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This article was originally published in issue #58
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Whether you like it or not, modellers are coming for you. The current generation of units are so alarmingly good that even seasoned guitarists and engineers are struggling to tell the difference between a mic’d valve amp (tube amp, for our American friends) and a modelled recreation of the same setup.
Gives your modeller that “amp in a room” feel
Lightweight and compact
Simple to operate
Not a lot
The Powercab 112 and Powercab 112 Plus from Line 6 are 1x12 active speaker systems that boast an authentic “amp-in-the-room” playing experience when paired with any modeler, profiler, or even an amp-simulation pedal. Loud enough to fill any small club or medium-sized venue, and six classic speaker models as alternatives to your current favourite cab, Nick Jennison puts the Line 6 Powercab through its paces.
Whether you like it or not, modellers are coming for you. The current generation of units are so alarmingly good that even seasoned guitarists and engineers are struggling to tell the difference between a mic’d valve amp (tube amp, for our American friends) and a modelled recreation of the same setup. Whether you’re laying it down in the studio or going straight to FOH, modelling is most definitely the future.
There is, however, one aspect of the guitar playing experience that can’t be modelled, and that’s the physical interaction between the guitar and the air being moved by the speakers. It’s a common misconception that the guitar’s signal runs in one direction, from guitar to amp to speakers to ears. In reality, more than a little of the energy coming from the speakers feeds back to the guitar, physically vibrating the strings and (if your instrument is lively enough) the body and neck wood. The result is that delicious sustain and touch sensitivity that you only get from playing through a loud amp.
Enter the Powercab 112 and Powercab 112 Plus. These compact, light, loud little fellas aim to bridge the gap between the flexibility, versatility and superb tones that modellers will provide and the visceral, tactile experience of playing through an amp. Both units offer six speaker models, based on a Vintage 30, a Greenback, a Creamback, a Jensen P12Q, an Eminence Swamp Thang and an Alnico Blue; something to flatter whatever type of tone you’re aiming for. There’s also a “flat” mode for FRFR operation, in case you want to use your modeller to provide cab modelling. On the 112 Plus, you also get 128 preset slots to store your own IRs, and they can be recalled via MIDI.
In our tests, we hooked up a Helix with the XLR outs (with stock cab impulses) running through our monitors (pretty typical 2-way PA wedges, the kind you’ll see on any stage in the land), and ran the 1/4” outs (without any cab emulation) to the Powercab 112 Plus, mic’d with an AKG C414 (a relatively flat-sounding mic). We also recorded the Powercab’s onboard DI, to see how close it came to the sound of the cab in the room.
Looking at four typical families of amps (a high gain Soldano SLO, a Marshall JTM45, an AC30 and a Fender Deluxe) through appropriate speaker types (V30, Greenback, Alnico Blue and P12Q respectively), the Powercab’s delivery is flattering, bold and very pleasant to play. It felt a lot more familiar than the same sounds through the stage monitors and significantly more inspiring to play.
The real shocker was the sustain test though. At comparable volumes, having the Powercab next to me made the guitar feel significantly more alive than playing through the floor monitors - even using the Powercab’s DI to drive them. Notes bloomed more readily and sustained way longer, even with a comparatively clean sound.
To say I’m impressed is a bit of an understatement. These units alleviate the biggest issue facing modeller users in an elegant, compact box. It looks like an amp, it sounds like an amp, but most importantly, it feels like an amp.
Custom Guitar Coaxial 12" Speaker
8 ohm Speaker Impedance
1" Compression Driver
70Hz - 20kHz Frequency Response