PRO AUDIO
Taylor

Taylor
July 17, 2013

Line 6 POD HD500X Review


When Line 6 put out the the POD HD 500, they kept their ears open to customer feedback about the things guitar players enjoyed, and the things they thought could be better on this multi-effects pedalboard. The culmination of that feedback has brought us the Line 6 POD HD500X. Most guitar players I talk to have a love/hate relationship with Line 6. There are features on Line 6 gear that are really useful, exciting, and sonically superior, and then the opposite tends to be true for the most discriminating of guitar players. After spending some time with the POD HD500x, I found it to be far superior in terms of tonality and control than previous instances of Line 6 multi-effects processors and amplifier modeling. For those riding on the fence about Line 6, it’s worth spending some time to check out all of the features that the POD HD500X has to offer.

Improvements From The HD500

When compared to the HD500 above, the foot switches have been improved but many of the upgrades are internal.

When compared to the HD500 above the foot switches have been improved, but many of the upgrades are internal.

One of the first things to talk about are the improvements that have been made since the POD HD500. You’ll notice immediately that the foot switches have been redesigned and in my opinion are a substantial upgrade from the previous design. The new foot switches have the look and feel of what you should expect from a professional effects pedal. You can really feel the click from underneath your foot when selecting different amplifier models or engaging different effects within the chain. A nice touch is the addition of LED lights surrounding the foot switches to let you know when a particular amp or effect is engaged.

Another feature you will notice at a glance is the improved LCD screen. The old screen was a bit dim and lacking in a functional contrast. This sometimes made it difficult to be viewed  under direct sunlight or even in a club when the stage lights hit it too hard. The new screen helps to eliminate those contrast issues and allow you to have a better view of the screen.

Line 6 also boasts the inclusion of additional DSP power within the POD HD500X. At a very basic level this means you now have more freedom to add more effects within a signal chain as well as the ability to mix and match the amplifiers, cabinets, and microphone simulations in a variety of combinations. It’s like having a DAW plugin at your feet with endless freedom to customize your sound exactly the way you want without any limitations.

I/O

The I/O is extensive and makes it perfect for the stage or studio.

The I/O is extensive and makes it perfect for the stage or studio.

If you are already familiar with the HD500 you can skip this part as the I/O has remained the same on the HD500X. For those that are not familiar, you will be pleasantly surprised at how many options you really have for getting connected to an amplifier, PA system, or your computer. In addition you have the ability to add additional pedals and FX units.

Firstly the outputs allow you to connect using 1/4 inch cables or XLR microphone cables for unbalanced and balanced outputs respectively. Guitar players will like the FX send and return which help to place the HD500X amongst your existing pedals. With the headphone output and the CD/MP3 input, you can easily play along to a track you are working on or one of your favorite existing tunes. The MIDI I/O can turn the POD HD500X into a fully assignable MIDI controller, so you can use the foot switches and expression pedal to control all kinds of external hardware and software. One feature I really like on the POD HD500x is the USB port which allows you to connect to your computer for multi-channel, studio-quality recording with your favorite DAW software.

Functionality

The looping feature functions in the traditional way that a loop station functions so there is nothing really new there. You have a 48 second loop range and a dedicated foot switch just for that function. Also included is a tuner which is obvious and useful. Additionally you have an expression pedal (I called it a wah pedal in video but it’s essentially the same thing) which can control the parameters of a particular effect, act as a volume swell, or act like a wah-wah pedal. This is a rather simplified description of the pedal’s function because you can get real creative with how the pedal operates when controlling the internal effects of the POD HD500X.

The real functionality is the ability to assign your foot switches to the different sounds you construct. While you can use them to enable or bypass amps and effects or to select presets directly, you can also assign multiple amp and effects parameters to the expression pedal and morph between sounds. This allows you to control up to 52 parameters in real time. The freedom to assign your sounds to the different foot switches help to make this pedalboard fully customizable and very useful for the performing guitarist.

