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May 2014

Line 6 M13 Stompbox Modeler Review

line 6 m13 stompbox modeler
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Line 6 has shown a knack for “getting it right.” From the original Amp Farm and POD to their popular amp line and the DL4 delay modeler, the company has had a strong sense of what actual players might find exciting and useful. Their latest idea is the M13 Stompbox Modeler, a unit that combines the DL4 delay, MM4 modulation, DM4 distortion and FM4 filter modeler into one device, offering all of the effects in those four pedals, and more. Packed into a seemingly indestructible controller are over seventy-five stompbox effects. Line 6 obviously understands the realities of gigging: the box is tiered for easy access to all fifteen switches, while four raised rails protect the small plastic parameter knobs from clumsy feet. The I/Os include mono or stereo inputs, mono or stereo outputs, and a stereoassignable effects send/return—all 1/4"; MIDI in/out, and two expression pedal jacks. The expression pedals can be assigned to virtually any effect parameter, or to a slew of parameters at once.

Essentially, the M13 allows you to set up 12 “Scenes.” When you step on the switch marked Scenes, the twelve scene names are shown in the four LED windows up top— three per window. Choosing a scene—by stepping on one of the three corresponding footswitches in that row—can instantly turn on up to four preset effects. Another eight are at your beck and call through the remaining eight footswitches. Only four can be on at a time, but each scene can have its own separate set of twelve effects, putting 144 preset effects at your disposal.

Unlike most multi-effects, when you tweak any of these preset effects, the adjustments are automatically saved—just as if you were modifying the parameters on a stompbox. If you prefer, you can set the M13 to return the effect to a default setting when you switch to another scene. I found that the stompbox-like Autosave feature made the M13 extremely adaptable to differing gig and room acoustic situations, neatly side-stepping one of the main complaints about multi-effects.

These effects benefit from the latest generation of Line 6 R&D for products like POD, Vetta, and TonePort. How much you like them will depend on your feelings about modeled sounds versus the real thing. I found that the modulations and delays were more on a par with analog pedals than the distortion and filter effects, but all were recognizable and useful. There is no debating the convenience factor: imagine being able to tap tempo not just delays, but your modulation effects— tremolo, phasing, and some filter effects like the Seeker (a Zvex Seek-wah-type effect), or being able to instantly recall twelve different settings of octave fuzz. Tricks like these are impossible with the “real thing.”

The M13 is nearly worth the money for its looping abilities alone. The on-board looper give you twenty-eight seconds to the DL4’s fourteen, and its dedicated reverse switch eliminates the tricky double tapping required on that ubiquitous green pedal. It also features an Undo switch that allows you to erase your last overdub. For me, the best part is being able to switch the looper between preand post-effects. For example, I recorded a bunch of filtered, fuzzed, and phased parts into the looper, then ran the loop through more filters, delays and reverbs, for a richly textured ambient pad.

The Loop Controls switch turns seven of the effect switches into—you guessed it—loop controls. Once you have recorded your loop, stepping on that switch again sets those switches back to engaging effects, while the loop continues playing. This allowed me to again access those seven effects and add them my loop. If you want continuous access to all effects, you can control the looper functions with a separate MIDI foot controller (not included), leaving the looper controls available to engage effects.

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