The Problem Solver
by Tony Orant
As we look for all-in-one amplification to handle our stage
pianos, organs, and synths, Roland has come up with a highpowered
stereo solution, the KC-880. My use of this amp at
various gigs says that you’ll be heard, even above a raging
guitarist and bombastic drummer. A myriad of inputs accommodates
most keyboardists’ rigs, and aux ins let you monitor
“Keyboardists at bar gigs often get left without a monitor
wedge,” noted editor Stephen Fortner, “and since our
instruments plug into AC, we’re the most likely to get ground
buzz if we connect to the house P.A. Disengaging the KC-
880’s aux in from its line outs lets you take a monitor send
from the house, solving the first problem. The onboard ground
lift means you don’t need direct boxes to solve the second.
Roland seems to get what we’re up against.”
The KC-880’s rotary (Leslie) simulator is fairly realistic,
has a separate slow/fast button, and seems based on the Boss
RT-20. While you wouldn’t disable your modern organ clone’s
internal sim in favor of this, older clonewheels may benefit. The
fairly utilitarian reverb is nice for keyboards that don’t have it onboard,
e.g. the Nord Electro 2, Minimoog Voyager, and almost anything vintage.
All four channels share one effect at the same time, but you can
bypass the effect per channel, or altogether via a footswitch—which can
also change rotary speeds.
Those familiar with Roland’s KC series will feel right at home, as there’s
a volume knob for each channel, three-band master EQ, and Stereo Link
connections that let you run two KC amps as a stereo system but plug
your keyboards into the one closest to you. However, the KC-880 is stereo
itself—effectively two amps in one box.
The KC880 employs a single knob for effect selection and depth: Each of four effects (reverb, chorus, tremolo, and rotary) gets 90 degrees of travel; turning the knob clockwise within an effect’s quadrant increases its intensity.
As someone who has struggled with the “Do I run in mono or stereo?”
issue forever, I find that by its very nature, it’s difficult to get true stereo
presentation out of a single enclosure. That said, the stereo imaging is
impressive on section strings, electric pianos with panning tremolo, and
synth patches that make dramatic use of panning. Overall, the KC-880’s
sound is in line with other KC amps—there’s just more of it. Organ emulations
and thickly-textured synths benefit more from this than complex
pianos and brass do, but with the KC-880’s substantial power, keyboards
will project to the back of the room even when P.A. reinforcement is not
Aux inputs in 1/4", RCA, and 1/8" stereo mini sizes let you plug in anything from an iPod to a fifth keyboard. The buzz-afflicted will cheer for the ground lift on the XLR outs.
Bottom line: The KC-880 tackles a lot of problems for which we’d otherwise
use multiple items such as stereo cabinets, a mixer, direct boxes,
and even external effects. That you’re neither carrying those nor cabling
them together makes up for most of the KC’s 97-pound bulk; the included
casters help with the rest.
More from this Roundup:
Amp Up Part 1: Four Combo Amps Take the Stage
Bose L1 Compact
Motion Sound KP-500SN