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Roland BTM-1 Bluetooth Speaker and Guitar Amplifier: jam along on guitar to your music library

Mark White
3 Dec 2019
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
176
inc VAT

A stylish guitar amp and Bluetooth speaker combo that’s great for jamming but not quite so good for music

Pros 
Stylish
Guitar amp and music speaker in one
Gain, tone and level controls work well
Cons 
Lacking in bass
Limited guitar effects
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If any manufacturer should know a thing or two about how popular music should sound on a speaker, it’s Roland. The company has arguably revolutionised pop like no other with its TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines, not to mention its synthesizers and pioneering MIDI tech.

The Roland BTM-1 arrives at a point in music history where the world’s biggest pop stars write hits in their bedrooms and it’s a speaker that’s ready to cater precisely to that audience.

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Roland BTM-1 review: What you need to know

It’s a Bluetooth speaker with a twist, combining all the features you’d expect from a normal Bluetooth speaker – a built-in battery and the ability to connect your smartphone, tablet or laptop easily to play music from Spotify and the like – and it adds the features of a guitar practice amp on top.

If you’re the sort who simply can’t do without your guitar wherever you go but don’t necessarily want to lug a regular amp or practice amp, this speaker might well be your ideal travel companion.

Roland BTM-1: Price and competition

The Roland BTM-1 sells for £115. This places it firmly in the lower register of the company’s speakers and amps; for comparison, the Roland Micro Cube Gx – strictly a portable guitar amp for practising around the house – retails for £119.

Guitar amplifiers the size and quality of the Roland BTM-1 are unusual: the Fender Amp Mustang I V2 Combo is around £103 but is considerably larger, while the Blackstar Fly 3 Bluetooth offers similar specs and size to the BTM-1 but is cheaper at £78.

Comparable Bluetooth speakers of a similar price range include the Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker II, although this doesn’t come with a suitable input for your guitar. The BTM-1 isn’t quite in a league of its own but the fact its rivals tend to specialise in either being a speaker or an amplifier means that it sits between two very different kinds of products.

Roland BTM-1 review: Design

The Roland BTM-1 has a stylish design that reflects its dual-use. Fairly nondescript in shape, it has the feel of a traditional wireless speaker or radio with the sound emanating from an amplifier-style grille, adorned attractively with the Roland logo, complete with amplifier-style circular perforations all around.

The off-white and beige colour scheme of the BTM-1 also evokes guitar-amp nostalgia, with the gold gain, tone and level knobs at the top of the speaker finishing off the look. Although the power, headphones, volume and FX buttons are all of a more subtle grey colour, I think Roland has really nailed the look on this one – it’s certainly a cut above most rival Bluetooth speakers.

Roland BTM-1 review: Controls and connections

The BTM-1 has three connections ranged along its right-hand side: one 3.5mm input, one 3.5mm headphone output for those times when you want to practice with your headphones on, and a 1/4in jack to connect your guitar into. Below these sits a micro-USB socket for charging the speaker (battery life is quoted at six hours). Playback from your phone is achieved via Bluetooth.

Using and pairing with the speaker is pretty straightforward, thanks to the speaker’s clearly laid out, intuitive controls. The only one that’s a touch confusing is the FX button, located next to the gain, tone and level knobs. What sort of FX does the BTM-1 promise, exactly? Well, initially at least, it appears it’s only there to activate the speaker’s delay function. And, unlike an effects pedal, this cannot be adjusted.

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Scrutinise the manual, however, and you’ll see that, by holding down the FX button and pressing either the up or down volume button, you can create high or low overdrive tones respectively. It would be nice if this was more obvious – a separate control, perhaps – because it’s all too easy to miss otherwise.

Despite this niggle, though, I think the Roland BTM-1 hits all the right notes, particularly for learners. A lot of guitarists spend their formative years playing along to their favourite songs, and this is precisely what the Roland BTM-1 is best at.

Connect any source via Bluetooth and you’ll be able to stream your favourite axemasters from your phone and jam along. And since the Gain, Tone and Level controls have no effect on Bluetooth signals, you can play around with the sound of the guitar to your heart’s content.

As someone who learned to play Muse songs on keyboard by wearing both in-ear and over-ear headphones connected to the instrument and my iPod at once, this is exactly the kind of product I would have bought.

Roland BTM-1 review: Sound quality and performance

As for sound quality, however, the Roland BTM-1 is very much a Jekyll and Hyde product. With a Fender Stratocaster hooked up, the Roland BTM-1 sounds luscious. With the tone and gain turned right down to create a clean tone, the Stratocaster sounds surprisingly pure; with the gain whacked up a little, there’s a nostalgic fuzz to the sound and the level control can add a little more depth to the overall sound of the guitar. When one of my colleagues noodled the opening bars of Radiohead’s ‘Street Spirit’ on the BTM-1, the Strat sounded beautiful.

There’s very little low register in a guitar’s sound though. This isn’t a problem in the slightest when you’re practising but it’s a little more problematic if you want to play music via Bluetooth. The BTM-1 has no trouble handling classic rock and guitar-heavy songs. Even with music that feels dense in production, the speaker sounds clear and crisp, it's strong in the vocal ranges and its pair of 4W drivers ensures it goes pretty loud, too. It isn't quite up to large rooms but it should fill your average UK teenager's bedroom with ease.

The problem is the BTM-1 has very little bass response below 100Hz. Guitars sound beautiful on this speaker, but there’s little to no satisfying low-end rumble or even a pretense at it. This doesn't make the Roland BTM-1 a bad speaker, per se, just that it suits some genres of music far better than others.

Roland BTM-1 review: Verdict

And aside from that lack of low-end, there’s so much to like about the BTM-1. Roland has designed a beautiful product that’s easy to use on the go and perfect for jamming along with your favourite tunes. If you’re looking to create a “bedroom rockstar” aesthetic in your bedroom, you can’t go far wrong with this as a good-looking, multifunctional monitor for practising on or learning with.

If you’re looking for a speaker that will also produce satisfying audio output for your Spotify playlist, however, it’s not quite as good. Ultimately, the Roland BTM-1 is great as a portable practice amp but as a more generic Bluetooth speaker it falls a touch short.

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