One thing that occasionally drives me crazy is trying to find out about a piece of gear – finding a googled link – reading through a multi page posting involving specific gear only to get to a final point of, “Oh I don’t have the unit and I’ve never tried it – but I’ve read the specs.”
Having prefaced this – with any luck this post won’t make you crazy.
I have been taking a good look at the POD HD 500. One thing I like about the laptop rig is being able to set things up quickly – but as a friend of mine once quipped about another unit, “…you can’t check your e-mail on dedicated hardware – but it’s also much less likely to break down on stage.”
Another nice thing about dedicated hardware is the fact that it’s self contained. There’s something about being able to plug something in and be up and running in no time at all. Even as compact as my laptop rig is – it would still be faster to run through the HD than setting everything up on my laptop.
The price tag – Part I
The POD HD 500 will run about $500. For that you get the same ins and outs that you got with the POD X3 – 16 amp and cab models (apparently the modeling is built from the ground up in a completely different way than the previous pods – hence the “HD”), about 100 effects and an onboard looper that can loop audio up to 48 seconds (in 1/2 time mode – 24 in regular speed).
If you’re running POD Farm 2.0 on a laptop consider this for a moment:
A second generation Macbook will run you at least a grand. You really need a 7200 rpm drive – and that isn’t standard on most computers so you’re looking $50-$100 or more (assuming you’re installing it yourself) and 4 gigs of memory or more (if not already installed – again let’s say $50-100 depending on memory and model) – so let’s just average $150 ($75+75) for memory and drive costs.
You’ll need an audio interface. If you use line 6 gear – you can get a cheaper rate on Pod farm but it’s usb… Let’s assume for a moment you’re going to go whole hog and go with a high quality audio interface. An RME Fireface will run you at least a grand – so let’s also assume you’re going to go “budget” and get an Apogee Duet for $499. If you upgrade to a break out box – it’s a minimum of $95 more for the unbalanced version.
From a software standpoint I use AU Lab (which comes free on the OSX installer disc) and Sooper Looper (which is shareware – but you should pay Jesse something for the product – it’s one of the best software investments you can make).
If you don’t want to have to click on a mouse for a set – you would need a midi controller. I like the shortboard mk II (approximately $199 – but it you may want to spend the $7-10 bucks for a 10-15 foot USB cable if running it live). It’s usb powered, well constructed and works really well (except for the fact that Line 6 currently doesn’t support displaying patch names on the controller – only midi values – this is a big minus for live use – because you have to stare at the screen to see what patch you’re playing.
So for a live laptop rig (from scratch) or The price tag – Part II
Computer: 1000 + 150 (average memory and drive cost) + $599 (Duet + breakout box)+ $184.99 (Pod Farm + Ilok key) + $199 shortboard = $2133!!!!
That $1995 for an Axe-FX ultra is starting to look like a steal (although the Axe-FX midi controller is $799 – which makes the shortboard look better and better all the time)! Comparatively, an Eleven Rack Mount will run you about $760 or so.
This doesn’t include a laptop bag, external drives (for looping/recording to), IRs (impulse responses), conditioned power supply, USB hubs, breakout boxes or other expenses. To put it in perspective however, you probably already have a computer and an audio interface of some kind so many of these other expenses are not critical.
From a cost perspective – there is no comparison between a POD HD and a laptop rig running POD farm.
But here’s my thought on it.
I can’t imagine Line 6 not issuing a POD farm version of the HD models. The code for the models is already written and they already have a wrapper (Pod Farm). My guess is that they’ll wait a while for hardware orders to fill up and then release a POD farm version.
I have no idea what the hardware is in the POD HD unit (it runs up to 96k internally) – but I have to think that:
1. My laptop has more memory, hard drive space and a faster processor than what’s on the HD (or the Axe-FX or the Eleven for that matter)
2. Related to this – that I can run more than 8 effects if need be on my laptop – which it the limit on the HD
3. The Apogee has to have better A/D/A conversion than the POD HD.
4. While the built-in looper is a great addition – that it doesn’t hold a candle to Sooperlooper for features or loop time.
Does this mean that I’m dissing the HD series? Not at all. As you can see from the economic breakdown above – I think the HD is an amazing deal.
The Pod X3 was already useable – and even not having tried the HD (cough, cough) – I have to think it’s sonically a step forward. Heck if I could clear out some money – I might be willing to pick one up for sheer convenience alone.
But in going the laptop route – I’m making an investment in the future.
I’m putting my money on better software and better plugins and knowing that if the POD HD sounds that much better than the POD X3, that the Pod Farm version may even blow it out of the water.
There’s always cheaper ways to do things. For a long time I ran a POD 2.0 into a Fender DeVille and always had people asking what I was using to get my tones. As a general rule, I would suggest to get the best gear you can afford and make the most of it.
One final thought
If you own a car – you will always be sinking money into it – insurance, gas, oil, tires, breaks, maintenance, etc, etc. It’s expensive – but it beats walking.
When I was at Berklee – there was a shred guitarist whose pedal board had about 30-40 pedals on it and needed to be carried by two people. This was before the signal hit the full rack space unit. All of this gear was for 3 tones – clean, metal rhythm and lead. Additionally, he had 2-3 Rocktron hush units in the rig. When he stopped playing there would be a literal sound of locusts trying to break through the speaker before the gate kicked in (here’s an approximation of the sound: wheedley-wheedley-wheedley-wheedley-SCHHHHHKKKKKKK – silence).
A laptop guitar rig is kind of like a car. If you own a guitar, you will always be sinking money into it (and the gear used with it) as well – but it beats walking with a pedal board with 30 pedals on it to a gig.
Thanks for reading!