The variety of sounds and quality of effects in the Roland 80XL is truly amazing, given its price and footprint.
The Roland Cube 80XL is the company’s latest flagship Cube guitar amplifier. While Roland is primarily known for their keyboards and synthesizers, the company knows a thing or two about guitar tone, since they’re also responsible for Boss effects pedals and quality guitar synths. They also pioneered guitar amplifier modeling with their COSM technology, so they’re not newcomers by any stretch. So, the Cube 80XL has some pretty big shoes to fill, given the respected history of the Cube series of amplifiers. Does it fulfill expectations? Let’s find out.
The Cube 80XL is an 80 watt amplifier with a custom 12″ speaker. The amplifier has two discrete channels, JC Clean and Lead, the latter of which has numerous quality models from 11 classic amplifiers both American and British. A solo mode is also available, effectively increasing the number of channels to three.
Eight effects are available, including discrete reverb and delay effects. An onboard phrase looper is included, providing 80 seconds of recording. The amp sports master three-band EQ along with a presence control, a built-in tuner, and auxiliary input for iPods and the like. Numerous footswitching options are built in, allowing control of channel switching and the onboard looper.
I’ve used Roland Cube amps in my teaching studio for years because of their reliability and excellent sounds. I’ve also relied on the larger Cube amps for various types of gigs and have always found the sounds high quality and realistic. Having put the Cube 80XL through its paces, I can say that Roland has only improved upon previous models. Especially welcome is the onboard looper and the distinct reverb and delay effects, since previous models had a combined delay and reverb effect.
The clean channel is based on Roland’s own JC120 and while it lacks the depth and projection of a full 2×12 JC120, the basic feel and sound of the amplifier is present. Were you to run the 80XL through a PA or directly into a DAW, you’d be hard-pressed not to identify it as a real JC120. The only downside to the clean channel is that it’s a one-trick pony. It would be nice if Roland would allow you to choose other classic clean sounds such as a Twin Reverb or Deluxe Reverb. The JC120 model is great, but not terribly versatile and doesn’t really sit well with a lot of different genres.
The lead channel definitely comes through with the number of different amplifier models, with 11 tones to choose from. Since I’m primarily a “pedal player,” I always test an amp’s pedal-friendliness, and the 80XL doesn’t disappoint. If you pick a thick Blackface sound or a mildly overdriven Marshall sound, you can really do some serious tone sculpting with various pedals. That’s not to say the onboard sounds aren’t good. They really are. The effects are especially good, but what would expect from a company that gave us the Boss series of effects. I was particularly impressed by the onboard looper, which is another of Roland’s strengths. All this in a package that weighs in at around 36 lbs.
Looks can definitely be deceiving, and the Roland Cube 80XL is proof that big sounds that come in small packages. The variety of sounds and quality of effects in the Roland 80XL is truly amazing, given its price and footprint. For a guitarist needing a versatile and portable amp with quality sounds and effects, the Roland 80XL is highly recommended.
Name of Gear: Roland Cube 80XL
List Price: $492.50
Manufacturer Info: Roland Corporation; roland.com
Pros: Excellent range of amp models; quality Boss effects; onboard looper
Cons: Clean channel offers limited array of sounds