In Defense of the Line 6 POD

Some years ago, my spacey art-school rock band that no one’s ever heard of played to a sizable room full of coworkers, significant others and undergrad classmates. To properly entertain those folks (and ourselves), we insisted on hauling around a glow-in-the-dark skeleton, a projector for the 1954 cult film “Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome,” and a ton of gear. My bandmates had some fancy high-end stuff, but back then, I was plugging a Fender Mustang into a Line 6 POD XT and a Fender Stage 100 solid state amp.

That’s right, I rocked a POD. Not even the one with the expression pedal and foot switches — just your standard, kidney-bean-shaped, all-you-can-dig digital-tone buffet. In the years since, I’ve seen some top-shelf classics come and go through my rig — various vintage Big Muffs, most genera of the ProCo RAT species, a ’69 Fender Blender, MuTron Phasors (I and II), and a revolving door of boutique stomp boxes that could make any tone hound drool. Despite my wonderful and devastating gear habit, trying to make $50 to $100 by selling my POD is not something that ever crosses my mind.

Despite my wonderful and devastating gear habit, trying to make $50 to $100 by selling my POD is not something that ever crosses my mind."

We music makers are lucky to live in a world where so many brilliant people are building noise-making devices of every stripe, but there’s so much out there that getting started can be daunting, and the world of music gear is not without its dark corners of elitism and trendiness. Then, just when you think you know what you like, you discover the all important minutia — the chips and diodes, reissues vs. originals, mods, tube differences, speaker voicings, what can be safely paired with and powered by what...back to square one, right?

So for the newcomers, I invite you to “POD Land.” It’s not the prettiest or most popular destination, but it’s super friendly here, and we have everything in stock all the time. I would encourage any player attempting to define or redefine their sound to spend some time with the POD XT, or any POD model, because although I’m focusing primarily on the XT here, each variation of the POD has something unique to offer. So try playing around with a POD before going out into the world to collect and construct a carefully curated arsenal of one-off modded stomp boxes, hand-cut cables and oddball head/cab configurations to pair with your rack of boutique partscasters.

Ultimate Tone for Guitar?

The Line 6 POD XT, marketed as the “Ultimate Tone for Guitar,” is a comprehensive modeler, an approximation of everything under the sun from the birth of rock and roll to 2002—and the POD with which I’ve had the most experience. They’ve made updates and variants, but for our purposes, we’re going to discuss the original POD XT. If you’d like to run a “Screamer” or “Fuzz Pi” into a “Brit J-800” or a “Jazz Clean,” go ahead.

Want to skip all that and get right to the “Where the Streets Have No Name” sound? There’s a setting for that, and it’s called “StreetsHavNoName.” In that same category we have “ReelinInTheYears,” “AnotherBrickWall,” and “Wont Get Fooled.” What Line 6 has done here is created presets based on the rigs used to produce these classic tones, and they did so quite well.

Copping the Rigs of the Greats

“The Rover” setting is intended to sound like the Led Zeppelin song of the same name. The amp is a model of a jumpered Marshall Super Lead, the cab is a virtual Marshall 4x12 with Greenback 25 speakers, and the effect is a Phase 90 with adjustable speed, feedback and mix controls. All of these factors are tweakable using the Output, Drive, EQ, Presence, Channel Volume and Reverb knobs that surround the display screen.

Now, as an educational tool, this is rather stunning. The difference between studying Jimmy Page’s rig from a distance and getting to play your own guitar through a digital emulation of that same rig is invaluable. The POD can teach a player a lot of foundational gear knowledge in an interactive way. Furthermore, a user can get creative by adding and subtracting effects using the Comp, Stomp, Mod, Delay and Cab buttons, and also tweak endlessly to their liking, all without requiring the budget, space or access to the vintage equipment Page used.

Page’s tone can be a starting point for songwriting way beyond the scope of imitation. It’s a hands-on approach to learning about classic gear and how these different units are controlled and combined. And though nothing ever beats the real thing, you can get a general idea of what the modeled amps and effects are supposed to sound like without collecting mountains of expensive gear.

Digging Deep (Or Not)

The Amp Models knob can be used to select from 32 amps, including Line 6 originals as well as classics like the ‘58 Fender Bassman or more modern options like the Soldano SLO-100. The Effects knob is especially interesting because it pairs different units for a combined pedalboard experience. The TS-808, A/DA Flanger, Arbiter Fuzz Face and MuTron III are all reproduced here in imaginative combinations, such as “Brit Picketfence,” which is an OptoTrem and a RAT that you can play with the amp and cab combo of your choice.

Like most of the Line 6 units I’ve tried, I haven’t dug too deep. The POD has MIDI in/out, the ability to save and edit your own rig creations and a USB port for recording. I’ve never used these functions. If I want to test an effect at 2 A.M., I’ll go to whichever setting piques my interest and try it out.

There’s something irreplaceable about interacting with virtually endless combinations of effects and amplifiers with your own guitar in the comfort of your home."

Sometimes I leave my pedalboard in my practice space, but having the POD at home means I can play with effects anyway. Users won’t find pedals from EarthQuaker Devices, Fuzzrocious effects or esoteric amp heads in here, but the basics are wholly covered.

For the truly curious guitarist, there’s always going to be some value in these oft-dismissed or overlooked units. Occasionally, the POD will surprise me with a new sound I didn’t know I needed. Just recently, I discovered that a Space Echo-style delay with very subtle phasing paired perfectly with an overdriven Matchless-voiced amp to color an otherwise aimless riff I’d been noodling on.

There’s something irreplaceable about interacting with virtually endless combinations of effects and amplifiers with your own guitar in the comfort of your home. The POD has given that simulated experience to me time and time again.

Now, if anyone can tell me why a laughing monkey appears on the little orange screen when you turn the thing on, please leave me a comment.

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