Review: Roland Cube Lite

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The brand-new Roland Cube Lite (current price in Finland: 155 €) is the latest model in Roland’s successful Cube-range, and the mega-selling Micro Cube’s little sibling.

Contrary to its name the Cube Lite isn’t square-shaped, but rather a stylish stereophonic (2.1) practice amp that looks more like the company’s acoustic combos. Due to its very compact size there wasn’t enough space left for batteries – the Cube Lite runs exclusively on its PSU, which is included in the package.

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The Cube Lite offers you three different COSM-modelled amplifier choices, called JC Clean, Crunch and Extreme. Apart from the Drive- and Volume-controls you’ll also find a two-band EQ-section.

The combo’s effect selection has been simmered down to a chorus and a reverb.

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All of the Roland’s inputs and outputs are found on the combo’s back panel: In addition to the regular guitar input and the mini-jack for the headphones, you’ll find an input labelled ”i-Cube Link” with its own small volume control next to it.

Thanks to the i-Cube Link Roland’s Cube Lite is able to communicate directly with your Apple iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. When hooked up with the special lead found in the box, the combo becomes your iWhatsit’s sound card.

Roland offers you their Cube Jam-app – which turns your iPhone/iPad into your own guitar practicing and recording machine – for free download.

The Cube Lite will also work as your personal stereo, when using a standard stereo cable with mini-plugs connected to the i-Cube Link input.

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Roland’s Cube Lite is a refreshingly compact and lightweight piece of gear. Granted, its plastic chassis may not be as trustworthy as the Micro Cube’s sturdier exterior, but on the other hand the Cube Lite will look much nicer in your living room.

I was blown away by the surprisingly full-bodied sound coming off the combo’s speakers – thanks in no small part, I’d reckon, to the 2.1-system’s subwoofer. The sound quality is definitely on a par with most personal hi-fi systems, except maybe in terms of the Cube Lite’s slightly narrower stereo spread.

The combo’s three COSM-models cover virtually all bases of electric guitardom. I don’t think anyone will leave their gig rig at home in favour of the Cube Lite, but this dwarf is well up for inspiring training sessions and on-the-spot song demoing. I kind of missed a delay as an additional effect option, but you can’t have everything, now, can you?

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While this little Roland already works fine as a stand-alone practice amp, the cool Cube Jam-app adds a lot of fun and value to the whole package.

Cube Jam can use your iPhone’s/iPad’s whole music library as backing track material (except for copy-protected files). The app allows you to change playback speed and transpose your backing track, as well as to run a loop using the A/B-function. Center Cancel does what it says on the tin – you can dial out parts like the main vocal or lead guitar on-the-fly.

My favourite Cube Jam-features are Record and Mixdown, which allow you to play along to the backing track and record the whole thing. The app automatically stores each pass as a separate take, which makes it possible to select the best take for eventual mixdown, using the two virtual faders. Pressing the Mixdown-button creates a new WAV-file (44.1 kHz/16-bit) and stores it in your iThingy’s memory.

You can even overdub by selecting the latest mix as your new backing track and adding a new guitar track on top. The only drawback here is that the newly recorded track is always panned to centre, but that’s a compromise I could live with, as this app is meant mainly for practice and not for multitrack recording purposes.

I had prepared a backing track for this review using my iMac’s Garageband-software. I exported the backing track onto my iPad, and then recorded a guitar solo, playing my Epiphone Casino through the Roland Cube Lite (on Crunch), while recording it all onto Cube Jam.

Here’s what the Cube Jam-mix sounds like:

And here’s the guitar track on its own:

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Here are two examples of the JC Clean- and Extreme-models played with a Stratocaster, and recorded with a Zoom H1:

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In my opinion the Roland Cube Lite is a fine little practicing amp. You’ll get the most fun out of it if you’re already an Apple iPhone or iPad user, but the Cube Lite also works nicely as a stand-alone combo.

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Roland Cube Lite

155 €

Finnish distribution: Roland

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Pros:

+ COSM-models

+ 2.1 stereo system

+ external sound card for iPhone/iPad

+ compact

+ Cube Jam-app

Cons:

– no battery option

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