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August Issue

Line 6 TonePort GX USB Recording Interface

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Few companies apart from Line 6 have  accomplished so much so quickly when it comes to carving out a name and a quality reputation in the world of guitar tone. With products like AxSys amps, PODs and Variax guitars, the company blazed trails in the world of modeling that the big manufacturers are just now picking up on. Eleven years in, the company''s range of products is as impressive as its continually growing army of devotees. One of Line 6''s newest recruiting tools is the TonePort GX Recording Interface, a solid and affordable port of entry for players who are just now dipping their toes into the world of effects modeling.

I’ve been playing through a Line 6 amp for years now, so I had high expectations for this surprisingly small interface. The big question for me was whether this gizmo could impress someone who drank the punch long ago.

Simply put, it delivers the professional quality sound it promises.

It took me all of 15 minutes to set it up and install the included GearBox software on my Mac. I felt like a kid on Christmas. With 18 fully-equipped guitar amp models, 5 bass amps, 6 preamps, 29 cabinets, and 30 stompbox and studio effects, the tone potential is just unreal, especially with this level of control. What’s even better is how easy it is to use: as the note on the box says, “brain dead simple.” I bet even a drummer could figure it out.

With a huge list of presets and the online Tone Library, Line 6 has figured out how to offer ease-of-use without limiting the functional capability. You can start from scratch or pick an already doctored tone and tweak to your heart’s content. You’ll find just about every tone you can imagine and many you haven’t yet. In fact, one of the best qualities of the GearBox software and the Tone Library is how much you can learn about guitar tone, even if you already know a lot. You can dissect the effects and settings of preset tones as well as the amp/cab used, the amp mic and recording room involved (if applicable) and even the mic placement. It’s not just a studio; it’s a depository and a laboratory at your fingertips.

Not only do the vintage rigs and amp models sound great, they are set up to respond just like the real amps do. For instance, the 1958 Tweed B-Man, modeled on a ‘58 Fender Bassman combo, (my go-to setting on my Flextone II amp) has the same unmistakable sound: tube-driven, fat-bottomed, timeless rock ‘n roll tone and the same peculiar tone controls that make it nice and grungy in the sweet spot, but without too much murkiness.

I really got a kick out of the 1967 Class A-30 Top Boost, which is modeled on a Vox AC30. It gives you that classic bright, crispy British invasion tone on a clean setting, but when you crank up the gain and drop the Cut knob you get that same thick, saturated bucket of crunch you hear from Brian May on the early Queen recordings, only here you can couple the amp with any one of two dozen cabinets all at the click of mouse. Then it’s just a few more clicks to add reverb, chorus or whatever rocks your sock off.

It’s also a blast to record with: 24-bit, 44.1 to 96 KHz sample rates, an “intelligent” hum reducer, and lots of other cool features round out the package. Line 6 has also solved the latency problem that has kept many players from recording with an interface -- ToneDirect monitoring allows you to record exactly what you’re hearing without having to dry out your signal.

With the TonePort GX, Line 6 has streamlined the technology it created and continues to improve on. For the $70 shelf price (MSRP $89.99), you get much, much more than you pay for. It''s as well-suited for modeling vets as it is for beginners.

It''s not flawless, though.The casing is plastic, and doesn’t seem exceptionally sturdy, so you can’t treat it like your stage rig. The only other potential downside is the stress the TonePort GX could put on a relationship: if she’s already irked about how much time you spend in front of the computer, this is going to drive her right over the edge.

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Line 6 TonePort GX Recording Interface
MSRP $89.99
TonePort GX at Line6.com

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