May 17

INTRODUCING THE LINE 6 POD HD DESKTOP EFFECTS AND AMP MODELLING BEAN

The Line 6 POD range has been around for quite a few years now and has been a source of great effects and Amp Modelling both off stage and in the Studio. Based in California, this company now boast a new POD HD range with five models; the POD HD Desktop, POD HD 300, POD HD 400, POD HD 500 and the POD HD PRO. I have managed to get my hands on a POD HD Desktop (known as “the Bean”) announced at Musikmesse 2011 but unfortunately I am not a Guitarist, so I will have to review this from a Studio point of view and perhaps look at the possibilities of how I can get a better guitar sound from my keyboards. Fortunately the POD HD Desktop is aimed at the Studio user and has not been designed for the Live-Playing Guitarist who wants good LCD visibility and stomp-box type foot pedals to effortlessly change effects, whilst in full flow of his Blackmore-type solo.

INSIDE THE BOX IS A POD – HOW USEFUL IS THIS TO ME?

Technology has moved on quite a bit since the original desktop POD was conceived. The designers decided to look again at their product with a view of how they could make best use of just how much DSP chips have evolved. The result is a new range and Line 6 are making very bold statements, with claims that these new products offer ten times more computing power than the originals had. As I start to unpack one from its box, I can’t wait to find out if I can produce Amp models that behave exactly like the real thing. It is strange but whilst we are on this point, it makes me think about a keyboard player who wants his keyboard emulation of a violin to sound exactly like a violin. Similarly a guitarist craves the sound of a particular guitar going through a particular amplifier. It makes me wonder how important this is. I think in the latter case, I do not really care because what I am looking for is the right guitar sound for the recording I am doing, regardless of whether or not it is a perfect recreation of the original. The great thing about having a unit like this is then surely the ability to audition from a vast choice of sounds, to find what works best for your needs.

As I open the deep red and black box, on top of the cardboard protection is a small manual called the “Pilot’s Handbook”. This guide is a starting point but you can download a 109-Page advanced guide from the Line 6 website. The small lightweight POD comes complete with PC-3 Power Adaptor and optional socket attachments and a USB lead. It is no longer the famous bright red colour but rather a professional looking black finish with white and gold writing. You can also get a POD mounting stand as an optional extra, which can either sit on your desktop or mount on top of a mic stand.

HAVE LINE 6 PICKED THE BEST AMPS TO MODEL?

As a result of the free firmware update, the amount of Amp models available has increased from 16 to 22. You get a very detailed and different sound from each Amp and with the Amp edit facility you can adjust the early reflections and the type of microphone being used which include some old favourites like the Shure SM57 and Royer 121 ribbon mic.

For those of you who simply must know the answer to the burning question as to what Amps were modelled, then here is the full 22 HD model list:-

Bogner Uberschall
Divided by 13 JRT 9/15
Dr. Z Route 66
ENGL Fireball 100
Fender Bassman
Fender Bassman (“Vibrato” channel)
Fender Blackface Deluxe Reverb
Fender Blackface Deluxe Reverb (“Vibrato” channel)
Fender Twin Reverb
Fender Twin Reverb (“Vibrato” channel)
Gibson EH-185
Hiwatt Custom 100 (DR103)
Line 6 Elektrik
Marshall JCM-800 (2204)
Marshall JTM-45 MkII
Marshall JTM-45 MkII (“Normal” channel)
Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier
Park 75
Park 75 (“Normal” channel)
Supro S6616
Vox AC-15
Vox AC-30 (Top Boost)

LETS GET TO GRIPS WITH THE POD HD LAYOUT

You have to remember that the Bean-shaped POD HD is the desktop model and is really more suited to the Studio. It is a good sized unit to fit in your Studio but at the same time the controls are meaty enough for easy control and where the floor models have the advantage of foot-control, the Bean is accessible on your desk and when working with your DAW eliminates the need to keep bending down.

It is a nice user-friendly layout with all the traditional type knobs that you would have on a guitar amplifier. These form a half moon shape at the top of the unit circling around the central LCD. The eight main knobs are very solid and you have Drive, Bass, Middle, Treble, Presence, Tweak , Volume and Master. The Tweak knob was not on previous models and it can be assigned to either an amplifier sound or an effect and used to modify parameters in real time.

