About Me

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Atlanta, GA, United States
When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995, served as Director of Music at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation from 2011 to 2017, and currently serve as Contemporary Band Director at the same congregation.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cube-80XL Review

A couple weeks ago I blogged about an old friend unexpectedly buying me an amp to return a favor from many years ago. This is a review of that amp, the Roland Cube-80XL. This is not an exhaustive review. The way I use the Cube80 is influenced by my style of play, so there are some features I don't use. If you want to learn everything about this amp, you can check out the Roland website.

The 80XL replaces my Cube-60, which is a terrific amp. I've used the Cube-60 for jazz and with my original group InTown Band, which blends several styles (rock, jazz, blues, reggae, soul, gospel, and whatever else we decide to throw into the mix). I still love the 60. In fact, I'm using it for a current pit gig, leaving it in the theater for the duration of the run while simultaneously using the 80XL for other shows.

I absolutely love the Cube-80XL. The best thing about it is that it just plain sounds great, and for the small to medium venues I play, I have all the volume I'll ever need. It has three channels: JC Clean, Lead, and Solo. The clean channel is modeled after the JC120 (Jazz Chorus 120). The lead channel has an impressive array of amp models. The clean and lead channels each have their own volume control. The solo channel allows you to save settings from both the clean and lead channels, including onboard effects. I've messed around with the various amp models from the lead channel, and they're fun, but with my style of play, the clean channel is all I use.

It has some nice effects on it, including chorus, flanger, phaser, and heavy octave. I especially like the chorus effect. I usually use a chorus pedal, but the onboard chorus sounds great and will do in a pinch. The heavy octave is fun. With this effect on, the amp simultaneously generates an octave below whatever note(s) you're playing. This is no substitute for being able to play octaves the real way, a la Wes Montgomery, but it's fun to turn on the effect and play fast runs in octaves.

You have a choice of spring or plate reverb. I don't use a lot of reverb, but I do like to add a touch of plate reverb. Although the delay effect is nice to have, I prefer to use a delay pedal for more control over the delay effect.

The 80XL has an aux in, allowing me to amplify an MP3 player. This is handy for background gigs where I need to provide music while I'm taking a break. I simply plug in my iPhone, call up one of my playlists, and I've got recorded background music while I saunter over to the buffet table.

You can use foot pedals (not included) to switch all these effects on and off, and you can also use a pedal to switch back and forth between clean and lead channels. The onboard tuner is handy, too.

Aside from the terrific sound quality from the clean channel, my favorite feature is the onboard looper, which allows you to loop 80 seconds of music. You can start recording a phrase by pressing a foot pedal, and you can overdub. The only thing I don't like about the looper is that you can't turn the loop off with the foot pedal (or possibly I have the wrong kind of pedal). This makes it impractical for live performance, but that doesn't matter, since I already own an RC-50 looper. It does come in handy for practicing at home. For example, I can loop some chords ad nauseum while I practice a new lick. I originally intended to only use the Cube 80 for performances and recording while using the Cube 60 as a back-up, but I've found the onboard looper to be so handy that the new amp has become a useful practice tool.

The Roland Cube-80XL is a terrific amp. Between this amp and my old Cube-60, I don't see myself needing another amp for a long time to come.

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