Often when searching for electric guitar amps, it can be tough to find the perfect guitar to suit your playing style. Some amps provide right blanket settings but do not offer the ability for more precise adjustments. Other amps are too specific, and they only work well with one playing style or genre of music. The Roland JC-120 might best be known as the blank slate of guitar amps. But does that mean it is right for you?
If you plan on investing a right amount of money into your guitar amp, then you will want to be sure that it is the perfect fit for your playing style. The Roland JC-120 offers a fantastic clean sound for electric guitarists. But does it hold up when you try to build tones on top of it? In this review, we will find out once and for all if the Roland JC-120 is worth its price.
What is the Roland JC-120 and How Does It Work?
The Roland JC-120 is an electric guitar amp that many know for its distinguishingly bright and crisp clean tone since its first release in 1975. More notably, the amp is the first of its kind to feature a built-in chorus effect. The abbreviation JC stands for Jazz Chorus, and the number one hundred and twenty indicates the wattage of the amplifier. The amp features two twelve inch speakers made of a silver cone. It is roughly twenty-five inches high and thirty inches wide, and it weighs sixty-three pounds — which makes it on the heavier side.
The amp allows for a fair amount of customization when it comes to selecting an electric guitar tone. There are two input channels on the Roland JC-120 for the sound of your guitar: one normal tone and the other for effect. The built-in effects on the Jazz Chorus include distortion, reverb, vibrato and stereo chorus. The amp also has an on/off switch for brightness, high/low inputs, and three-channel equalizers for each effect setting. There are footswitch jacks for controlling the built-in effects via pedals or a board.
Here is a summary of the Roland JC-120 features:
What Makes the Roland JC-120 Different from Other Amps?
- Legendary flagship of the Roland Jazz Chorus series since 1975
- Historic “JC clean” tone and signature Dimensional Space Chorus effect
- Powerful 120-watt stereo amp with two 12-inch “silver cone” speakers
If you are looking for a good clean amp, the Roland JC-120 is a great place to start. Notes come through bright and clear on whatever instrument you are playing. As the name suggests, the built-in chorus effect on the amp is the high point of the amp. While the amp struggles a bit with distortion, the beautiful, clean tones and the chorus help make up for this downside. The positive side of the amplifier’s heavyweight is its lasting durability for touring wear and tear.
The Roland JC-120 amp has a special place in music history thanks to its sound and release date. The amp was initially intended for electric guitar players that needed a suitable clean tone, namely country, jazz, gospel, bluegrass, and rhythm & blues. However, the Roland JC-120 became unexpectedly utilized by the new wave and post-punk bands of the late 1970s to an unprecedented extent. Now the sound of the amp is inextricably tied to rock and pop music.
The beautiful built-in chorus on the amp has inspired everyone: Johnny Marr The Smiths, Andy Summers of the Police, Robert Smith of the Cure, Billy Duffy of The Cult, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Jeff Buckley, producer Steve Levine, Patrick Manthey. And Joe Perry of Aerosmith. Even hard rock bands like Metallica and Limp Bizkit use the clean tones of the Roland JC-120.
Today the clean tone is still loved by devotees to the JC-120. As we mentioned before, the blank slate nature of the amps sound allows for guitarist’s with the right pedals to construct intricate soundscapes over them. Unfortunately, distortion and crunch sounds do not sound as good over the amp. But with the right pedal accessories, the distortion of this amp does not look too bad.
What Do Other Musicians Think of the Roland JC-120?
Generally, the Roland JC-120 is well received by the guitar players that utilize it. If you know how to use it and set it your specification, then the amp makes an undeniably gorgeous clean tone. Unfortunately, the equalizing tools take some practice to get used to when playing. As such, musicians that use the amp without any prior experience have trouble getting a right tone out of the device. Similarly, beginner guitar player may want to steer clear of the amplifier unless they are willing to learn the intricacies of the product.
Some people love the precise, transparent nature of Roland JC-120, but for others, it is too airy. If you need to cut through the other instruments you are playing with; then this amp might not be the best fit. The limited spectrum of tones is perhaps the most common criticism associated with the amp. Overdrive on
these things is pretty much out of the questions. But the Jazz Chorus amps are not quiet. They can be turned up very loud for live performances.
Many users also complain about the weight of the product. While the hefty weight and size of the amp to make it more durable, they are a curse on touring musicians. Even though the product does have wheels, it is still a pain in the back to life it on and off stages and up and down stairs. Another observations musicians have about the amp is that some pedals sound good through it and others sound bad. This duality depends on the nature of the pedalboard you use on the amp. The amp will likely expose the harshness of heavier tones and effects.
