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Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus
The JC-120 definitely holds its own 45 years after its birth. It's an incredible amp with amazing clean tones that can be used in almost any genre. The only significant drawback is its heft, but studio musicians and gigging guitarists with roadies will have no problem with this.
Incredible clean tone
Lush chorus and reverb effects
Two 12" speakers for stereo width
Built like a tank
Bulky with low portability
Lackluster on-board distortion
Not ideal for heavier styles (but will still get the job done)
The Roland JC-120 has arguably been the most beloved solid-state amp for clean sounds for over 45 years. It has been produced and sold uninterruptedly for almost half a century and remains one of the main choices when it comes to clean guitar tones.
The prestige and popularity of the JC-120 Jazz Chorus resulted in Roland releasing an entire line of JC amps in different sizes and configurations. In this article, I’ll be focusing strictly on the OG – the JC-120.
Roland JC-120: Is It Worth The Price Tag?
With all the new choices available, is the Roland JC-120 still worth it? If you value great clean sound, versatility, reputation, durability, and don’t mind a heavy combo amp, then yes!
With the JC-120 you get a legendary clean sound with classic chorus and reverb, backed by decades of tradition. However, if you prioritize convenience but not tradition, then the answer becomes a bit more complicated.
The Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus is often considered the holy grail of solid state amps, and it’s easy to hear why. It’s largely thanks to its pristine clean tone, one that has been widely recognized through the years by influential guitar players like Andy Summers, Albert King, Larry Coryell, Joe Perry, Johnny Marr, and even Zakk Wylde.
The sound of this amp can be characterized as very open and pristine. It comes with a built-in dimensional space chorus that has also been used quite a bit in live situations and recordings by a plethora of guitar players, many of them well known. Besides its fantastic chorus sound, the JC-120 also features a great reverb sound. Thanks to its 2 x 12 configuration, you get a beautiful stereo sound on your chorus effect.
Besides being the paradigm for clean tone in guitar amps, the JC can also take pedals extremely well. If you have a carefully put-together pedalboard or a multi-effect processor, the Roland JC-120 will do it justice and provide fantastic amplification even with all of your overdrive pedals.
This amp also sounds great with a variety of guitars. You can plug in a hollow-body guitar and get a nice jazz tone that is not too dark. You could also try it with a Les Paul through an Ibanez Tube Screamer to get that aggressive but creamy rock sound. And it also works great with a slightly overdriven Strat to get that single-coil tone for wailing on the blues.
All in all, the sound quality of this amp combined with its versatility are perhaps its most appealing features.
Build Quality (9/10)
The JC-120 is built to last. Along with its fantastic clean sound and versatility, the build quality is one of the greatest selling points of the Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus.
Let’s start with the fact that this is a solid-state amp. This means you won’t have to worry about fragile tubes whenever someone accidentally bumps into this amp in the middle of load in or on a dimly lit stage. The Roland Jazz Chorus is built like a tank. It can take hits like a champ and still be ready to perform at a high level.
The JC Jazz Chorus is outlined with oversized, industrial-grade studs and equipped with top-quality casters, hard fiber edge protectors, and high-impact corner brackets. This amp even has a set of small wheels which makes setting up and packing down just that little bit easier.
Although the reverb springs can get loose after years of use, that is an easy fix, and hardly a problem that is exclusive to the JC-120 anyway. All in all, the JC-120 Jazz Chorus is sturdy and reliable with exceptional build quality.
The Roland JC-120 is a great option for practically any style of music. Even though it is best known for its clean channel and chorus effect, this amp also handles pedals really well, from reverb and distortion all the way to (more) chorus, flange, vibrato, and anything in between and beyond.
This makes the JC-120 a great choice for a wide variety of styles. Players of blues, rock, jazz, country, pop, and other popular genres will sound great with the Roland JC-120. If you don’t believe me, just look at the facts – this amp has been used by countless guitarists across multiple genres since its debut.
Although it’s not especially suited for metal, you can still plug in your distortion pedal and get some very heavy tones indeed. The best way to think of it is this – the JC will faithfully reproduce anything sent to it by your guitar or pedals with great clarity and a tone that is downright beautiful.
However, it goes without saying that clean tones are where the most instantly impressive results lie. Just ask any knowledgeable guitar player about this amp and you will hear all about the beautiful, musical, clean tones of the Roland JC-120.
The JC-120 Jazz Chorus is the flagship of the Roland Jazz Series Chorus amps. It features a powerful 120-watt stereo amp with two 12-inch silver cone speakers. That’s plenty of power for your electric guitar in most situations. The JC-120 also features two channels, each of them with a three-band EQ and a “Bright” switch. These channels are labeled Normal and Effect. The Effect channel features a built-in vibrato, distortion, and authentic spring reverb.
The back panel of the Roland Jazz Chorus features a stereo effects loop for connecting external effects. You could also connect them to any of the two channels in the front if you wish – just be careful about creating any accidental feedback loops.
The stereo chorus and the reverb effect on the JC-120 Jazz Chorus both sound simply amazing. Its vibrato can be used in some circumstances and will be of use for particular tones, but it is still easier to have this in a pedal.
The Roland JC-120 also features a distortion knob that has been a great mystery for many years. This is because the distortion it produces is not good, certainly not on par with what one expects from such a legendary guitar amp. It is still a bit puzzling as to why Roland would keep this distortion knob, especially since the amp is so renowned for its clean tones.
This is the point where the Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus does not excel. This guitar amp is bulky, heavy, and difficult to transport. If you have to go up 30 flights of stairs, make sure your back is in good shape. Actually don’t bother, no gig could possibly be worth all that lifting!
At 62 lbs, hauling this amp around is not for the faint of heart. It is by no means the heaviest combo amp ever, but it certainly is not light either.
This should be given consideration by any gigging musician. If you have a roadie or just want to have this amp in your studio or home, then you don’t have to worry about this point too much. However, if you make a living playing constantly, you might want to consider an amp that provides a greater level of comfort. Despite the fact that this amp has wheels, you need a fully flat surface to wheel it in. Otherwise, you’ll have to carry it.
Besides its weight, this amp is also bulky. Its dimensions are 29.9 x 10.2 x 24.5″ (width x depth x height). It has an oversized rectangular shape that makes it cumbersome to move, especially if there are stairs involved. I’ve owned a Roland Jazz Chorus for over ten years and I love everything about it, except its size and weight.
There is a reason why the Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus is one of the most legendary guitar amps ever. The fact that it has been sold continuously for over 40 years is a testament to its greatness. In fact, this amp has been so successful that the JC-120 inspired Roland to create an entire JC series of amps with nine different models that vary in size, wattage, speaker configuration, features, and more.
Besides being a great-sounding amp with amazing durability, the Roland Jazz Chorus is also extremely versatile. It has been used by some of the greatest guitar players in history, and across a wide range of styles and eras, from The Cure and The Police to Aerosmith and Albert King.
The main disadvantage of this amp is its bulkiness and weight, even though these are also side-effects of its rugged build quality. Transporting it can become grueling after a few continuous nights of gigging. However, for many, this is a small price to pay in order to have the clean sound by which all other amps are measured.
All things considered, the Roland JC-120 is still a great amp that will faithfully and beautifully amplify your playing, no matter what style you’re into.