We know that Line 6 makes some of the best processors on the planet, but are Line 6 guitar amps bad? Today we take a look at the meme, and tell you the truth.
Are Line 6 Guitar Amps Bad? The Meme…
I cannot think of a single piece of guitar equipment that gets the amount of guff that Line 6 Spider gets on a consistent basis. It has been made fun of mercilessly pretty much since it was released almost 20 years ago. Since the initial release of the Line 6 Spider series, it has gone through about 5 different iterations. They are still sold today, at every major retailer.
The Spider was released in several different forms. You had the smallest practice amp style, all the way up to a full stack setup. These had tons of built in effects and features, along with what made Line 6 famous in the first place: Amp modeling. But somewhere along the line, the Spider series became a joke. It became a huge meme that circled around the guitar communities on the internet.
The original Line 6 Spider sounded like you had a wet, wool blanket draped over the speaker at all times. Clean tones were compared to glass breaking. When you tried any channel that had distortion, it sounded like you were being assaulted by bees playing tiny harmonicas. Dirty tones often were mistaken for someone eating a bag of Doritos in a cave. The effects were best left turned off at all times. The array of effects sounded like “Bus Crash” or “CD Player Skipping” sometimes, but most were just “Broken Laser Gun”.
But times have definitely changed…
Line 6 is the go-to brand for effects processors these days. The Helix has redefined what a guitar processor can be, and people are ditching the old-school guitar amp setups in favor of the Helix for live use. These are pro products, and they carry a “pro pricetag”. But that’s because these are serious pieces of equipment. The whole HX Series is serious pro gear being used on albums and in studios every day.
The Spider is not marketed as being a professional amp, though. It is more for practice at home, and jamming along with your favorite tracks. Why does the Line 6 Spider get such a bad rap if it’s a cheaper option? People tend to make fun of the sounds, especially the amp models. In the beginning they were…questionable. The original Spider was ahead of it’s time, and not in a good way.
But are Line 6 guitar amps bad? Well, the price certainly doesn’t help the case. The Spider amps are the cheapest products in the Line 6 lineup these days. Nine times out of ten, we associate products that seem like “too good to be true” as a rip off. That’s a fair assumption. But is the Spider really as bad as everyone says it is?
Today we are going to take a look at the features of the amp, and answer the question… Are Line 6 guitar amps bad, really? You might be surprised at the answer…
Line 6 Spider: Specs And Features
The original Line 6 Spider was pretty bad, I can’t lie to you. These came out in the mid 2000’s and they were pretty shoddy. But you have to think, all modeling technology back then was pretty shoddy. It wasn’t just Line 6, it was every company in the industry trying to make it work. Even BOSS put out some pretty bad products back then. So did Fender!
If you would have asked me back then, are Line 6 guitar amps bad…I would have absolutely said yes. But there has been a long time between then and now, and the technology on the Line 6 Spider has been updated a lot. I think it is rather unfair to think that the current Spider V Series is the same as they were way back then.
The Line 6 Spider Series V comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. They have different wattages, and different speaker combos. From small to large, you have a myriad of options. But they all have the same processor as the “brain” of the unit. This means that even though there are several options for power and size, the sounds are the same across the board.
- Artist, Iconic Song, and Classic amp presets
- 200+ amps, cabs, and effects
- Tuner, metronome, and jam-along drum loops
- Compatible with Line 6 FBV 3 Foot Controller
- USB interface and free Spider V Remote app (Mac, PC, iOS, AndroidTM*)
- Classic Speaker mode for organic sound and feel
The Spider V Series has a bunch of updated features, and can be programmed however you want. You can use the Line 6 Software to design patches via USB, or you can just dial in the tone from the amp controls. You have all of the basic amp controls right on the faceplate: Volume, Gain, Mid, Treble, Bass. You can then use the knobs to edit the patches.
You also have the usual practice amp features. There is a drum machine, and built in looper that you can use to practice with. You also have an AUX-In plug that allows you to play songs from another device to jam along to (Like your Cell Phone). These are all cool features but I think things like the Spark Amp does it way better and has better options.
The higher wattage versions could technically be used in a live situation, since you can connect a Line 6 Floor pedal FBV up to the Spider V. This will allow you to change through patches, and turn effects on and off. You can bank up and down with the FBV, and switch your presets around. But this is solid state power, and may not “cut” in a band situation. Especially over a loud drummer.
Like most amps these days, you can hook your smartphone or tablet up to unit. This allows you to scroll through all of the amp options and effects. This is really cool, if you do not want to use your computer to control the amp. The Spider App is actually really great, and easy to use! You can scroll through tons of sounds, and access all of the special artist presets.
