Comparing Line 6’s Multi-Effects Pedals
I’ve reviewed quite a few Line 6 products as many of my students buy them (as well as myself). In this brief guide I will go through the main multi-effects product ranges Line 6 currently offer and give you a quick overview on each one. You will then be able to decide which product range to read more on and whether a product is right for you or not.
Of course you should compare Line 6’s products to other brands and options. The purpose of this guide is to explain the main differences between the many different pedals Line 6 offer and give you a starting point when looking for a new multi-effects pedal.
You won’t see me claiming I’ve found the ‘best multi-effects pedal’ like so many other websites claim because there is no one best pedal. Each pedal suits different people. Check out the following options and you might find the one that suits you best.
Once you find a multi-effects pedal that suits you, you’re going to find you have instant access to an overwhelming range of guitar effects. The more you understand about guitar effects, the better control you’ll have over them. The Guitar Effects Course available here covers all common types of guitar effects, how they work, how to control them and how to position them for the best sound. This course is ideal if you want to learn how to set up your own presets with any multieffects pedal. Check out the course here for more details.
POD HD Series
The POD HD series has a few options: HD300, HD400, HD500 & the newest HD500X. My review of the POD HD500X covers the newest pedal in the POD HD range in detail.
The POD HD series is a multieffects pedal with ‘HD’ amps and effects. The HD series is an upgrade from the earlier POD X3 & XT that were so popular. Compared to many of the pedals below, the HD series offers superior amp models and effects.
Who the HD series suits:
If you’re looking for an all-in-one pedal (eg: effects, amp simulation, expression pedal, effect banks, etc.) to take to gigs or use at home for playing and recording, the HD series is an excellent line to research. You have a lot of control over your tones and presets – more control than many of the below options. A lot of guitarists prefer using the HD series pedals for live use as you have a lot of flexibility in outputs (eg: direct to mixer, to amp, amp simulation, etc.).
If you have a Variax guitar, the HD500X will suit you as you can control your guitar via the pedal and vice versa.
Who the HD series doesn’t suit:
There is a bit of a learning curve to setting up your presets here compared to other options. If you don’t like the idea of editing presets on a screen or your PC, have a look at some of the other options below. If you’re looking for a basic pedal to play around with at home, the HD series might be overkill. There are other options which are easier to use which may suit home guitarists better.
Read my review on the HD500X for more information and to help you choose between different options in the HD series.
The M series is the oldest product line in this guide – but it’s still a very popular range. There are three different options in this range: M13, M9 & M5.
The M series is designed to act like a set of stompboxes. The four columns you can see above in the M13 photo act like four stomp box pedals chained together. Each screen controls each stompbox. The three rows allow you to switch between different stompboxes in that slot. This is a very different type of multi-effects pedal compared to the HD series as it focuses on stompboxes rather than presets.
Who the M series suits:
If you like the idea of having a range of different effects available but don’t like the idea of having a lot of stompboxes, the M series is worth considering. Many guitarists have streamlined their pedalboards by using the M series pedals as a way to access a wide range of effects for live or home use. For example let’s say there’s one song in your live setlist that uses a Uni-Vibe style effect. Instead of buying a Uni-Vibe pedal for that one song, you can simply call up the effect on a M series pedal.
If you like your amp tone and only need to add in some stompbox style effects, the M series would suit you.
Who the M series doesn’t suit:
Compared to the HD series, the M series doesn’t offer an all-in-one solution. So if you want to chain your effects together, use amp modeling or run your rig directly to a PA, the M series isn’t the best choice. It’s also not a good choice if you don’t like the stompbox style layout. While many guitarists do use a M series pedal for gigs, in many situations the HD series will be a better choice. It simply depends what type of multi-effects pedal you prefer to use.
Also, if you’re looking for the best quality tone, keep in mind the M series uses older technology compared to the HD series. So while many of the effects sound great, other effects such as the drive effects may not compare well to newer pedals.
Find out more on the M series by reading my review of the M13.
The AMPLiFi FX100 came out shortly after Line 6 released their AMPLiFi amps. You can read my review of the AMPLiFi 75 here to find out about the amp. The FX100 basically takes the electronics out of the AMPLiFi amp and places it on to a pedalboard. The whole idea behind the FX100 is that you can connect to either an amp or hi fi system at home and use your smartphone to edit your presets. The focus is on making this pedal easy to use at home for the casual player.
