For full disclosure, this Pod HD500 was sent to me by Line 6 for review. However in the following post I am giving you my opinion as objectively as I can with no readiness to oblige…
For several years now I’ve mostly played guitar through multi-effects pedals with amps simulations or not, and every time I try a new one it is the same thing… I ‘m cold sweating thinking how long it will be to explore the deepness of these digital machines! No matter what brand it is, abundance is scary! Once the cold sweat effect is gone, then you’ll just have to make it work tweaking all you can which I did with this brand new Pod HD500 by Line 6. A strength of Line 6 is to provide clear, and intuitive softwares to browse, and edit your own tones fairly easily.
Line 6 announces the (re)modelling of 16 legendary amplifiers in High Definition. Sadly I didn’t tried all these amps (yes I do have some lacks in my amps knowledge) so it is quite hard to be clear about how realistic the models are. What I can say for sure is that each simulation has a strong charateristic tone that reflects the cliché that all guitarists have in mind when it comes to associate a tone with a brand (or an amp model).
This is why reviewing such a device as the Pod HD500 is a bit of a challenge… Just as when I reviewed the Variax for The Guitar Channel because most of the time with that kind of device I’m not searching for a realistic amp model, and I am more interested in the kind of tone that I could get. To me the Pod HD500 seems to cover the largest spectrum of amp tones for most of my needs. It is quite versatile for those who never know what kind of sound they really want because the HD500 possibilities are virtually endless. You might not know what kind of sound you want but you will be able to tweak all you can with this device.
First time you plug it, don’t forget one thing about multi-effects and amps emulators whatever the brand: most of the time factory presets are excessive and unusable! Best thing to do is to start by creating you own tones from scratch. For that matter the Pod HD500 edit software is rather intuitive: you pick an amp model (or 2 to automatically switch to the Dual Tone mode), you chain the effects as you like, and let’s play.
In the video illustrating this post I deliberately chose to try tried most of the amps dry (I forgot 2 of them): no effects, just the amp model (except for the first excerpt with a delay effect because you don’t want to mess with Rockabilly-like rhythm without delay… That’s blasphemy). If you are a shred addict, and all that kind of athletic guitar things you’re going to be über-disappointed! But hey just think how good it will sound with your skills!
[Edit] A video of 10′ that’s very long so to make it easier to watch I edited the video to make 5 separate parts that you can watch on Youtube:
- Part 01 – Pod HD500 Clean-Crunch: Blackface Double, Blackface ‘Lux & Hiway 100 Custom
- Part 02 – Pod HD500 Crunch: Gibtone 185, Super O & Divide 9/15
- Part 03 – Pod HD500 Crunch suite: PhD Motorway & Class A15
- Part 04 – Pod HD500 Brit Amps: Brit Plexi J-45, Brit P-75 & Brit J-800
- Part 05 – Pod HD500 Hi Gain Amps: Bomber Uber, ANGLE F-Ball 100 & Cali Tread
The Pod HD500 Amp Models That I Liked
- Gibtone 185 model based on the Gibson EH-185 : I didn’t knew this amplifier before. Apparently, jazz guitarist Charlie Christian used it at the end of his career, and Josh Homme from QOTSA uses it on stage. That’s what they call versatility. Push the drive at half, it provides a warm and woody crunch. Push the drive further then it gets dirtier, and crunchier which is good for rock rhythms.
- Divide 9/15 model based on the Divide by 13 JRT 9/15: Tweaking the drive control, and EQ will get you from light crunch funky tones to dirtier heavier crunch for rock stuff.
- Hiway 100 Custom model based on the Hiwatt Custom 100: I didn’t had much occasions to play on Hiwatt amps but this model was convincing to me. I liked the dynamics of it. The harder you strike the strings, not only it gets louder but but the tone moves from light clean-crunch to a slightly agressive crunch tone on the bridge position of the guitar.
- Blackface Double based on the Fender Twin Reverb: Strangely enough, I liked using Fender amp models… I say it’s strange because in the real amps world, I am one of these guys that can’t just play a Fender amplifier. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t! Fender amps are too bright, and twangy for me! I can’t say if the model dims these characteristics (it doesn’t seem to do so) or if it is a matter of sound projection which is different between a loud tubes amp, and a model at reasonable volume. I guess it is a bit of both.
