Line 6 effects have been around a long time. Today, we help you make an informed purchase, and get the most out of your Line 6 guitar equipment.
Line 6 Effects Buying Guide: What is Line 6?
Line 6 have been around for a long time, since 1996 in fact! But the history of Line 6 products is a very interesting one. Line 6 was actually created by two guys that had a huge impact on the music industry. It is a really amazing story how Line 6 came to be what it is today.
Line 6 was founded by Marcus Ryle and Michel Doidic, who had a hand in making ADAT tape really popular in the 80’s. Both had also worked on Oberheim electronics, who made some cool audio related products. So both had their hands in some great inventions, and lots of cutting edge technology. Mixing technology with music equipment was still a new and novel idea.
The Line 6 moniker came from there only being 5 phone lines when Marcus and Michel left to create DSP-based products at Fast Forward. If they got a call for “Line 6” that was code for the amps and effects they were working on in secret. By 1996, the first products started hitting the market, and they were different to say the least.
The very first product was the AXSYS, and it was a 2×12 stereo amp. Most people would assume it was the POD series, but that came later. The next product released was the Flex-Tone Amplifier, and it sold pretty well. The VETTA amps were also adopted early by people like Meshuggah.
But the company saw real success with the POD Series. The POD essentially took the technology from the AXSYS amplifier, and isolated the tones that were available. Lots of players started to use the POD on albums, even some famous guitarists.
The POD saw many different iterations before Yamaha bought Line 6 in 2012. Yamaha has done a lot to change the landscape of Line 6. The original POD was kind of a joke in the music industry, and multi-effects units were looked down on in general. That’s because amp sim tech was not there yet, but it was close.
Yamaha saw an opportunity in Line 6 to be more professional, and now the company is synonymous with quality effects. Yamaha took the company to the next level with the newer products, but the Helix was the big turn. For the first time, Line 6 became a totally professional option for the studio and the stage.
Now we see Line 6 products in big studios, and on stages everywhere. It seems like every time I see a cover band these days, the guitarist is using a Helix. There is a good reason for that, but which one is right for you?
Line 6 Products
Line 6 has a huge lineup of products that all share the same technology. There is something for everyone, at many different price tiers. So whether you want to use the Helix alone, as your entire rig, or use the HX Stomp to supplement your pedalboard, you’re covered.
We will not be talking about the Fire Hawk or any of the older POD HD models. These are no longer supported by Line 6, and no longer get any updates. You can still buy some of these products, but we are going over the ones that are relevant.
We are going to start with the flagship products, and going over the basic features of each one. But the fun part about each product is everyone will use it differently. Personally, I think the Helix can cover all of the bases for most guitarists, but then there are other players that might only use it for a few features!
The flagship Helix pedalboard is the “best of the best” when it comes to Line 6 products. This is the big boy, and it does just about anything you want it to. I don’t see very many guitarists using the Helix as a “supplement” to their rig. This is for the people that want to replace the traditional amp/cab setup.
The Helix is very powerful, and we have talked about how to record with it, and use it to the full capabilities. The recent 3.50 update has made the Helix even more user-friendly, and easier to program for however you want to use it. The biggest draw is just how much control you have over tone shaping.
- The most powerful Line 6 multi-effects unit
- Dual DSP-powered HX modeling engine (More room for effects)
- Over 200 amp, cab, mic, and effects models
- Easy-to-read 6.2″ LCD display
- 12 touch-sensitive footswitches for editing
- 10 inputs, 12 outputs (including 4 effects loops for adding pedals)
- 8-in/8-out USB audio interface
- 3 expression pedal outs
- Mic-level XLR input
- S/PDIF, AES/EBU, and L6 Link digital outputs
- Capacitive touch-sensitive switches for parameter recall
- Assignable RGB LED color rings
- Customizable LCD scribble strips
- Preset or stompbox modes
- Integrated looper
- Solid-aluminum construction
- Tour-grade footswitches
We will talk more about “Who Line 6 Is For” later, but the flagship Helix is made for the guitarist that needs total control over their sound. Almost every aspect of the Helix is something that you can customize. For some guitarists, this might be overkill. For other guitarists, this might do just about everything you need.
