Software guitar effects modules and software have become increasingly popular tools for home studio musicians and pro recording facilities over the last decade. For those of us who may lack the space or cash flow to create custom tones by combining pricey analog pedals with amps and other expensive effects modules, software tone and effects plugins have always been a practical solution.
The only problem with digital emulation is that it can sometimes sound dull or brittle when compared to the real deal. Line 6 has taken this issue into consideration, developed their own high definition amp modeling technology, and packed it into their POD HD line of guitar multi-effects modules.
Their HD Modeling tech has been moved to the desktop with the introduction of the POD HD Desktop , released earlier this year in May, 2011. This new multi-effects device is one of many descendants reminiscent of its earlier bean-shaped cousin, the original Line 6 POD digital guitar tone module. This time around however, the POD HD includes more amp models and even more effects – based off of their M9 and M13 stompbox modelers known as “M-Class” effects.
The POD HD is a small desktop multi-effects unit that contains 22 HD amp models based on some of the world’s most iconic amps and over 100 “M-Class” effects containing 19 delays, 23 modulations, 17 distortions, 12 compressors and EQs, 26 filters and 12 reverbs. The amps and effects can be combined in a massive amount of ways, making the possibilities for customized tones nearly endless. All of the processing takes place in the internal DSP engine — so no load is put on your computer when recording.
The face of the POD HD is very easy to navigate. Circling around the top of the unit are several large knobs that resemble controls you might find on an actual guitar amp. From left-to-right we have “Drive”, increasing the amount of distortion applied to your current preset. Next there are the tone controls, “Bass, Middle, Treble and Presence.” After that is the “Tweak” knob which is actually an assignable controller for different parameters on effect models or amps. Last are the “Volume” and “Master” knobs. Volume is specific to the selected preset’s volume while Master is global to your outputs.
Located in the middle of the POD HD on either side of the Display are the navigation controls. Directly below the display are the four Multi-Function Knobs which allow you to adjust parameters on the selected effects or amps. Finally, below the knobs are the Preset/Looper Buttons. On the very left are the Bank Up/Down buttons allowing the user to quickly navigate through all 16 preset banks in the currently selected Set List, viewing four at a time. To the right of those are the A-D buttons which let you quickly select any of the four presets in the current bank. To the right of these is the TAP button. Tap it to achieve the desired tempo or hold it to access the tuner. All of these buttons (aside from TAP) also control the Looper functions.
The unit is designed for guitarists or bassists with its mono instrument input, but it also includes an XLR input for vocals or any other acoustic instrument that you can think of. The POD HD actually includes a “Set List” with available presets for vocals and bass instruments as well, so you can experiment with the POD’s capabilities right away. In total, the POD’s I/O includes an instrument input, XLR input, L/R line outs, S/PDIF digital out, FBV pedal connection, USB 2.0, 1/4 inch headphone output and power supply connection.
Excuse me, Flow?
The view that will probably be seen most on the POD’s display is the Signal Flow View. Here you can use the navigation controls and Multi-Function Knobs on the unit to customize your tones. Doing so while connected to the POD’s editor librarian on your computer through the USB 2.0 connection will follow the ‘racecar principle’ – anything done on the POD will be mirrored on your computer and anything done on the computer will be mirrored on the POD HD signal chain itself (Get it?? ‘racecar’ spelled backwards is ‘racecar’!!).
Thankfully, the GUI on the editor librarian for your computer is laid out in the same way, just with better visuals.
Just a quick note about DAWs and the USB 2.0 connection: As long as your playback device in your DAW is set to the “POD HD,” inputs 1-2 in the DAW will automatically link to your POD’s L/R outputs – no need to plug your POD’s line outputs into inputs 1-2 of your audio interface (this way you avoid an unnecessary D/A conversion).
The setup of the signal chain includes a max of eight available effect model slots, with an additional slot available for the chosen amp – each of which can be turned on or off without affecting the existing signal chain. You can even split the signal chain into two parallel paths, combining two separate signal flows with their own separate amps, using a “mixer block” to control the level and pan position for each path. The one exception is that you cannot visibly move the looper graphic but it can be placed in two positions: Pre or Post your amp and fx processing (more on that soon!). The amp and effects models can be placed in any order that you desire so the user is free to mix it up however they see fit.
When customizing my own tones, I was personally able to get into the process right out of the box. If you have ever had experience setting up an actual signal chain with guitar pedals and amps then you will find the process very familiar and even more simple – No cables to manage! Customization can be relatively easy but the capability to get technically precise with settings on all of the amps and effect models is available as well.
Customizing a customized tone with Physical Parameters and Controllers
The way these tones behave is completely up to what the user wants to control, either through the “Tweak” knob and/or through an external foot controller.
• Everything that can be assigned to the “Tweak” knob or an external foot controller include: Amp Tone Controls(Bass, Middle, Treble, Presence), any FX parameter and any Amp Model parameter
• Aside from the “Tweak” knob, there are also two additional controllers that can be assigned to a Line 6 FBV Pedal using a CAT-5 cable connection. Each can also control any of the previously mentioned parameters.
• A new feature that has been included in the most recent update that is worth noting is the addition of variable input impedance directed toward the input of the guitar. There are seven total values and an “Auto” setting that adjusts the impedance, depending on the first amp or effect model at the beginning of the signal chain.
Set Lists and Presets
The user is able to create eight customized Set Lists with a max of 16 banks and four tones (A,B,C and D) per bank, equaling up to 64 tones per Set List. The unit comes stock with 4 of the 8 Set Lists already filled up with tones to showcase some of the capabilities of the POD HD. There are even some excellent experimental patches that sounds like an organ, old 8-bit sounds, vocal synth, and much more.