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First up is the little guy, the CUB AG-100. The AG-100 comes in a very nice padded cordura carrying bag and is quite light at only 11.5 pounds. My first impression on removing it from the bag was, “Awwww, ain’t that the cutest thing.” Black tolex with Fender-style grille cloth make for a nice looking little unit, and by little we’re talking 6.5”x12.5”x11.8”. A single channel, 100 watts, 2x5” neodymium speakers and simple controls—Treble, Mid, Bass and Volume—make for a very portable amp that is plug and play.
I tried the both amps with a few different guitars, as usual: a Breedlove with Fishman undersaddle pickup, my trusty Gibson ES-330, and my Lowden Baritone with a K&K Pure Western Mini pickup. Through the CUB, the Breedlove sounded very natural and acoustic. It sounded like the guitar without coloration, but still very warm with no trace of transducer quackery, and that’s just what I’d want. Volume-wise, it filled a small club-sized room with no problem; however, I feel that it won’t be powerful enough to stand up to a band, especially with drums. Rehearsals or quiet gigs will be no problem. The CUB’s operation is simple, with just Volume and Tone controls and no effects. It would be hard to get a bad sound from it. My Gibson ES-330 (with flatwound 12s) had a nice woody sound with smooth trebles and no trace of harshness—excellent for solo jazz guitar. My Lowden Baritone (the church organ of guitars) sounded good, but with the passive K&K pickup the output was pretty much unusable for a gig. A preamp would be needed for sure. I also noticed that cranking up the bass a bit distorts the amp, but if used as intended it shouldn’t be a problem. So, basically the CUB is a tiny little amp, very handy with its nice gig bag. I had to laugh when I noticed it weighed less than my cable bag.
you want a very portable amp with a sweet tone.
you need a lot of volume, or reverb.
MSRP $608 - Phil Jones Pure Sound - philjonespuresound.com
Super CUB AG-300
The Super CUB is another animal altogether. It’s bigger at 12.5”x13.75”x14” and 27 lbs; it has more power at 250 watts; and with some nice digital effects, it’s a more gigworthy amp than the CUB. An interesting and immediately noticeable point is that in addition to the four forward firing 5” Neo drivers, there are two that point straight up. I’ve played many a gig where there is so little space to set up that I end up sitting right next to my amp and often have trouble hearing it clearly. With the two speakers pointing up that problem is gone, plus I felt like it added a more 3D quality to the sound. The direct out allows this amp to serve as a handy DI/monitor as well. All the guitars I played through the Super CUB sounded good, with a tube-like fullness and a very rich 3D sound. I also tried my Tele in the Super CUB just to see how a solid body would work, and it sounded great. I really like the effects on the amp (as I am a bit of a reverb junkie), and all of the effects sounded quite good with no added noise. I did not have a chance to try this amp in a band situation, so I’m unable to speak to its ability to cope with competing instruments like drums. I did however play a small gig with my acoustic bass-playing partner and it sounded great. The Super CUB did not have any distortion issues and stays very clean, even when you crank it way up. Interestingly, a friend commented that, walking away from it into another room, it doesn’t get noticeably quieter; the sound carries remarkably well.
It is possible that tone-wise this is the best acoustic guitar amp I have ever heard. The sound is extremely natural and uncolored; it sounds like your guitar made bigger. The Phil Jones website is a bit vague at the moment (this being a new model) but there seems to be no phantom power, which would be a handy addition. It comes with a vinyl cover that left me wishing for the great cordura gig bag that comes with the CUB.
The Final Mojo
These are darn good little amps and I think they both sound quite good, and the SuperCUB is, well… super. The CUB would make a great practice amp and would be fine for very small quiet gigs. With one input all you can do is plug in your guitar, so vocalists will need another plan. The Super CUB really does sound great, and with nice effects and two channels (one with a mic input) it is much more versatile than the CUB. The Super CUB would work well for small to medium solo gigs, and a vocal mic sounded just fine through it. These amps are definitely worth a look. They are well made, compact, light, nice looking, and deliver a great sound. Do yourself a favor and go try one; I bet you’ll dig it.
you want a great sounding, two-channel amp.
you need rock volume.
MSRP $1450 - Phil Jones Pure Sound - philjonespuresound.com