight. It's the size of a tube amp that should weigh about 53 lbs. The knobs have a nice, quality tactile feel, the switches feel good too, and the tolex and grille cloth are nicely applied. Overall, the amp seems to be well-built. I wish it had a leather handle, and might get one for it some day. Cosmetically, it looks attractive and (Roland finally got it right with this one) it doesn't look unnecessarily flashy or like a toy. For aesthetic reasons, the name "Blues Cube" seems to fit, although the word "Cube" carries with it an unwarranted stigma.

So, first the amp sans EJTC. This is a warm, clear clean that is punchy and responsive. Although it doesn't get you 100% fooled, it is by far the most realistic sounding SS amp I've plugged into. The reverb is effective; the EQ serves its purpose, the vibrato is OK (not a tube-driven unit, obviously, but will get you through). The power-scaling thing works well in conjunction with the master volume to control either huge amounts of clean headroom or nice overdriven clean sounds. Switching to the Crunch channel gets you just that - crunch. If you want the blues, it's there. It's a convincing tube overdriven tone. What I like about this channel is that there are no artificial buzzes as the note decays like those that are so apparent and impossible to lose in the Quilter Aviator. The Quilter is a great clean tone but the overdrive sounds like a transistor radio. The Crunch will not get you too much overdrive so be prepared to stick a TS in front of it for any serious gain or lead work, or your OD of choice. It is, however, a very convincing crunchy tone.

I didn't spend THAT much time with this before inserting said EJTC. Pop it in like a 12AX7. It's really no big deal. And for those worried about it getting pocketed at a gig, there is a cover that goes over it once inserted and is held in by two screws.

Fired back up, the clean channel is a little brighter and more bell-like (analogous - albeit more subtle - to going from a tweed to a blackface which, come to think of it, sort of makes sense). The reverb becomes a little smoother and rounder, which is a good thing. The tone button gives you a little more emphasis on the high end for really crystalline cleans. This is a very, very good clean. This is the first SS amp I've ever played that didn't cause the little voice in the back of my head to remind me that it is tubeless. After playing a SS amp, sooner or later I feel compelled to plug into my tube amps and remind myself of what I've been missing - at which point I immediately recognize the "toy" that the SS really is - but this is NOT the case with the BC.

So for those of you thinking it's crazy to spend $900 on a solid state amp, I'll say this - if you think it makes sense to pay $900 for a great sounding guitar amp, then this does make sense. Forget about the guts - because as you are playing in, you won't be thinking about that.

Now on to Violin Tone. Switching to Crunch, with the EJTC, there is much more gain on tap. Now, at first, set the way I had it, I hated it. Others have said that it sounds like there is a blanket over the amp. It's very muffled. Realize that EJ's lead tone is very smooth with a lot of the treble removed so in order to replicate that, it's going to have a more muffled sound. I struggled with this. BUt I DIDN'T GIVE UP!

I cranked the Presence control. A-HA!!!! Then I hit the tone button on the Crunch and there it was - with the natural attenuation of treble from the EJTC and the introduction of some more presence from the amp, I was ripping through Cliffs of Dover in no time (well, trying to rip through it, anyway. . . ).

Is it the EXACT tone? Well, no. For 1300 bucks you are not going to get that exact tone no matter WHAT you do. Even EJ wouldn't. Conversely, I think I read once that someone who played through EJ's actual rig said he didn't sound anything like EJ. A lot of his tone comes from the way he frets a note and the way he picks. It is, however, 1) a convincing tone, and 2) a good tone. This doesn't sound like digital modeling of something - there is an honesty and legitimacy here that, if it were absent, would have me packing all three components back in their respective boxes and heading to the nearest UPS dropoff.

This is a usable piece of gear for bedroom playing and might be applicable in gig situations too (I'l have to find that out when the opportunity presents itself). The footswitch is very beneficial and logically laid out, although it takes some time to get used to not hitting the same switch to toggle between both channels, but that's OK.

Overall, for the money you really get two completely different amps, which is something to think about when you contemplate the price/value.

Like I said, I could go on and on. I'm really glad I kept this short! More later, I'm sure. . . .

TS
 

stratoskier

Member
Messages
1,362
I will concur with those who have said that it would be nice to be able to footswitch the Tone Capsule in and out.
I figure it's only a matter of time before some clever person engineers an outboard gizmo to footswitch the capsule in and out. Perhaps an outboard TC dock of some sort? However, what you (and others) have said about needing to re-EQ the amp when the capsule is inserted means that a mere in/out switch wouldn't do the trick. Sounds like it would really require a separate Tone Capsule channel with independent tone controls. I'm still intrigued though.
 

elkman

Member
Messages
38
I am glad you like your Blues Cube, I have had my Artist a couple of months now (without the EJTC) and am really lovin' it, I haven't used my tube amp since I got the Blues Cube. It fills the room with sweet, full sound, and will sustain a note like a pushed tube amp (at a much lower volume). The reverb sounds real good even when pushed well past noon. I am using the tap-tempo tremolo effect more than I thought I would, it sounds fine to me. The clean channel is good with or without the boost on, as is the crunch channel. The dual-tone feature offers a lot of tone-shaping possibilities - I like one setting where I have the clean channel at half the volume of the crunch channel, then blend them with the dual tone switch.

My pedal board sounds good going in the front end and my delay sounds good thru the effects' loop.

