Line 6 M5 Stompbox Modeler Review
- Pros: A great addition to your existing pedalboard for rarely used effects. Myriad effects but still affordable.
- Cons: Only one effect at a time. Extremely difficult to use in live situations.
- Overall: An affordable alternative to the more densely-packed and therefore expensive models put out by Line 6.
Line 6 spoils us a little with their M-series multi-effects pedals. We expect basically everything, and the M13 is the epitome of this approach. You can combine any four of 109 effects at will, and you have 15 footswitches to play with. The M9 is smaller, boasting seven foot-switches and the same number of effects. The M5, the baby of the family, is the size of a fat stompbox (a similar size to a Big Muff) and still packs in the same catalogue of effects. However, you have just two pedals to use and can only apply one effect at a time. But don’t write it off straight away; this pedal can still add something to your setup.
A Well-Stuffed Small Package
The Line 6 M5 might be tiny in comparison to the M13, but you still get all 109 effects you get on the goliath unit. These are split into delays, modulations, distortions, compressors and EQs, filters and reverbs. Each of these categories contains a cornucopia of specific stomp-box sounds, based on vintage and iconic pedals, as well as several which are based on Line 6 models of pedal. You can find the same effects as on the DL4 Delay Modulator, for example. It’s a cavalcade of famous and sought-after tones, and it’s all contained within one small box.
You can browse the entire catalogue of sounds using the dial up in the top left corner of the unit, and you have 24 lots to save your favourite creations in as presets. Pushing the dial in switches between types of effect, and turning it scrolls through the available options. When you’ve set up your presets, you can change between them hands-free. There are 24 factory presets programmed in when you first get the M5, but you can make them your own to customize your pedal.
The two pedals on the front of the M5 serve as up and down arrows when you’re scrolling through presets. You simply tap both of them together to change into preset mode. Most of the time, the pedals are used to activate or deactivate the currently selected effect and to set modulation and delay effects up so they’re in time with your playing. You tap the tempo out on the right pedal and activate the effects with the left.
The remaining five dials found underneath the display are used to adjust their corresponding parameters. This gives you the chance to adjust your effects to suit your tastes. If you want a faster decay on your echo or different frequencies affected by your filter, these dials are all you need.
The Line 6 M5 comes with 1/4 inch stereo inputs and outputs, a slot for an expression pedal and five-pin MIDI input and output jacks. The expression pedal allows you more control over specific parameters of an effect. This can be used to create some cool effects, but require you to spend a bit of extra money on an extra pedal.
Line 6 M5 Photos
Why Would You Get the M5 Over the M9?
It’s extremely tempting to think about the Line 6 M5 in comparison with the other pedals in the same series. The lack of simultaneous effects on the M5 would be enough to relegate the pedal in the eyes of many people looking for a multi-effects unit. Combining your sounds allows you to create more complex tonal effects, and opens up a whole world of cross-breed FX fun. However, it isn’t everything. Most people have invested in one or two stomp-boxes in the past, and to combine the effects they’re normally used in a chain.
The Line 6 M5 isn’t designed to be a pedalboard-in-itself like its bigger brothers; it’s more like a stomp-box with multiple personality disorder. It’s a chameleon, assuming whichever role you need it to take on at a moment’s notice. It is supposed to become a part of your collection, not make it obsolete. It’s mainly useful for those one-off effects that you’d rarely call-upon but you’d love to have all the same. For the price of just one of those impulse-buy stompboxes, you get 109 different effects. For some players it would even be worth it for the different distortion options or the selection of delays alone.
There are obviously limitations to the pedal because of its size. There is no looper, and you have to stack your presets in order if you want to change between them efficiently. These features are addressed more and more efficiently the bigger you go in the M series, which means that the M5 is the worst in some ways. There is less potential for live use because of the difficulty changing presets (or stooping over to turn a dial), and if it could be incorporated you’d probably still need a pedalboard anyway.
However, the M5 is much cheaper than the other models, so it’s more suitable for casual players and people who aren’t looking for a big investment. It’s true that not all the effects sound like the ones they’re supposed to be modelling, that the MIDI ports aren’t USB, and that you can only play a measly one effect at any one time, but it doesn’t matter as much because of the reduced cost. For the price of a one-function stompbox, you can get 109 one-function stompboxes in a portable package. Albeit you have to scroll through the options to find one at random, but after a while you’ll have built up 24 core effects to serve as presets.
Line 6 doesn’t hold much back on the M5. There aren’t as many options for serious players looking for a powerful multi-effects unit, but those with a more relaxed approach can have a lot of fun at less expense. It can be the crown jewel of your pedalboard, your reliable chameleon or just something you use to make weird noises. If you’re looking for a true workhorse, the bigger models are preferable, but for something affordable and versatile, the M5 is an excellent choice.