Line 6 POD HD500 Review
- Pros: Masses of footswitches, the entire M-class of stombox effects, improved amp modeling and a huge 48-second onboard looper. Order your signal chain however you like.
- Cons: Presets aren’t all great and some combinations of effects can take you to the DSP limit.
- Overall: Great for gigging musicians, plenty of storage space and intuitive controls. The only issues with it are minor.
The POD HD500 is Line 6’s new favorite toy. The unit packs in all of the features from the 300 and 400 models, as well as boosting the storage space and the potential for hands-free control. It increases the number of simultaneous effects you’re permitted to include, and removes the irritating limitations that prevented you from mixing effects however you like on the 300 and 400. Likewise, the looper capacity is doubled, and you can also split your signal into parallel paths to have two tones coming from different amps, if you so desired.
The “HD” series is differentiated from the older POD models (and the kidney-shaped classics) by the new modeling technology. The meaning of this “HD” modeling is undoubtedly the most hype-laden, over-exaggerated aspect of the entire marketing campaign. Terms with no inherent meaning like “amplifier DNA” are readily banded around, and the claim of ten times the accuracy of the previous amp models is the cornerstone of the theory. In practice, as many players will suspect, they aren’t quite ten times as good as the previous models (at least not appreciably), but that doesn’t mean you should write off the entire series.
Same Features, but Better
The best thing about the HD300 and 400 is that they contain essentially the same features as the well-stocked 500 model, but at a fraction of the price. Ironically, this actually serves as a detriment to the HD500, because there aren’t any major extra features to justify the inflated price-tag. You receive the same amp models (22 in total, which are modeled on classics such as the 1964 Fender Deluxe Reverb the 2001 Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier) and the complete “M” series of stompbox effects (with over 100 to choose from) you’ll find on the smaller models in the series.
The number of footswitches is really the main benefit of the HD500, with twelve metallic stomp-buttons arranged in two rows along the bottom portion of the pedal for hands-free control. The two to the left are used to change between banks, each of which contains four presets made up of eight individual effects blocks and an amp model. You can assign your effects loop or a stompbox effect to any of these eight blocks. In total, there are 512 preset locations on the HD500, and these can all be edited by the user. You’ll never fill that up, but having so much customization potential is obviously a huge benefit, especially when compared to the 128 preset spots on the two smaller models.
The eight footswitches in the center of the unit are where most of the action happens. The top four work just like the on/off pedal on stomboxes, and the lower four are used to select the specific preset from the current bank. If you go into the menu screens, you can change this so they work like four additional stompbox on/off switches, giving you hands-free control of every element in your effects chain. When you’re selecting a specific preset (after pressing the bank up or down switch) these go back to choosing a specific preset before reverting to the stomp-box style functionality.
In-keeping with the rest of the series, there is a large expression pedal along the right of the unit which can be used to adjust any of 40 effect parameters. You can assign two different parameters to the pedal at the same time, with a hard step down on the toe-end switching between them. It would have been cool to have a four-way pedal like on the Zoom G5 (which would open six parameters up to hands-free editing combined with the toe-switch), but even the standard expression pedal gives it distinct advantages over Line 6’s M-series.
The HD500 comes with an in-built looper, which can be used for up to 48 seconds of recording time – twice the capacity of the smaller units. Pressing the dedicated looper switch changes seven of the central footswitches into looper controls, with “Undo/Redo,” “Pre-Post” (to change its position within the signal chain), “Half Speed,” “Reverse,” “Record/Overdub,” “Play/Stop” and “Play Once” all available.
There is a single display screen, with four knobs located underneath to control the effect parameters. You save your changes with a button to the left of the display, and there is a four-way control to the right which is used for menu navigation. If you put the HD500 into “Signal Flow View,” you can change the order of various components within your sound. The amp-like dials to the right of the display screen are used to alter the parameters of the amp model, and four of these can change function depending on the specific model you’re using.
The back panel of the HD500 is loaded with connectivity options, including stereo outputs, XLR outputs, MIDI in and out, FX loop jacks, a USB connection and a Variax Digital Input. There is also an additional connection which can be used to link up to the companion amps for the HD500, the DT50 series. This allows you to control the amplifier with the pedal, and generally improves the resulting tone.
Is it Worth the Investment?
Overall, there is very little to complain about with the HD500. The irritating groupings of effects in the HD300 and 400 are removed (so you can put eight distortions, delays, mods or filters in one preset, if you like) and there are more footswitches for hands-free control. The looper has doubled in capacity, and the number of presets has vastly increased. The DSP limit is obviously higher on a more powerful unit, but it doesn’t seem like it would have been too expensive to increase the looping capacity and number of preset locations on the cheaper pedals too.
The preset sounds on the HD500 aren’t likely to suit your tastes (or at least the majority won’t). They’re like a show-reel for Line 6, flaunting the versatility of the pedal without really having much in the way of practical application. With some small edits, they can easily be improved, however. Some people may complain about the relatively small number of amp models, but Line 6’s argument is that it’s better to do some really well rather than loads to a merely passable standard.
There may be still minor niggles (for example, the footswitches are still pretty small, so catching another one accidentally is all-too-easy during a performance), but the increased size and power of the unit wins out. You can still reach the DSP limit if you go too heavy on the amp models and effects, but you’re unlikely to really encounter limits of any kind with the HD500. It might represent a considerable investment, but you get a dependable and flexible studio or gigging companion for your cash. If you’re serious about making unique combinations of amp models and stomp-box effects and will want to perform live, the HD500 is a serious contender.
Line 6 POD HD500 Demo