Ok, this is a topic that I’m sure has been talked enough about, already. The only reason I even bother to post anything about it is because I was fooled, and quite badly, very recently.A good buddy of mine has been raving and raving about the “Line 6 P.O.D. xt”!! From the second that he was to plug it in, set a few of the dials, change and edit a preset, he was on the phone and e mailing me about what a GREAT buy these units are.
A little background about my buddy: Tanner, is and always has been, a very gifted guitar player!! It’s impossible for me to describe how well this man plays!! I have known him for about 20 years and I think that I have always thought of his playing as a cut above.!! Whenever the new hot shot players were being featured in all of the guitar publications and heard on the radio and video channels, Tanner would be the guy who I would call and ask “Hey dude, did you hear about this or that guy”? Ever the humble guy, Tanner would often respond by saying that he thought whoever it was we were speaking about , was good or great or lame or whatever he thought. Point I make is that he never put his own playing above anyone else’s or slammed anyone’s playing.
If I had a copy of the newest hot guitar players band, I would often sit back and try to cop licks that I found impressive, Tanner would already be able to play them pretty well note for note. He’s always been a fan of the Hot rodded strat style guitar and a tasteful trem user. The choice of notes for his solo’s and his good sense of melody, make his playing and his songwriting very cool to listen to. I guess what I’am trying to say that I trust what this guy has to say about guitars and all things related to guitars.
So, about three weeks ago I get a phone call asking me to drive on down to his studio and check out some of these cool Line 6 tones. He swears that Iam going to be blown away when I hear them. I tell him that I have heard the line 6 P.O.D. before and that while I thought that it was a very good unit I just can’t help but think that there really is not a substitute for the real thing. Call me a stickler or whatever you want but I know that good tone was around long before anything named “Line 6″
I decide to drive down and hook up with Tanner and hear these radical tones that he is demoing for a soon to be cut record. We met at his place and drive over to his little studio and then I ‘am treated to some very nasty, sweet, dirty, clean HUGE guitar tones!!! This was something that I have heard many, many, many times before but never from a kidney shaped tiny little red 3 lbs unit!! It was a great 3 hours that we sat and tweaked a few of the tones that the unit offered. I had never used the unit at all and had never even seen one up close before but the ease of operation made editing and programing a real breeze.
I had made sure that I brought my own tele knock off and a beat up old Paul standard, I plugged into the unit and dialed up a really authentic Fender Supro Reverb tone. This setting sounded like the actual Fender Supro!! The warmth of the tone is really what got me stoked. As a rule, I never like to voice my opinion on any rig or unit or whatever, until I have it in a gig situation and watched and heard how it functions. I wasn’t going to be doing a gig but we did call a few buddies over and we proceeded to knock out a few covers and bounce some ideas off one another. We were most certainly loud enough for a gig simulation- stage volume wise – and let me tell you, I changed the settings with his little foot controller about three or four dozen times and this unit worked like a charm!!!
Normally I wouldn’t be tap dancing like that during any gig but I thought that I should at least put this thing through it’s paces and see what it could do. The bassist and drummer were also very stunned to know that entire tone was being derived from the “Kidney” as we started to call it. Tanner and I had been shooting the breeze about how we thought it was a real rarity among effects processors and how for the cash, it couldn’t be outdone. That’s when our bassist, spoke up and said “It’s an awesome unit but does it actually sound like the Dual Rectifier heads and all of the other pieces it is supposed to emulate”?
Tanner knew that it held it’s own more than enough with the Fender Simulations, as we all did, but I did wonder about the Mesa Boogie tones and how it would fair against the two that I own. Besides, I spent a lot of cash on those suckers and I wanted to know that my rigs were going to toast the “Kidney”.So we all said that we would hook up the following day and put the Kidney to the test against my Mesa Duals. I was pretty sure that I would be hearing a very good simulation but was also hoping that my Boogies, would ,as I said, toast the line 6.Came home and jammed for an hour or so and then got the gear ready to go.
Next morning I call Tanner , and ask if we are still hooking up to do this test? “Oh yeah”, he says. I drive back down and we load the gear into the studio. Now, I should also let you guys know what I had been hearing the line 6 through the previous day: My guitars were plugged directly into the kidney, I then was put into a Peavey 5150 head. I made sure that the amp channel was on clean and I dialed out all of the amps settings, other than the master volume wich I turned to 12p.m., or roughly halfway. Then I dialed up the Line 6 Mesa Boogie Dual setting, at first I thought that I would add a little delay or maybe some of the reverbs that the unit offers. Then I decided to just keep my tone dry.
