Line 6 Pod Express (Guitar)


Well-known member
There are so many features behind the Pod Express that I will not cover how to access, save presets, etc., since the manual and instructional videos are available. However, I will begin with the sound quality, since that is paramount. The seven amp and seven cab models are of high-quality, since they come from Line 6’s Helix family. They sound raw, meaty and natural. To my ears, they are superior to similar Fractal Audio models, and perhaps not as organic or full sounding as some other tech that boasts amps and cabs in a pedal format (I’m also referring to far more expensive products). Having said that, it is difficult to make such comparisons, since they are different flavors of a similar beast. I will say that I prefer recording with the Pod Express over some of my other gear, and would not hesitate to gig with it – it sounds darn good!

The seven amp models range from very clean, to slightly dirty and into high-gain territory. The names include Clean, Special, Chime, Dynamic, Crunch, Heavy, and Lead. Something for everyone. These amps are modeled after industry standards, from Fender, Matchless, Friedman, Peavey, and some Line 6 exclusives that stand very well on their own. You can adjust the bass, midrange, and treble, as one would expect, but you also can adjust the amp’s gain and presence. Fortunately, unlike some other multi-effects/amps units, these tones are pretty much ready from the start, with only a touch of tweaking to best match pickups and the cab selection.

Now, you can bypass the amp if you wish, and use the Pod Express for the effects, but you also can do two things with the cabs. First, you can bypass the cabs, to use your own external IR or if going into a cabinet, but also match up any of the cabs with any of the amps, thus providing a wide tonal palette. The speaker types include Fender, Bogner, Marshall, MESA/Boogie, ENGL and Matchless. These are quality IRs and I suspect you will not require external cabs, unless there is a particular tone/sound response you’re after.

There are several effects on board, with four each in the categories of dirt, modulation, delay and reverb. The drives include Boost (Klon Centaur), Overdrive (Ibanez TS808), Distortion (BOSS DS-1), and Fuzz (Ram’s Head Big Muff Pi). The latter two are pretty intense, and work best with a clean amp. Modulation includes Chorus (Arion SCH-Z), Flanger (MXR 117), Phaser (MXR Phase 90), and Tremolo (Fender Optical circuit). Delays include Analog (BOSS DM-2), Digital (Line 6 original), Tape (Maestro Echoplex EP-2), and Ping-Pong (Line 6 original). The reverbs include Spring, Hall, Plate, and Space, all Line 6 originals. I have no issues with the quality of these effects, and they are easy to dial into: Select what effect you want in each category, then use the color-coordinated main control to adjust the mix (e.g., Delay is green, which means seeing a green LED range finder). You cannot alter effect parameters, but you can the mix, which sounds perfectly fine to my ears; I’m uncertain how much I would fiddle with parameters, even if available – I want to plug ‘n play more so than tweak.

Pod Express provides room for 21 presets (3 banks of 7), accessible by pressing both the On & Tap Tempo switches simultaneously, then scrolling up/down using those two footswitches. Line 6 included seven presets in the first bank and in each category (Clean, Special, etc.), which you can over-write. The Tap Tempo switch also doubles as a Tuner (one longer press), with an LED wheel for easy viewing on any stage.

There’s a lot going on with the Pod Express, but it also has a Headphone Jack (with the pedal and headphone jack’s volume control next to the input), stereo out, the ability to connect an expression pedal (to act as a volume pedal), and/or two assignable footswitches. It can be used as a computer interface (via USB, which also is used for firmware updates), for DI recording and re-amping, and you can assign global settings.

Next is the price for what you get. At $179 USD, the Pod Express is worth it just for the effects. However, some people are comparing this pedal to a few multi-effects units at around the same cost, and suggesting the other tech offers more (more bells and whistles, amps, cabs, etc.). There are a number of considerations with the Pod Express. First, the sound quality is very, very good, whereas most budget modelers do require quality cab IRs to sound decent. Second, the Pod Express is fantastic for those who dislike spending hours dialing in, scrolling through touch screens, etc. This is a no-brainer type pedal that fits in the palm of your hand and takes 5-10 minutes to navigate and become accustomed to. In other words, a practical fly-rig, perfect for home practice and recording, travel, and certainly ideal for those not wanting to lug large, expensive gear to a practice or gig where damage or theft may occur. And the fact that the Pod Express operates on three AA batteries (or 9v 500mA power) is a bonus. I played around with the Pod Express for a few hours, then did a composition, the demo video, knob turning, etc., over the course two days, and the batteries are still holding. How long batteries last will depend on the quality of the battery, with no further details provided.

Would I compare the high-gain models on the Pod Express to my Purple Nightmare Preamp by Driftwood Amps? Likely not in isolation, but the latter is about $700 USD (without any effects, cabs, etc.), and if playing live I suspect most people wouldn’t even know the difference. The Clean amp is pretty decent (great pedal platform), whereas the Special, the Line 6 Litigator, sparkles and shines exceptionally well. A few reviewers were concerned about the chassis being made of plastic. Bear in mind that this is not cheap plastic… there is some heft to this pedal, although the housing weighs less than aluminum and likely costs less to produce, which keeps pricing down for the consumer. Regardless, you would have to be very abusive to crack or damage it.

I may sound biased, and certainly we all are when it comes to gear we like, but the Pod Express is fantastic for the price, can hold its own with more expensive competitors, and has brought affordable, flexible gear to beginners and experienced alike. I would have flipped when I was younger and if this were available, and as an older dude who still plays mediocre guitar, the Pod Express is not leaving my home studio, unless it comes traveling.
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