- Tweed B-Man model based on the Fender Bassman is as good with a guitar as it is with a bass!!
- Heavy tones lovers, the 3 hi gain amps models are made for you… They are violent. The Bomber Uber model based on the Bogner Uberschall, and the Cali Tread model based on the Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier are my 2 favorites. Sure it hums a little but it is acceptable, and I think you shouldn’t push the drive to the end to stick with agressive but pleasant tones.
The Pod HD500 Amp Models That I Didn’t Like
- Models based on Marshall amps: I’ve been a bit frustrated by these models because I couldn’t find how to set up the Drive / EQ controls to get the best of them. I tweaked as much as I could, and I couldn’t find! Maybe some of you will…
- Super O model based on the Supro S6616: on the paper I was expecting a lot of this amp model, maybe too much! I’ve been super disappointed because even with the Dual Tone mode, and volume to the max the general output was so weak! Yet the crunch is interesting but if you want to cut in a mix then you will have to post-prod your track! Surprising, and frustrating!
The Pod HD500 Effects
It would be the hardest thing to do to review all the effects of the HD500 just because there are at least a hundred of them, all from the M13 and M9 pedals. You can chain up to 8 effects on set up but you have to know that some effects use a lot of resources from the Pod processor. As a result of chaining to many of these resource suckers effects I crashed the Pod twice. I wanted to push it to the max! But don’t worry anyway, if this happens all you got to do is unplug the device, and start it again.
The effects of the HD500 cover pretty much everything that exists in terms of type of effects: distorsions, overdrives, reverbs, delays, comps, wah, weird pitch shifting effects. There are so many effects that you can virtually try to play any kind of music you will. I’ve been a bit disappointed by the wah pedals that are a bit agressive. For the rest, there are many effects that will be used only by radical shoegazers, and noisy guitarists…
Interesting Featuress of the Pod HD500
The first function that I really appreciated is the possibility to combine the amps / cabs / mics / mic position as you wish. Trying all the combinations is virtually impossible unless you’re Hercule or some kind of semi god of guitar or sound engineering but it gives a lot of possibilities to shape your tone. But you can also stick with the default amp-cab-mic configuration that is I guess the most classic…
The second function that I enjoyed a lot is the Dual Tone mode that allows you to get the guitar signal through two amps models in parrallel. Then you can get a thicker, heavier sound, and you can chain different effects on the two lines. The latest is cool to get some space effects in a mix.
Weird Things of the Pod HD500
- The Pod HD500 doesn’t have an on-off switch! That’s a weird choice from Line 6. If you plan to use it in a home studio make sure that your socket is easy to reach. Does that mean that Line 6 engineers conceived the Pod HD500 for live stage use? This might be the case especially when you consider the looper which is more useful for live performances or the possibility to pilot the Line 6 DT50 amp.
- The factory presets are not ordered except if random is an efficient ranking concept… I think they should have arrange the presets as families of tones, or genres… Whatever is good for easy browsing. But as I said before, most of the presets are not really plug & play, and you would rather build your own tones.
- Such a device with so many possibilities is a bit complex to drive with you feet on the floorboard, and no computer screen to watch… You’ll need to get use to it as it is the case for most floorboard modelling units. You have got to do the effort to learn how to use it but that’s fun to do anyway, right?
I think that’s all I had to say about the Pod HD500 by Line 6, and it is already a long text. If you are looking for the specs of the device I can only tell you to go check Line 6 web site. The price of the the Pod HD500 is 519€ that’s not cheap, and you probably could get a better device but it will cost you a lot more!
If I was to replace my Vox Tonelab I’ll probably consider the HD500… Or I could just get the HD300 (329€) or HD400 (429€) but they don’t have the dual tone mode which is a cool feature!
I didn’t talk about some amp models because they left a bit cold… I mean I didn’t found them either good nor bad! Maybe they will have a better use with the dual tone mode, or with stacked effects.
If you have questions about the Pod HD500 or if you need additional information please drop a comment, and I will try to answer, and develop as much as I can!