Live Without An Amp: Line 6 HD500X (Part 1)

I recently picked up the Line 6 HD500X, an advanced guitar amp and effects modeling processor.  I'm coming up on the final 3 shows of the year, and will be testing out an entirely new approach to live performances: NO AMPLIFIER.

10 years ago, this would have been unthinkable.  I rejected the idea out of hand until I heard about the band, Garbage,  doing it. I was shocked out how good they sounded, how fast their sound checks were, and how little equipment they needed to travel with.  All three of these ideas are extremely attractive to me.  The only part of my job I hate, is the aspect of hauling thousands of pounds of equipment around the country, and the daunting task of setting it all up ad tearing it all back down again, night after night.

This post will be in two parts.  Today I'll give you a little background on the 500X, and present the patches I'l be testing over the next 3 weeks.

The 500X comes in a rack mount unit and a floor processort(which is what I opted for.  It comes with a a bunch of amps, cabinets, cabinet mics, and effects.  For a blues guy, its way more stuff than most of us ever need, HOWEVER, for me it immediately appealed to my long held desire to recreate EXACTLY the sounds I use in the studio.  In other words, I usually am limited to recreating each of my recordings live using a single Mesa Amplifier, and a pedal board of effects. Theoretically, the 500X allows me to have an entirely different rig for each and every song, if I chose to. I could go from playing a '59 Bassman on song 1, to a Bogner Uberschall on song 2; a tone junky's wet dream.

image of a Line 6 HD500X pedal board


I've had this thing a few weeks, and have already programmed several patches into it.  I'll tell your right off, I absolutely am in LOVE with the tone of the Hiwatt 412 cabinet model.  It doesn't matter what I put in front of it, the Hiwatt makes it sound better.

I have set up banks for acoustic and electric, and a variety of show formats.  The flexibility of the pedal is impressive, and this is actually one of Line 6's older models.  I can't imagine what the new HELIX stuff must be like.


Just playing through the PA at my house, I can tell you once I got my sounds dialed in, I cannot tell a difference between the POD and my traditional live rig.  I have a friend who owns a studio that trash talked Line 6.  He owns a studio and has people come in all the time with Line 6 stuff and he says their sound always comes through as fake and harsh.

I personally think that 90% of the people who buy modeling untis, don't take the time to learn how to properly use them.  As the technology becmes more powerful, it actually takes more effort to learn how to properly harness that power.

So, as you can imagine, the 500X is playable right out of the box but getting it to do EXACTLY what you want it to do, will take some effort on your part. You first have to learn and understand how the engineers at Line 6 think.  Understanding the architecture of how they chose to approach building sounds, will take you a LONG way towards being able to dial in your tone so that it sounds authentic.

I spent about 12 hours over 2 days testing a multitude of amps with cabinets, effects, and mics just to come up with the 8 patches I currently have mapped out, and I still have another dozen or so patches I want to program.


I have three shows left this year and I'm gong to use this opportunity to test the POD. the graphic above will show my approach. 

CLEAN: I started with a basic clean sound, running an MXR Micro Amp, into the Maestro Boomerang, then onto the Soldano SLO-100, and a Hiwatt cab.  For those not familiar with the MXR Micro Amp, its essentially a compressor that behaves very much like my Keeley, which I use extensively when playing slide guitar  The real surprise in this patch is probably the Soldano.  With all the classic Fenders and Vox amps, why use a Soldano for clean? Quite simply, it sounded the best to my ears.

DIRT: my second patch has the signal running into a Colorsound wah, then to an Echoplex before hitting the Dr. Z Route 66 and the Hiwatt cab.  Just a basic, slightly overdriven classic rock or blues tone.  This is the sound I use 90% of the time when playing rhythm guitar. 

MUD: my third sound runs the same amp and cabinet set up but adds in a Colorsound Tonebender, and the MXR Micro Amp, while swapping out the Colorsound wah for  Vox V847, and swaps the Echoplex for a Binson Echorec.  This is  the patch I am using for guitar solos.




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