The unit is solid, and built to be portable for playing on different stages. This means you also have multiple outputs for different venue situations. These XLR and TRS outputs can be helpful on the stage, but even more helpful in the studio. Either way, you are covered.
Line 6 has recently changed the way the DSP works, which is what acts as “memory” in the Helix. The 3.50 update made it even easier to be able to stack effects and choose different cabinets when you are editing patches. The visual “rig” on the Helix screen is easy to set up, and you can build entire setlists worth of patches.
The flagship Helix does literally everything you can possibly imagine. You have a ton of amps that cover any genre, as well as the new IR system that makes it easy to dial in a base tone. The legendary amps that Line 6 captured can cover pretty much anything, including bass guitar.
But Line 6 is known for effects more than amp simulators, and there is no holding back when it comes to the Helix. You can design your effects chain just about any way you want, and it is easy to do. You can do it through the front panel, or you can use Line 6 Edit.
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The Helix LT
The Line 6 Helix LT does just about everything the flagship Helix does when it comes to the amps and effects. You have all of the same power and options, and still have the onscreen editor. But the Helix LT is much less expensive, so the company had to cut corners somehow, right?
Well, the main difference is going to be the nametags for each patch. You will notice in the picture that there are spots for the nametag edits, and for some guitarists this will be a deal breaker. It really depends on how intricate your whole setup is, and how many patches you need.
You also have less input/output options, and this can be a huge deal for some players as well. I know a lot of Helix players that use those I/O to integrate different pedals with the Helix. You have limited options with the Helix LT, so that is something to keep in mind.
But as a studio tool, the Helix LT has everything you need under the hood to program some amazing patches. It has the same engine that the flagship Helix features, so there is nothing lacking in that department. It is just a little stripped down when it comes to the external features.
- Same Helix Engine as the Flagship Model
- Over 200 amp, cab, mic, and effects models
- 6.2″ LCD display
- 12 touch-sensitive footswitches for editing
- 2 mono/1 stereo FX Loop
- 8-in/8-out USB audio interface
- Expression-pedal out
- AES/EBU and L6 Link digital outputs
- Capacitive touch-sensitive switches for parameter recall
- Preset or stompbox modes
- Integrated looper
- Tour-grade footswitches
So this is just the Helix “Light” model at the end of the day. It has all of the power that you need from the regular Helix, but lacks a lot of the bells and whistles. To me, this is the best buy for someone that has a batch of tones that they need, and can live without the extra features of the flagship model.
The Helix LT will do the work needed for just about every guitarist. The flagship model absolutely does have better features, but do you need them? Personally, I think the Helix LT is the best buy for almost every guitarist. It has the power, just not as flashy!
The HX Series
The HX Series takes all of the great things about the Helix, and puts it in a more compact package. Now, this does limit your amount of tones. The HX Series could totally be the “brain” of your rig, but none of the products have the functionality of the actual Helix.
The HX Stomp for example CAN simulate a rig, but it is more often used in conjunction with other pedals and a real amp. However, the HX Stomp XL can get you a whole lot closer to being an “all in one” solution. The real heart of these smaller units is the effects. There are three popular models out there right now:
- HX Effects
- HX Stomp
- HX Stomp XL
All three have their strengths and weaknesses, and they all work differently. These three units will all be appealing to different guitarists, but they all use the Helix technology to “power” the units. That means that each one uses the same engine, just with different limitations. So let’s go over each one and look at the major strengths of each.
The HX Effects Unit
This is the perfect unit for guitarists that already have an amp that they like. The HX Effects is not so much for the amp modeling, but more for the effects themselves. This has all of the quality Helix effects, over 100 of them! These include some fan favorites made by Line 6, as well as all of the classics you would expect.