Either side of the screen you have the Navigation Controls for Save, View, Enter and Move. On top of the Save/View Buttons is a smaller knob which tells you that you can cycle through the Presets or ‘Press’ to bring up Set Lists. On top of the Enter / Move buttons there is the main navigation control to move Up, Down, Left or Right.
Below the screen are four Multi-Function Knobs which allow you to adjust the Effects or Amp parameters. Then below these are seven square buttons. The first allows you to navigate through all 16 preset banks in the currently selected Set List. You then have A B C and D buttons to select any of the four presets in the current bank and then finally the Tap Button for tempo-synchronising but if you hold it, you can access the Tuner to tune to the standard 440 Hz or if you want any different tunings you can actually tune between 425-455 Hz.

I have briefly mentioned that the POD HD has a “Set List” function. Here you can save up to eight of them with 64 presets per list – excellent.

LOOPING ON THE POD HD BEAN AND USING DUAL TONE

There is a Loop facility; however I think this works better on the other models where you can control it with your feet. You can access the Looper by an alternative use of the A, B, C, D and Bank Up and Down Buttons. You get either 48 seconds of mono recording time in Half- Speed Mode or 24 seconds of recording at normal speed. You can overdub and layer in real time as many times as you want, so it is also a good fun to try this out with vocals, especially if you make your own vocal percussion sounds.

You also get something called Dual Tone whereby you can play through two rigs at once. You can route your guitar signal through two different chains of models or pan them hard left and right.

VERY EFFECTIVE LINE 6 POD HD BEAN

The effects on this unit are just endless and there are 109 of them which Line 6 has taken from their M9 and M13 effects boards. I find that more often than not, adding just one effect is not enough because you want to layer effects to give you endless sound possibilities. Well with the POD HD desktop you can use up to eight simultaneous effects and as you will see below you can select from a vast selection of absolute gems to sculpt your sound. The effect chain is controlled from the central LCD screen, where you can utilize up to eight effects at a time. But there’s more flexibility than just lining up effects. You can insert two amp models in your signal path and pan them left and right. These functions are manipulated via the Signal Flow View, which is controlled with the multi-function knobs below the LCD. The addition of the 4-way Navigation pad allows you to effortlessly move an amplifier or effect into the desired position or loop in the signal chain.

You get 19 delays which include Analogue and digital, Tape and Sweep Echoes, Ping Pong, Echo Platters, Tube, Reverse, Multi-Head, Low Res, Stereo, Dynamic and Auto Volume. This is such a great choice of delays; I have to watch that I don’t repeat myself. I really like the Multi-Head delay which apparently is modelled on the sound created by the multiple playback heads of the Roland RE-101 Space Echo. I used this to enhance one of my Korg Triton’s guitar sounds and it made such a difference and brought the sound to life. The Dynamic Delay worked exceptionally well. It has this ducking control to keep the delays from overwhelming what I was playing which I think is so important when you are using delay effects. Line 6 got inspired by those clever guys at T.C. Electronics who created the 2290 Dynamic Digital Delay.

Moving on to Modulation Effects, there are 23 of these to keep you busy deciding what is best for your needs. Here you have some gritty and orbital sweeping Flangers, jumbo jet Phasers, thick warm larger than life Chorus effects, Tremelos inspired by famous guitar amps like the Vox AC15 and Fender’s Blackface 64 Deluxe Reverb Amp. There is also a Ring Modulator and a Frequency Shifter to add a little weird and wonderful element to your sound and a couple of Rotary effects.

Well you can’t have fun on a guitar without Distortion and you have 17 here consisting of Classic Tubes, Overdrives, Fuzz, Big Muff, Buzz Saw, Colourdrive, Octaves and Screamers. I think my favourite here is the biting sound of the Ibanez Tube Screamer.

Six essential Compressors, Five EQs and a Noise Gate give the sound you are looking for whether that be for a nice slow lead using the Red Compressor to give you plenty of sustain or the boost of the Vetta Juice Compressor. Then add a touch of constant Q and soft clipping output with the Studio EQ – Wow.

And no, we are not done yet because there are 26 Filters. There are Seven different types of Wah Filters, Throbbers, Voice Boxes, Growlers, Wave – Shapers, Cry Babies, Q-Filters, Pitch Shifters, Chrome and Wammy.

