Looking for something compact to use for practice in even the smallest of spaces? That’s the domain of the micro amp. Small in size with a purposefully small power output, micro amps are great for bedroom practice. In this Roland Micro Cube review we’ll take a look at Roland’s offering to the micro amp market. We’ll take a look at it’s features, it’s capabilities and finally we’ll compare it to it’s competition. Let’s get started!
Overview of The Roland Micro Cube
The Micro Cube features a single 5″ (12cm) speaker, delivering 3 watts of output. Whilst considerably less than common practice amps, the power output is one of the things that designates this as a micro amp. The speaker is housed in a closed back cabinet.
The Micro Cube can be powered by 6 x AA batteries, which will give you around 20 hours of playing time. Alternatively the Micro Cube can be powered by a power adapter, which is included. There’s a selection of three colors available. Along with black (pictured above) there’s also the choice of white or orange.
Portability is a big selling point for micro amps. The Micro Cube weighs 6 pounds or 2.7kg. It’s heavier than the Blackstar Fly 3, but lighter than the VOX Mini3 G2. It also sits between the Blackstar and the VOX in terms of dimensions.
I’m not sure the design is quite as easy on the eye as the Blackstar or the VOX, but the Micro Cube has a lot of features for such a small amp. Take a look at the top panel and you’ll see a bunch of controls crammed in.
On the left you’ll see two inputs. One standard 1/4″ jack for your guitar and one miniature that allows you to connect to an external playback device. If you connect this jack to an iPhone or iPad using the included cable, you can use an accompanying i-Cube Link app to playback and record from the amp. That’s a pretty cool feature, but it’s not available on Android unfortunately 🙁
Immediately to the right of the i-Cube Link jack is a memory button. The Micro Cube has one memory bank that allows you to store settings for easy recall. Once you’ve dialed in some settings that you want to recall, hold the memory button for a few seconds. Once it’s committed to memory you can toggle the saved settings on and off by quick pressing the memory button.
To the right of the memory button there’s a control knob that allows you to select one of 8 amp types. The amp types are produced via digital circuitry, which attempts to model the tones of different types of amp. Broadly speaking the amp styles go from clean to high gain:
- Acoustic Sim – This simulates an acoustic guitar
- JC Clean – A clean, flat sound. Great for Jazz styles
- Black Panel – Modeled on the classic Fender Twin Reverb. Nice clean tone
- Brit Combo – Modeled on a VOX AC30 with top boost. First used in the 1960’s
- Classic Stack – Takes it’s inspiration from the Marshall JMP1987 for a fat, solid overdriven sound
- Rectifier Stack – Modeled on the MESA/Boogie Rectifier. High gain for grunge and metal styles
- Extreme – Very high gain. Intense distortion that’s good for heavier styles and metal
- Mic – Good for micing another instrument of if you’re using the amp for vocals
Underneath the Amp Styles control knob are the gain, volume and tone control knobs. Unfortunately the amp doesn’t have separate EQ control, so you’re reliant on the tone control knob to define bass, mid and treble. I understand that having separate bass, middle and treble control knobs takes up valuable real estate, but it’d be nice to have some finer control over the tone. It’s not a problem that’s peculiar to the Micro Cube however.
Be very careful with the gain control. If it’s turned up too much you can get a nasty thin sound. That’s due to the lack of power being output. That said, if you’re careful with the gain the amp can get surprisingly loud thanks to the master volume control knob.
To the right of the Amp Styles control knob is the Effects control and Delay/Reverb control knobs. These work in zones. The further you rotate the control knob clockwise in a designated zone, the more intense the effect. The LED to the left of the control knob will let you know when there’s some sort of effect active.
There are 5 effects to choose from. They’re pretty good quality, which is what you’d expect from Roland:
- Heavy Octave
I really like the heavy octave effect. It thickens the low end so it can sound like you’ve got your own bass player. The Delay/Reberb control is pretty simple. It’s divided into two. You can get a fairly decent amount of delay. Turned all the way to the right it’ll give you the classic spring type reverb.
To the right of the Delay/Reverb control knob is a basic tuner. The tuner has a reference pitch of 440hz, which is standard. The reference pitch can’t be changed. It’s very simple to operate. It won’t identify the note, but if you’re close it’ll indicate if you’re sharp, flat or in tune.
I’m not a fan of these basic tuners. I don’t think they add much value. I’d always be looking for the assurance that I was properly in tune, so I’d most likely be reaching for my clip-on tuner if I needed to make adjustments.
On the back of the amp is a further miniature stereo jack, which allows you to connect a set of headphones or to output to a recording device. The speaker is automatically muted when a cable is connected to the jack. That’s good if you want “silent” practice.
There are a few bonuses too. The amp has two strap anchor points on either side. You get a strap included, which is effectively the carry handle. You could hook it over your arm if you suddenly felt the need to do so. A small but handy feature is the power cord hook, which helps to stop the cord from getting tangled. It’s a small feature, but there’s nothing worse than constantly tripping over loose cables.
The Micro Cube definitely has a lot of features for such a small amp. It’s likely to be most attractive to beginners, so it’s good that the amp has so many amp styles and effects. A beginner could be introduced to a variety of effects without needing to spend money on compact pedals or a multi-effects unit. It’s usually beneficial to be budget conscious when starting out with the guitar. Here are some of the best bits:
- Wide Variety of Amp Styles
- Memory Function
- Heavy Octave is Good
The big problem with micro amps is the lack of headroom due to the low power output. When the gain is turned up it can soon sound like a very unpleasant screech. It’ll be fine for bedroom practice, but here are a few of the most notable drawbacks:
- No Proper EQ Control
- Low Power Output
- Not Much Punch
The best thing about the Micro Cube is the amount of features that are packed into this little amp. I like the fact that a beginner can experience different amp styles and effects that are all built in to the amp. The Micro Cube doesn’t have a lot of punch, but then it’s not really meant to be all that powerful. It’s plenty suitable for bedroom practice. The portability is also a big plus for the Micro Cube.
It is on the more expensive side for a micro amp. You can pick up the Blackstar Fly 3 for around $60 less. The Blackstar is lighter on features however. The VOX Mini3 G2 is the same sort of price and for me is a better amp. It doesn’t have a memory bank, but it pretty much has all of the other features found on the Micro Cube.
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