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Roland Cube Street
Portable stereo amplifier
Published in PM January 2008
Reviews : Guitar: Amplification
Roland's battery-powered amp with neodymium speakers offers a high quality output in an easy and convenient package.
Roland's original Micro Cube amplifier came out at exactly the same time as I was looking for a small battery-powered amp to take on holiday, and it proved so popular that I sold it while I was away and had to buy another when I got home. Though rated at only 2W, the Micro Cube's efficient speaker makes it very loud, while the amp modelling section and effects produce a range of decent guitar sounds. The Micro Cube is ideal for busking too, as it can run on half a dozen AA batteries for over 20 hours. Now, however, Roland have gone one better with the new Cube Street.
Essentially, the Cube Street is a slanted-front, double-size Micro Cube with two 6.5-inch neodymium speakers, stereo effects and a total power output of five surprisingly loud Watts. It can still run on batteries as well as the included mains adaptor, albeit with a 15-hour play time rather than 22, but the big feature of this new model is that it has a separate vocal/line channel with an XLR/jack combi socket, plus a fully featured guitar channel. A separate Delay/Reverb section is available on the Instrument/Mic channel, as well as two-band EQ, gain and mic/line switching.
The guitar channel features five of Roland's COSM amp models, an acoustic guitar emulation, a mic input setting and an unprocessed instrument input setting. Plus, there's a stereo aux input — on a mini jack suitable for connecting MP3 players and suchlike — that feeds into both channels.
Overdrive is controlled using separate Gain and Volume knobs, while the tonality is adjusted with Bass, Middle and Treble controls. There's also a built-in chromatic guitar tuner, plus a choice of four different digital effects types (Chorus, Flanger, Phaser and Tremolo) that are independent of the delay or reverb settings. Like the reverb/delay, these are accessed via single control knobs that vary multiple parameters.
The effects knob is divided into four sections corresponding to the four effect types, where the effect gets stronger towards the clockwise end of its segment. The same is true of the delay and reverb effects, which share a control knob. Interestingly, the stereo chorus works by having a chorus effect in one speaker and the dry signal in the other — a trick I used to use back in the '70s, and which produces a wonderfully spatial effect.
Available in black or red, the format of the amp makes it ideal for busking, garden parties, jams on the beach and even small wine bar gigs — where the provision of two channels enables it to be used as a mini PA and a guitar amp at the same time. Measuring 415 x 295 x 250 mm and weighing 5.2kg, the Cube Street is built as solidly as Roland's larger Cube models and shares the same general styling, with a top carry handle and a perforated metal speaker grille.
Tonally, the guitar channel is very similar to that of the Micro Cube, although it benefits from stereo effects and three bands of EQ, rather than a single tone control. It also has a little more low end because of the larger speakers and cabinet. My personal preference is for the Brit Class A model, although the usual American and UK classics are on offer too, as a JC Clean amp and a Rectifier high-gain model. The acoustic guitar emulation wasn't present on the original and does a plausible job in making an electric guitar sound like an acoustic guitar.
The Mic/Line channel features a Mic/Line switch, and in the mic position, works with balanced low-impedance microphones. There's no phantom power, so it's strictly dynamic models. The first mic I tried sounded less than promising, but when I switched this to something decent, the sound was actually rather good. If you use any of the popular hand-held stage dynamic mics, you should be able to get a good result from this amp and the separate reverb makes a big difference.
For such a tiny package, the Cube Street sounds very powerful and is capable of creating quite a sophisticated guitar sound. As a busker's amp, it is unbeatable, and even the angled baffle is dead right, as it should give decent audience coverage from pavement level. I'm still amazed at the battery life these things manage, so if you have any need at all for a portable amp that can handle both guitar and vocals, you really need to take a closer look. You'll be impressed! 0
Published in PM January 2008
Roland Cube Street £233
The Cube Street offers two channels of battery/mains-powered amplification for guitar and vocal/line, each with their own delay/reverb sections. The guitar section includes various amp models, effects and delay/reverb, with most of the effects in stereo.
Roland UK Ltd
+44 (0)1792 702701
Slanted cabinet design.
Two 6.5-inch neodymium speakers.
Battery driven (6 x AA, 15-hour play time).
Dual-channel architecture, Guitar/Instrument and Mic/Line inputs.
Eight COSM amps.
Six digital effects.
Two-band EQ delay/reverb for Mic/Line channel.
9V AC adaptor included.
Available in red or black.
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