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Line 6 Pod HD400


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Review: Line 6 Pod HD400.

For an overall description of the features & overall spec. scroll down to the end of this text.


This has been available for over 4 years. Maybe thats why I got such a heavily discounted price for it? It actually cost me a couple of quid less that the Hughes & Kettner pre-amp. Maybe Line 6 are poised to replace it? Who knows.


The original device had 8 amp models. The latest firmware raises this to 16.


The salesman at Andertons had no idea what I was talking about when I asked if it could be linked through the effects loop of the amp (via send & return cables). It transpires that it can. Used this way, it can slave your amp using the clean channel & bypass all amp controls. Its also the best option if you want to connect other devices to it too.


NOTE: I had 16 years service from the Boss GT-5 and it may be unfair to compare it to these units, but Im going to anyway.


The Pod HD400 is more of a direct replacement for my dead Boss GT-5 than the previously reviewed Hughes & Kettner Tube-Factor (which has still to be gigged at the time of writing).



Line 6 have had a pretty good rep for some time. Maybe this is not the case anymore because the reviews Ive read are mixed; and Ive read quite a few now. Both user and press reviews average out at 9/10 positive.

I also checked out reviews of the competitions offerings (Boss and TC Electronics). They are pretty much the same at 9/10 also.


It should be pointed out right now that these are not only FX stomp boxes, though they can be used that way. The Line 6 Pods are also amp modelling units.


In their manual, Line 6 make it clear that you can incorporate the sound of your own tube amp into the overall sound by one of several options. They have even pre-empted this by defining some amp types you may configure directly with the Pods. You wont be surprised that these are essentially Line 6s own amps however.


But this is an important acknowledgement that many players will want to use a Pod to enhance their sound rather than relegate their beloved amp to mere slave status. This then, forms part of the design scheme for these units.


Interestingly enough, users that give outright negative reviews mostly complain that the amp modelling is still no match for the real thing. All those reviews were by users, not the press. It does make me wonder whether they had read the manual and had properly considered the alternative uses outlined above?


That could well be the case because you have to download the proper manual and only a quick-start guide is included in the box.


For the tube purists and the sceptical, it is easy to punch the Mode Select button and make the pod to bypass all these amp models and just use the FX as you would with a regular bank of stomp boxes. Thats simple enough.


In addition to the manual there are the additional downloads of the Line 6 Monkey and the Pod Editing Software. The Monkey can fetch the latest firmware (and latest suite of tone patches) for the Pod and also backup to your PC any user defined ones you might wish to protect.


The Editing software allows you to design or edit your own tones without using the Pod at all. This seems a great idea, because doing it directly on the Pod is awkward and annoying. At first, try as I might, I couldnt get the software to use the Pod as I was constructing a tone.

Eventually I got it by double clicking on the tone number next to the ‘name’ field.


This is much easier than designing tones using the Pod itself. Why is it awkward and annoying? Read on.


I dont have a tube amp. I use a Fender Stage 112SE on the clean channel, and its clean channel is pretty damned clean. In other words, I enable & use the amp modelling features on the Pod in full.


I was expecting the edit functions on the Pod HD400 to be easy. Using the old (16 years) Boss GT5 was quite heavy going and took time to figure out how to produce useful patches.


So this newer Line 6 tech was sure to be more user friendly right? Wrong! After downloading the full manual I spent ages just trying to understand some of it. Unless you are a competent sound engineer you will likely need to research some of the tech-terminology as I did.

For example, a tube amp simulation parameter is setting the level of bias excursion you want. The Advanced Manual does describe this, but it didnt help me to know where to pitch this setting.


To reduce the number of controls on the Pods, the controls are all multifunctional. So for example, The Edit wheel sets up the Pod pre-sets (how you fundamentally choose to use it), the tone editor and all the attendant parameters pertaining to them.


So when I choose to construct a new tone patch, I select the amp, the speaker simulation, mic type & placing, signal flow route etc. Then I want to edit the EQ. So I reach for the separate Mids dial.


Just by touching this dial, the display changes to Mid EQ, but it only stays on for a couple of seconds before reverting to whatever was underneath it. So if I am late in dialling in what I want I can inadvertently change a set-up parameter instead. If I dont notice what Ive changed it from, I might need to restore the Pod to factory (defaults) settings just to correct it. This time-limit-delay function is used extensively, so care and precision is needed throughout any editing process.


Line 6 promotional blurb says of the Pods; stunning simplicity.

Well it isnt simple. Furthermore, it should be obvious to all that it makes no difference how simple something is, it cant stun you.


Yes I did a Factory Reset early on and also calibrated the expression pedal. This was simple, though not stunningly so.


I made more than a few mistakes but succeeded in creating a bank of 4 custom tone patches. It took several hours as the options are extensive and they need to be tried out and compared.


Three of the tones I created used the bridge (humbucker) pickup of my Jackson Soloist. But for the really good one I had used the neck (single coil) pickup.


Now this good one is gorgeous and simply one of the best soloing sounds I have ever used on a solid guitar. The next day I tweaked the remaining 3 tones to also use the bridge pickup. It only took a few minutes and the sound difference was minimal. So with practice, Pod editing can be used with precision and to great effect. So far so good.


The only problem of course, is that these carefully constructed new sounds were made at minimal volume on my Fender amp in the comfort of my sitting room at home. They will sound different in a large venue at gigging volume. In anticipation of this, I have reined back all tonal colouration by about 25% to create a drier sound. If Ive got it right, it will sound perfect again in action. If not, it may be the lead sounds may not cut through well or seem muddy. Only time will tell.


If they work out ok, those 4 new tones will allow me to play an entire two sets without faffing about with controls or selecting different PUs. They were designed as a with correct volume differential between rhythm and lead sounds.


