It’s an amp! It’s home audio system! It’s both!
Line 6 bills AMPLIFi is as “the guitar amp, reinvented”—an audacious statement! But it isn’t just, say, some “modern take” on a blackface or a plexi. Rather, it’s a lifestyle product bridging the gap between several devices used daily by today’s guitarists. On the surface, it’s simply a guitar amp and a wireless Bluetooth speaker in one package. But additional features place the device in a category all its own. The AMPLIFi line incudes two combos—the 75-watt AMPLIFi 75 and the 150-watt AMPLIFi 150 reviewed here—plus the AMPLIFi FX100 floorboard unit.
Out of the Garage and Into the Great Room
AMPLIFi 150’s attractive enclosure looks like a cross between a British EL-84 amp and modern furniture. Its five-speaker setup (one 12" Celestion for dry guitar, plus two midrange and two high-frequency drivers for effects) might well be the centerpiece of a great home audio system, at least in a guitarist’s house.
At its simplest level, AMPLIFi functions as a regular combo amp. Its control panel includes knobs for drive, bass, mid, treble, effects, and reverb, plus a big master volume knob that doubles as a guitar/audio blend control. There are tap-tempo and tone buttons, and a preset-select button for choosing from four sounds (either factory presets or your own stored patches). With the optional FBV footswitch connected, you essentially have a four-channel amp.
One common issue when manipulating presets on digital amps with physical controls is that the knob positions don’t necessarily reflect their current settings. But AMPLIFi adds a clever master volume LED ring, with red and white lights displaying current levels when a knob is maneuvered.
Virtual Control Panel
You can connect AMPLIFi to iOS device devices via Bluetooth, and Android support will reportedly be added later in 2014. A free AMPLIFi Remote app lets you wirelessly stream music from your collection—and much more. The AMPLIFi Remote editor can access preloaded amp models, which cover everything from Marshall plexis and blackface Deluxe Reverbs, plus an array of effects both conventional and esoteric. All amp and effect parameters are displayed onscreen via an intuitive interface that makes deep editing amazingly easy. It took less than a minute to dial up a killer combination of amps and effects.
Once you create a sound you like, you can save it to AMPLIFi—and upload it to the Line 6 cloud to share with other users. You can also download sounds that they’ve created. Without a remote device, this degree of control would require a screen on the amp itself, and probably a lot of menu scrolling.
Got a Match?
With its ability to play audio, one obvious use for AMPLIFi is jamming or practicing with your favorite songs—and that’s where AMPLIFi’s Remote’s cool tone matching feature comes in. Now, it doesn’t tone match via audio analysis the way, say, a Kemper Profiler does. Instead, it uses iTunes metadata and scans the Line 6 database for matches. As soon as you play a song, several possible tone matches pop up, sort of like the “Recommended Videos” that appear when you watch a YouTube clip. Once you choose a tone match, you can adjust it to suit your setup.
When I played an mp3 of “Crazy Train” on my device, several tone matches appeared onscreen. I chose one named “Crazy Train,” and the edit window depicted a plexi run through a Variac and a chain of subtle effects. This patch got me in the ballpark, and with slight adjustments, I was riffing along with Randy Rhoads.
Convenience is AMPLIFi’s strength. For example, I’ve always fantasized about running a stereo rig. While I have the proper equipment in my studio, I never get around to it because, frankly, I’m too lazy to set it up. My limited practice time would be spent searching for wires and adapters, and even if I managed a glorious sound, I wouldn’t cart that massive rig to a gig. But AMPLIFi 150 is self-contained, with the guitar signal running dry, and the wet signal deployed in stereo.
I really came to appreciate AMPLIFi’s capabilities—and sheer ease of use—when I pulled up a tone match inspired by the Police’s “Message in a Bottle.” All I needed to do was scroll through a few parameters on my iPad. Seconds after choosing the tone match, I heard and felt the 3D quality of stereo effects like sine chorus and analog delay with modulation through a full-range system. The sound was bolder and more captivating than I’d previously managed by sticking a few pedals in front of a 1x12 combo. I played some arpeggiated add9 chords and was greeted with tone so lush and heavenly I was inspired to compose. After loading some drum tracks, I spent hours lost in music making. That’s what AMPLIFi is all about: getting you playing guitar.
Whether AMPLIFi is for you depends on your expectations. While it’s a fine gigging amp, it’s not intended to replace your touring or recording amp. But unlike those boutique low-watters that are still too loud for the house, and which sit collecting dust until the imaginary day when you’ll be able to crank them, AMPLIFi is an amp you’ll actually use every day.
Watch the Review Demo: