POD HD Flash Memory Update, POD HD500 In Live Use And More Thoughts About Gear

I was going to wait a week and post this – but I want to break the lesson/gear/motivational posts up a little more evenly, and the Line 6 firmware update that was released yesterday provided a good reason to talk about gear.

Line 6 V 1.4 firmware update

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Line 6 announced a new firmware update for POD HD PRO and HD 500.  (No word on updates for the 300/400).  Here’s what you get in the update (all text is from the Line 6 website):

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What’s New?

  • Variable Input Impedance – This feature affects tone and feel because the guitar’s pickups are being “loaded” as they would be by an effect pedal or a tube amplifier. There are eight selectable options which can change the analog circuitry affecting the impedance of the Guitar Input. The options include seven discrete resistor values: 22k, 32k, 70k, 90k, 230k, 1M, 3.5M. There is also an Auto setting. When set to Auto the input impedance can automatically change depending on which amp or effect model is first in the signal chain of the current preset. Impedance settings are saved as part of each preset’s input selection.
  • Preset or Global Input Selection – When set to Preset, recalling a preset automatically selects which of the device’s audio inputs are used as the “source” – sort of like a built-in, programmable patchbay. The saved input impedance value will also be recalled with each preset. When set to Global, the input selection and impedance value saved with each preset will be ignored as presets are recalled; allowing presets with a variety of saved input settings to be heard from a single source without having to manually reprogram each preset’s input settings one at a time.
  • Hard Gate – An advanced gate capable of extremely quick response. With controls for hold time, decay rate, and separate open/close thresholds, Hard Gate is ideal for any genre including Metal. It can even be abused to create erratic “sputter” and “splat” effects.
  • Enhanced MIDI Control – Offers control of POD HD500 and POD HD Pro from external standard MIDI controllers. A variety of functions including Footswitch 1-8, Tap Tempo, Tuner, Looper Controls, and Expression Pedals can all be accessed via MIDI. For more details please refer to the latest version of the Advanced User Guide.
  • New Presets – This firmware includes lots of new presets. Many of the pre-existing Set Lists have gotten new presets and reordered based on customer feedback. The “BASS/ACO/VOC” Set List includes presets which provide a starting point for bass, acoustic guitar, and vocal processing. The Set List titled “L6LINK <-> DT” provides a starting point for users connecting a POD HD Pro to a DT Series amplifier. Note in this Set List presets 7A-D may not produce audio without a Variax connected and/or monitoring the FX Send output – these particular presets were created to illustrate just one of the approaches to getting amplified electric and direct (FOH) acoustic instruments from a single guitar and preset.

Some bugs were fixed as well.  I haven’t tried out the new presets yet (I tend to just mod ones I like from the customtone page or build them from scratch).  But the input impedance variability is interesting.  I’ve never used the Digidesign 11R – but a lot of the input comments that I’ve read about that seem to parallel this option.  There’s a lot of tonal options that come out in variations on this setting – but I’ve set mine to Auto and it seems to work well.

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So in short – no new amps or cabs – but some nice features.

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One thing this has done is create a bigger divide between the 300/400 and 500/PRO.

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Here’s my $.02:

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  • If you’re the kind of person that has 3-4 tones you typically use, and don’t run a lot of additional fx (and are okay with the cab sims Line 6 uses) – save some money and go with the 300/400.
  • If you want more tonal flexibility or the ability to bypass cabs – go with the 500.

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I’m happy I have the 500.  It’s a good unit that largely works well – but you can get some good tones out of the 300/400.  In fact, some of the better tones I have are 300 tones that I adapted to my unit.  This is the best unit that they’ve made and the fact that the tones now respond to my roll off is putting me closer and closer to going ampless live entirely.

Having said that, the unit does have three things that prevent it from being the box it could be.

