Line 6 POD HD – The Sauciest of Black Beans
As I’m sure some of you can relate to, I’m a creature of habbits; this is a quality I learnt from my father when I was a boy. Something I can still guarantee today is that when we visit a Chinese restaurant, I will have a pork Chow Mein and my father will always opt for something with black bean sauce… Mmmm yummy. Another habbit of mine is to collect great sounding guitar gear, and with the help of Line 6 kindly sending me a POD HD to review, I’ve now got more than one POD HD series unit to compare to each other and to give you a good overview of the differences, and which one is best for different requirements.
The new POD HD, often referred affectionately as “The Bean” is both subtle and striking at the same time in it’s new metallic matt grey (almost black) finish. It’s most important features though are not its looks, and are of course the amazing amp simulations and FX that it comes packed with. Now add to that a desktop sized package for those guitarists who want something on the desk when using your DAW, and the classic POD benefits of convenience, simplicity and flexibility and you’ve got one hell of a contender for one of the best amp sim and multi FX boxes out there.
So what’s the difference between this and the rest of the POD HD series range. Well it uses the same architecture as the POD HD500 which give you the most flexibility for FX routing, the same great sounds, and the ability to use dual amp simulations. There are some other similarities with the HD500 too, with an S/PDIF ouput and mic input, but there’s a few diffrerences that are worth noting. There is an FBV pedal connection for those of you who want the bean but also want to control it with your feet and A/B/C/D/TAP and Looper buttons for those of you who want some of the floor pedal controls on the desktop unit itself. There’s also the addition of an on/off switch which is something the floor based POD HD units were missing. Not included on the bean are the Line 6 Link and the FX loop, but there’s less need for them when you’re using this at home, or in a studio. You can of course use the 1/4″ outputs into the FX Loop return of any tube amp (including the DT50) so there’s still the ability to use a tube power amp in the studio if you would like to.
I’ve owned previous incarnations of the POD in rack, bean and floor versions, but if asked previously, I would have always opted for floor versions because for me they offer everything you need in one unit. In contrast, the Pro and bean versions require an FBV controller for live use and for me that was the main reason I preferred the floor units over them. I also used to mount my old POD xt bean to the top of my amp, and therefore never experienced the convinience of having a bean on my desk.
Boy was I in for a pleasent surprise!
Sitting the bean on my desk I’m immediately surprised by how much awesomeness they’ve managed to pack into it. It’s a well sized unit with all the controls being easy to use, whilst not taking up all your desk space. But it’s just what’s been missing in my life, with all the controls I’d usually use on the pedal, now being accessible in front of me on the desk. when I’m tweaking patches it’s a little easier to do on the bean because it’s at desk height, rather than bending down to the floor units.
I’d previously invested in one of the POD mounting stands (from when I had a POD xt bean), which can either sit on your desk, hold your POD with reasonable security to the top of your amp, or mount it to the top of a mic stand. This makes it even easier to use on a desktop, and the POD, power supply, guitar lead, mounting stand and a small set of headphones all fit inside the POD carry case (also left over from my POD xt bean days). So although it’s not quite as small as a Pocket POD, it does pack a lot more punch in an easily transportable package.
I could write pages on this topic, but I’ll try to keep it brief for this article… It’s exceptional!
Okay, so I should justify myself when I use such words as exceptional. With the release of thePOD HD bean also came the free 1.3 update for the whole POD HD range. This means that the ‘bean’ (with update 1.3 applied) comes with 22 amp models as well as well over 100 high quality M-series FX models. There’s less choice of actual amp models than in older PODs (X3/XT/POD2) but the sound quality of the amp models in the POD HD are far superior. They are in fact designed using 10 times more original amplifier information than previous PODs amplifier models. With that in mind, one could suggest that means the amp models are much more like the amplifiers they simulate, and based on blind A/B tests with the real amps, many guitarists couldn’t tell the difference between the POD HD amp models and the real deal. WOW.
It’s worth remembering that having different models within the same range is a good thing as some of us are driven by different requirements.
- Some of us want the easiest/simplest unit to use.
- Others want the absolute in functionality and flexibility even if it comes slightly at the expense of simplicity.
- Some even want everything all at the same time: The easiest, the cheapest, the most flexible and the most feature packed, which often are mutually exclusive, i.e. the most feature packed and the cheapest don’t often come in the same unit, and with the most flexibility means there’s more options so therefore it’s not usually the absolute easiest unit to operate.
Let me clarify some of the last bullet point above in terms of the POD HD bean. It’s certainly feature packed, flexible, good value, and relatively simple to use. I would say the layout and less options on the POD HD300 makes the HD300 the absolute simpliest/easiest to setup, but the POD HD beans’ extra features and flexibility certainly don’t make it less than easy to use at all. The ‘bean’ is also not the cheapest in the range (the POD HD300 wins again there), but I think a sensible buyer should look for vaule for money rather than just outright cost…. In some respects the ‘bean’ offers more then the HD300, so therefore its slightly higher cost is certainly well jusified, and we definately have a good contender here for which POD HD series device I consider to be most recommended. As it stands, it’s now a tie between the POD HD300 and POD HD bean!
The POD HD bean is the latest POD in the POD HD series, and also the latest in a line of great kidney bean shaped amp modelers from the pioneers of amp modelling. It doesn’t have the ‘usual’ floor multi FX type format that so many other FX pedals follow, but it is more designed for the studio, and in that it does a great job. I will be recording a POD HD bean demo video soon to showcase some of the things I’ve talked about in this review, so watch this space.
Pros: Desktop format, great HD amp models and M series FX, mount to keep on a mic stand or top of amp for easier in gig tweaks, power on/off switch, portable.
Cons: No L6Link, FX Loop.
Rowbi’s Verdict: Very versatile 10/10
For more information on the Line 6 POD HD ‘bean’, please visit www.line6.com/podhd/desktop
Also check out my more recent POD HD Bean 101 video guides here:
POD HD Bean – Part 1 – Custom Presets and Tones
POD HD Bean – Part 2 – Custom Tone Demo and Looping
POD HD Bean – Part 3 – Custom HIgh Gain Tones
POD HD Bean – Part 4 – Custom Lead Tones