Line 6 POD HD500X Multi-Effects Pedal Review
Line 6 POD HD500X Review
- Pros: Well-modeled amps, over 100 M-series effects, parallel signal routing, 12 footswitches and included expression pedal, free reign over signal chain order, improved footswitches and increased DSP power.
- Cons: Not much of an improvement from the HD500.
- Overall: The HD500 was a great multi-FX pedal, and the HD500X makes a couple of small improvements without losing the core appeal; it’s still a very capable unit.
Line 6’s POD HD500 used to be their pride and joy, but their flagship multi-FX pedal has now been superseded by a newer version, boasting improved DSP power and the expected set of well-modeled amplifiers and effects. But is the POD HD500X promising more than it can offer? Does it really take things much further than the older model? Ultimately, is it worth the sizable investment?
In fairness to Line 6, the HD500X isn’t being marketed as something you should upgrade to if you already own the HD500, but it’s still worth pointing out the intense similarity between the two. Apart from some improved footswitches (with surrounding lights) and a roughly 20 percent increase in DSP (digital signal processing), the unit is pretty much identical to the HD500. Before we even get into specifics, it’s worth saying that if you already own a HD500, there’s no need to get the HD500X, unless you’re very intent on stretching your capabilities a little more in terms of DSP.
So if you’ve already checked out the HD500, you’ll be pretty familiar with the HD500X’s offerings already. The “HD” amp modeling is one of the key features, and these are as well-captured as ever, with 29 guitar amp models (with matching pre-amps) to choose from, including classics like the Fender Blackface Deluxe Reverb and the Voc AC-15 through to modern options like the Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier and the Bogner Uberschall. You also get some of Line 6’s own Frankenstein-style creations composed of different parts of classic amplifiers. It’s a good selection, but it’s worth noting that some of the amp models are based on different channels of the same amps. You also get 16 cabs and 8 microphones to choose from, and there are plenty of settings (alongside the expected drive, bass, mid, treble, presence and volume knobs), such as sag, hum and bias to allow you to customize your sound.
The newer version also comes with the same M-series effects, with over 100 to choose from. These include distortions, pitch-shifting and modulation effects, filters, delays, wahs, reverbs, compressors, noise gates and some EQ options. Of course, these are all loaded with parameters so you can make adjustments and sculpt your sound using the dials below the display screen. You can have a look through all of the available effects options (also including the amps modeled) in Line 6’s Model Gallery.
The overall layout of the pedal is also pretty identical to the older model, with 12 footswitches arranged in two rows along the bottom of the unit, an expression pedal on the far right, a display screen with associated controls in the top left and tone controls in the upper right. The footswitches on the HD500 were OK, but a little flimsy, so these have been improved to sturdier, button-style switches on the new unit. Apart from the slight design improvement, even the controls they operate are the same – the left column changes banks of presets, the far right column is used for activating the onboard looper, tapping tempos for time-based effects and switching on the tuner. The FS1 to FS8 switches in the middle portion are either used to switch specific effects components (or amp blocks) on or off, or you can set the lower row to choose a specific preset location, as well as having alternate functions in looper mode.
Like on the previous incarnation, you can arrange your effects however you like in your digital signal chain. There are eight “blocks” for FX, one of which can be your external hardware FX loop, and you can also position your amp model in either “pre” or “post” signal flow positions. You can also set two amps up to work on different signal paths, each with a specific selection of effects, if you want to get a little more creative with your sounds. The “Signal Flow View” screen shows you your signal chain and allows you to move them around, and you can also switch to “Performance View” (showing the eight effects assigned to FS1 through FS8) or “Big User View” (showing the current preset location) using the “View” button beside the display screen.
You can assign two different effects parameters to your expression pedal, with the toe-switch changing between the two. You select your parameter for each, and can set a minimum and maximum value to prevent clumsiness with your feet from ruining your sound. You can also use the toe switch to turn an effect or amp model on or off, if you prefer. If you buy an extra expression pedal, it automatically takes over for one of the parameters, so you can adjust two simultaneously.
There are 512 preset locations in total on the HD500X, with 64 presets in each of 8 “set lists” stored on the unit. These presets store just about everything you need to recall the exact sound you stored, including the set parameters, the positioning of everything in the signal chain and the footswitches that different effects, parameters and amps are assigned to.
The looper is the final feature on the POD HD500X, and it’s good for 24 seconds of recording time in “normal” mode or 48 if you work at half-speed. This is the same as the previous incarnation, and features all of the same additional looping options (like undo, play once, half-speed and reverse), and although you’d get more functionality from a dedicated looper it’s a pretty great offering as an extra on a multi-FX unit. If you want a 48 second loop, you have to play it double-speed and slow it down, but for casual jamming and practicing, 24 seconds (plus overdubs) is more than enough.
For connectivity, the back of the unit is loaded up with plenty of options. You have an 1/4 inch input, twin outputs, a headphone output, 1/4 inch and 3.5 mm stereo aux inputs, left and right balanced XLR outputs, a mic input, FX send and (two) return jacks, a MIDI in and out, a USB jack, a spot for a spare expression pedal and the power jack, as well as connections for a Variax and a Line 6 Link jack. You can control your Variax guitar with the HD500X if you have one, and there are also options if you have a DT amp, but this “dream rig” seems like more of a marketing ploy than something you actually need. If you already have this Line 6 gear, it makes the HD500X even more appealing, but if not there’s little point in investing more than you already have.
Is it Worth the Purchase?
We didn’t really have much to complain about with the older version of this pedal, and the same can be said for the HD500X. It wouldn’t be fair to bemoan the lack of differences from the old model, since it’s intended as a newer version of the same unit, so you’re left with another incarnation of a high-end multi-FX unit with some improved pedals and a slight increase in DSP power. If you’re the sort of effects user that regularly maxes out the DSP, then the fact that it’s a relatively small increase might annoy you a little, but most players won’t run into any limits with either pedal.
The sound quality is as good as ever, with great amp emulations and a well-captured set of effects, but (as always) the presets aren’t always that great. It can also take a little while to get to grips with using the unit, especially if you’re new to such feature-laden multi-FX units, but once you’ve become accustomed to it the operation it’s fairly simple – and the manual is also easy to follow. In many cases, it’s easier to adjust your effects parameters and get your sound right using the included software program.
Overall, most guitarists will be blown away by what you can do with the HD500X. It’s a great effects pedal, ruggedly designed and very amenable to live use, with high quality sound and plenty of little features to keep you entertained. There’s no real point in upgrading if you have the HD500, but if you’re new to Line 6’s multi-FX, you will undoubtedly love the HD500X.