The JC-120‘s clean sound is not only a great sound in its own right; it is perhaps the perfect amp for multi-effects units, guitar synths, and other complex processors.
It’s rare for an amplifier to achieve the same legendary status as a guitar, but there are certain products that have helped define the sounds of the music industry. A stack of Marshalls would be one such example. Perhaps less iconic but just as important is the Roland JC-120. Introduced in the mid-1970’s, the amp has undergone a few minor cosmetic changes over the years but the classic sounds have stayed the same. What is it about this solid state powerhouse that makes it so well-respected? Read on and see.
The Roland JC-120 sports twin 60W solid state power amplifiers that power 2 12″ speakers. A two channel amplifier, channel 1 features high and low inputs, a bright switch, and controls for volume, treble, middle, and bass. Channel 2 also features high and low inputs as well as the bright switch in addition to controls for volume, treble, middle, bass, distortion, and reverb. There are master speed and depth controls for vibrato and chorus. The chorus/vibrato, reverb, and distortion effects are switchable either by the front panel or by a footswitch. An effects loop is available to channel 2 and is capable of either serial or parallel operation.
I tested the JC-120 with a Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster HSS, hoping to see how the amp responded to both humbucking and single coil sounds.
Since this is an amp known for its clean sounds, I started testing both channels to see if the sounds were as good as I remembered, having played a few JC-120 amps in my day. Fortunately, Roland has been smart enough not to mess with perfection. The clean sounds are as warm, thick, and round as I remembered. Adding the chorus adds a spatial quality that’s not found in most amplifiers. It’s really a “big” sound for lack of a better word.
Another thing that hasn’t changed is the stock “distortion” sound, which, well, isn’t quite as inspiring as the clean tones. The second channel is my favorite channel, since the onboard reverb is quite good, but I think it’s best to just leave the distortion sound in the “off” position.
However, one area where the JC-120 shines is as a vehicle for effects pedals or, even better, multi-effects units. I used both a Boss ME-70 and GT-8 and was very impressed with how the JC-120 lets both the effects and the amp simulations of these pedals shine through. The clean sound of the amp is famously “neutral,” letting the natural sound of the guitar and effects shine through. With that in mind, it’s easy to see how the JC-120 could be used as an amp in pretty much any genre, not just those that rely on clean tones.
The Roland JC-120 is a classic amplifier for a reason. While it’s not all things to all people, what it does, it does very well. The JC-120’s clean sound is not only a great sound in its own right; it is perhaps the perfect amp for multi-effects units, guitar synths, and other complex processors.
Name of Gear: Roland JC-120
List Price: $1,599.00
Manufacturer Info: Roland Corporation; roland.com
Pros: World-class clean tones; excellent chorus; great amp for multi-effects units
Cons: Weak distortion sounds