The last thing to mention about the POD HD500X’s general functionality is what this could be in your live rig and home studio. The I/O makes it very easy to connect to an amplifier or directly to a PA for a live gig in a multitude of different possibilities ranging from adding extra outboard effects to MIDI synchronization. The great thing about the POD HD500X is that the more knowledgeable and creative you are, the more you can get out of the features. If you are not those things, that’s ok because the POD HD500X is very easy to operate right out of the box. The point here being that as you grow as a performer, the POD HD500X grows with you by opening up more options for functionality as you acquire the knowledge to do so. In terms of what this means in your studio setup, the advantages should be obvious. But aside form the plethora of sounds available, there are also a lot of performance based techniques that you couldn’t otherwise achieve with a plugin. Like the expression pedal for instance. Also there is something to be said about the sound achieved from switching tones during a recorded guitar performance. It tends to add a little more punch and power to a guitar track. Also the tone achieved from a pedal board as opposed to a amplifier or FX guitar plugin can be a great tonal alternative if you are trying to achieve a particular sound.

Review

If you are a guitar player that has been looking for a solution to the overwhelming abundance of pedals and effects processors out there, at this point the Line 6 POD HD500X is one of the best options around. We played with nearly every sound on here but there was so much more we could have tried when considering all the ways you can mix and match the different options available on board. The real power here, and a point I have probably exhausted, is how versatile a pedalboard this is. It could feasibly be the last effects pedalboard you buy for a long time to come. One should also consider that the USB port opens up options for OS and sound bank updates in the future. I am not making any promises of that being a reality, but we can all hope can’t we?

It’s difficult to find fault with the POD HD500X. The expression pedal could have been a bit tighter in terms of control. It felt more like an expression pedal on a pedalboard than a wah pedal which is what most guitar players would be used to. The screen was a little too small for me but I am also pretty tall and found myself bending over to read some of the more detailed aspects of the menu functions.

I know a lot of guitar players who think Line 6 is a dirty word and I am sure some of you reading this will already write the POD HD500X off as another effects processor that you will never use. These tend to be the same people who look at other multi-effects processors as great but lash out at Line 6 for some stigma surrounding the way they were brought into guitar playing (or more likely because it’s cool to dislike Line 6). Line 6 have made some serious improvements to the POD line and I think it’s worth dropping any preconceived notions and giving the POD HD500X a try, if only to hear the sounds and how easy it is to tailor those sounds to your style. It’s got some great tones and will fit really well in your existing rig, or be the only FX rig you need for the stage and the studio.

If you need even more information like technical specs and pricing, head on over to UniqueSquared.com. We also have a great selection of Line 6 products if you are interested in their other gear.

SLAM!!

Transcript

The POD HD500X is a guitar, multi-effects processor from Line 6. Coming off of the POD HD500, the HD500X has additional DSP power, sturdy and well-built foot switches with LED lighting, and an improved look on the LCD screen.
One of the standout features on the HD500X is the extensive I/O available on the back. You have an input for a second pedal, your guitar line in and an input for a CD or MP3 player to jam along to your favorite tunes. You have a couple options for output. You have stereo unbalanced outputs. You also have Balanced stereo outputs via XLR. There is also an output for headphones and an auxiliary input. You also have a microphone input with it’s own mic level control and you have a stereo FX send and return I/O. Lastly you have a MIDI I/O, USB connection, and SPDIF output. If you own a Line 6 Variax guitar or other Line 6 gear, you can get full control over those via the Variax and L6 connections. At the top is an EQ section similar to an amplifier with controls for drive, bass, mid, treble, presence, volume, as well as your master output volume.
On the bottom is a control for engaging a tuner. You also have a pedal at the edge of the HD500X which can act like a traditional wah pedal or be used for volume control. The POD HD500X allows you to setup loops very easily. You have controls for rec and overdub as well as your play and stop controls. You can also have halve the speed and reverse the loop you record. Here is an example of how the looping feature works. The foot switches on the POD HD500X are what allow you to select the different parameters of each bank within the on-board processor. Switches A-D allow you to select the different presets within a specified bank. The switches above labeled FS1-FS4 allow you to engage and disengage the components of each preset. Here are some examples of the built in sounds and the names of each preset.
To learn more about the Line 6 POD HD500X be sure to visit the UniqueSquared blog linked in the description below the video. To pick up a POD HD500X for yourself head on over to the UniqueSquared website. You’re watching UniqueSquared.com