Line 6 POD HD400 Multi-Effects Pedal Review
- Pros: Over 100 FX, 16 high-definition amp models and additional footswitches for navigation when playing live.
- Cons: Suffers from some minor issues which limit the ability to edit sounds on-the-fly and combine different effects.
- Overall: A great, affordable all-round multi-effects unit. Excellent value considering the number of effects and models included.
- Amazon: Line 6 POD HD 400
If Goldilocks were to choose a Line 6 POD HD series pedal, she would undoubtedly moan about the abundance of pedal switches and the sheer mass of the HD500 and whine about the relative daintiness of the HD300. The HD400 falls right in the middle, the Goldilocks-zone for multi-effects pedals. In terms of price, size and functionality, it aims to strike a balance to suit players who play live, but don’t have the bankroll to splurge on the HD500. Getting this right could make the HD400 the most popular pedal in the series, even if it will always ultimately have to defer to the functional might of the deluxe model.
The main selling-point of the POD HD400 (and the entire series) is the “HD” modelling technology Line 6 has used to capture the sounds of iconic amplifiers. Line 6 pioneered amp modelling, but they re-wrote their own rule book when they started on the HD series. They claim it provides a whopping ten times as much precision as their previous models, but in truth the effect isn’t as drastic as you might imagine. It approaches new levels of realism, but you’re hardly going to throw out your vintage tube amp if you’re really serious about an authentic tone.
A Cornucopia of Features
Line 6 whittled down a list of hundreds of amplifiers to just sixteen pristine models for their HD series. This list includes the Fender Twin Reverb, the Marshall JCM-800, the Supro S6616, the Vox AC-15, the Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier and the Fender Blackface Double Reverb. You also get firmware updates with your HD400, so you periodically get new models. The last update included the “Vibrato” channel of the Fender Twin Reverb, a few other additional channels and a new model of the Line 6 Elektrik. These can all be controlled using familiar parameters like “Drive,” “Bass,” “Mid,” “Treble” and “Channel Volume.”
There are also over 100 “M-Class” effects models on the unit. These are stomp-box style effects, popularized by the M9 and M13 Line 6 pedals, and the HD400 has enough of them to keep you busy for a long time. It actually has the same number of effects as the high-end HD500, so nothing is held back (unlike on the HD300). These are split into three groups on the pedal itself, “FX1,” “2” and “3.” You can combine amps and effects on 128 user presets, and there are 256 factory prepared models for you to choose from. The HD400 also comes with PC editor software which can be used to subtly tweak the effects and store unlimited presets.
One of the best additional features included on the HD series is the looping functionality. On the HD400 you can record and overdub up to 24 seconds of your playing, building up a full-band feel with layers and layers of recordings. The bulk of the looping is done by two pedals, one of which is used to record and overdub, with the other for playing and stopping. Why Line 6 felt the need to break the “Rec/Play/Overdub” convention for loopers is unclear, but the option to add effects either before or after you record makes it great for experimentation. There’s also a dedicated “Play Once,” button (which could be achieved by simply pressing “stop” at the desired time), but sadly no undo/redo function (which would be useful and cannot be done any other way).
There is no shortage of footswitches on the POD HD400. The switches used for the looping controls are multi-purpose, and also can be used to select a specific preset or activate a specific effect in a stomp-box fashion. The HD400 also has dedicated “up” and “down” footswitches, which move you up or down a bank of presets (in “Preset Mode”) or up and down a specific preset (in other modes). This removes the issue with the HD300, where users had to press two footswitches together to change bank. There is also an expression pedal, which can be used to operate the wah effect, as a volume pedal or to control the pitch glide effect.
Just Right or Just a Load of Hot Air?
The POD HD400 is suitable for live use, but it still isn’t ideal. The extra pedals increase your ability to select effects on the fly, but they still suffer from a simple issue. They’re quite small, so it’s easy to catch one accidentally if you’re playing live and have other things to concentrate on. If this happens to be the “Mode” switch, you have to cycle through the other two modes before you get back to where you started.
Other minor issues with the HD400 include things like the lack of an “On/Off” switch and the fact that you can only combine effects if they’re in a separate group. This means that if you want to combine compression and distortion, for example, you’re out of luck. Some of the controls could also use more precision – for example the expression pedal and the on-board editing dials feel more incremental than gradual.
On the whole, though, Line 6 has produced a very user-friendly pedal which produces a variety of carefully crafted sounds. There are enough FX to give Matt Bellamy a migraine and a multitude of amps to choose from, so you definitely won’t be bored. The POD HD400 also has outputs and inputs for an effects loop, so you can order your effects chain however you want to. Plus, despite Line 6’s over-the-top claims about the degree of the improvement to audio quality, unless you’re a stickler for perfection it isn’t really likely to cause a problem.
Line 6 has kept the POD HD400 firmly in the Goldilocks-zone for most players. It has the potential to be used in a live setting if your career isn’t riding on seamless changes, and the costs aren’t as prohibitive as on the HD500. It could undoubtedly benefit from some of the larger model’s additional features and footswitch real estate, but there is plenty there to keep most axe-wielders entertained. Anybody put off by the limitations of the HD400 should consider the larger model, but if you’re willing to make some minor sacrifices you can go for the more affordable option.