You navigate these myriad options through use of the Display section which also includes various knobs and buttons for file saving and navigation. There are also four Multi-Function knobs for parameter tweaking. The standard tone controls allow you to quickly adjust amp settings. They include Drive, Bass, Mid, Treble, Presence, Volume, and Master. The rear of the unit is where you access all the included I/O. It’s actually an impressive list of connections, and Line 6 deserves kudos for including balanced, 3-pin XLR outputs for studio and stage use. I also think it’s cool to have an L6 link that directly connects to such things as their Line 6 amps. This XLR connection allows you to tweak either the newly released DT50 amp or the POD, and each will update each other as you do so. I’d certainly use that if I had a Line 6 amp.
To Fool the Ears
I plugged the HD500 into Pro Tools via the XLR balanced outputs and a high-end preamp. Once powered up, I plugged a Telecaster into the Guitar input and began to flip through the presets. As you would expect, some presets sound better than others. Settling on Patch 7C Chick N Pickn, I liked what I heard. It had a nice country feel with, a warm short reverb, and it made my Tele sound like a Tele. After adjusting a few knobs, I had a sound I liked and saved it as a preset.
Seeking the thrill of opposites, I selected Patch 5C MettaliClean, set a the delay time with the Tap function and played a nice clean riff that had a bit of bite but still retained clarity. But more importantly, it felt touch responsive and had much more feel than the POD XT I had used on occasion.
With my Les Paul I dialed up some of the heavier-type amps and presets, including the Patch 6C Canterbury Lead and 5D MasterPuppet Solo. Some of the presets are really cool, and some also downright odd. Almost all benefit from a little tweaking of the parameters, though. And players investigating the depth of the HD500 would be well-served by a willingness to dial in presets to taste and according to the sound of individual instruments. That will of course depend not only on personal taste but the kind of guitar you plug into it.
Because I do sound design, some of the wilder presets came in handy, such as 9D Without U Too. Stepping on the expression pedal adds a wild synth-like sound, and adding in some extra delay, I created an exotic lush pad. And I was able to record guitar pieces that I would never have produced myself.
Great sounds aside, Line 6 really did achieve significant improvements in tactile sensitivity with the HD 500. I was definitely able to create a little break up in my tone with harder pick attack, the way I would with an old Gibson or Fender amps. The dynamics are not
exactly the same as you get with the real amps but its certainly the closest thing I’ve encountered to true amp sensitivity with modeling or software. Such impressions are certainly a matter of touch, preference and opinion. But the HD 500 does a good job of replicating that intangible element.
The POD HD500 shines most is in its inherent flexibility. As advertised, it’s a multi effects unit that can take the guitar where few normal amp setups can. It’s easy enough to play a straight Fender or Bogner emulation with some reverb if that’s what you need. But it only takes switching on a preset to layer two amps together to create one massive tone monster. Then you can kick in some delays, mods and wahs and take it to a whole different level. Would I replace my amps with this unit? No, I would not. I don’t feel it’s built to replace amplifiers, and you probably won’t trade your ‘64 AC30 for one. But the fact is that it can
capably replace most amps in most performance situations. It’s an amazing tool for any guitarist that works in multiple projects or has to move from a bar gig one weekend to a wedding the next and works on experimental soundscapes on the days in between. It can do all of that with aplomb. And at just about 500 bucks it’s a real steal, too.
you want a flexible, good sounding multi effects unit with a ton of I/O for guitar production.
you expect it to replace your real amps and/or don’t want to tweak floor units.