The new Pod has arrived, after three long years of waiting — ever since the launch of the Pod X3, which provided the same models as its big brother, the Pod XT, and thus disappointed most guitar players. This time, Line 6 engineers have been really busy developing new models to be hosted in three new pedalboards. We tested the flagship of the range: the Pod HD 500.
The new Pod HD Series includes three products: the Pod HD 300 ($330), the Pod HD 400 ($400) and the Pod HD 500 ($500). The main differences between them are the number of integrated effects, the memory size of the loop recorder/player and the connections. We will examine thoroughly the Pod HD 500, the flagship of the series that provides about one hundred effects, a 48-second loop recorder/player, 16 new “HD” models (join the hype!) and comprehensive connections.
This new series does away with previous models which were beginning to show their age. Behind the rather surprising “HD” label, you’ll find new models that will take up the biggest part of this review.
But let’s start by unpacking the pedalboard, whose design takes after its older brother, the Pod X3 Live: a display on the left, an expression pedal on the right, pots on the top and footswtiches at the bottom. “Why change a winning horse,” you ask? Specially considering that the Pod X3 Live had pretty good ergonomics… “Old” users won’t be put off, quite the opposite! The plastic chrome knobs (a bit cheap, I must admit) have been replaced with black knobs that feel a bit more confident. The expression pedal is also new and seems quite sturdy. On the contrary, the quality footswitches are the same and the unit is still very bulky. But considering the number of footswitches (12) and in/out connectors it has, we can hardly imagine how the manufacturer could have made it more compact… The look of Line 6 products becomes drier every year, which is not a bad thing. The Pod HD 500 has less chrome than its older brother and its dark gray metal housing makes it more trendy. The unit looks rugged enough, even though the plastic encoders (protected with a metal rod) and the multi-directional button on the right of the display seem flimsy.
Now, let’s take a look at the rear panel of the device…
Connectors, Connectors, Connectors
You’ll immediately notice that the Pod HD 500 has very comprehensive connections: the rear panel sports 20 connectors. Inputs: 1/4″ jack for a second expression pedal, guitar input, 1/8″ jack for a CD/MP3 player, aux input for a second instrument, XLR mic input with input level control, and Variax input for the Line 6 guitar, which provides many advantages. Note that the mic, guitar, Variax, and aux inputs can be freely assigned to one of the two signal chains. In short, you can connect two guitars and get a fully different sound for each one.
Outputs: line outs on unbalanced 1/4″ TRS jacks and balanced XLR connectors, headphones out, and a so-called “L6 Link” you can use with the DT500, the manufacturer’s new amp. The L6 Link allows you to control up to four amps(!) with the footboard and vice versa. In this case, both units are synced and the amp will even have the ability to switch between different modes (class A, class A/B, biasing method, negative feedback…) depending on the preset selected in the HD500. Moreover, if you play a Variax guitar, you’ll have the possibility to control everything with your feet. Not bad, hey! The HD 500 also features a coaxial S/PDIF out delivering a 24bit/96-kHz signal.
An effect loop is also included: one stereo TRS 1/4″ jack for FX send and a pair of mono TS 1/4″ jacks for FX return. A selector allows you to choose stompbox or line level for the FX loop. Perfect! You also get MIDI in/out connectors as well as a USB port that allows you to use the Pod with a digital audio interface and also edit presets with the POD HD500 Edit software (Mac and Windows compatible). This software editor allows you to easily manage and edit presets thanks to its well-achieved GUI. All settings are transferred to the Pod in real time!
Do note the lack of an on/off switch, which means the device is on as soon as you connect it to the power outlet. This solution is not very practical for home use but it can avoid unwanted switch-off problems on stage!
Also notice that there are three switches on the front panel that affect the connections: one activates a pad to attenuate the guitar input level in case your active pickups are too powerful for the POD; another one, called “XLR Ground Lift,” allows you to avoid ground loops in the XLR outs; and the last one allows you to select line or instrument signal level for the 1/4″ outputs so you can connect the POD to the guitar input of your amp.
Now, let’s take a look at the settings and browsing…
Line 6 is back with a new pedalboard with (at last!) new models. The number of amp models decreased drastically (only 16 amps are available) but the sound quality improved as well. The effects from the M9 and M13 footboards are still very good in most cases, and the Pod’s interface became a bit clearer. We just regret that the factory presets are not always usable. Finally, Line 6 provides us with a rugged footboard with comprehensive connections and nice features, like the 48-second looper. At $500, the Pod HD 500 is a good investment that will fulfill the needs of most buyers. If you think the price is a bit high, take a look at the HD 400 and 300. They provide less effects and don’t use the Dual Tone technology (two amps in parallel); the looper has less memory (24 seconds), and connections are not so comprehensive. However, their price is much lower ($330 and $400).
- New amp models
- M13 effects
- Very comprehensive connections
- Rugged pedalboard
- Simple and effective looper
- Two models in parallel
- Very flexible effects chain
- Possibility to store 512 presets
- Pod HD 500 Edit software
- Accepts two independent signal sources
- Factory presets not always usable
- Some modelings are lower in quality than the others
To read the full detailed article see: Line 6 POD HD 500 Review