Price paid: $ 89
Purchased from: Cascio Music
Sound — 8
My two main guitars are a Jackson DK2T with Seymour Duncan JB/Jazz pickups, and an ebony Epiphone LP Custom with the JB/Jazz combo as well. My style is mainly Metal but with occasional forays into blues or alternative. As mentioned, the clean channel is labeled "JC Clean". However, this amps is way too small and boxy sounding to ever make anyone mistake it for a real Jazz-Chorus. Since my amp is usually EQ'd for a decent metal tone, the clean tone suffers even more. It's very bassy and there is little high end shimmer to speak of, even with bright humbuckers like the Duncan Jazz. It's certainly passable for practice, and jazz players may dig the warm roundness. I've not tried this amp with single coils - perhaps a strat would fare a little better here. That being said, if you primarily play clean, I would recommend looking elsewhere for your practice amp needs - try Fender of Vox. The Drive Channel on this thing is another story; all four modes are very nice and usable. I've heard here and there that the four modes are based on Boss pedals (the manual makes to mention of this). This seems plausible given that Roland is Boss' parent company. All four modes do resemble various Boss dirt-boxes in a lot of ways. However, the sounds seem more natural to me, at least when comparing the on-board sound to a Metal Zone pedal plugged into the front end. Small speakers tend to have a lot of high end (which can easily go into fizzy hell with a distortion pedal), and the on-board Drive tones seem voiced to compensate for that. The bass seems a little more natural and amp-like compared to the pedal as well. The first mode, Overdrive, is a very nice, crisp sound with sizzling upper mids. It's a good sound for british blues and classic rock. It's probably not as great for SRV style sounds, but again, I haven't tried single coils through this thing to know for sure. The Distortion mode sounds a bit like the Overdrive, but with less upper mids and a bigger, looser bottom end. Chopping the lows and working with the mids and highs gives a decent classic rock and Vintage metal sound. Bringing up the lows gets you into Sabbath territory. There's not quite enough gain here to get you into alt-rock mayhem, however. Metal ups the gain and also carries a big wallop in the mids. There is nothing scooped about this sound; even dropping the mid knob to zero will not get you there. This sound is good for 80's metal like Judas Priest, Ozzy, and the like. The main riff to "Rapid Fire" off the British Steel album sounds quite impressive on this setting. Metal Stack brings the modern metal sound. The mids are very scooped, and the highs are razor sharp. This mode is great for old school Metallica & Anthrax tones as well as more modern stuff like Disturbed & Godsmack. I use this setting the most, as it really delivers the goods for the tight, clear & crunchy metal rhythm sounds that I prefer. Palm muting sounds very nice for a cheap practice amp (remember, this isn't a Mesa stack we're talking about here). The only criticism I can offer is that the amount of Drive on tap is slightly lacking. I don't go for a mega-saturated sound myself, so having the Drive at 3 o'clock is usually fine for me. Fortunately, the Duncan JB's in my axes give enough oomph to allow me that extra bit of range on the Drive knob if I want or need it. Be warned, however, if you have a weaker pickup (such as your typical stock Epiphone humbucker), you likely will not get enough gain out of this amp to satisfy for metal, even with the Metal Stack setting cranked to the max. The Power Squeezer is a nice feature for practice. I've owned the Cube 20Xand 30Xbefore as well (which also have this feature), and for some reason it seams to work much better on the Cube 15X(the other two amps seemed to get way too muddy when using this feature). Activating the Power Squeezer chops the volume in a big way, making it much easier to dial in bedroom level tones. It also compresses the sound a bit; the bass feels more pronounced and the highs are smoothed out a little. This does have the consequence of making the Drive sounds seem oh-so slightly tamer when the Power Squeeze is on, as there is a little more "hair" to the high end when it's off. I like the tone whether the squeezer is on or off, and the Cube 15Xis not crushingly loud even with it off, so it really comes down to personal preference. Lastly, this amp is remarkably quiet compared to most other solid state practice combos. It's not dead-silent like some of the modeling combos out there with built-in noise gates, but you also don't have to deal with an inflexible gate killing your sustain, which is a plus.
Overall Impression — 8
As mentioned above, I play metal mostly. The Cube 15Xis a great match for this, provided that you have reasonably high-output pickups on your guitars. The four distortion modes all provide quality sounds. I wish the amp had chorus and maybe reverb, but I can live without them (there's always pedals, too). A footswitch option for channel-switching would also be nice, but that is typically not found on amps in this price-range. I've been playing for 14 years, and have been through a ton of gear over that span. Now that I am a husband and father with a career (non-music), the need for large amps has passed for me. I don't gig, I rarely Jam with others, & I don't have the freedom, financially or otherwise, for loud, expensive amps anymore. This does not mean that I am not picky, however. I have owned the following practice amps over the last several years: Ibanez TBX-15R - Surprisingly good cleans, okay distorted tone, noisy Marshall MG-10CD - Noisy but decent sounds; low-end muddier than the 15X, EQ options limited (no bass or treble controls) Peavey Vypyr 15 - Good sounds but very poor build quality & lots of software bugs Line 6 Spider III 15R - Absolute crap tone all around Roland Micro-Cube - Nice tone & FX but the 5" driver can barely take the punishment Roland Cube 20X - Figured it would be the Cube 15X+ FX given the otherwise identical specs; however the EQ curve was totally different. Metal Stack mode was very muddy in comparison with the 15X. Roland Cube 30X - This one was very nice; sold it just before our wedding two and a half years ago & have regretted it since I did not go into the store planning to buy the Cube 15X. I was there to get my Jackson (yay, tax return!), and I happened to see the huge stack of Cube 15Xs for $89 each. I grabbed one to test my axe, and came away very impressed with both, so I bought it along with the guitar. It has since become my go-to practice amp, and has survived more than one attempt to replace it with something that had more features & better cleans. For now, I have given up on my search to replace it, as my money is better spent elsewhere these days. For my uses, the Cube 15Xis good enough.
Reliability & Durability — 10
The Cube 15Xhas never given me any problems. It's solid state and it's Roland, so reliability should not be an issue. The lack of FX and complicated interfaces (unlike Spiders & Vypyrs) pretty much makes the Cube 15Xexperience worry free. The overall build is rock-solid; much better than any of the other competitors in this price range. Fortunately, these things are relatively cheap, so if it did crap out on me, I could go down the street to Cascio and pick up the new Cube 15XL for $100.
Features — 6
The Roland Cube 15X: - Solid State - 15 Watts - 8 Inch Driver - 2 Channels - Clean/OD - 3-Band EQ - Headphone Jack/Direct Out - CD/Line-In Jack - Power Squeezer Button My amp was made in 2008 or 2009 presumably. I purchased this bad-boy new but unboxed (the store had a huge stack of them) in January of 2010. The Clean Channel is labeled "JC Clean", referencing the legendary Roland JC-120. On the Drive side, there are four modes: Overdrive, Distortion, Metal, and Metal Stack. There are no effects, not even reverb. I'm not a big effects user, so this is not a deal-breaker for me (though I would love a built in chorus). However, given that there are numerous amps of similar size in this price range that do have effects, I did lower the score here. It would be even lower if not for the Power Squeezer and the four Drive options.