Line 6 Pod HD500X Review
POD HD500X Features
There’s a long list of features available with the Line 6 POD HD500X so I’ll focus on the main features I found useful and what you may have a real use for. Check out the complete list of features and specifications of the HD500X here.
Crazy amount of amps & effects – so far there are 100+ studio and stomp effects and just over 30 amps available on the HD500X. Up to eight effects can be used simultaneously which is an improvement from the original POD HD500. Of course, on top of this, you can also select different speaker cabinets, mic options and other tweaks to get the tone you’re after.
PC editor – while you could program all your tones and presets using the controls on the actual unit, it’s a bit tedious when compared to the PC editor. I spent most of my time creating and saving presets on the PC then fine tuning the presets using the unit’s controls when I was away from the PC. The software is simple to set up (especially if you already have other Line 6 software) and understand. The amount of control you have over every aspect of your tone is astounding (or overwhelming if this is your first multi-effects pedal!).
Audio interface – A USB cable connects your unit to your PC which means you can use it with any DAW for home recording as an audio interface. Line 6 are well known for their excellent home recording products so if you do not already have an audio interface, the HD500X removes the need for you to get one.
Integration with other Line 6 gear – the unit includes an input for a Variax guitar, pairs perfectly with a DT amp or StageSource speaker. Line 6’s promote their ‘Dream Rig’ which includes a mix of three of these components. The idea is that you can have complete flexibility in your tone from the guitar all the way to the speaker. This means if you already have one of the other components such as a Variax or DT amp, the HD500X would be an excellent addition. The HD500X can control a DT amp to ensure that the speaker matches the tone you set up. Using a full range speaker such as the StageSource L2m will allow you to make the most of any acoustic or vocal input you include and provides the best overall flexibility.
Looper – The unit has a very simple looper that allows you to record up to 48 seconds (more than enough time). The looper can record the signal wet or dry and has extra functions such as half playback speed, reverse, and layering. When you consider that some looper pedals cost $100s just for this ability, it’s a great feature to include in the HD500X and one you will use regularly when jamming or songwriting.
Input/Output – A quick look at the back of the unit reveals how flexible it can be. Apart from standard guitar input and output, you can connect mics, balanced and unbalanced outputs, headphones, Variax, FX return loop, MIDI, S/PDIF output, ‘L6 Link’ and an extra expression pedal input. I’ll just say that it should have everything you need in terms of input or output.
4 Cable Method – The HD500X works extremely well with the 4 Cable Method. Using the 4 Cable Method allows you to get the most out of your amp as well as the effects & preamps available on the pedal. Read this guide to the 4 Cable Method for step-by-step instructions on how to use it with the HD500X.
Ease of use
There are so many different ways to use this unit and so many different settings that it can feel overwhelming if you’re not used to programming multi-effect pedals. The PC software editor and patch library make all the difference. Without it, using little screen and controls can be a bit confusing and frustrating. While it’s definitely possible to do everything without connecting to a computer, it’s a bit tedious. With the software, you simply scroll through the amps and effects by name or by images and simply click the units you want to add to your signal chain. There is a very small learning curve thanks to the layout of the software.
Once your presets are all set up, it’s extremely simple to use the unit while playing. The footswitches can be programmed to turn on/off different components (eg: stomp box, amp channel, etc) and can even control multiple settings. If you have a James Tyler Variax you can even program the unit to change your tuning or guitar model whenever you change between presets. This means you can set up presets for a song in Drop-D, then in another bank set up presets for the next song in your setlist in standard tuning.
Being able to change tunings or guitar models with a single footswitch works so well. If you have a pre-James Tyler Variax (eg: Variax 600), you can still use the unit to control your Variax, only not as easily as a James Tyler Variax (eg: you cannot directly control the tuning – only change between your saved Variax presets).
With any multi-effects pedal, you shouldn’t judge the quality of the sound based on the factory installed presets. These presets are created to showcase different features and normally show what the unit is really capable of. I found many of the factory presets useful while others sounded pretty plain. With the software, you can easily change different amps and effects and instantly hear the results so it doesn’t take long to achieve great sounds.
I will mention that at first, I was not happy with the sounds the unit was producing. They all sounded muddy and digitized. At high volume, they sounded oddly distorted. Eventually, I found out that you need to select within each tone what type of output you are using (eg: amp, stereo, PA, etc). My unit was connected to a guitar amp and as it turns out my tones were set on direct line which meant the unit was modelling a cabinet instead of providing a non-speaker-modeled sound to my guitar amp. This is why sometimes people get frustrated with the entire modelling world. Sometimes you don’t want to model everything. Once I selected (in a hard to find menu option) that my output would be going to a guitar amp, the patches instantly became usable.