I sat in the studio while I heard the tape being played back, it was actually recorded digitally on a Fostex FD 8, and I can tell you that I was really impressed by what I heard.!! The actual tones that I was hearing while recording, were very warm and thick, maybe a little too much midrange for my taste but still very good and gig ready for sure. These tones were played back for me on Tanner’s NS- 10 monitors at a little uncomfortable of a playback volume, say RIPPING LOUD!!!! It was so cool to hear that the kidney’s simulation was as good as it was!! It was also sad when I thought of the near $4,500 I had spent for the two heads alone.
Tanner was smiling and telling me that my tone was awesome from the rig and he was asking me if I still retained anything of the doubt about Line 6 P.O.D.? Well, I wasn’t a true believer that my tone wasn’t better, yes, the kidney’s tones were off the charts awesome, all of the tone characteristics of the duals, were there, all the grit, punch and nasty ass power that us Boogie users know and love. All that was there but I needed to hear more than just that. Tanner suggested that I sit and jam a few things from the control room while he alternated between the kidney’s set up and my actual duals. This is what I was waiting for!! The chance to bury the kidney’s tones once and for all!!!!
See, I know what my rig sounds like in virtually any situation. It’s that simple, or so I thought.Tanner rigged up the mics in front of my cabinets and I ripped a few of the riffs that I had been writing and working on.Sounded awesome to everyone who was present. Next he told me that he was about to plug into the Kidney rig. I waited a few seconds, got the green light and then tore up a few choice Vai like lines and a couple of my own lead lines.Tone sounded great!
Now it was time for me to rip a few other things and Tanner wasn’t going to tell me wich rig I was running through. No problem, I thought to myself and said to everyone there. I mean, I know what my rig sounds like, right? Well I thought that I did. I jammed for about 3 mins and it was basically Nuno style riffing, a few quick blasts of chords and melody, then a load of 32nd and 64th notes. Tanner changed the rig set up again, gave me the go ahead and I did almost the exact same thing as before, with a little more attack on my picking hand.Played about 3 mins and then shut it down.
Tanner was still smiling when he walked back into the control room and began to play the tape back. At this point I really didn’t want to bother trying to determine wich rig was the actual duals. My ears had been hearing blaring tones for a few mins and I also was dying for a coffee. We left and went to the local coffee shop and came back an hour or so later. The moment of truth was finally at hand. Now I would get put a rest to all of these peoples thoughts that digital can be as good as the real thing.I sat back and listened as Tanner rolled the recordings that I had done. The first bit of tone that I heard was the my rig, for sure!! No question that I knew it was my duals doing their glorious crunching. I then heard the other tone come back through the monitors and wasn’t so sure. I was dangerously close to having egg on my face and didn’t want that to happen. I played the first bit over again and then heard the second, I knew right then and there it was going to be a lot tougher for me to tell wich rig was the real.
Tanner had marked each of the choices that I made for wich was the real and wich was the simulation, he was smiling a lot more than usual when he asked me:” Dude, do you want to change your choices about wich is wich, or would you rather hear them again and decide”? I thought for a second or two and decided that I should hear each recording again. Tanner played each one for me and I was positive that I had been right when I said that the first one was my own rig. I stuck to that and Tanner then brought in the sheet that he had used to mark down wich was wich.
Oh man, I was hoping that I had been right with what I had chosen as my tone. I wasn’t right. Ok, that’s not the truth. I was right, 3 out of 10 times!!! I wasn’t too happy about that but I was happy about knowing that I could have the portability of the kidney and still get virtually the same badass tones as my duals!! So, I spent nearly 5k for my dual heads and almost $1,800 for my 2 cabs, I own them and they are mine and they do kick ass!!! My point is simply this: If I couldn’t tell the difference, why do I want to bother going through all of the trouble and hassle of setting up my rig when the kidney will do just fine?
The answer is that I don’t. Simple as that. There isn’t anything very romantic about lugging my heads and cabs into any venue and setting all of my gear up when all I have to do is bring a head and or D.I. box, line it into whatever I’am going to use for the gig, dial up my tones and tear it on up!!! So, I say this to those of you who want to be purists and are of the mind set that digital cannot be the substitute for the real thing. Test Drive One For Yourself, see if you are able to honestly tell the difference. I have very good ears and Tanner does, as well. The bassist and drummer were also fooled, so do not be too quick to judge a digital tone.
Like the saying goes “Good things come in small packages”