Lastly are the 12 Lush Reverbs includes; the gorgeous 1963 brown spring-reverb head; a Lux Spring; a Line 6 original that turns your chords into a modulated pad; the normal Room, Chamber, Hall, Plate, Cave, Echo; a tiled bathroom or shower and a Ducking Reverb where the volume goes down while you play, and back up when you stop. What a great choice, I love them all but I think my favourite is the harmonized decay of the Octo Reverb.

THE CLEAR SOUNDS OF THE LINE 6 POD HD BEAN

A Guitarist friend of mine owns the old red bean – The Line 6 POD XT. He has kept it in great condition and up-to-date. We did a comparison of how they both sounded and both agreed as to how much better the POD HD is. The sounds were clearer, brighter and fuller. We were a little unsure about whether the comparison and use of the phrase ‘High Definition’ was appropriate but I suppose if you consider that the sound was more detailed then maybe this is reasonable. My friend thought that the Effects Section had the greatest amount of improvement over the XT and after trying out the HD’s assortment of goodies with his Fender Strat, I think he wanted to take my HD home with him – sorry no can do. He did however comment on the amount of Amp models. He could not understand why there were 32 Amp Models on his XT but now only 22 on the HD and that some of his favourites were not there. This is obviously to do with resources and compromise. And is one of those situations where you will never please everyone.

CAN I PLUG IN A MICROPHONE?

I tried this with a MIC and a set of headphones. I put some distortion on my voice with some Reverb and it sounded great. There are also some presets readily available for Vocals, some with some Synthy Robotic Sounds.

POD HD EDITOR AND LIBRARIAN

Line 6 allows you to download an Editor and Librarian for your POD HD. This application is great for you to see what is going on all on a large computer screen. You can easily edit all of the parameters for Amp, Preamp and Effects models; manage and store hundreds of Presets and Set Lists, create, edit and back them up. You can also share your own POD HD Presets or download from a huge library of artist & user Presets. These are all available at Line 6 CustomTone site. What I like about the Editor is seeing clearly the Signal Flow Panel. The pictures used mean that you can instantly understand what is being used and how it is working. Also if you add an effects model in the software, you will then see it on the hardware and visa-versa and you can do this all as a simple drag and drop move.

When you wish to update your POD HD you need their free application called Line 6 Monkey. This App will automatically let you know about Firmware and Driver updates etc. Line 6, at time of writing have just released another update – Version 2.02 which includes two guitar amp models, the world’s first HD bass amp model (with eight mic model choices) and a new vintage-voiced mic preamp model – it just keeps getting better.

RECORDING ON THE LINE 6 POD HD BEAN

When you are recording with your DAW, you can configure the sample rate from 44.1 kHz up to 96 kHz. You don’t have to worry about latency because the driver software allows for the signal to be split and sends one signal to the computer and the other directly out of the main outputs and headphone jack. The output is fixed at 24 bit.

MAKING CONNECTIONS ON YOUR POD HD


The POD HD gives you good range of connections with its 1/4-inch mono guitar/bass input, stereo 1/4-inch balanced outs, USB 2.0, S/PDIF out for a 24 bit version of the direct signal, 1/4-inch headphone jack, an XLR mic input and a jack for connection to a Line 6 foot controller. The unit is designed for guitarists or bassists with its mono instrument input, but I wish it also accepted a Stereo Input for keyboard players, but this will not bother the majority of purchasers.

CONCLUSION

This to me is a great value unit for your Studio, giving you a convenient solution for your Amp Simulation and effects with a lot of choice right at your fingertips. All of the processing takes place in the internal DSP engine taking the strain away from your computer when recording. It is far superior to software alternatives and provides exceptional models of many great stomp boxes. I don’t really think it is there to replace guitar hardware but from a portable, instant choice point of view, it is a remarkable piece of kit. Taking the quality of effects into account, the free editor and librarian and the means to create your own setups and Set Lists, you really do get a lot for your money here.

If you are a guitarist then you can also use it for practice with headphones. You can even make your guitar sound like a spooky old organ with it. It has been substantially updated a couple of times already providing further enhancements and facilities that you can download for free. If you find that you really do want to use your feet like on many other Stomp Boxes, then you do have the option to connect a foot controller or alternatively if you haven’t purchased one yet then have a look at the POD HD 500.

There is only one place to buy this amazing effects bean, and that is by clicking this Orange Banner:-

Absolute Music

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