The power of the HD500X really comes to life when you create a parallel chain. This allows you to model two guitar amps at the same time. The extra power behind the HD500X means you are less likely to hit any DSP limit compared to the previous HD500 – in English, this means you won’t have any problems when creating sounds. Once you have tweaked your sound the way you like it, the sound is amazing. Compared to previous Line 6 products, you can definitely hear why they use the ‘HD’ label. The tones are clear and extremely high quality. Of course, technology is always improving and future models will sound better, but the quality of the HD500X is outstanding – once you learn how to set tones up properly.
To sum up the sound this unit creates: authentic. Modelling technology has finally reached the point where it stops sounding digitized and starts to become realistic.
The sounds from the HD500X are the best sounds I’ve ever heard from a multi-effects unit to date
Connecting the HD500X to a full range speaker is amazing – especially when playing acoustic tones or processing other instruments. Most semi-professional guitarists wouldn’t be able to achieve the same quality sounds by recordings actual amps and mics. So if you’re looking at doing some home recording, keep this in mind because it will take a lot of work and money to achieve this quality with any other gear.
The HD500X has an impressive construction and looks like it would hold up well for any gig situation. Every aspect feels well made and apart from a few plastic knobs – which are safely hidden behind a metal bar, everything feels sturdy. This is only a fairly new unit so it will take a while to find out whether people experience any problems with it but based on the HD500 which came out in 2010, the HD500X should be fine and last a long time.
Check out the current price, features, and more details of the HD500X here on Amazon.
- Massive range of effects, amps and settings
- Amazing quality sound whether sent to a guitar amp or a PA
- Great software makes editing presets extremely simple
- Durable construction
- Makes an excellent companion to a Variax guitar, DT amp or SoundStage speaker
- Can be overwhelming to people not used to tweaking sounds or modelling gear
- Output setting (eg: guitar amp, PA) can create horrible sounds if set wrong
Who is it for?
Intermediate guitarists – if you’re getting to the point where you want to start experimenting with different effects and start to tweak your own tones, this is an excellent option as you will have everything you could need. The looper provides an excellent way to jam with yourself, practice harmonies or work on song ideas.
Performing musicians – whether you’re an acoustic solo artist or play in a band, this unit could be easily used in so many different ways. While many guitarists would never consider gigging without an actual amp, this unit actually makes it achievable. Otherwise going to band practice without having to lug around cabinets is a sure win. If you gig with a Variax, the HD500X is an easy choice (unless you already have the HD500).
Home recording – if you don’t already have an audio interface for home recording, this is an excellent option. Or if you have an old interface and are looking at an upgrade, this would be a sensible choice. Not only will it provide you with high-quality input, but you can use the modelling to craft the right tones for your songs. Of course, you could record a dry signal and use other software such as Guitar Rig to process your tone, but the Line 6 software does a great job on its own.
Variax owners – if you have any type of Variax, the HD500X pairs perfectly with it. The unit can power the Variax which means you won’t need to worry about batteries or external power sources. Simply plug the Variax directly into the unit using the Variax’s digital cable and it will power and control the guitar. The extra benefit is now you can use the HD500X to edit your Variax patches on Workbench by simply connecting the HD500X to your PC using USB.
Who isn’t it for?
HD500 owners – if you already have a HD500, this upgrade is minor and won’t be worth the money. The only real difference is the CPU inside the unit which means all the features are basically the same. Line 6 have stated that they will continue to provide updates to the HD500 so don’t feel like Line 6 will stop supporting the HD500 now that this new unit is available.
People who only need basic sounds – needless to say if you like the sound of a guitar in an amp without any other effects, this unit isn’t for you. Although the HD500X can easily create a lot of simple sounds, it seems bit of a waste to use the unit as a way to change from clean to distortion then back again.
How to get the most out of the HD500X
If you purchase an HD500X, here’s what I recommend for you to get the most out of it:
- Start by jamming with all the factory presets to get an overall idea of the different types of tones possible with the unit
- Connect it to your PC/Mac and install the preset editor
- Start with one of the factory presets and start tweaking the tone, adding and removing effects and changing amps
- Create a new preset in the user banks
- Create a very simple tone only using an amp with no effects
- Work on it until you achieve a great sounding tone
- Add a single stomp effect to the chain and tweak it until it sounds great
- Continue adding and removing effects and learn what sounds good and what doesn’t
- Try creating a parallel chain with two different amps
- Experiment with different foot-switch controls and expression pedal programming
- Use the 4 Cable Method to get the best quality sound
The goal here is to learn how to achieve a great sound so any future presets you create always start with the right basics.
Guitar Effects Course
To really get the most out of your HD500X, take the time to learn about the effects built into the pedal. 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 the HD500X. Check out the course here for more details.
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