Price paid: $ 139
Purchased from: Giggear.co.uk
Features: The Micro Cube RX is a Brand New 2008 model, introduced at the Winter NAMM show. It's so new, in fact, that it makes age of previous Micro Cube seem positively Dickensian.
Like the Micro Cube before it, the RX is a battery and mains powered amplifier which is designed for portability. However, this new model exhibits 4, 4.2" speakers (with 2 power amps) and a whole host of new features. But at over twice the price of the original, I'm glad it has.
It would take a long time to list all the specifications of this amp when one could just look them up at www.Roland.co.uk, so instead I'll cover the essentials and/or any features that stood out. Yes, it is effectively a 2 channel amp (it has a boost Switch), but I've found that practically, it only works well with the Fender Twin and Vox AC30 amp simulations, as the others are either designed to be super clean or are already very distorted. The gain control is pretty useful for adding Drive, although (predictably) the amp is much quieter on clean settings with the gain turned down. The effects are numerous, and split into chorus/flanger/phaser/tremolo with one dial, and delay/reverb on the other. I like both the chorus and reverb settings, and the others seem okay to my ears, but having never really been a fan of them previously, I can't say that with much authority. The inclusion of a drum machine, indulgently dubbed 'rhythm guide', is a great feature. Most of the main rhythmic styles are there (blues, rock, Latin etc.) with three variations on each, making 31 patterns in total. The tap tempo button works very well indeed, although the volume of the drum Tool as a whole could be louder when on full. Having a tuner seems to be fairly standard for modelling amps, and the RX is no exception. Having to select each independent string with the amp model dial is a little annoying, though.
Headphones/recording out, stereo and mono in, and footswitch jacks all feature on the back panel. Given that this amp is not a lot larger than a person's head (but quite a bit heavier, in case you were wondering), I'm extremely impressed with all the features that it possesses. However, the carrying strap is a stupid, stupid guitar strap/handle hybrid that is too long to hold comfortably but too short to put over one's shoulder. Roland, this amp is meant to be portable! Honestly, it's as easy to carry as a laptop dipped in castor oil. // 9
Sound: I use this amp with a Fender American Telecaster, still in possession of it's stock single-coil pickups. The amp is nice and quiet, and all the controls (the 3-band EQ, effects etc.) are responsive. The amp models themselves are all very successful. The Marshall stack is full and thick, the JC-120 wonderfully lush and the Vox AC30 setting switches nicely from clean to overdriven with the boost button. The Mesa Rectifier simulation that the original Micro Cube was lauded for is retained here in the RX with all it's characteristic brutality. Whilst the acoustic guitar simulation is suitably 'zingy' (for dire want of a better word) it also sounds a bit too thin next to the fantastic JC-120 model. The 4 speakers No Doubt contribute to the amp's impressive volume and presence, but it still cannot compete with my Vox AC15. However, it does sound fuller than the Marshall 15-Watt Valvestate amp in the house, which is perhaps a fairer comparison. Also, crucially, the speakers do not seem to break up (or 'fart' for the more puerile among us) at higher volumes, unlike the original Micro Cube. The drum sounds are average in terms of realism; they don't sound especially crisp but nor are they polyphonic phone ringtones. Overall, the amp sounds lovely, and the depth of tone it provides makes it a fantastic choice as a portable amp or even as a static practice option, so long as it doesn't have to compete, volume-wise, with much bigger gear. // 10
Reliability & Durability: This is going to be a short section. So short, in fact, that I'm trying to fill up space by telling you how short it will be. The RX is small, utterly solid, has plastic corner and side protectors and a thoroughly kick-proof metal grill protecting the speakers. If I were to forget my keys, I would quite happily use this amp to beat my way through the front door of my house, before using it as a cutting bench to make a new door on. On top of all this, it comes with a 3 year warranty (in the UK, at least). // 10
Overall Impression: I know, it's a glowing review and you're probably going to be skeptical. But for 139 (about US$280), this amp has all the features, tone and volume that you're ever going to get in a practice amp; I am amazed at how well it stands up against the other amps in the household. The only reason I would refrain from giving the Roland Micro Cube RX a perfect 10 is the quietness of the amp on clean settings (something which is very hard to overcome), the disappointing acoustic sim and the world's most impractical strap. Aside from that, you'd never have known that an amp that runs on batteries/a glorified laptop charger could possibly sound so good. Charles Dickens knew what he was talking about when he said that 'a new Micro Cube RX is the truest wisdom.' Well I'll tip my top hat to that, Charlie. // 9