How Does the Roland JC-120 Compare to Other Amps in Its Category?
To find out how the Roland JC-120 stacks up against the clean guitar amp competition, we compare it to three other quality guitar amps. We go over the others guitar amps strengths, weaknesses, and prices. By making this comparison, we give some alternatives to people who might have something else out of their clean sound if they want it.
While the Roland JC-120 might deliver an unbeatable clean sound, it cannot match the pedal compatibility of the Orange Rocker 32 combo amp. The Rocker 32 features two input channels and an effect loop with mono out / stereo in capabilities. This amp is for lovers of good stereo sound. The tones on this thing are much more accepting of distorted tones which makes it ideal for classic rock or blues music.
The Rocker 32 Combo can handle the distortion spectrum and the chorus spectrum, which makes it more adaptable than some of its peers. While this amp is a bit more versatile than the Jazz Chorus, it does not provide the same distinctive clean sound as the amp. Orange’s amp is also much more stout and portable than the Roland JC-120, which makes it more ideal for touring musicians.
- The addition of reverb and tremolo to both channels give this amplifier a vintage vibe with a modern twist
- The Bassman tone stack on the "custom" channel gives modern players greater tonal flexibility with pedals
- Greater touch sensitivity by way of quicker gain onset and reduced negative feedback
As the name suggests, this amp provides a superior full bodied reverb sound. The Fender ‘68 comes with two channels: a classic vintage reverb and a custom channel for fatter, more bassy tones. If you are looking for the perfect mixture of clean and dirty tones, then this amp was made for you. However, the Fender ‘68 Custom Deluxe Reverb amp differs from the Roland and orange products mainly because it is an all tube amp. This feature brings along with it a host of pros and cons.
While it is undeniable that tube amps provide a warmer, more intricate sound straight out of the 1950s-1970s, they are also much harder to maintain. Tubes burn out frequently, and you will need to continually replace them if you want to keep using your amp. Unfortunately, the amp is just as hard to transport as the Roland JC-120.
- Classic Series 15 Watt combo amp with Normal and Top-Boost channels
- Master Section features Master Volume and Tone Cut controls
- Tremolo (Speed/Depth); Spring Reverb (Tone/Level); Switchable via optional VFS2A pedal
People have long associated Vox amps with the British Invasion of rock music. The AC15C2 comes with two channels: normal voice and top boost. Ever since the Beatles used these amps live, people know them for their rich distorted tones. The tone is the name of the game with these amplifiers. The tremolo soundscape you can make with these things is truly incredible. The Vox AC15C2 is also the most portable amplifier on this list, which makes it suitable for tight practice spaces and regular shows. While these amplifiers can sound beautiful on a clean channel, they are hard to get completely undistorted. The Vox AC15C2 is also much more affordable than the other amps on this list.
The Roland JC-120 Electric Guitar Amp: Our Final Opinion
Our final consensus is that the Roland JC-120 electric guitar amp is worth the price charged. To be convinced, one just need to look at the track record of who use the amplifier. When adjusted correctly, the amp provides almost the definitive standard for what a clean guitar should sound like when playing. The amp will be a good fit for you if you play country, jazz, rhythm & blues, gospel, bluegrass and rock with effect pedals. While many criticize the overdrive setting on the Roland JC-120, when combined with the chorus effect, it produces a pleasant crunch tone.
However, it is true the amp is not a do-it-all amp. Roland built the amp for a specific style of player and music. It is also true that the Roland JC-120 is hard to use. Many musicians that backline with the amp reported that without prior experience, their tone came through loud but stark and bare. We do not recommend this amp to beginners or people who are not willing to put in the effort to learn how to use it.
If you do not want to invest all of your money into a new amp, then another option is a Roland pedal. The CE-1 Chorus Ensemble pedal captures the famous chorus sounds of the Roland JC-120 without the bulky hardware. Ultimately, whether or not the Jazz Chorus amp is right for you is a matter of personal preference.
As with any high-involvement purchase, you should perform adequate research before deciding on a product. Though the Jazz Chorus amp produces beautiful, clean and chorus tones, some people might not prefer the limiting range of this tone spectrum. Similarly, others might dislike the complicated nature of the amp. Still, it is our opinion that it is tough to go wrong with this great amp. We hope our review of the Roland JC-120 has been helpful during your research process.