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#1:  The DSP issue

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This is a minor quibble, because you can still get really good sounds out of the unit but it’s is the biggest issue because it’s the one that doesn’t have an easy fix.  If you run a lot of effects, or use amp/cab combinations that use a lot of CPU, you will get a message that the DSP limit is reached and you’ll need to use FX, amps or cabs that use less resources.   From an architectural standpoint, this should have been run with the most DSP intensive amps, cabs and FX on the unit and then had chips that could accommodate that.  It’s difficult to anticipate what will happen with anything, but there’s really no excuse for reaching a DSP limit as that should have been engineered out of the unit before it went into production.

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#2: The looper

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One thing that’s also a huge difference between the 500 and the 300/400 is the available loop time on the looper.  However, I haven’t listed this as a sell point because in its current incarnation the looper has a fatal flaw in that you can’t adjust the volume of the wet/dry signals of loops.

In other words, if I’m creative a live loop I won’t be able to fade it out while bringing in a new part I’m playing.  My options then are to either stop the loop abruptly (which is usually jarring) or bring the whole unit volume down, turn off the loop and bring it up again.

It’s a problem – and it essentially limits the onboard looper to being a riff device.  Which is a drag, because it could be a lot more (particularly with the reverse and 1/2 speed options).  You’ll never have the flexibility of something like Sooperlooper on it – but when they get this simple thing fixed, it will make a big difference in the functionality of the looper on the unit.

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#3: Global EQ

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Another small point, but an irritating one.  As I mentioned in my taming the EQ post, the Atomic amp I use tends to have an EQ bump in the 90-100HZ range.  It’s also the range that a lot of what Chris Lavender uses when he’s playing Stick – so carving out some sonic space is important. Having a global EQ would allow me to make one tweak to go between using an amp live and going direct to a PA.  Not the end of the world, but an inconvenience that can be fixed.

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Know what gear to hold onto

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Steve Morse once had a great observation about gear. He said that he knows that the good effects are, because they’re the ones that rarely sees in the used sections of guitar stores.

My Digitech Space Station is a pain in the ass.  The A/D/A isn’t that great, the power supply is iffy at best and the only parameter control is the volume pedal.  It’s also a great unit.  It’s reverse function is the most musical one I’ve heard and it has a couple other sounds on it I just can’t get from other FX combinations.  I’ve had a lot of offers for it, but it’s one of the few pedals that’s not going anywhere.

Likewise, I’ve had my Akai Headrush E1 for a while.  It was my main looper in Visible Inc. and I never got rid of it because frankly the resale value was so low that there was no point in selling it.

At the CalArts gig I had with Dumb and Drummer back in October, holding on to the headrush was really a lifesaver, because I was able to set up small loops on the POD HD, record them with the headrush and then build multiple textures between the two loopers and go back and forth between them.  It wasn’t the most elegant solution, but it worked well and allowed me to reference early material and loop more thematically (and accompany the film better ultimately).

To deal with the EQ issue, I broke down and spent $60 on an MXR 6 band eq.  Spending an extra $40 would have gotten me the 10 band EQ, but in reality the 6 band works fine.  I like the compactness and durability of it and it allowed me to really bring my guitar out more in the trio format.

Fixing the loop and EQ issues on the HD would allow me to just bring just the HD instead of and HD and a couple of extra pedals, but as I’ve mentioned before 3 pedals is a long way from the 88 key keyboard case that served as my previous pedalboard.   And (for now) I’m really glad I held onto that headrush!

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As always, thanks for reading!

-SC

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PS – if you like this post you may also like:

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SOME THOUGHTS ON MODELING, GEAR ACQUISITION AND THE POD HD500

LINE 6 POD FARM 2.5 UPDATE AND POD FARM FREE ANNOUNCED

New SooperLooper Update 1.6.16

.

POD HD VS POD FARM: A COST COMPARISON

LINE 6 FBV EXPRESS MK II REVIEW

POD HD500 AND POD FARM CONJECTURES

RIG AROUND THE ROSIE OR MEDIATIONS AND MEDITATIONS ON GEAR

LINE 6 POD FARM 2.0 OVERVIEW

VARIAX AC700 REVIEW/WORKBENCH OVERVIEW

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