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This article was originally published in issue #22
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Line 6 has updated its flagship floor-based POD HD 500 modeller, beefing up the DSP power and adding more professional build quality to an already successful unit. In an issue where we also feature a Variax 69 guitar and Line 6's ground-breaking StageSource PA, Tom Quayle gives his verdict on the FX section.
Guitar Interactive star rating: Four and a half stars
We reviewed the POD HD 500 in the early days of GI and gave it glowing praise for its quality modelling capabilities and onboard effects. For 2013, Line 6 has updated its flagship modeller with what it claims is the most powerful DSP power in its class and significant external upgrades to its switches and LED design.
The HD500 was always a great unit but it has to be said it never really felt truly professional in its design and construction. This is something Line 6 has addressed with the X version, adding professional-grade footswitches with bright LED-rings, allowing the user to see clearly which switches are on and clearly indicating features such as tap tempo settings on stage. It’s a small but very welcome addition that gives the HD500X a much more solid look and feel and will be very useful on stage or studio gigs. The switches themselves feel much more responsive and well made, reassuring the user as to their longevity.
There is nothing new here in terms of amp models or effects but, thanks to the new and more powerful dynamic DSP, users can add more effects and amp/cab combinations before the HD500X will run out of horse-power. It was actually pretty easy to overload the previous model’s DSP headroom with a series of effects and a couple of amps and users will welcome the added power available here for creating complex routing and dual amp setups. Dynamic DSP allows the user to add any effect or amp model anywhere within the signal path with no limitations as to their placement offering multiple routing options and dual signal paths to be created.
Thanks to the onboard mic preamp this allows for two complex signal paths, one processing the guitar and the other a vocal mic or acoustic guitar for example without any worries about running out of DSP headroom.
The onboard effects, numbering over 100, are as good as ever with variety and quality on display. Overdrives, delays, all manner of modulations and more esoteric effects are on offer and again, although there’s nothing new here, having the higher DSP power allows for more experimentation for effects routing and combinations with up to eight effects available in a single patch.
As a standalone unit, the new POD is superb but when you combine one with the Tyler Variax guitar, the options become truly mind boggling, with a virtually limitless number of combinations of guitar model and amp/cab/effects permutations available. Thanks to the VDI connection, the Variax guitar can be plugged directly into the HD500X with custom tunings and guitar models stored within a single preset along with all effects, amp models and signal routing. It almost seems too good to be true that all of this can be recalled with a single footswitch but it works and works very well indeed.
And it gets even better. In our Live Sound! section, we've reviewed a Line 6 StageSource PA, which integrates fully with both this POD and a Variax in what Line 6 calls its 'Dream Rig'. If you wanted to go the whole way, it's even possible to connect one of Line 6’s DT-series of tube amplifiers, each of the elements in the system communicating fully with the others. Whilst these rigs represent a significant financial outlay, for guitar players who need the ultimate in versatility I can’t think of a better option. In effect (ho ho!) it means you could have your guitar, tuning, effects chain, signal routing PA and amp configurations of a single preset as a 'rig' then recall up to 500 different rigs with the press of a footswitch. That is, frankly, amazing.
Everything we said about the original HD500 still stands - it’s a great product with some fantastic tones and effects on offer. The I/O options are top rate with USB 2.0, Midi, SP/DIF and balanced XLR’s offering connections for any scenario. A built in 48-sec looper, chromatic tuner and well implemented software editor all add up to a well thought out and executed package. The POD HD500X is a very useful upgrade to that package, adding a much more professional sheen to an already excellent design. Whether existing HD500 owners will feel the need to upgrade depends on how far they already push their DSP and whether they need the advantageous LED upgrades on stage. For those new to the world of the POD, the HD500X is definitely the model to go for and combined with a Tyler Variax guitar it makes a tonal powerhouse that should satisfy even the most needy studio and live guitarists out there. Add the PA system and you are entering a completely new world.