HD amp modeling. It’s a phrase that may turn off some die-hard players and excite others. But if you’re a guitarist or studio rat that’s interested in access to as many tones as possible, it certainly has to leave you curious. I count myself among the latter group, so it’s hard not to be excited by the possibilities that lie in the 16 amp simulations and more than 100 effects on the new Line 6 POD HD500 multi effect pedal.
Line 6, of course, has changed the guitar recording and performance landscape significantly in the last decade and a half. The Calabasas, California company first turned heads back in 1997 with the digital models in is AxSys amplifier and has since become a studio fixture with products like Amp Farm. But it was the original curiously bean-shaped POD, a desktop amp simulator that could be run directly into an amp, PA, recording desk, or computer, that startled even some of the staunchest purists with its surprisingly authentic tones and flexibility. This latest evolution is the POD HD500, the most feature-laden member of a new line that includes the HD300 and HD400. It is built in a pedalboard configuration to make the vast quantity of tones within range for any stage or studio situation.
Designed With A Player’s Purpose
So how do you make a modeler feel
like a real amplifier? Line 6 says the data crunching abilities of new Analog Devices chips and HD modeling technology enables the HD 500 to emulate complex circuitry variables as specific as A/B push-pull interactions and power supply behaviors—factors that have a lot to do with the dynamics and tactile response that picking and tubes give a player.
I’m lucky enough to have some very nice modern and vintage amps to play through on a daily basis. They’re the foundation for what I consider good tone and spongy, touch-sensitive playability. But I don’t have a Supro S6616, ENGL Fireball 100, Bogner Uberschall, Fender Blackface Deluxe Reverb or Hiwatt Custom 100. Would I like to have access to those tones in a pinch? Damn right I would. And if I can get the sounds of a Divided By 13 JRT 9/15, Fender Bassman, Marshall JCM 800, Marshall JTM45, Dr. Z Route 66, Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier, Park 75, Vox AC-15 and AC-30—the amps emulations that round out the amp roster in the POD HD500—on top, I’d be pretty excited about the possibilities.
Line 6 did not skimp on effects either. The HD500 comes complete with over 100 of them taken from their M9 and M13 effects boards. There’s the usual assortment of spring reverbs, distortion, fuzz, octaves, EQ, chorus, compression, and so on, but there’s also some quirky effects like the Synth-O-Matic, Obi Wah, Voice Box, Reverse Delay and U-Vibe. And you can use up to eight effects simultaneously, which, when factored in with the amp simulations at your disposal, add up to a formidable set of sound sculpting tools.
The sturdy HD 500 enables you to manage, manipulate, and explore all these options with 512 preset locations, a 48-second looper, 1/4" Aux and Guitar inputs, Variax Digital Input, S/PDIF output, 5-pin MIDI I/O, a chromatic tuner, assignable MIDI footswitch controls and 1/4" stereo FX Send/Returns.
The board is laid out with an expression pedal that can be switched to volume, wah, or pitch effect control depending on how you engage it. There are footswitches on the far left for navigating banks up and down. Footswitches one through four turn the amps and effects on and off, while footswitches five through eight select presets—or when in loop mode, the Record, Play/Stop, Half Speed and Reverse functions. Looping is activated via the Looper switch. To turn on the tuner, you simply hold down the TAP switch on the far right for a few seconds.