So this is with newly constructed tones. What about the pre-set ones then? There are 128 slots for these but not all are populated. All can be overwritten though.


I would estimate that about 15% of them sound nice and that about 6% are useful as is. This may sound like a damning condemnation but its not really. Its the cleaner sounds that are useful and most of the rest are simply there to demonstrate the potential of the unit.

The Boss GT5 had more slots and I dont recall any of those being useful at all.


Some tone patches may sound ok and ready to gig, but chances are they will be too extreme and produce a hopeless mixture of mud & feedback.

Some of the tones sound appealing though and can inspire ideas & food for thought. Generally most of the tones sounded a tad muddy & not bright enough. Some sound a little clinical too. They would sound fine on some other guitar Im sure.


Users can upload their custom tones to the Line 6 site and make them available to all. There are a couple of problems with this though.

Firstly, when perusing these uploads, you will have no idea what they sound like (and there are thousands of them!). The only clue is usually a one word description like County or Metal.

Secondly. What may sound good on a 68 Strat neck pickup may sound pants on a Ibanez S920 bridge pickup.


As I said earlier, I devised the tones I wanted using a single coil neck PU on a Jackson Soloist XL.


However, when need to use another guitar, such as the Jackson Elite, I will need to copy, paste and edit those four sounds to reproduce correctly for that instrument. The Elite uses newer active Seymour Duncan pickups, which are altogether darker & far less bright (yes even the bridge PU). A different guitar with different settings make a vast difference to what you hear.


I’ve now fine tuned this band of 4 tone patches to 3 other guitars. The Jackson Elite,The Hagstrom Deuce and the Gibson ES-399. For the Deuce I used the coil tap on the neck Pup.


The Gibson & the Elite were tricky as the humbuckers are higher output with surplus bottom end. I had to back off the gain by about 40% to get these voiced nicely.


For me it was worth getting the Pod HD400 because I built one great sound with it. To put that in perspective, you could spend a fortune trying different amps, pre-amps, stomp boxes etc. in order to find a sound you really like.


On the down side. One of the more informed critics of this kind of technology (amp modelling) complained more about the lack of accurate behaviour of the simulated amps. Its ok getting the sound but it wont behave the same when you employ certain playing techniques or alter the volume output (oddly enough, this is where Bias Excursion comes in).


I can testify to this. There is one preset called Machine Gun. Its a Jimi Hendrix tone. Yes, it sounds unmistakably like Jimi too, but when I indulged myself and played some Jimi lines (as in Band Of Gypsies Machine Gun) it was ok until I tried to stretch out and indulge in some Jimi like sustain. It wasnt there. OK, I expect I could tweak a few parameters and guitar settings to get this, but the point is the digital gear wasnt responding in the same manner as the original gear did. You might end up making 2 or 3 versions of the Machine Gun tone just to cover these variations.



For me, the bottom line concerning this particular digital amp modelling is this:


1/ No, it still doesnt work like the old analogue gear.

2/ It may or may not sound identical. I would need to use these old amps to properly compare the sounds.

3/ Fidelity aside, it can sound fantastic.


Im lazy, I didnt want to study all this stuff and spend hours tweaking EQ, Noise Gate and FX chain parameters, but it was worth it nevertheless. Ok, what follows is an outline description.


(Note: Line 6 also produce two other Pods; the HD300 is the basic model and & the HD500 is advanced . The HD400 sits in the middle and I judged it to be best suited to my needs.)



• HD amp models x 16 (may be used as Full or just Pre-amp Stages)

• 128 user Presets (manual states 256 factory Pre-sets. I cant find all these)

• 90+ FX Four may selected at one time (not including Expression Pedal FX)

• Expression Pedal may be set to Volume, Wah-Wah, or Pitch Glide

• Looper 24 seconds max. Play Once, Pre-Post, Record/Dub etc

• Connections: ¼†Jack, XLR, USB (Midi), FX Loop. Stereo or Mono Output (Balanced or Unbalanced). external pedal input; dedicated L6 link for Line 6 amps (this enables a data share I think). Headphone socket etc.

Switches at rear may be set to Live, Studio or Dual (output to both amp +mixer)


• Tuner with signal mute

• (Software & Advanced Manual needs to be downloaded)


Concerning these amp models in the Pod: This is what Line 6 have to say about them:

"Creating these new HD amp models was no small feat. Line 6 mixed 15 years of amp modeling experience with 3 years of new research and development to build an entirely new amp modeling technology from the ground up. During that time, we hunted down 16 incredible amplifiers and ”with the help of LA's top tube amp experts”restored each one back to peak condition. The new modeling technology uses 10 times more amplifier information than before, including single-ended class A tube stages, class AB push/pull interactions, power supply behavior, and more."


What amps were sourced, restored and modelled then? Here they are:


•Fender Twin Reverb

•Hiwatt Custom 100 (DR103)

•Supro S6616

•Gibson EH-185

•Fender Bassman

•Fender Blackface Deluxe Reverb

•Divided by 13 JRT 9/15

•Dr. Z Route 66

•Vox AC-15

•Vox AC-30 (Top Boost)

•Marshall J-45 MkII

•Park 75

•Marshall JCM-800 (2204)

•Bogner Uberschall

•Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier

•ENGL Fireball 100



Line 6 Pod HD400

• Build quality: Seems solid enough & looks like its designed for road use. The weak point is the PSU. This has a wimpy cable and plug. It is detachable however, so it could be replaced if it did break (Its going to break. Id better get a spare).


If you read my review of the Hughes & Kettner Tube-Factor I levelled the exact same criticism against that PSU.

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