Line 6 POD HD500 Amp Modeler Pedalboard Review

In the world of guitar effects, few are as well known for their ample stable of amp modelers as much as the Line 6 crew. Amp modeling is a very peculiar topic in the world of pro audio. Those who swear by the natural sound of analog probably cringe at the very sound of it while other more modern guitarist’s see it as a place for almost infinite tonal possibilities. And then others are completely confused by it. If you are part of that last category – how about checking out yesterday’s article on the ins and outs of amp modelers?  Regardless of what camp you fall under, few can deny that the amp modeler has made plenty of strides over the last few years, blurring the line between authentic amplifier tones and the simulated digital variety which brings us to the latest evolution of the amp modeler – the Line 6 POD HD500; the most feature-packed member of the new line which includes the HD300 and HD400. It’s built in the familiar form of a pedal board but packs within it tons of tones and effects that should fit both the studio and live performance situation quite nicely.  But is it right for you in particular? Let’s find out!


The Features

The first thing that must be looked at with any amp modeler is just how authentic it gets down the sounds it’s trying to recreate. Line 6 themselves says that their “Analog Devices” chips and HD modeling technology enables the HD500 to emulate specific complex circuitry variables such as those found in A/B push interactions along with power supply behaviors – two factors that have a lot to do with the dynamics and signature response that tube amps offer players. If you are one of the few guitarists out there who have the luck or cash to regularly play on some very nice vintage and modern tube amps then you probably have a pretty good idea on what the foundation of a good tone sounds like. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t lucky enough to own a Supro S6616, an ENGL Fireball 100, a Fender Blackface Deluxe reverb or a Hiwatt Custom 100. Would you like to have access to all those signature amps and more – all for less than $500 in one simple package? And what if I said that package had the ability to give you the sounds of a Fender Bassman divided by a Marshall JTM45 and a Mesa/boogie Dual Rectifier that is being driven through Vox AC-30? Well, the HD500 can deliver just that and pretty much most anything else that you can cook up with your imagination.  

Line 6 did not skimp on effects either. The HD500 comes complete with over 100 of them taken from their M9 and M13 effects boards. There’s the usual assortment of spring reverbs, distortion, fuzz, octaves, EQ, chorus, compression, and so on, but there’s also some quirky effects like the Synth-O-Matic, Obi Wah, Voice Box, Reverse Delay and U-Vibe. And you can use up to eight effects simultaneously, which – when factored in with the amp simulations at your disposal – add up to a huge set of sound sculpting tools.

Here’s a rundown of the important features:

* 16 HD Amp Models
* 100+ Effect Models
* Up to 8 Simultaneous Effects
* 512 Preset Locations
* 48-second Looper
* 1/4" Guitar Input
* 1/4" Aux Input
* XLR Input + Microphone Preamp
* Variax Digital Input (VDI)
* MP3/CD Input
* Unbalanced 1/4" Outputs
* Balanced XLR Outputs
* 1/4" Stereo Headphone Output
* S/PDIF Output
* 1/4" Stereo FX Send/Return
* 5-Pin MIDI Input + Output/Thru
* Expression Pedal
* Aux Expression Pedal Jack
* Chromatic Tuner
* Tap Tempo
* Assignable MIDI Footswitch Controls
* L6 LINK™
* Software Editor/Librarian
* Metal Chassis, Pedal and Footswitches


The Hardware

The sturdy HD 500 enables you to manage, manipulate, and explore all these options with 512 preset locations, a 48-second looper, 1/4" Auxiliary and Guitar inputs, Variax Digital Input, S/PDIF output, 5-pin MIDI I/O, a chromatic tuner, assignable MIDI footswitch controls and 1/4" stereo FX Send/Returns. The board is laid out with an expression pedal that can be switched to volume, wah, or pitch effect control depending on how you engage it. There are footswitches on the far left for navigating banks up and down. Footswitches one through four turn the amps and effects on and off, while footswitches five through eight select presets—or when in loop mode, the Record, Play/Stop, Half Speed and Reverse functions. Looping is activated via the Looper switch. To turn on the tuner, you simply hold down the TAP switch on the far right for a few seconds. 

You navigate these myriad options through use of the Display section which also includes various knobs and buttons for file saving and navigation. There are also four Multi-Function knobs for parameter tweaking. The standard tone controls allow you to quickly adjust amp settings. They include Drive, Bass, Mid, Treble, Presence, Volume, and Master. The rear of the unit is where you access all the included I/O. It’s actually an impressive list of connections, and Line 6 deserves extra recognition for including balanced, 3-pin XLR outputs for studio and stage use. I also think it’s cool to have an L6 link that directly connects to such things as their Line 6 amps. This XLR connection allows you to tweak either the newly released DT50 amp or the POD, and each will update each other as you do so. I’d certainly use that if I had a Line 6 amp.


Is The HD500 Right For You?

Sure, tone purists who want nothing more than the signature sound of their favorite analog tube amp might not find this too enticing but for those of us who love the thought of creating some awe-inspiring customized tones-of-our-dreams that would otherwise be impossible – or downright expensive – to recreate, then the Line 6 POD HD500 has tons to offer! While I myself won’t be trading in my Marshall anytime soon, the POD HD500 is perfect for those of us out there who are in the need of a versatile device capable of handling playing a bar gig one minute and a wedding the next – while creating some experimental soundscapes on off days in between. And just in case some of you newer players out there might find the feature-filled list of the HD500 a bit too overwhelming, you can always check out the rest of our Line 6 amp modelers to find out that perfectly fits your needs – or your wallet!

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