If there’s anything I’ve learned from my weekly doses of TPS for the past few years, it’s that gear always functions in context and to disregard blanket statements about any item until you’ve tried it yourself. In the spirit of exploration, education, and to satisfy some viewer interests, Dan & Mick took an informal poll of what amps had the reputation of being the worst platforms for pedals. Their task? To dial in some seismic sounds to prove, yet again, that there is no “good” and “bad” when it comes to guitar gear. What matters is your ability as a player/producer to conjure sounds that inspire.
One of the suspects for this week’s reputed worst amp honestly caught me off guard. A number of viewers pegged the Roland JC-40 as an amplifier that just won’t play well with pedals. As an amp that has a heritage closely tied to the first ever compact effect pedals—the Roland CE-1 Chorus Ensemble is based on the chorus circuit of the Roland JC-120 amplifier—surely it’s effect DNA could evolve to handle modern effects?
As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one caught off guard by the amp. By episode’s end, Dan & Mick were sold on it, not only for its solitary sounds, but also for its brilliance as an amp that tag-teams with anything you send its way.
First Impressions of the Roland JC-40
Before throwing down with some pedals, Dan & Mick got to know the Roland JC-40. The amp houses a pair of 10” speakers that offer up legendary tone, is capable of handling true stereo input, has onboard reverb, chorus, and distortion, all of which hammer away with an impressive 40-watts of transistor power.
The first thing Dan noted was volume without breakup. “Man, that’s loud but it has plenty of headroom.” Perhaps telling of its 1980s heritage, the amp was also beaming and bright. Dan continued, “that’s just a great sound.”
As a transistor amplifier, both gents were also taken back at the fast response of the amp. “It has that thing that I find in a lot of transitory amplifiers where it’s very flat, it’s very fast, and there’s no sag in it. But it’s a very cool sound,” Dan concluded.
On its own, the Roland JC-40 passed with flying colors. But how did this crisp and high headroom transistor amp deal with effects?
The Roland JC-40: Will it Keeley D&M Drive?
Dan & Mick started by trying to find a signature sound, literally their signature sound by running the Keeley D&M Drive into the Roland JC-40. It turns out, the forums and opinions were flat out wrong. After cranking a few riffs with his Fender Telecaster, Dan remarked gob-smacked, “There is nothing wrong with that at all…there’s plenty of volume, plenty of headroom, and that sounds ace!” Mick too was impressed and remarked boldly, “I think I would use that interchangeably with a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe without even thinking about it.”
To sum things up on the medium gain question, Mick noted the Roland JC-40 not only held its own with some hefty gain pedals, it showcased their characteristic sound without compromising on clarity and definition. As Dan concluded, “It definitely has a personality that’s all its own, but just imagine adding that to anything else.”
The Roland JC-40: Will it Keeley Filaments?
The next phase of the experiment was, in Mick’s words, “Let’s see if we can make it rock!” The job of a high gain pedal fell to the Keeley Filaments, which has about enough gain on tap to launch an interstellar rocket into orbit.
Here too, the verdict was the forum debaters and popular opinions were off base. Dan commented, “there is nothing wrong with that,” to which Mick replied “and it’s really, really, really loud…yet the character of the pedals remains.”
The Roland JC-40: Will it Modulation Effects?
With a clear conclusion on gain, Dan & Mick dialed in some modulation effects to see how the Roland JC-40 partnered with more washy, moving, vibey sounds. The natural pick, of course, was the classic yet modern sounds of the Boss CE-2w Chorus.
“It’s totally connected and totally inspiring,” noted Dan. For Mick, both the gain and chorus sounds were a reminder of why it’s so important to keep an open mind about gear. “It’s all about learning and growing, people, it’s all about learning and growing!” Whether wound up to gig level or on the receiving end of a stack of pedals, Dan & Mick proved the Roland JC-40 is not only far from the worst pedal platform amp, it’s pretty near the top of the list of fantastic amps for modern players.
Amps, pedals, guitars, no matter what variable of your rig you’re looking to swap out, head over to see us in store or online for an epic selection of gear to find your signature sound.
TPS Rig Rundown:
Guitars:Fender American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster, Fender Custom Shop ’63 Telecaster, Gibson Custom 1958 Les Paul Standard, PRS S2 Singlecut Standard, PRS DGT Model.
Pedals: Sonic Research ST-300 Turbo Tuner Mini, Keeley D&M Drive, Kingsley Page Tube Boost V2, Keeley Filaments High Gain Distortion, Boss CE-2w Chorus, Catalinbread Belle Epoch Deluxe CB-3, Walrus Audio Monument Tremolo, Neunaber Immerse Reverb.
Amps: Roland JC-40, Peavey 6506 with Marshall 1060 AX cab.