You can run up to nine effects simultaneously, and the HX Effects has the nametag window just like the Helix. This thing is road ready, and you see it on a ton of professional pedalboards replacing the traditional pedals with the HX Effects. I mean, you can replace up to nine pedals, and even have different presets.
This HX Effects unit is definitely for the guitarist that wants to replace a pedalboard. But having presets with up to nine effects on the different banks allows you to combine the 100 different effects in all kinds of unique ways. There is a lot you can do here, and the HX Effects works great in front of the amp or in the FX loop!
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The HX Stomps Units
These are like the Helix in a lot of ways, just much more limited. These have amp models and tons of effects, but you are limited to how much you can throw together. For me, these are perfect for my studio needs, as I rarely stack more than 3 effects at a time.
So if that sounds like you as a guitarist, then the HX Stomp units will do everything that you need. The limit on DSP power is going to turn a lot of guitarists off. But I think that sometimes all you need is just a great amp sound and a few effects.
I have also seen guitarists use the HX Stomp in conjunction with their pedalboard. You can easily use it to add a few more effects without adding any more real estate to your pedalboard. So while there may be some limitations, there is more than enough here to create some killer tones!
The Line 6 POD GO
The Line 6 POD GO is the most cost effective way to get the HX family effects, in a fully functional pedalboard. The POD GO uses some great Helix technology, with a few limitations. But it also blends the HX sounds with the original POD sounds. So you get a lot to play around with here!
To me, the POD GO is the best deal out of all of the Line 6 units. Not only is it easy to use for newcomers, but it has everything that most guitarists are going to need. Some of the older POD amp models are still amazing, and the HX tech may be limited, but this unit really does everything.
You get 270 of the Legacy Models with the POD GO, which is a crazy amount of amps and effects to use. You can mix and match all of these sounds together, and the price tag is 1/4 of what the Helix flagship model costs. This keeps the lower-cost POD series going, and also breathes new life into the series.
- Streamlined floor processor with more than 270 Helix and legacy amp, stomp, and cabinet models
- Lightweight, tour-grade build quality
- Designed to sound great into an amp or PA
- Captures the tone and feel of playing through real tube amps and pedal effects
- Large color screen is easy to see from standing position, even on dark stages!
- Onboard expression pedal unlocks dynamic wah, volume, and rotary speaker effects
- Snapshots feature lets you save and recall tones for each section of a song
- Supports third-party cabinet impulse responses for greater expandability
- 4 x 4 USB audio interface delivers tones directly into a recording session in 24-bit/96kHz
- Onboard FX loop and headphone output
- Dry amp output lets you monitor through a traditional rig while sending processed tones to FOH
The POD GO is one of the best studio tools you can have, since you can record and re-amp directly. Just like the Helix, you can use the POD GO as your entire rig with an FRFR, or you can use it alone with the venue’s PA system. More and more venues are using “silent stages” these days, making the POD GO perfect.
The drawback is that compared to the Helix, the POD GO seems a little paltry when it comes to effects and power. But how much power do you really need? Do you need to stack 8 different effects and split two amps at the same time?
For most guitarists, the POD GO can be a great tool on stage and in the studio. It has everything you NEED to get some legendary tones, and even build your own. Just like the HX Stomp, it does have its limitations. But unless you are doing some seriously Avant Garde music, the POD GO will be more than enough.
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Who Are Line 6 Products For?
People who like Line 6 are going to fall into a few categories, and they are all just a little different. I can also talk a little about my own experience using Line 6 products, and how each product is very different. So who would benefit from using Line 6 gear the most? Let’s start with what I think is number 1.
I think people that only play in a studio environment will love Line 6 products. Back in the day, recording guitar would be a big, laborious effort. You would have to mic up a cab, get the level right, and it can get even more complicated depending on your desired tone.
Studio guitarists have had it rough in the past, but something like a Line 6 Helix would be perfect for a guitarist that only records in studios or at home. Around 3 or 4 years ago, I started seeing more and more players showing up to the studio with multi effects units, and this speeds up the process of recording massively.