The amp can be a little bassy on the low strings at times, but I can live with that, after all, it is Roland's attempt to simulate a classic Fender Bassman amp.

With modern features and solid-state reliability that sounds good at lower volumes as well as when played loud, I think The Roland Blues Cube Artist is a keeper
 

DRS

Member
Messages
11,947
Maybe some enterprising soul will market some aftermarket tone capsules for more than just EJ tone and for a heck of a lot less than $300. Considering it's just a chip with a program in it, this is BS. First, Roland has to sell a heck of lot more of these amps.
 
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KnowTalent

Just SAY NO to "Creamy" Distortion
Messages
3,135
The EJ tone capsule thing is not important to me. instead, bring us a SS combo that does a decent Bassman impression...for less than $500 street price. Its a tarted-up peavey bandit 112 (MIC) and should be priced accordingly IMO.
 

KnowTalent

Just SAY NO to "Creamy" Distortion
Messages
3,135
Im holding out for the John Mayer Tone Capsule!

It would be really cool if you could have two Tone Capsules, one assigned to each channel, and use the existing blend circuit. Just think EJ AND John Mayer blended tone!!!

How about a synth capsule that emulates Kenny G smooth sax voicing!!!!
 

Fusionshred

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,115
I'd like to see tone capsules for EVH, Petrucci, Carlton. Imagine that! But not at 300 a pop, though.

Now that I'm sort of getting used to the tone with the EJTC in, I think one of these days I'll pull it out just to get to know the amp itself better. I think the Tone Capsule is a cool idea, but I do wish that, given that it's not switchable out, it was a little easier to plug in. It would be cool if it was a USB-type connector.

With all due respect to Peavey, the MIC Bandit is crap compared to this thing. And it's heavier. I think it's somewhat fair to compare the Bandit to the regular "Cube" series. The Blues Cube is a different animal. To a snob, like me, it's a real pro piece of gear.
 

KnowTalent

Just SAY NO to "Creamy" Distortion
Messages
3,135
Regardless of its feature set & build quality I'd still feel better if it was MIJ given the current asking price.

It would be interesting to install common speakers and A/B it with a new Bandit 112.

How much clean headroom with low output single coils?
 

Fusionshred

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,115
I have still not had the opportunity to play it very loudly (small children often prevent this); however, I think that at the 80 watt setting with the master up there is considerable clean headroom. I'd venture to guess at least as much as a HRD. I'll test this soon and report back.
 

tcaron

Member
Messages
436
I got the Toner Capsule for my Stage amp the other day. I like it a lot but not for a full night of playing. I would bring my Rambler and the EJ'd Stage so I could A/B them when needed. What I like so far is the smoother reverb, crunch and sustain that it gives. My playing is more about tone as opposed to fast runs. Sitting on a note with the Tone Capsule inserted is sweet. At first the darker sound was a bit bothersome but it has grown on me. The Stage does not have a Presence knob so I cannot compare it to the Artist sound. I did play a P90 Gretch the other day through it and the amp sounded a bit brittle. I do not think it is a great amp for those PUs but I have found that the P90s can be a challenge to get an amp that handles twang and highs well.

All in all I like the Stage a lot with and without the capsule. I can see myself using the capsule for some unique recording sounds but probably not for gigging.
I will give it another week or so to decide if I will be keeping it.

Tom C
 

Jaketone

Member
Messages
308
Necro post..!

I have been A/Bing my Blues Cube Artist with a recently acquired Deluxe Reverb Reissue. I have the Ultimate Blues Tone Capsule as well.

I LOVE the Blues Cube, but the DRRI really moves air - particularly in the lows and highs. The Blues Cube doesn't quite match it.

Would the clean of the EJ get closer to that Deluxe sound? I was really loving the blues cube till I got a DRRI..!
 

tcaron

Member
Messages
436
I love my Blues Cube Stage but it does not match my Carr Rambler or like you say, the DRRI. But I use it all the time because of weight. Replaced the speaker with a cheap Warehouse Sepakers WGS 12c/s and it brought out more lows, smoothed out the highs.

Had the Eric Johnson Tone Cpasule and sold it. Was not my style and everything was a bit ice picky, at least to me.

Tom C
 

Jaketone

Member
Messages
308
Thanks Tom.

Funnily enough I had a g12c (no /s) in the the BCA and it was Ok - not mind blowingly better. The g12c in the DRRI though is magic!
 

tcaron

Member
Messages
436
Yes, I agree. These speakers work great in some amps but not in all. Horrible in my EL84 amps.

For the price it is worth having one hanging around.

Tom
 

Jimmy MAck

Member
Messages
781
Great thread, as I am on the precipice of deciding on a new amp. Need it to supplement a Princeton Reverb on gigs, only using one amp at a time! But, so many options - I play blues, on the jazzier side at times, and then, the other guitarist in my group uses a Fuchs Blackjack 21, which is stellar, but I am more in the Fender camp.
 

Jaketone

Member
Messages
308
Jimmy the Blues cubes are amazing amps. I just love the way it feels as well as sounds.

I quite like the sound of the stock amp but if you are playing Jazz you might want to look into the Ultimate Blues tone capsule as it slightly black faces the amp and adds to the clean head room.

Having said this, the stock bassman-esque amp compliments my deluxe reverb really well, and there is plenty of headroom if you keep the preamp volume below 11 o'clock and turn the master and power scale to taste
 




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