• Pros: 109 effects (up to 4 on simultaneously), 15 footswitches for hands-free operation, 48 memory slots (each stores 12 effects), and an onboard looper.
• Cons: Some effects are disappointing. Minor issues with the interface.
• Overall: The perfect M-series pedal for gigging: versatile, capable, feature-laden and durable.
Line 6’s M5 and M9 stompbox modelers have a lot to offer the average guitarist, with plenty of effects to choose from and (on the M9) enough footswitches to get you through the occasional gig without any hiccups, but the M13 takes things further. It’s the big boy of the family, packing a massive 15 footswitches and up to four simultaneous effects, but it’s also the most expensive. However, with Line 6’s own POD HD line and the still-capable M9 to compete with, before you even consider offerings from other manufacturers such as Zoom’s G5, the M13 has a lot to accomplish to make it worth the purchase.
The M13 is huge; measuring just under a foot from front to back, 15 inches from side to side and weighing ten pounds. All of this space is put to good use, though, with 15 footswitches arranged into five columns. The four columns on the left basically serve as four changeable stompboxes, and each has its own LCD display screen with six dials underneath. In each column, you can assign three effects to the “A,” “B” and “C” switches, which you can change between by tapping the appropriate switch. Parameter adjustments (for your activated effect) are handled with five of the six dials under each screen, which adjust the parameter shown in the corresponding spot on the LCD display.
You can have 12 effects loaded up onto the M13 at any one time, and these (along with your chosen parameters) are all stored in a “scene” memory slot. You can have up to 48 scenes altogether, which is pretty much like having 48 fully-stocked pedalboards at your feet. There are some limitations, because you can only have one effect from each column active at once (making up to four simultaneously) and only 12 scenes are accessible hands-free (the “Scenes” switch in the top right turns the effect switches into scene selection switches), but these are hardly going to affect most guitarists.
There are 109 different effects on the M13, and although this is the same complement as the smaller M5 and M9, it definitely covers all bases. There are 19 delays and echos, 23 modulation effects (including choruses, flangers and phasers), 12 compressors and EQs, 17 types of distortion, 12 reverbs and 26 filters (including wahs). These are all based on classic stompbox effects, with familiar names such as the Ibanez Tube Screamer, the Binson EchoRec and the Mu-Tron III envelope follower making an appearance, as well as many Line 6 creations. You can arrange these however you like for your scene, so you can get pretty creative with your four simultaneous effects.
Line 6 has color-coded the effects on the M-series to make it easier to see what you’re activating, deactivating or editing at a glance. For example, delays are shown with a green light above the footswitch and distortions with a yellow one, so (once you’ve learned the code) you won’t accidently activate the wrong type of effect. The LCD screens also light up the appropriate color for your currently active effect, so you always know what you’re making parameter adjustments to.
If you want to change the effect assigned to a specific footswitch, the upper-left dials under each display screen can be pressed in to change between types of effect and turned to browse specific sounds in your chosen group. The dials are separated from the footswitch with a metal bar, which ensures that you don’t accidentally catch one with your foot. When you make changes to the specific effects loaded up or their parameters, everything is saved automatically.
The M13 also includes a 28 second mono looper, which can be activated using the “Looper Controls” switch on the right edge of the central row. This turns the lower two rows of switches into looper controls, with “Record/Overdub,” “Play/Stop,” “Undo,” “Play Once,” “Half Speed,” “Reverse” and “Pre/Post” as options. The core functions (recording, overdubbing, playing and stopping) are all you really expect from a multi-effects unit’s onboard looper, but the addition of an undo/redo function and cool extras like half speed and reverse put the M13 (and M9’s) loopers ahead of the competition. The “Pre/Post” option also lets you set the loop to come before or after effects are applied.
For connectivity, the M13 has stereo 1/4 inch ins and outs, two spots for expression pedals, a stereo FX loop and MIDI ins and outs. This is a good range of options, and although many newer pedals let you export sounds to your computer via USB, there is more than enough here for the majority of guitarists.
How Does it Compare?
The M13 doesn’t hold anything back. With a ton of footswitches, a wide range of effects and a sturdy build, it’s a particularly appealing option for gigging musicians who regularly use effects. You can bring up 12 different pedalboards containing 12 different effects with just your feet (meaning you could bring up a version of every single effect in the M-series and still have 35 spots to spare), and the color-coding system and dedicated dials make it as easy as possible (aside from using expression pedals) to make on the fly changes. If you use so many effects that you need more than 12 digital pedalboards, all you have to do to access another of the four groups of twelve is turn a dial between songs.
Although the dedicated display screens are a nice extra, it must be said that they’re a little small, and if you’re stood up – especially with spotlights beating down on you – it can be a difficult to read the currently selected effect’s name or the parameter options. The color helps with this, but the screen is a little reflective, and if you’re at an unfortunate angle a spotlight can drown it out. Most of the time, you’ll have everything set up so you don’t need to mess around too much during a set, but it would have been easier to see what was going on if the dials were a little closer together so the screens could be slightly bigger.
If you’re familiar with multi-effects units, the M13 is pretty easy to use, and many will be able to get going without so much as looking at the manual. If you want deep control over your sound, you may need to spend a bit of time with the manual, but it’s fairly easy to read and it shouldn’t take you too long to really get to grips with what the M13 can do.
There are some problems common to all of the M-series on the M13, though. The effects models are broadly good, but some do fall a little short. The high-gain distortions are hard to differentiate between, and some specific options like the Tube Screamer aren’t especially well captured. Additionally, the filter effects can be a bit unwieldy, so it’s better to only use them in combination sparingly.
The M13 is a great pedal, overall. For casual players, the similarities between it and the M9 mean you might be perfectly happy with the smaller model, though, and for musicians looking for a gigging companion, options like the Zoom G5 trump it for simultaneous effects. In addition, Line 6’s own POD HD series also includes amp models, so it’s not an easy choice. With that said, if you’re happy with what the M13 has to offer on paper, and you really want the extra simultaneous effect, more stomps accessible at any time, more storage space and easier on the fly editing, it’s pretty hard to be disappointed with what it can do. It might have been superseded by more modern units, but as the price continues to creep down, the M13 is becoming a better and better deal for effects-hungry, gigging guitarists.