A wickedly versatile multi-effect unit with remarkable flexibility.
Tons of options. Great reverbs and delays. Impressive collection of distortion models.
Slightly confusing tap tempo setup. Weak rotary simulation.
Line 6 HX Effects
Ease of Use:
I’ve always had a somewhat tortured relationship with multi-effect units. During my formative playing years I was easily seduced by loads of options and the ability to store more presets than I would ever need. At the time, though, the quality of tones never seemed to balance with the allure of convenience. Over the last 20-or-so years Line 6 has worked hard to make their emulations sound as good as they are convenient. Their newest multi-effect, built on the Helix framework, HX Effects, is one their most evolved efforts yet.
Hung Up on HX
If I were to succinctly describe the difference between the HX and the Helix it would be “All the effects, but none of the amps.” The HX is specifically designed for players who want to keep their analog amps and effects but add a substantial layer of digital flexibility and options.
Along the top of the HX sits eight capacitive, touch-sensitive footswitches, which allow you to activate and bypass effects, change signal flow, move between snapshots, and much more. Above those sit an array of six buttons and push-knobs for manually navigating menus and adjusting the parameters of the effects.
Some of my biggest hang-ups with earlier generations of multi-effect units were the navigation and organization of the presets. In the midst of writing this review Line 6 released HX Edit, which allows you to organize, edit, backup, import, and wrangle just about every performance parameter from the more approachable interface of a desktop or laptop computer. But even before HX Edit I didn’t have too much difficulty getting around. Within minutes of plugging it in I was able to go from an empty preset to a basic board with several drives, reverb, vibrato, and a slapback delay—all tweaked to taste and in my preferred running order.
I didn’t count them one-by-one, but Line 6 lists more than 100 different effects in the HX—easily more than I’ll ever use. Although there are only six footswitches, you can use run up to nine effects at once and assign multiple effects to a single footswitch. Since the release of the DL4 and its similarly formatted cousins, Line 6’s delays, reverbs, and modulation effects have been solid and the HX’s effects sound every bit as good. (Bonus for all you longtime Line 6 fans: All of the legacy tones from the M series stompbox modeler are included.) The reverbs can move from slightly spacious to overwhelmingly lush and awash with shimmery overtones. Want to go deep and have a pedalboard with a half-dozen reverbs? Go ahead. I tried it and it’s fun.
I’m a huge fan of stacking different dirt pedals and the HX makes experimentation more fun than a game of Jenga. I routed an Electro-Harmonix Soul Food in one of the send/return loops and dialed up the HX’s Minotaur for comparison. Although the controls didn’t compare on a one-to-one basis, I was able to get veryclose to the Soul Food’s feel and response. Combining Klon-style dirt with a TS-808-style overdrive enabled many different shades of distortion.
There are far more options, features, and tones here than I could possibly cover in a single review. Quite simply, the HX Effects is one of the most flexible multi-effect units I’ve ever played. With its compliment of I/O options, IR support, MIDI functionality, and smartly designed interface, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it pop up in future Rig Rundowns. And I was very impressed with how organic the digital overdrives sounded. Whether you use it as a hub for your entire pedalboard or just as a grab bag of sounds, the HX Effects is a top-notch piece of gear that will add real power to your rig.