But let’s talk about the important part: The sounds. How does the Line 6 Spider Series V stack up against the older models? I’m pretty happy to report, there is a huge upgrade in sound quality! There are even artist presets that you can download, and they cover just about any band and guitarist that you can think of. The artists presets are pretty good, and blend with the song they are mimicking really well!
The clean tones are very rich, and you have quite a few amp styles. Included are Fender Tweed amp sounds, Modern Cleans, and more British focused sounds like a Vox AC30. These sound really great with a little bit of reverb, and delay. Do they compare to the Helix? Absolutely not. They are not as varied or rich, but that is to be expected with a budget product.
The distortion/high gain settings are all very useable as well. The model that does a 5150 style amp distortion is actually really good! It has full midrange and a lot of bass that can be dialed in to get a pretty solid tone. Most of the other heavier distortions were pretty muddy to me, and took a lot fiddling around to get them sounding good. But the point is, you can make them sound pretty good! There is none of the fizz that plagued the older Line 6 guitar amps.
The effects are just…ok. The delays and reverbs were actually really well done, but some of the other effects are certainly lacking. Things like tremolo, and auto wah are just superfluous, since they really can’t be controlled by tap tempo without the foot pedal-that is not included. The octave effects and pitch bends are all very usable as well. Everything is pretty great actually! Even the Fuzz tones, which are hard to get sounding right on a digital amp!
To my experienced ears, there are tons of tones to be found with this little amp! For a beginner, you might be overwhelmed by how many cool sounds you can get out of the Line 6 Spider. This is also a great practice buddy, with lots of good presets and tools that will keep you jamming!
So…are Line 6 guitar amps bad? What’s the problem if I am speaking so highly of the Spider V? Well, there are two problems…
Are Line 6 Guitar Amps Bad? Not At All…But There Is A Catch!
So it sounds like I am really praising the new Line 6 Spider V right? Well, I am definitely praising it, as it sounds really good considering it is a budget amp. But there are two big problems that I found, and that other reviewers pointed out as well. The first, is the speaker.
When I listened to tones through my headphones, everything sounded really amazing. especially when I was jamming along with backing tracks. But when you are using the speaker, the tone is just…flat. I feel like I have bluetooth dollar store speakers that have better sound quality than the Spider V. Now this can be rectified, by just installing a new speaker. This is a cheap upgrade, and takes about 10 minutes to install.
But the other problem, is you cannot record while hooked up to the computer and using the Spider App. I absolutely cannot believe Line 6 missed this feature! You can record with the output of the amp, into your interface. But not while you are dialing in your tone on the Spider App. What the hell, Line 6? Why have a USB controller that can’t be used while hooked up to record with USB?
Will these two things bother a beginner, or a bedroom guitarist? I honestly don’t think it would bother you. But if you are even a little bit experienced, then these features may be a dealbreaker. The speaker being the biggest problem for experienced ears. It just lacks so many dynamics, and is a huge oversight with the design. A good speaker might have cost slightly more, but it would have made all the difference in the world.
Are Line 6 Guitar Amps Bad? No…But Also…Yes
I honestly do not believe that the Line 6 Spider should get made fun of so badly anymore. Players that use them, also should not get made fun of. This amp series has come a long way from the original models that sounded so awful and buzzy. But at the same time, I feel like Line 6 goofed up pretty bad when it came to the speaker design, and USB function. But is this a huge deal for most players?
No, I don’t believe it is. This would be a great amp for a beginner guitarist, or a teenager looking to start their first garage band. The Line 6 Spider V is also great in the smaller models for people that need a tiny, affordable solution for practicing, or coming up with riff ideas. The drum machine is really cool, and might just help you conjure a great riff!
But as a professional product? I don’t think so. But I also said at the beginning of the article, that I don’t think that is the target audience for the Spider V. Line 6 has plenty of professional products out there to choose from, and it is obvious that this is the budget model.
So if you need a lot of tones on a budget, you can do a lot worse than the Line 6 Spider V. This is a great little amp for beginners and kids that need something cheap until they can get the “real deal” products. So don’t let the memes and myths fool you!
Christoper HortonChristopher has been playing guitar and piano for 27 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. He has toured for years with several bands and music projects. He worked in LA as a studio musician and engineer working with bands like IAMSOUND, Baroness, Kylesa, Black Tusk, Reflux, and Tripping Daisy. In between giving private lessons, he is recording a solo album for 2022-2023. Christopher plays Schecter guitars, BOSS amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.
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