Line 6 M9 Stompbox Modeler Review
- Pros: A multitude of effects, well-modelled and sturdily constructed. The M13 but cheaper; trimmed down without losing much functionality.
- Cons: Limited to three effects at once, some sub-par sounds and the system isn’t easy to navigate at first.
- Overall: Perfect for players who want the effects capability of the M13 without breaking the bank.
The days of lugging around bulky pedalboards stuffed with individual stompboxes could well be numbered. As multi-effects units get more and more powerful, behemoth devices like the Line 6 M13 offer 109 different stompboxes with 15 footswitches to operate them. The only problems with the M13 (in a practical, real-world sense) are the cost and the mammoth size, so Line 6 released the M9, a smaller version of the same unit. They’ve crammed the same 109 effects into it and it still has a fairly formidable seven foot-switches on board, and its reduced price-tag makes it more appealing to less serious players.
Bucket-Loads of Features
There are more than 100 effects on the M9, so the well-built unit is effectively stuffed with a stock-pile of stompboxes. There are 19 delays, 23 mods (like chorus, phasers and flangers), 17 distortions, 12 EQs and compressors, 26 filters and 12 reverbs. In short, if you’re a guitarist looking for any common type of effect, you’ll have several options on the M9. You can adjust the parameters of the effects, which is handled intuitively using five of the six dials found beneath the display. You can combine any three of these effects at any time, which is ample for most circumstances but falls short of the four simultaneous effects possible on the M13. They’re all colour-coded to match Line 6’s stompboxes, so you’ll always know which type of effect you’re dealing with.
The specific effects included are modelled on famous sounds and iconic stompboxes. Many Line 6 classics make an appearance, including the DL4 Delay Modeller, the FM4 Filter Modeller and the Echo Pro. You can generate any sound from an 80s-style stereo delay laden uber-solo to a reality-bending ring modulation, so there is plenty to play with. Classic pedals from other manufacturers inspire some of the effects too, such as the MXR Flanger and the Ibanez Tube Screamer.
Six of the seven footswitches on the M9 are assigned to a specific effect, they operate in three columns. You can combine FX loaded onto different columns, but not the “A” and “B” effects of any one column. The collection of six specific effects is referred to as a “Scene,” and the M9 comes with spaces for a total of 24 scenes. Six are accessible through the pedals, and the rest can be accessed by loading up a different six-scene folder. In practice, this means you have 24 pedalboards in one unit, and you can choose six effects you’re likely to use together for each one. You could have a Hendrix scene, a blues scene, one for ear-splitting metal or anything you want. The scenes give you the ability to combine effects to suit your various playing styles.
The icing on the cake is the looping function, which transforms the M9 from “just” a well-stocked effects pedal into a songwriting companion and a canvas for free-form bedroom rocking. By stacking recordings on top of each other on successive loops, you create a complex, layered sound without having to make a pilgrimage to a dingy practice room or master a DAW. You have 28 seconds to play with, which pales in comparison to dedicated loopers but makes a valuable addition to a multi-effects unit. The six footswitches become looper controls when you change mode, with a pedal for recording and overdubbing, one for playing and stopping, one for a single playback, an undo/redo pedal, one to slow your loop down and one to play it backwards. This makes the M9 superior to even the newer POD HD300 and 400 models when it comes to looping.
For connectivity, the M9 has a wide range of inputs and outputs. There are 1/4 inch mono/stereo inputs and outputs, as well as a couple reserved for expression pedals. You can also connect to a MIDI setup with the M9, and it comes with input and output ports. The only thing it’s really missing is MIDI USB connectivity, but you can solve that issue by buying a converter cable.
How it Measures Up
The Line 6 M9 offers a lot of the same features as the larger M13, and in a more affordable, smaller package. Although the M13 does allow you to add an extra effect into the mix, realistically a combination of three effects is more than enough for most players. Aside from that, the larger unit only really provides an extra pedal to control the relationship between the effects and the loop recording and jacks for an effects loop that you don’t get on the M9. There may be many more footswitches and dials, but for some players the level of hands-free control on the M13 isn’t really needed. It makes things much easier if you’re going to be gigging extensively or you absolutely need to seamlessly change between numerous effects, but otherwise it isn’t really needed.
It has the same rugged, gig-ready design as its bigger brother, but the M9 weighs seven pounds less. When you compare the M13 to a pedalboard, the ten pound weight isn’t really an issue, but the M9 is actually comfortably portable. If you need to be a bit more economical with your gear, or simply don’t want to lug around a monster pedal, it’s a much better option. There is so little sacrificed in terms of sound and functionality that many players can take the M9 over the M13 without really missing out.
There are some problems with it, though. Some of the effects, as you may expect, aren’t that great. The Tube Screamer doesn’t quite hit the mark, and many of the high-gain effects don’t have enough to differentiate them. The pedals are also quite small, which allows you to press two simultaneously (required for some operations) but also means you can catch two accidentally. You can be accurate when you’re at home, but when you’re playing live things can get a bit more difficult (particularly after a few beers). The screen is also pretty small, so you can only see the most recent effect you selected when you’re playing, and even then it isn’t easy.
The M9 does an exceptional job of getting the functionality of the M13 into a more portable package, and its affordability makes it a great option for players limited in terms of budget. It can still be used live, and although there are some minor issues the pedal is hard to fault as a whole. It’s intuitive, durable, versatile, portable and customizable. You can turn the M9 into essentially whatever you want it to be, and it still has marked advantages over some of the newer units in that respect.