Updated: Feb 26
Line 6 just recently released the HX Stomp, a compact effects pedal and amp modeller for guitar. The world of amp modelling and guitar effects is getting more competitive each day. Processors are getting faster and are enabling a plethora of tone options in compact devices that in the past only did one thing at a time.
Many brands are coming out with these compact models and Line 6, one of the pioneers, had not updated their compact device portfolio since the pocket POD came out many years ago. While we did a side by side comparison of the HX Stomp with the Headrush gigboard, this time we took the HX stomp in isolation and in comparison with its bigger brother, the Helix Floor.
Why would I want it ?
We see a few scenarios where this unit would be extremely handy. Since some of them are extremely common, it's very likely that it applies to your use case:
As your only source for guitar tone, all-in-one, pretty much like a Helix if you can live with a few limitations;
As your Home Recording Studio USB interface if you don't have one, as you could record your guitar and even hook other instruments like a keyboard to its return channels
As your effects box in your pedalboard, in addition to other pedals or standalone. For example using the 4-cable method if you want to keep your amp in the system but use some of the effects from the HX Stomp
·Expanding your Helix if you ran out of blocks on that (or any other DSP based device)
In the USB department, on your Home Recording Studio with your DAW you can even use it as a DI for re-amping, be with the unit itself or with plugins later, similar to what we explained when we tested Helix as a DI box. Or you can record the processed tones directly.
Interesting to note that both send and return I/Os are also routed via USB. This expands your recording options as you can use them for other instruments. This doesn't appear as a feature on the Helix manual as it has separate I/Os for aux and mic inputs while recording.
So in essence one option is to look at it as an all-in-one multi-effects and amp modelling for recording, USB interface for your DAW, and portable tone solution.
Is it like a Helix ?
For those familiar with the Helix, the HX stomp is subtly branded as a member of the family (wild guess that's where the HX comes from), but we presume Line 6 left the Helix brand out of the name as the existing Helix models at the time of writing (Helix Floor, LT, Native and Rack) share the same tones and patches with the same file format, and the HX Stomp doesn't.
Before you stop reading: this thing is amazing and that is hardly a major shortcoming. It just means it has less processing blocks than a Helix (6 max, versus 16 in 2 parallel or serial paths on the Helix). But the individual blocks are largely the same and with firmware 2.7 it has an insanely large selection (300+) of effects, amps, cabs and sounds for you to play with. Just check the user manual: Line 6 HX Stomp User Manual
We basically did not miss any of the blocks we used on the Helix Floor. The only caveat is that the actual patches have to be recreated. But this is easy as long as you have both the Helix Floor and the HX Stomp connected to the same computer via USB. As it turns out the HX Edit supports both units at the same time. So you can open your favourite patches and copy the blocks one by one and paste them in the HX Stomp in the same sequence.
Some things to note:
All parameters of the block are imported (so they will have the same values)
There is a 6 block limitation, so if your patch has more than 6 blocks you will have to choose. But for the vast majority of tones we had created, this was fine. We just trimmed down on the effects - which would never be on at the same time - and chose the volume setting or the compressor depending on how we wanted the clean tones to sound.
The IRs will not be copied with the IR block. When you copy the IR block the parameters are copied over but not the actual IR wav files. You can then drag the IR files into the IR slot, but be careful to point to the same IR you were using by name, in case you didn't copy them all or didn't copy them in the same order.
It just has one bank of presets, while with the Helix you have setlists each with their own bank of presets
There are only 3 snapshots and they were not copied over as of course we copied the blocks, not the patches themselves. But recreating the snapshots was as simple as re-selecting which parameters are to be different between snapshots and then giving them different settings in each snapshot we saved
In terms of I/O it is obviously limited by size:
Expression pedals have to be connected externally
Guitar and line inputs are combined in a pair of stereo TRS jacks
Outputs are TRS only, no XLR or AES/EBU Line 6 link
MIDI in and out are available
One headphone output is available
Sends and Returns for external connections are also available
Also limited by size is the number of switches, 3 which you can use to select patches, select snapshots within a patch, turn individual blocks on and off, or change individual parameters.
The user interface is quite clever despite the small size and is very familiar for Helix users, with similar paging and scrolling principles.
So where does it sit within the family ?
Comparing with the Helix family:
It's way smaller and more portable than a Helix Floor or a Helix LT
It's a stomp box, not a rack mount device like the Helix Rack
It's a physical device, not a plugin like the Helix Native
It has amp modelling, not just effects as the HX Effects
So it definitely has a place at the Helix dinner table, and if the siblings are not too careful it may end up eating most of the dessert.
In terms of sound, with similar blocks in the same order, virtually indistinguishable from the Helix Floor. If your gig is local and you have both, you might still take the Helix Floor due to the I/O and switching options, or perhaps due to the vast availability of DSP blocks. But for a quick play with your friends, going on a trip or a more remote gig, the HX Stomp is a must.
Note that while it is quite mobile it does not run on batteries so if you go camping or fishing do take that generator with the mains output.
The best aspects of the HX Stomp during our tests were:
The extremely cool note at the beginning of the user manual, where you are prompted to watch some videos in case you don't like reading manuals. Note: we did both.
If feels as if Helix was shrunk yet its tone wasn't. Use in the same recording or live situations without fear. Your kid's backpack can be your new Helix backpack now.
Very easy to recreate Helix tones or create tones from scratch. Very familiar names for amps, effects, cabs, microphones and so on.
Plenty of effects and amp modellers. If you are a beginner or play with your friends just for fun, this may be all you need to rock out.
Be aware of the following aspects:
Again, no battery, so look out for that power outlet.
Tone editing in the small screen is quite limited due to size, we recommend using a computer with HX Edit.
You might feel the 6 block limitation depending on how effects hungry you are.
Some other compact options like the Hotone, Mooer Audio or Headrush managed to fit an expression pedal as well, so maybe there is an upgrade in the horizon
Here is the Line 6 page for the product, where you can find more details and resources: