Comparing Line 6’s Multi-Effects Pedals (Updated 2018)
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 of 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 multi-effects pedal.
Line 6’s current top-of-the-line multi-effects pedals is called the Helix. The new HX modelling engine along with a crazy amount of I/O & routing capabilities places this pedal as the ‘premium’ option for guitarists. 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.
There are currently three physical options and one digital option in the Helix range to suit different needs (links to Amazon for price and full features):
- Helix Floor: this is a feature-packed floor multi-effects unit.
- Helix Rack: this model takes the floor unit and mounts it on a rack. It’s available with an optional foot controller called Helix Control)
- Helix LT: think of this floor multi-effects unit as a light version of the Helix Floor
- Helix Native: this is a digital plugin to use in DAWs and comes in AAX, AU, and VST3 formats
Most guitarists probably know out of the four options which one is likely to suit them just from the short description. If you’re not sure, think about what you want from a multi-effects unit and where you’ll be using it.
The above models were created for different needs and while there’s some overlap in what each of the above models can do, each has its own best-uses.
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.
If you feel that the Helix suits you, your next decision is which model. If you’re after a regular floor multi-effects unit, your choice should be between the Helix Floor and Helix LT. The model you choose will likely come down to your budget and which features you want to have.
If you’re a serious recording guitarist, the Helix Rack or Helix Native may suit you better. The Native gives you everything in software, so the main choice is whether you want hardware or not. You are able to connect a floor controller to the Helix Rack, so if you also tour, you may find it suits your needs more than a software-only version.
Any presets you create in Helix Native can be transferred to any Helix hardware, so you may decide to get Native as well as a hardware version for performances.
The Helix rack is the most expensive option in the Helix range and if you want to add a floor controller, the cost will skyrocket. My guess is for most guitarists, the Helix Floor will be the best choice.
Who the Helix won’t suit:
Many guitarists won’t need the level of features the Helix offers. The other below 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.
If you already have a few pedals in your rig, a full Helix floor processor is likely to be overkill. You may find you can get everything you want by adding one of the below options to your rig.
For example, if you’re looking for some high-quality effects to add to your rig, the HX Effects or HX Stomp may suit you better (covered below). You’ll get the same quality effects as a full Helix unit, in a compact pedal.
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.
Check out the Line 6 Helix here for information on price and other details.
The HX Effects takes the excellent quality effects from the Helix range and places them in a smaller pedal. Think of the HX Effects as an upgraded version of the M series (covered later).
If you like the idea of adding a wide range of high-quality effects to your rig but don’t need the extensive I/O capabilities of the Helix, then the HX Effects may suit you. It’s significantly cheaper than the full Helix Floor, while still giving you plenty of access to effects.
Who the HX Effects might suit:
The HX Effects suits guitarists wanting to have access to a wide range of high-quality effects, without needing to buy a full multi-effects floorboard. If you already have some pedals in your rig and you want to supplement those pedals with more effects, this is a great option.
Who the HX Effects won’t suit:
Think of the HX Effects as a way to set up and access a full rig of stompboxes at any time. That’s great for some guitarists, but that might not suit your needs. For example, if you want to use amp modelling or have one pedalboard for your entire rig, the HX Effects isn’t the best choice.
The HX Effects shines when it’s used to supplement your rig. If you want a multi-effects pedal to take control over your entire rig, there are better options as covered below. While you may not get the high-quality effects found in the Helix or HX range, they may suit your needs better.
If you like the idea of having a multi-effects pedal focusing on stompbox effects and you feel the HX Effects is out of your price range, check out the HX Stomp or the older M series.
Check out the HX Effects here for the current price and full details.
The HX Stomp gives you access to the high-quality effects from the Helix range and provides it in a compact pedal. This tiny pedal packs in a lot of features such as amp models, impulse responses, MIDI control, and more.
HX Stomp is incredibly flexible. You can use it as a simple way to add effects to your rig or you can do anything all the way up to control your entire rig. While there’s still a big difference between using a full floorboard such as the Helix and using this tiny pedal, it gives you a surprising amount of flexibility.
Who the HX Stomp might suit:
What impresses me with the HX Stomp is how many features are crammed into such a small pedal. You could buy this pedal today to add a few effects to your rig. Then in two years’ time, if you want to experiment with impulse responses, your HX Stomp will be ready to go. If you decide to experiment with the 4 Cable Method, the HX Stomp can do it.
You can do many of the things a full floorboard can do but in a tiny unit. This makes it a great addition to any guitarist’s pedalboard. If you want to add something to your rig but don’t want to use up much pedalboard space, then the HX Stomp is worth considering.
Who the HX Stomp might suit:
While the HX Stomp is incredibly flexible, it does have limitations. With only three footswitches, it’s not going to give you the same level of control during live performances that you would get from any other full floorboard.
Most of the full floorboards in this guide have 12 footswitches to allow you to switch between presets, turn individual effects on/off at any time, and more. If you’re a live performer, you may prefer a larger unit that gives you more on-the-fly control.
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 multi-effects 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.
While the HD series may not be at the same level in terms of quality as the Helix range, it does come at a far lower cost. They’re older units so you’re able to buy new or second-hand models for significantly lower prices than a Helix. If you don’t need the top-of-the-line features found in the Helix, the HD500X is the next best choice.
Who the HD series doesn’t suit:
If you want the best quality effects possible, one of the Helix pedals may suit you better. It comes at a higher cost, but you’ll get the best quality effects coming out of Line 6.
If you want something simpler to use or you don’t need the flexibility found in the HD500X or the Helix, you may find the AMPLiFi or Firehawk pedals suit your needs better. They’re simpler pedals with different needs in mind.
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 as a set of stompboxes. The four columns you can see above in the M13 photo act like four stompbox 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 an 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 an 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. So while many of the effects sound great, other effects such as the drive effects may not compare well to newer pedals such as the HX Effects or HX Stomp. If you’re willing to spend more, you may find either the HX Effects or HX Stomp to suit you better than an M series pedal.
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 to 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. You would be better off with a Helix or HD500X for live performances.
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 a high-quality tone for live use, the Helix or 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.
Find out more about the AMPLiFi FX100 here including reviews and price.
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.
The main reason to consider the FX100 over a higher quality pedal such as the Helix or HD500X is the smartphone connectivity. If you like the idea of setting up your presets on your smartphone instead of on the actual pedal, this is a solid option.
While other pedals such as the Helix or HD500X have PC/Mac editors, it’s very different than connecting your smartphone via Bluetooth for some instant editing.
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, price, 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 into the HX Effects or HX Stomp (or the older M series).
If you want more control over your tone and you play live as well as at home, the Helix or HD series will likely meet your needs.
Finally, if you want the best available and don’t care about cost, one of the Helix models will give you the best results.
This guide only compared Line 6’s multi-effects 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 have 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 of 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.