REVIEW: Line 6 PODHD500

Line 6′s POD line of amp simulators is as ubiquitous in studios both home and professional as the venerable Shure SM58 mic, or a pair of headphones held together with duct tape, or old skin mags in the bathroom. From the tiny Pocket POD to the famous kidney bean-shaped desktop units to the Floor POD, there’s a POD for all people in the Line 6 line-up. The new HD range ups the ante by offering even more accurate amp models, all laid out on the floor in an extremely foot-friendly manner. The available HD models are the HD300, HD400 and HD500. Let’s look at the most kitted-out one, the HD500, shall we?

I LOVE YOU, FLOORS AND ALL

So what’s going on inside the HD500, the big daddy of the series? Well for starters there are 16 amp models – sure, not really a lot considering how many they could have chosen, and almost none compared to the excellent POD Farm 2 Pro software plugin – but Line 6 really seems to have gone for distinctiveness here, rather than half a dozen amps in each particular tone group. You’ll find clean amps, dirty amps, crunchy amps, lead-focused amps and big loud metal amps, just as you would hope. There are over 100 M-class modern and vintage guitar effects models (as made famous by Line 6 M9 and M13 stompbox modellers), which again seem more distinctive and characterful than you’re probably used to finding the average digital multi effects units.

Editing is easy. There’s a 4-way button, four rotary knobs underneath the screen and another to the left, as well as a complement of gain, bass, middle treble, presence, volume and master controls just like an amp. Very handy. Other features include full looping (48 seconds worth!), an expression pedal for wah/volume/pitch effects, an XML mic input and preamp, an mp3 input, an effects loop which you can program into your patches, an S/PDIF digital out, USB connectivity, a stereo headphone out, five pin MIDI input and out/thru, a jack for an extra expression pedal, a tuner, a digital input for a Line 6 Variax guitar… in short, enough features to choke a Rancor. You can even edit your patches in your computer. The looper in particular is well laid out and musically useful, as well as a lot of brain-dead fun when you just want to screw around with it for an hour or so of spacey layering.

YOU’VE NEVER HEARD D AS H AS THIS

The sounds really are more responsive, natural and characterful – high definition, if you will – than previous incarnations. This is especially noticeable around the edges of your notes, where you’ll feel more dynamic bass, sharper more airy treble, and a real amp-like oomph to the general attack. All of the amp models demonstrate this crucial quality equally, whether they’re hyper clean, mega distorted, or anywhere in between. The medium gain settings especially benefit from the HD upgrade, and they clean up nicely when you roll back the guitar’s volume control. I also found that the HD500 emphasised the differences of the various pickups I threw at it, something Line 6 seems to have worked hard to address over the various incarnations of the POD.

The effects sound great, particularly the phaser, the tape delay and the various tremolo and envelope filter sounds you can conjure up, while the stock presets are loaded with outrageous, synth-like textures which really show off this baby’s processing power, and which can serve as a rather fine springboard for dialling in your own unique settings. The harmonizer settings are the only slight let-down here, with a little bit too much digital chatter in the background, although this can be mitigated somewhat by reducing the volume of the artificially generated note until it’s at about 50% of the volume of the original note. You’ll still feel the harmonizer but not hear the chatter. However, this small, small beef is almost inconsequential when viewed in context with the rest of the unit.

STEP ON IT

There’s a definite jump in sound quality and playing feel in the POD HD500 compared to previous POD incarnations, and while I’m sure eventually Line 6 will release something to top it, right now this is as good as it gets – and it’s pretty freaking good. It’s also affordable and extremely stage-worthy. I thought it’d be hard for the company to top the POD X3, but somehow they have.

LINK: Line 6

[geo-in country=”Australia” note=””]Line 6 is distributed in Australia by Music Link.[/geo-in]

[geo-out country=”Australia” note=””]CLICK HERE to buy the Line 6 POD HD500 from Musician’s Friend.
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