Since debuting at the turn of the century,
the digital-modeling members of
Line 6’s POD family have become fixtures
in both project and pro studios everywhere.
Ranging from the pint-sized Pocket POD
to the POD X3 Pro rackmount, POD
products are available to fit nearly every
budget and feature-set requirement. And
the enduring appeal of the brand and the
bean-shaped enclosure speak to the basic
usefulness of the platform.
The POD HD is the newest member
of the family, and it’s packed with great
simulations—including 22 amplifier models
based on classics like the Fender Deluxe
Reverb, Hiwatt DR103, and Vox AC15, as
well as modern and boutique models like
the Dr. Z Route 66, Bogner Überschall,
and an ENGL Fireball 100. It also has
more than 100 Line 6 M-series effects that
model both classic and obscure distortions,
fuzzes, reverbs, pitch shifters, delays (with
tap tempo), and EQs.
Although the POD HD is optimized
for recording, it can also be used as a
compact practice unit. Complete with a
tuner and a 48-second looper, it practically
begs you to plug in your axe and a
set of headphones to start laying down
tracks, overdubbing, and adjusting speed
On the Surface
With 13 knobs and 13 buttons, the somewhat
intimidating-looking POD HD looks
more like a deep sea rover control than a
guitar effect. But with a little patience and
homework, the controls and parameters
quickly become second nature. The largest
knobs are the same basic controls you’d
find on most amps—Drive, Bass, Middle,
Treble, Presence, Volume, and Master, the
latter of which controls overall output. The
wild card of the batch is the Tweak knob,
which can be assigned to either an amplifier
sound or an effect and used to modify
parameters in real time as you would with
an expression pedal.
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 Nav pad allows
you to effortlessly move an amplifier or
effect into the desired position or loop in
the signal chain.
Apart from Left and Right 1/4" outputs,
there are connections for Line 6’s
FBV line of foot controllers, an XLR
input, a USB 2.0 jack for direct computer
recording and software updates, and a S/
PDIF jack to output a 24-bit digital signal.
Line 6 clearly went the extra mile to make
this POD quickly adaptable to modern
studio needs. I wouldn’t worry about coddling
this thing either—short of a direct
blow to the LCD screen, this thing looks
like it can take a serious beating.
I put the POD HD to the test with Fender
and Squier Stratocasters and a Gibson Les
Paul. To monitor the effects, I used a pair
of headphones and a Blackstar HT-5R.
Pushing the Set List button brought up
four preset lists designed by Line 6, each
with 64 editable tone combinations, but
you can also save up to eight total Set Lists.
The first preset on my list was “Jimi Got
Gyped,” which is built around models of a
Marshall JTM-45, a Univibe, a Fuzz Face,
and a tape echo. The convincing tone from
these very difficult-to-model sounds speaks
volumes about how the POD has evolved.
But the extent to which you can tweak any
part of a given preset is the real leap forward.
When I thought the Univibe was a touch
slow, I scrolled over to the stompbox section
of the Signal Flow display and used the Nav
pad to kick up the HZ from 0.10 to 1.00.
The correction in speed left the speakers
sounding a bit bright, however, so I highlighted
the amp and changed from an emulation
of a 4x12 cab with Greenbacks to a 1x12
Celestion 12-H and switched the simulated
microphone on the Set List. Problem solved!
Creating your own presets is simple, and
the tweakability and customization possibilities
are virtually endless. You don’t have to be
a gear wizard to find a tone that’s suitable for
your project. In fact, most of the amp namesakes
serve as a very accurate general reference
point that you can tailor to your guitar
and output preferences. Even the weirder
presets (“Otherness” and “Haunted Toys” are
just two of the many I tried) are easy to use,
musical, and perfect for those interested in
prog rock or noise projects—especially when
used with the fantastic stereo output.
Although most players will use the
POD more as a recording solution than
as a stompbox, you can navigate to a level
control to optimize output for use with an
amp. And when I routed the POD into
an amp this way, it responded in a manner
similar to plugging into a pedalboard and
then into an amp. For instance, rolling off
both the Stratocaster’s and the Les Paul’s
volume knobs really affected the drive of
the amp simulations in a way you’d expect
from pedals going into an amplifier.
Whether you’re recording or practicing, the
POD HD will likely deliver more than you
need—and provide you with a ton of options
you probably never would have considered
otherwise. For a lot of studio musicians who
like to work fast and on a budget, it could
easily become an indispensible recording
tool—something you’d grab if you could only
grab one device for one of those fabled desert-island scenarios. And for tone enthusiasts
who want a lot
of variety at their fingertips,
the POD HD rivals or exceeds the ease of use of many digital audio workstations (DAWs)
plug-ins—never mind that assembling the
same horsepower with plug-ins could be far
more expensive, and arguably less fun to use.
At $399, it may be a little steep for the more
informal project musician. But if you don’t
have access to a high-end studio overflowing
with vintage gear or even a higher quality
digital workstation with plug-ins to match
the POD HD’s menu, this is an investment
in inspiration and flexibility that could pay
itself off in no time.
you love sonic tinkering and eschew
recording with DAWs and plug-ins.
only the real modeled devices will
do, or you have a complete DAW
with tons of plug-ins.