With a Helix, you have every tone you could possibly imagine, so recording is already going to be easier. But then, there is also the output options you have with a Helix. You can plug directly into any recording interface. This streamlines the whole process for the studio, as well as the player.
2. Gigging Guitarists
This means even more if you play professionally in more than one band! But being able to have a preset for every single song in your set is a huge advantage. More and more venues have updated their stages too, which allows you to run your Helix direct.
But the biggest draw, even if you do use external amplification like an FRFR Speaker, is that your rig is very small. The whole rig can easily be transported to any gig, and it works for many players. You can have tons of different sounds right at your feet in a portable option.
But people that play in multiple bands that cover different genres can really benefit by going digital with a Helix of HX product. You can easily play a Country gig, and then go directly to a Rock gig and never have to change your rig. I know, because I have done this!
I used Line 6 products to gig in a Metal band and a Blues band at the same time. I used the Line 6 Edit program to make patches for both gigs, and I never had to switch my rig up. This was even more important on a Friday night, when I had a show with BOTH bands.
3. Content Creators
This is a big one too, and so many guitarists make videos and other content these days. Line 6 products are perfect for this, especially if you cover a wide range of genres. If you do videos in particular, the digital way might be the ONLY way you can record. It just makes it way easier to edit the content.
With so many amps and effects at your fingertips, it just makes sense to use something like a Helix when you are creating content. All you need is a good interface, and then you dial in the tone that you need. This is great for covers on YouTube or Instagram, and it also works for demos.
4. Silent Guitar Practice
This is a big one for most people, since most tube guitar amps only sound good when you crank them. For years, this was the only option, and practicing guitar could be a loud situation. Line 6 products all have a headphone jack that allows you to practice silently.
This also means that you can play and dial in tones on a good pair of headphones without being loud. I often edited my patches in between shows with a pair of headphones, so I could sound better in the mix of the band.
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How Do You Use The Line 6 Editor?
We have already done a great article on how to use the Line 6 Edit, including the new update. One thing that every product we talked about today have in common, is they can all be connected to the Line 6 Edit. This allows you to really dial in the tone of your unit, and fine tune all of the effects.
With the amp models, you can even do a deep dive into the tube structure. You can set the sag, the amount of noise that the amp makes, and so much more. The editor is really limitless when it comes to the different amp settings, so you can dial in the perfect tone.
The same can be said for the effects, and they all have a great visual of the pedal and controls. Having this visual aid for each of the digital effects allows you to dial in the effects just like a traditional pedal. This makes your workflow simple, and easy.
You can even have the editor open while you are recording, and dial in the sounds that you need as you record. This can be invaluable for studio musicians, who need to layer tracks with different sounds on the fly. each of the products we listed today all use the editor via USB with your computer.
What Is Helix Native?
Line 6 has not forgotten about the people that would rather not use any hardware in the studio. Amp simulators come in all shapes and sizes, but Helix Native is an absolute brute force of nature for any studio. This is not just the Helix for your computer, this is the Helix without limitations.
From a glance at the screenshot, it may just look like the Line 6 Edit program. But it is actually a fully functional amp simulator that you can use to record. This is pretty cool, and the limitations are only your imagination. You have all of the same amps and effects as an actual Helix.
The coolest part of Helix Native is that Line 6 has made this program work perfectly with your hardware. So if you designed a patch that you really like on your physical Helix, you can download that patch directly to your computer and use it in Helix native. It also works the other way around!
Helix Native works with Windows, as well as Mac. It also works with just about any DAW of your choice. I mean, you have over 60 amps to choose from, tons of the new cabinet IRs, and over 100 effects. That is a lot to choose from, and Helix Native can be a huge studio tool. You can even use the EQ, and other effects on other instruments!
The Line 6 Learning Curve: Easy AND In-Depth!
So with all of this crazy power that Line 6 offers, even on the smaller offerings, you would think that the learning curve getting into digital would be difficult. To be fair and honest, it used to be very hard to program. I would often get “option paralysis” when it came to programming my Helix.
