Line 6 M13 Stompbox Modeler Review
- Pros: Fifteen footswitches for hands-free control, 48 user-created scenes, effects to spare and up to four simultaneous stomps.
- Cons: Some minor issues with user interface, and not always enough variety in distortion models.
- Overall: Plenty of versatility, great additional features and ideal for gigging musicians.
The Line 6 M13 is the monolithic, monster sibling of the more compact M9 and M5 units. It’s packed with an almost excessive fifteen footswitches, four LCD display screens and 24 dials, but it’s a true beast at fifteen inches wide, almost a foot deep and ten pounds in weight. The huge unit also represents a huge investment, so does it really live up to expectations? The new POD range provides stiff competition, but the M13 still has plenty to offer effects-hungry axe-wielders.
Features, Glorious Features
There are plenty of cool features crammed into the M13, but the first thing you’ll notice is the layout. Twelve of the footswitches are proudly arranged into four columns, in essence representing four separate effects units. Each one has a dedicated LCD screen and six knobs to control the specific effects assigned and their varying parameters. You can assign three different effects to each of the three footswitches in any column, making twelve effects in total for the current “scene.” You can store up to 48 scenes in total, and you can access twelve of them without stooping over and messing with any dials. Simply press the “Scenes” footswitch and choose from the twelve pedals to the left to select a scene.
Although the effects selection is the same as for the M9 and M5, there are plenty of options to keep the majority of players happy. You have an extensive stompbox library at your feet, with 19 delays, 23 mods, 17 distortions, 12 compressors and EQs, 26 filters and 12 reverbs. Encompassed within these figures are models inspired by the Mu-Tron III envelope follower, the Boss Metal Zone distortion pedal, the Uni-Vibe, the Electro-Harmonix Memory Man and many more. Using the four columns, you can have up to four stomp-boxes running at the same time, and you have complete free reign to arrange them however you like. You can have a mind-bending four mods at the same time, for example, if you happen to be aiming to sound like Tom Morello locked in a guitar store twisted beyond all belief on LSD.
If you think you might get lost amidst the numerous pedals and display screens, Line 6 have color-coded everything so you can tell at a glance which type of effect you’re about to call up. There is no risk of stepping on a speaker-tearing distortion when you’re looking for a warm chorus. Delays are green, filters are purple, mods are blue, distortions are yellow and reverb is orange. Each pedal has a small light to tell you the type of effect which is assigned, and the dedicated LCD screen lights up the color of the currently active effect. It’s dimmer if the effect is currently bypassed.
Each of the four display screens is accompanied by six dials. The upper left of these always has the same function, to select a specific stompbox model. The remaining five change depending on which effect is currently selected, and allow you to alter its parameters. The specific assignments are displayed on the LCD screen, and match the layout of the five dials. Everything is saved automatically, so you don’t need to worry about losing your alterations. The dials are also separated from the footswitch area by rigid metallic bars so you don’t catch one with a drunken foot.
The M13 isn’t done there. It also comes equipped with full looping functionality, good for 28 seconds of mono looping. There are plenty of controls for the looper, as additional features in the lower two rows of pedals. Pressing the “Looper Controls” pedal on the far right of the central row of pedals activates the other controls. You then have a recording and overdubbing switch, one for playing and stopping, one for single playback and an undo/redo switch. If you want to get creative, you can play your loop at half speed or even reverse it. Plus, you can set the looping to come before or after the applied effects.
The back panel of the M13 is also well-stocked for connectivity. There are two jacks for expression pedals, a MIDI in or out, a stereo (or mono) FX loop and stereo output jacks. You also get to place the effects loop wherever you like in your chain, so you retain complete control over your sound.
What’s the Catch?
The features list of the M13 combines with its imposing size to paint itself as the true giant of stombox modelers, and this reputation pretty much holds firm. The ample footswitches and sturdy design of the unit make it perfect for live players, and the fact that you can digitally access up to twelve over-stocked pedalboards without as much as bending over is excellent. Plus, all you need to do is turn a dial if you do want to switch to another group of twelve scenes, so it’s not much of an issue between songs in a set. The color-coding system is also a gift from the gods of rock when you want to make on the fly effects changes.
Although the M13 dwarfs the smaller Line 6 units (and the majority of multi-effects pedals on the market) the display screens are actually pretty small. The color-coding system is actually essential if you don’t have time to stoop down to make changes, because otherwise you’d probably need a pair of opera binoculars mounted to your head to read the names. The displays can also be a bit reflective, though, which can drown out the color in some situations. If you want to adjust any parameters while you play without an expression pedal, you’ll need to remember which knob it is.
There are also the same problems with some of the models as on the M9 and M13. The distortions sound a little too similar in places, and some models, like the tube-screamer, are a little disappointing. The filter effects can also be a little difficult to keep under control, so you have to be careful about the sounds you combine them with.
To gain the maximum level of control over your sound, you will have to spend a little time with the manual. It isn’t a dense tome written by a shut-in with jargon spewing out of every orifice, so you’ll get your head around it quite quickly. In terms of basic functionality, anybody experienced with multi-effects pedals won’t really need to look at the manual at all. You can get some good sounds by just playing around with the clearly labeled footswitches and dials.
Overall, the M13 is a true beast of a multi-effects unit. It might be trumped for simultaneous effects by the Zoom G5, and lack the new POD series’ amp models, but if you’re looking for a self-contained digital pedalboard, it’s still a major contender. Live musicians benefit most from the domineering size, so more bedroom-based players might get enough hands-free control from the cheaper M9 or even the M5. For those of you looking for a reliable, sturdy gigging companion, the M13 sufficiently up-scales the various features of the smaller units. The extra features like the looper take the already appealing package and put a juicy cherry on top.