Nobody can dispute that Line 6 gives players a lot of bang for their buck. In the Brady hierarchy of the M line of multi-effects processors, the M13 is Greg, the M9 is Peter, and the M5 is Bobby. And being the youngest sibling has its advantages: Smaller than the other pedals, the M5 offers up a whopping 100+ effects in the delay, modulation, distortion, compressor/EQ, filter, and reverb categories—all in a single pedal. At first it might seem like a stompbox with an identity crisis, but in use I found the M5 to be a veritable Swiss Army knife that could easily be the answer to a gigging guitarist’s prayers. Let’s check it out.
Housed in a rugged, all-metal chassis with a cool black finish, the M5 is a study in effective design. The rear of the pedal sports stereo In and Out jacks, as well as an expression pedal input, and a DC power input (power supply included). On the left side is a set of MIDI In and Out jacks. On top, the pedal has an On/Off stomp switch and a Tap switch to its right. Above the stomp switches are six multifunction rotary knobs and a backlit LCD display that clearly shows the chosen effect, as well as the function of each rotary knob for that effect.
Dialing up a great sound couldn’t be simpler. Pushing down on the “model select” knob changes the effect category (reverb, delay, distortion, etc.). Once the category is selected, you rotate the knob to choose the specific effect. If you’ve ever played through a Line 6 modeling pedal, the sounds will be quite familiar. Having owned Line 6’s delay and modulation modelers, I felt like the M5 was giving me a greatest hits package. Not all effects are exact doppelgängers of the original, but all are very close. Some of my favorites were the Tube Echo for the EP-1-style tone without the hassle, and the Jet Fuzz, which is a combination fuzz-phaser that mimics the old Roland Jet Phaser, while adding on a fuzz. Who wouldn’t like that!?
Because you can only select one effect at a time, Line 6 made it simple to store 24 effects as presets. You can access these presets by scrolling through the various choices with your foot. It works like this: Step on both the On/Off and Tap switches to access the scrolling feature, then scroll up with the On/Off and down with the Tap. To keep it simple, there are no menus. Each time you power up, you simply get the same settings where you left off. And the built-in tuner is accurate and easy to access by holding down the Tap switch.
For the price of a single pedal, the M5 is a killer deal. Not only do you get over 100 different effects, it’s built like a tank and offers easy control and a great tuner. Even if you have a pedalboard, adding an M5 would expand the options dramatically. In fact, you might find yourself pulling a few pedals off, including your tuner. For the gigging player, I can’t think of a better pedal for ease of use and effective processing. Bobby Brady might be the youngest kid in the family, but he definitely has a trick or two up his sleeve.
you want a boatload of great, simple effects in a single pedal.
you’re a tone purist and need to have dedicated pedals for each effect.