But the new Line 6 3.50 Update in 2022 changed all of that. Picking a mic and cab is much easier now. Line 6 limited the amount of cabs and IRs you have to not only lessen the load on DSP, but the visual designer makes everything more intuitive. The Line 6 Edit program has never been easier.
I think Line 6 did this for a few different reasons. The first would be that is was way overdue for the Helix to receive an update. Many things have been added over the years, and it started to get complicated to dial in a tone.
But I also think that Line 6 is competing with the newer computer based amp sims, that come ready to play. Things like STL Tones and Archetype have become the norm for newer guitarists. So I think that Line 6 had to play catchup a little, and the 3.50 Update was exactly what was needed. It really breathes new life into the HX and Helix lineup.
So if you are just now getting into digital guitar systems, Line 6 is one of the industry standards. It offers a ton of options for guitarists that want to supplement their rig, or go completely digital. How you use these products is completely up to you, since they are all so versatile.
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Line 6 Artist Patches/Downloads
The last thing we should talk about is the ability to download patches, because this can be a lot of fun. Line 6 has a ton of presets built in to the units when you buy them. Since there is no license agreements, Line 6 cannot outright call these amps and effects by the same name as their real-life counterparts.
But you can take a look at the visual cues, and put it together. I think we know what a “70’s British” amp is meant to be, especially when we see the graphic. The same goes for the artist presets that you download from Line 6. Like we know what “Eddie Solo” is probably based on.
User presets can also be uploaded, and tons of famous guitarists share their favorite presets. You can then download these, and tweak them to your liking. I do this all the time, and with a few EQ tweaks I usually get an awesome new tone to play around with. This is great when you are recording!
Like if you know that you want some heavy guitars, you can download something akin to a “Metallica” preset, then change the settings until it fits with your rig. This can save a ton of time when you’re recording tracks. Likewise, you can also just pull up the right amp for the job.
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Why Should I Use Line 6?
Line 6 products can be a powerful tool for any guitarist. Digital Modeling technology has really taken over when it comes to recording both at home, and in the studio. While it may seem like nothing will replace a real amp in a room, Line 6 can get really close.
This means that your rig can be easier to transport and use. Being consistent as a guitarist, night after night on stage is very important, and it has never been easier.
Line 6 has a huge lineup of products that all share the same technology. There is something for everyone, at many different price tiers. Whether you're a pro or a bedroom-based beginner, Line 6 has something just right for you.
- Wide selection of products designed to meet the needs of any guitarist, from entry-level players to professional performers.
- Innovative technology and unlimited types of guitar tones for crafting totally unique sounds
- Intuitive interface makes it easy to dial in the perfect tone quickly.
- Comprehensive warranty protection helps ensure your investment
Line 6 FAQs
What is Line 6?
Line 6 is a leading manufacturer of guitars, basses, amplifiers, effects pedals and other musical instruments. They are known for their innovative products that combine both cutting-edge technology and classic guitar sounds.
Does Line 6 offer any warranty service for its products?
Line 6 provides a one-year limited warranty that covers manufacturing defects, as well as product repairs and replacements. Additionally, Line 6 offers an extended two-year “Platinum” warranty for select products. Coverage details may vary depending on the product you purchased, so be sure to check your warranty documents for more information.
What pro guitarists use Line 6?
Many top guitarists and bands use Line 6 products, including John Mayer, Joe Satriani, Green Day, Korn and more
what is the most popular Line 6 product?
The Line 6 POD HD500X is one of the most popular multi-effects units on the market today. It offers a wide range of amp models and effects, as well as intuitive controls and deep editing capabilities.
Christoper HortonChristopher has been playing guitar, bass, and piano for 28 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. Chris has toured for years with several bands and music projects across the United States. He worked in Los Angeles as a studio musician and engineer working with many genres, but mainly Pop, Rock, and Metal. In between giving private lessons, he is usually recording under his various projects at home in Georgia. Christopher plays Schecter Guitars, BOSS Amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.
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