The battle rages on...
We are entering the era of the compact amp modeller. Not log ago I've covered the myriad of multi effects and amplifier modelling pedalboards out there, an area of guitar and audio technology that has grown quite a bit over the past few years. Some of the options, however, sit in a quite steep price range and are a bit bulky in size.
The Line 6 Helix for example, has plenty of I/Os, functions, effects and modellers, but can be a bit difficult to haul around unless you're driving to the gig. Same goes for one of its main contenders, the HeadRush pedalboard.
Well both companies must have worked in parallel then, as they both released compact versions of their flagship models within weeks of each other.
Line 6 HX Stomp
Line 6 recently released the HX Stomp compact amp modeller with multi-effects for guitar. This is a compact version of a device using the Helix technology. The manufacturer claims that this product uses the same HX models of amps, cabs and effects found in the Helix family of products, plus legacy effects library from Line 6® M-Series pedals, and stompbox modellers such as the DL4™.
Image: Line 6
Early online product reviews talk about a limitation of 6 processing blocks and one signal chain only, which is expected considering the size. It should be enough for most applications though.
Its form factor is way more compact. It does not have all the fanfare of its bigger brother, but carries a decent sized coloured LCD for your signal chain configuration and effects selection, and 3 capacitive foot-switches which can be configured to change effects, snapshots or entire patches. The navigation buttons look very similar to the Helix as well and while I wait to get one to do a proper review, it's easy to see that this will feel very familiar for Helix family product users.
Image: Line 6
The I/O options include a stereo input and stereo output (balanced via TRS cables), USB which should work with the same HX Edit application, DC IN, expansion for Expression pedals, Sends and Returns for 4-cable method, Headphones and Midi IN/Out. At the time of writing, early reviews indicate no presence of a battery for really mobile use. I've owned a Line 6 Pocket POD for quite a while and its battery life is quite poor so I wouldn't be surprised to learn that mobile power was left out altogether on this one.
Line 6 website for the product has further information on the device, including multiple usage scenarios. The product is targeted not only to multi effects buyers looking for something compact, but also for traditional stomp box board owners who want to have the option of amp modelling in their arsenal.
After initially publishing this post, it has been reported (both in forums and the user manual below) that:
o The device supports Impulse Responses (IR)
· Patches are not compatible with the Helix Floor or the Helix Floor LT due to the reduced number of processing blocks. The new HX Edit (version 2.70, released recently) allows however the migration of tones and patches between the two, for those avid to migrate their favorite tones to this smaller device.
This compact amp modeller with multi-effects for guitar was announced a few weeks before the Line 6 competitor, and carries a lot of similarity with its bigger brother as well. The look and feel is similar and the arsenal of amplifiers, cab models and effects is quite impressive. It has an LCD interface with an user interface that looks more like a virtual pedalboard than a signal chain, which is one of the key differentiators of the HeadRush line of products.
The real state is a bit more generous so this model provides 4 capacitive foot-switches which can be configured as well. The product website does not mention any limitation of individual blocks in the chain, but it certainly exists. From the reviews and videos it should also be able to satisfy most of the applications.
The I/O availability is very similar to the HX Stomp: Guitar input, Aux in, Stereo Output, expansion for expression pedals, sends and returns for 4-cable methods, midi in and out, USB and DC IN. The product website and user manual do not mention battery power, probably for the same reasons explained above.
And now what ?
Drop everything and rush to your local store to check them out... the bigger models will still have their space. The Helix Floor for example has far more capabilities in terms of processing blocks and signal path:
o A lot of I/O
o Built in expression pedal
· Individual scribble LCDs for various effects, snapshots and patches.
Same goes for the full range HeadRush Pedalboard.
I see these compact amp modeller options as ideal for:
· Practicing while travelling
· Complementing traditional pedalboards
· Those with limited budget who want to try cutting edge amp modelling technology.
Other compact options such as the Boss GT-1 and the Mooer Audio GE200 do exist, I've talked about them in this review below, which also talks about the Helix Floor and others. Check it out: