Roland Cube 30X vs. Vox 30ADVT
Just thought I'd share a quick review since the question of good practice amps seems to come up here frequently. I was looking for a practice amp to replace a pitiful (actually not that bad) Peavey Toneblaster 15. I wasn't unhappy with the sound for what it was but I really wanted something that was footswitchable. In addition, the possibility of having a small tube amp also greatly appealed to me but to get the best tone you need to crank them, far louder than I am allowed to get here where I live. So if a tube was going to come in to play some sort of power attenuator had to be another feature. I also needed something with a recording line out, high gain, and of course, good tone. That's about it, I did not care about modelling and effects because I like to just plug straight in.
I read all the comments I could find here as well as reviews on Harmony Central concerning the Roland Cube 30X and the Vox ADVT 30. Most for either amp were basically positive, a few little complaints here and there but there was no clear cut winner. There was one comment somewhere about the Vox not being good for a metal style and that stuck in my mind (I play AC/DC, Ozzy, Metallica, etc, etc.) so I ordered the Roland.
Controls were simple enough, not hard to figure out and being my first modelling amp I immediately changed the selector around the clock to see what all these different styles sounded like. Suffice it to say I was very unimpressed. What good are modelling amps if none of the presets sound good? Not a single one reminded me of anything I've ever heard before nor were they appealing, some were horrible actually.
Fiddling with the tonal controls helped slightly but I still found just one of the high gain amp styles to be barely usable, the rest were useless in my opinion. Clean channel was not bad however, add a little chorus and I got a nice chimey, relatively full sound. Not that I care to fiddle around, I prefer to find one sound I like and stick with it, but even the best model or on total manual setting the sound was completely synthetic and just had no character at all. Muddy and super scooped. Tone controls were relatively ineffective, at this point I'm thinking my crappy Ibanez Toneblaster 15 watter still sounded better.
So I try out the built Power Squeezer function which is supposed to allow you to "drive" it hard at low volumes to see if that might get me a better tone. It's useless, with the Power Squeezer on and the master volume turned all the way up, it was so quiet I could still just about hear myself breathing. Worthless feature and it sounded worse than ever. Then there was the optional Boss FS-5L footswitch which instead of switching immediately back and forth between channels required two taps to switch. First tap turned the current channel off but had to be tapped again to activate the second channel. Very inconvenient for switching quickly during changes.
It was one of those deals where nothing seemed to be going right and it quickly became apparant that I had made a mistake, off it all went back to Musicians Friend for a refund.
Ok, so I order the virtually identically priced Vox 30 ADVT since it basically has the same features but also a single 12AX7 in the power amp circuit. Because the pre-amp section is still solid state I was skeptical as to how the overall sound. In addition, my recent experience with amp modeling left me with low expectations. But it couldn't have been worse than the Roland so what the heck.
Wow, what a difference. The thing doesn't sound like a JCM800 or anything, I don't think any of the models on these amps imitate their originators particularly well. But, the 12AX7 adds a whole new dimension to the sound. Instead of a synthetic mush you actually get pretty good tube tone out of it. There is a decent amount of crunch, you can still hear all the individual strings chiming away even under high gain and with plenty of definition. Melodic and ballsy overdrive, while it does falls short of being 100% outright full blown super scooped metal there is ample gain to satisfy just about anyone. Hendrix, Randy Rhoads, AC/DC or Metallica, take your pick depending on the settings. I have found at least 2-3 of the different hi gain models are actually fun to play with so far. The clean channel also sounds very rich and full and can be overdriven to achieve a SRV like sound if you want.
Some of the models are very responsive to editing while other aren't but playing with all the settings at least reveals a very wide range of usable sounds to choose from. They're not all great but you can find something you'll like. You can preset two of your own channels and it also has a manual setting which involves no modeling, just the controls as you set them. I'm not a big effects guy, adding a slight chorus to the clean channel sounds great, other than that I'm not going to go in to all the other effects.
Also, the Power Level control which changes the wattage from less than .1 up to 30 watts actually works unlike on the Roland. Turning the control down more than halfway white cranking the volume and master volume results in very heavy yet sweet overdrive with without significant loss of tonal character. Modern yet vintage at the same time. Oh yeah, and the footswitch works like a footswitch is supposed to.
While I will be spending more time dialing it in and further exploring the various features I can tell that it's not going back. Seems like it will be a fun amp to play around with. For a small practice amp at this price point I think they did very well. Again, the tube definitely adds character and some of the models are actually useable. While I was skeptical at first I definitely hear a big difference.
Perhaps I wasn't using the Roland properly but I know what I hear and first impressions are usually correct. So, anyone shopping for an inexpensive practice amp and is considering these two models, order the Vox first and save yourself some time. I'm not saying it's the best amp out there but between the two there is no comparison in my opinion. I also realize that individual experiences will vary.
Sorry for rambling or describing things in totally non-technical terms but I hope that someone finds this helpful nonetheless. If I come up with any serious complaints I'll be sure to add them but so far so good.
Last edited by Tonelover; 07-24-2007 at 11:21 PM.