As you can see from the photo above, there are minimal knobs, footswitches and screens when compared to the HD series. That’s because you need to use your smartphone to set up your effects and presets. The free iOS or Android app gives you complete flexibility over how you use your pedal. You can even stream your music from your phone/tablet to the pedal so you can jam along with any tracks you have in your music library.
Who the AMPLiFi FX100 suits:
If you want something simple to use at home at an affordable price, this is a great option. A casual player can jam along with tracks, easily download presets that match songs in their music library and edit effects quickly and easily without having to touch the pedal. While it could be used for live purposes, it’s not the best option. If you don’t have an amp or you already have a hi fi system at home, this is a great way to play guitar without the need for an amp.
Who the AMPLiFi FX100 doesn’t suit:
If you don’t like the idea of using a smartphone or tablet to edit your presets, this isn’t for you. If you’re looking for high quality tone for live use, the HD series will be better as the FX100 uses older modelling technology. If you like the idea of the FX100 but want more features and better quality, the Firehawk FX will be a better choice.
If you have a Variax guitar, the FX100 isn’t suitable for you.
The Firehawk FX pedal is basically an advanced version of the AMPLiFi FX100 mixed with the HD series. It uses HD models from the HD series and combines it with the smartphone editing capability of the FX100. The multi-color footswitch indicators is an idea taken from the M series and can be surprisingly useful.
Who the Firehawk FX suits:
If you want a more advanced version of the AMPLiFi FX100, then the Firehawk is a good choice. You will have iOS or Android editing capabilities along with other features such as Variax support, more presets and banks, FX send and return and the ability to connect a second expression pedal.
Who the Firehawk FX doesn’t suit:
As this pedal also relies on smartphones (or PC/Mac) to set up your tones and presets, if you don’t like that idea, this won’t be for you. I haven’t heard of many guitarists using this for live performances and while it could work, you won’t be able to simply bend over and adjust an effect or preset if you need to.Check out the Firehawk FX here for more information and reviews
Line 6’s top-of-the-line Helix is the first of a new generation of multi-effects units (no doubt there will be additional models in the future). The new HX modelling engine along with a crazy amount of I/O & routing capabilities places this pedal as the ‘premium’ option for guitarists. It is available in a pedal form or rack unit (with optional foot controller). If you’re familiar with Fractal Audio’s highly praised Axe-Fx, the Helix is positioned to compete with it in terms of features and sound quality.
If you look at the other options and feel they don’t have enough flexibility, quality or features, then the chances are the Helix will have what you’re looking for. But keep in mind that this is a premium product, so the price really is a step above all other Line 6 options.
Unfortunately I haven’t yet managed to get my hands on a Helix to give a review, so here are my initial thoughts on who the Helix may or may not suit:
Who the Helix might suit:
If you want the top of the range multi-effects and don’t care about the cost, the Helix is the one to go for. It’s highly unlikely anything else will be coming out in the near future that comes close to the quality of the Helix. Of course you should also compare it to Fractal Audio’s Axe-Fx II to see which one will suit you best.
Who the Helix won’t suit:
Most guitarists won’t need the level of features the Helix offers. The other above pedals all suit a wide range of guitarists and do a great job at an affordable cost. The Helix will no doubt have superior features and quality, but it comes at a massive cost. Paying $500 vs $1500+ is a big difference – especially if you don’t really need the extra features the Helix offers.
While I’d love to give a thorough review on the Helix, it’s way out of my price range. So check out the Amazon listing above for more details and reviews.
There is no one best pedal and the right pedal for you depends on what features you want to have.
If you’re a casual player and want a simple pedal to use at home, then the AMPLiFi FX100 is a good choice. If you like the idea of using your smartphone/tablet to edit your presets but want more features and better quality than the AMPLiFi FX100, then the Firehawk FX is suitable.
If you want to supplement your existing rig with various stompbox effects, look in to the M series. If you want more control over your tone and play live as well as at home, the HD series will likely meet your needs. Finally, if you want the best available and don’t care about cost, look into the Helix when it comes out.
This guide only compared Line 6’s multieffects pedals against each other and you should also look at what other brands offer. Some people love Line 6’s gear and others don’t so instead of letting other people’s personal opinions sway you, think about what you want and what features appeal to you.
The good news is that when you buy a new pedal today, the chances are you will end up with a fantastic sounding piece of gear. Technology and competition has dramatically improved the quality of pedals so the problems people had 5 or 10 years ago are almost non-existent today. Check out my reviews for specific pedals and check out reviews on Amazon to get a better idea how guitarists are using pedals today.
If you want to learn more about the guitar effects built into these pedals, check out the Guitar Effects Course available here.