POD HD500 Initial Thoughts

Line 6 have released the next evolutionary step in their modeling family with the POD HD series. The new HD modeling aims to set new standards for routing flexibility, realism, feel and overall quality. Here are my initial thoughts after spending a little time with my new POD HD500 along with some comparisons to the unit’s direct ancestor, POD X3 Live.

POD HD500
Price check
Line 6 POD HD500 Guitar Multi Effects Processor
POD HD400
Price check
Line 6 POD HD400 Guitar Multi Effects Processor
POD HD300
Price Check
Line 6 POD HD300 Guitar Multi Effects Processor

Build Quality

The first thing I noticed before I even took it out of the box was how heavy it is. Some customers were unhappy with POD X3 Live’s industrial plastic bottom. Line 6 opted not to take any chances this time around with an all metal construction. This increases the unit’s weight quite a bit over its predecessor.

X3 Live had two metal bars to protect knobs from being stepped on and act as convenient carry handles. HD500 has a single metal bar to protect the four multi-function knobs but it is too low profile to work as a carry handle (at least for my hands). This makes HD500 a little more cumbersome carry around. I find myself toting it by the built in expression pedal, an act I fear may cause preliminary demise of that component.

On the subject of the expression pedal, Line 6 have made improvements in this area as well. X3 Live had a foam ring around the pedal sensor that was easily lost (mine disappeared to who knows where in under a week) and once gone could cause erratic pedal behavior under some lighting conditions. HD500 has no such foam ring and the sensor itself has an integrated metal shield around it that will surely cure this earlier design flaw. In Line 6 tradition the toe switch is very hard to activate, requiring my full weight. This is not a problem for live performances where one is standing, but if you practice sitting down it requires some extra effort.

The power supply is a new design that features a wall wart instead of the “lump in the line” used one all my other Line 6 gear. HD500 also lacks a proper on/off switch, instead being on while plugged in and unplugging is the only “off” option.

Ins and Outs

The range of ins and outs for HD500 are comprehensive. There are inputs for standard 1/4″ guitar, 1/4″ aux, Variax digital, and microphone. The outs continue to offer both dual 1/4″ and dual XLR outputs available at all times. Those seem like such a “duh” feature but I still encounter live sound techs that are amazed that I can give them an XLR D.I. feed right off my unit while routing to my stage amp at the same time. Throw in some midi, S/PDIF, 1/8″ MP3 play along input, effects loop with stereo in and stereo out, 1/4″ phones, USB, and Line 6 Link to round out the I/O with some nice to haves for the people that need them, but likely to each be ignored by a lot of individuals who won’t regularly use the more specialized functionality provided by those jacks.

Presets And Set Lists

The factory presets are standard fare with some being great, some average, and some that are completely useless but exist to show off the unit’s capabilities. I was quite happy with the sounds as I ran through the presets doing only minimal tweaking. I was initially surprised the relatively low number of preset slots. X3 had 32 banks of four presets for a total of 128 locations to save your sounds, but HD500 had only 16 banks of four presets. I was a little bummed out by having half the preset memory location until I discovered the set lists feature. Those 64 preset locations on HD500 are all in just one set list. There are eight different set lists for a total of 512 preset locations, four times that of X3, not half. The first four set lists come filled with factory presets (though some sounds occur in more than one set list) while there are four empty set lists to start filling in your own sounds. You are free to overwrite the factory presets but I like keeping them around for demo purposes and the other four set lists will keep me happy for quite some time. There are great live applications for organizing patches in set lists if you are a working musician who needs to switch off between a few different playing contexts.

Building a sound

Line 6 HD500 Signal Flow

Line 6 HD500 Signal Flow

Putting together or editing a sound is typical of multifunction units, made a bit easier by the well designed display and simple signal flow illustrated above. The integrated looper has the easiest placement being switchable between the very first or very last thing in the signal chain. The modeled amplifier is slightly more flexible and is able to be placed at positions AMP A, AMP B and AMP C in the diagram. Block AMP A is just before the stereo split and block AMP C is just after it. Either of these positions are for single amp configuration. Block AMP B is where you place the amp if you want a dual amp configuration or an amp on only one side of your stereo signal. Amp blocks A, B and C are mutually exclusive, you can’t use more than one of them at a time. This means you can’t use the dual amps to put one before the split and one after. The effects are a lot more highly routable wit many locations illustrated above where you can place them. Each effect you add to the signal chain can be added to any one of the FX ZONE blocks listed above, including being put in either the L or R side of the split part of the signal chain.

The POD XT era units advertised 9 effects at once but this wasn’t “any 9 effects” because you were forced to have a noise gate, volume pedal, wah, compressor and eq on every patch. Of the remaining four effects slots you could choose one stompbox, one modulation, one delay and one reverb. The POD X3 era kept the same routing but added a second complete signal chain for dual amp setups. HD500 dispenses with any forced slots (like the gate or compressor) and gives you 8 fully flexible effects slots. For example, if don’t need a compressor on an HD500 patch you can free up that slot and use two delays. In fact, you could make a patch that had 8 delays all on different parts of the stereo spectrum before and after the amplifier. What you get is complete routing flexibility. However, by some measure the X3 allowed 18 effects at once plus the fx loop while HD500 allows 8 effects of any kind at once, but the fx loop counts as one of your 8 slots. HD500 has less active blocks at once but you don’t notice as much since the blocks you do get are free to use as you please.

The only real negative in placing and routing effects is the handling of stereo image. X3 adhered to the principal that effects before the amp model would come out mono while effects placed after the amp would maintain the stereo image. This is not the case with HD500. All effects strive to be accurate to their modeled counterparts including being mono if there was historically only a mono version available. I applaud Line 6’s attention to detail here but it is kind of a pain figuring out which effects you can use to maintain your stereo image and which ones will sum it to mono.

Footswitch assignment has also been made more flexible. X3 had switches dedicated to particular effects models which worked well for that unit because blocks were hardwired to always have one delay, one modulation, etc. With the greater flexibility of HD500’s effects placement it no longer makes sense to have one footswitch labeled “delay” when your patch might have four delay pedals in it. Instead you can assign any switch to control any effect. The performance display mode is a great help here as it shows an intuitive chart of which switch is wired to which effect. This worked out great in almost every circumstance but I have had trouble getting the toe down switch to turn wah on and off. This turns out to be quite a pain if you have to tap another switch to turn wah on, then toe down to switch to the “other” expression pedal, and then you are able to use the way. Some patches have the wah set up correctly with toe down on/off, others (including some I have made myself) do not.

The Future

Line 6 have always been great about upgrading, expanding and patching their products. Every new iteration of POD technology has received at least a few new firmware releases, often including new amps and effects. I do sorely miss the bass amps and vocal preamps but I won’t be surprised when Line 6 announces model pack or free upgrades to include a few of those. It also won’t be surprising to see rackmount or bean models of POD HD show up over the next few months. I would also like to see a re-amping solution or plugin for POD HD which is also currently missing.

POD HD500
Price check
Line 6 POD HD500 Guitar Multi Effects Processor
POD HD400
Price check
Line 6 POD HD400 Guitar Multi Effects Processor
POD HD300
Price Check
Line 6 POD HD300 Guitar Multi Effects Processor
Share
Share this Post[?]
        

2 Responses to “POD HD500 Initial Thoughts”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. HogieWan says:

    Thanks for the review. Yours is the first to compare it with the X3 and has made me decide to keep my X3L for now (I play more bass than guitar anyway)

  2. Liberal Professors will tell you with their fingers crossed that they do not hate their country and our society; but who cares
    about the distinction if they actually loath
    their country and our society.