REVIEWS

LINE 6 Helix XL STOMP | REVIEW

Published 5 months ago on October 6, 2023

By Guitar Interactive Magazine

Line 6 Helix Stomp XL

MSRP: (UK) £570 / (US) $749

An expanded version of the compact HX Stomp floor processor, the Line 6 HX Stomp XL boasts the same award-winning Helix family pedigree* but ups the ante by providing eight switches, enhanced MIDI capabilities, and an intuitive pedal editing mode. Like the HX Stomp, the HX Stomp XL serves up to eight blocks — amps, cabs, and stomps — per preset, and adds a fourth snapshot per preset for even greater sonic flexibility. Here's Nick Jennison to tell us more.

Modelling OGs Line 6 launched their highly critically acclaimed Helix platform in 2015. "It's too expensive!!" came the cry (despite being significantly more affordable than its competitors). Thus came the LT. "I just want the effects", came the cry. Boom - HX Effects. "Make it smaller!!" came the cry. The HX Stomp was born… and what did folk say? "OK, not THAT small"…

While there's no pleasing some people, Line 6 are giving it the old college try. The HX Stomp XL is essentially the HX Stomp (a pared-down Helix with all of the same sounds but in a tiny enclosure) with more footswitches. Yes, that's literally it. And for lots of guitar players, it's perfect. Hear me out on this.

The HX Stomp is absolutely ideal for players who don't really do a great deal of footswitching. Perhaps they use one sound for their whole gig, or they use the HX Stomp as part of a larger MIDI pedalboard. Sure, you CAN operate it with your feet, but it's fiddly. By contrast, the full-size Helix is ideal for switching on the fly, but it's a substantial investment in both money and space, especially if you intend to use it alongside other pedals. The HX Stomp XL is sort of the "goldilocks" Helix - enough footswitches to be practical, but still small and affordable.

While there are a few functionality compromises compared to its big brother, one area where the HX Stomp XL absolutely does not fall short is in sound. The amp and effect models within are exactly the same as those featured in the full-fat Helix, and they sound and feel every bit as great as ever. What you do lose out on is in some of the processing power, meaning you won't be able to run long chains of DSP-heavy effects, and some of the I/O, such as XLR outs and external amp switching. The latter is a bummer, but if you have a MIDI amp that can respond to the PC commands the HX Stomp XL sends, you can work around it.

The workflow in the HX Stomp XL is perhaps the most straightforward out of all the Helix models, with the combination of the capacitive footswitches and the Stomp's elegant UI making for a surprisingly slick and pleasant experience - even for someone like myself who hasn't touched a Helix in at least two years.

There's not a whole lot that can be said about the tones in this unit, other than to say that they sound like a Helix. If you know even the first thing about amp modelling, you'll know what a ringing endorsement that is. Aside from the excellent amp and cab models, Helix has some of the absolute best effects in the game, with the usual standouts being the overdrives, modulations and the gorgeous updated reverbs. There are also some very convincing "utility" effects such as Poly Capo, DoubleTake and Poly Pitch, and while you can't run as many of these types of blocks on the HX Stomp XL as you can on the larger models, these effects are still available to you and function in exactly the same way.

In many ways, the HX Stomp XL occupies the "sweet spot" in the Helix range. It's not as intimidating from a functionality, financial or physical size perspective as the larger models, but it's not as "fiddly" as the Stomp, which really requires some external gear to get the best out of it. If you're looking for an entry point into the Helix range, or you're frustrated with the one you have because it's either too big and fancy or too small and fiddly, this is the Helix for you.

For more information, please visit:

uk.line6.com

 


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