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 other sources.
“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 an option.
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.
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