Say what you will, but in today’s world the marriage of music and technology is unavoidable, no matter what genre of music you happen to play. For some of us this isn’t a bad thing – who would have guessed that you would one day be able to plug a guitar directly into a computer, open your favorite software program and rock like you were plugged into an amplifier? No one could have imagined the vast libraries of rigs, sounds and effects that can now be housed in a computer or a piece of modeling gear. Now our wallets, as well as our backs, can be saved from massive GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome).
The long-time industry leader in this realm has been Line 6. With the introduction of the POD in 1996, the dream of dialing up a sound reminiscent of a Fender Twin or your favorite Marshall without having to subject them to smoky bars or road wear became a reality. Additionally, the bean-shaped unit fit in a Volkswagen much easier than a half-stack. Due to the overwhelming success of the POD, Line 6 released a line of solid-state amps packed to the gills with various amps and effects.
Still, some guitar players longed for more out of the company’s amps, partially due to the fact that they sounded good at low volumes but didn’t deliver when cranked up. The other big concern with a number of modeling manufacturers, including Line 6, was that the amps just didn’t have the same warmth as the real thing, due to a noticeable lack of tubes. Line 6’s commitment to tackling these concerns eventually led to a partnership with amp manufacturing legend Reinhold Bogner. After a good bit of collaboration between Line 6’s engineers and Bogner, their efforts have culminated in Line 6’s Spider Valve series.
Patterned after the company’s popular Spider series, the Spider Valve 112 shines because of Bogner’s touch. Drawing from his famed tube amp designs, the Spider Valve 112 is a 40- watt, Class A/B tube amp with all the modeling features of the POD 2.0 in the front-end. It features two 12AX7 preamp tubes and two 6L6 power tubes feeding a Celestion Vintage 30 12” speaker, resulting in a warmth that no other Line 6 has been able to achieve. In addition, the attention to detail brought forth by both parties extends to the construction of the Spider Valve 112. I was thoroughly impressed with the overall build of the amp – the physical sturdiness of the platform dovetails nicely with a slightly retro yet utilitarian appearance that easily blends into any stage.
If you talk with any number of guitarists, one of the biggest gripes you will hear is that modeling amps have traditionally not been user-friendly right out of the box. This is, fortunately, not the case with the Spider Valve 112. I was able to easily find a great sound that would be usable for any number of gigs without any programming or cursing. I was immediately impressed with the depth of the sound, a true compliment for those of us who have played with several generations of the technology.
Perhaps most impressive was that the company avoided loading the amp with many overdone sounds just to show off its range (even though there were a few). From my big jazz-style Washburn to a Telecaster pumping through the amp’s Albert Lee artist preset, a number of the models sounded authentic and deep. Unfortunately there are a handful of presets that remain somewhat unpractical; a number of the metal settings are quite noisy and it would have been nice if the presets all came in a normalized volume. Fortunately, the number of useful presets outnumbers the overdone by a huge margin. You can see Line 6’s pedigree in all of the sounds, including the 200-plus artist presets. The major overall difference is Bogner’s tube design, which brings all of the sounds to life.
"After a good bit of collaboration between Line 6''s engineers and Bogner, their efforts have culminated in Line 6''s Spider Valve series."
There are 12 dialed-in amp models onboard that can be accessed by a front rotary control. These models represent classic amps from companies like Fender, Marshall, Mesa Boogie and Vox. Each amp model functions like the real thing when you start tweaking the knobs on the Spider Valve 112’s front panel, as it replicates the controls found on the original amps themselves. Having owned or played through a number of the amps modeled in the Spider Valve 112, I had a good idea of what to look for – the review amp duplicated the actual amps quite closely, if not dead-on.
Turning the EQ knobs on the Spider Valve 112 accurately replicated the tone stacks on each model. More impressive was that the models reacted as they should have when turned up. This amp likes to be cranked up, a welcome design change to one of Line 6’s few weaknesses in the past. For instance, using the “Crunch” model, the 112 transformed into a ‘68 Plexi 50-watt and soared like an eagle with that classic Marshall top-end cut fans long for. There was plenty of classic Marshall-like grind that cut through the mix like a knife, but it cleaned up nicely when rolling off the volume on a PRS McCarty.
The Spider Valve 112 would stand alone as a great amp with just the amp modeling and Bogner tube section, but never satisfied to stop at good enough, Line 6 has packed in a suitable selection of onboard effects. These “Smart Control” effects include Tape Echo, Multi-Tap, Sweep Echo, Flanger/Chorus, Phaser, Tremolo and Reverb. Granted, some obsessive knob tweakers may be disappointed with the limited number of parameters for each effect, but the factory sounds are well thought out and should be workable in most settings. Using the rotary knob for the effects, you can conjure a number of useful settings that can be easily stored in each of the user presets. Using the two rotary knobs allows users to select one of the predetermined effects and the second knob lets you sift through a variety of pre-selected parameters. Unfortunately you are stuck with the predetermined presets so tweakers may long for more. The reverb is particularly well voiced and natural sounding, but be aware that you may not need much of it. The reverb can very quickly become sonically cavernous, so discretion is advised.
The Final Mojo
All in all, the Line 6 Spider Valve 112 is impressive. As with most modeling amplifiers, a percentage of the sounds may or may not be useful, depending on your particular needs, but the Spider Valve 112 is a step in the right direction. Gone are the days of longing for an all-purpose amp that sounds great at low volumes and can be cranked up to a tube glowing nirvana. The marriage of Reinhold Bogner’s tube mastery and Line 6’s technological prowess has given us sonic diversity without all of the weight.
you are looking for an all-purpose capable of a variety of sounds.
you are looking for a super quiet amp with extensive effects and tweakability.
MSRP $969.99 - Line 6 - line6.com
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