Line 6 POD Express Review: The Ultimate FX Pedal?

Line 6 Pod Express

The new Line 6 POD Express is a return to form for the company, offering HX guitar tones in a pedal-sized platform. But how does it compare to the Helix?


ELECTRIKJAM Approved!

Line 6 POD Express

Going back to basics. the Line 6 POD Express is all of the best Helix tones in a compact pedal design. This compact, affordable, digital FX unit might be the newest addition to your pedalboard.


chris horton

Line 6 looks to the past, using the original “Pocket POD” design from 20 years ago. This is a slimmed-down Helix, ready for recording or gigging.

— Chris Horton, ELECTRIKJAM

Ernie Ball Paradigm Review

Build Quality

★★★★

Features

★★★★★

Price

💰💰

Ease of Use

Novice, Intermediate

Overall

★★★★

Line 6 POD Express: Looking At The Past…

The Line 6 POD Express is the newest unit to utilize the Helix technology, after products like the HX Stomp, and many variants of the Stomp series. But it also borrows heavily from the past.

Anyone who was around 20 years ago will remember the original kidney-shaped POD device for guitar. This was the first mass-produced digital amp modeler to really catch on with guitar players.

Over the years, Line 6 continued to create similar products, and some home recording enthusiasts had already started using it at home with their DAW. Quite a few famous albums actually feature original the POD!

But it still wasn’t quite “right” yet when it came to tone. It just did not react like a physical amplifier, at least until the POD HD Series came around. This is when I decided to try one, and I still use it!

The HD Series was a huge step up in sound quality, and it was one of the first FX units that could replace your entire rig. I used one to play gigs for about a year, and i still use it for the gorgeous clean tones in the studio today.

But the Line 6 Helix was the real star, and it could contend with AxeFX and Kemper with the amp modeling quality and IR options. Many guitarists swear by the Helix, and I became an evangelist for the floorboard model.

However, there was a problem with the Helix for me, and many other guitarists. It had too many options, and even after the user interface was simplified two years ago, it was too much for me.

If you listen to The Electrikjam Podcast, then you know I recently sold my Helix due to option paralysis. I would spend hours editing patches, instead of actually playing my guitar.

It looks like the Line 6 POD Express is the answer to that option paralysis that many users tend to have. It uses the same sounds and effects from the Helix, just in a compact package.

We are going to look at the features of the Line 6 POD Express, and talk about just how useful this pedal can be, both in the studio and on the stage. So let’s dive in!


Features & Specs

Line 6 Pod Express
  • Simple controls make it easy to quickly dial in tones
  • Ultra-portable design lets guitarists take it anywhere
  • HX-quality models for exceptional sound and feel
  • 7 Amps, 7 cabs, and 17 effects, including a looper
  • Powered by 3 AA batteries or an optional 9-volt power supply
  • Stereo Main outputs and stereo headphone output
  • USB-C audio interface for recording, monitoring, re-amping
  • Connect an optional expression pedal or 2 external footswitches

The Line 6 POD Express has a lot of impressive features, but the size is probably the most important. I compared it to the size of my regular pedals, and it is just slightly larger than a regular pedal.

The effects knobs are pretty self-explanatory, with the values clearly marked in different color codes. The middle knob rotates a full 360 degrees to scroll through your options.

On the back of the unit, the Line 6 POD Express has a simplified input/output section. You can run the POD Express in stereo to your recording interface or pedalboard, which makes your delay effects sound awesome!

There is an input for a separate footswitch or expression pedal. I can see this being an important feature for players using this pedal for the stage.

The two footswitch buttons are what you use to control almost everything with the Line 6 POD Express, since there is no app or computer editor for this unit. You do everything on the pedal itself, making dialing in a tone very simple.

The Line 6 POD Express being battery powered is also a very cool feature. This means that you can use the POD when traveling, just hook up headphones or your computer.

All together, you have a lot of the features in the POD Express that the Helix has to offer, just streamlined. No matter what kind of music you play, you will find a guitar tone that suits your style.


Detailed Review & Uses

I was not quite sure how I was going to approach this pedal at first, but I have tried to play around with the POD Express as much as possible. Using it in different scenarios, and applications.

I found that using the Line 6 POD Express on my pedalboard was a bit tedious, since I already have delay, reverb, and modulation pedals. I can see where it might be a good product for the stage, but not for me.

I think recording is the best use of the POD Express, and any two-channel interface can take advantage of the stereo output. This is how I decided to test out the POD Express, and I used it in my studio with monitors.

Yes, I am sure you can somehow use it on the stage as your main source for tone. But that is not how I think most guitarists are going to use this pedal.

Having it on my desktop to just use at any time, is very cool. The presets that are programmed offer a lot of variety. Like most multi-FX devices, I usually find a preset sound that is close to what I want, and then edit it to my taste.

The knob in the middle has 7 different LED colors, as you scroll through the different types of parameters. A red LED indicates the selected amp model when turning the AMP encoder. When holding the ALT button and turning the AMP encoder or an effect knob, the LED segments indicate the corresponding value/parameter. 

The Line 6 POD Express has a very simple looper as well, when you turn the delay knob all the way up, clockwise. You then have one button to loop, start, and stop the function. This is stripped-down, but it works great!

This probably sounds complicated to do with just two buttons, but it is super easy to get a tone that you want, and then start adding effects. Physical knobs instead of digital menus-what a concept!

The CHIME amp was my favorite for cleaner tones, and it works great with single coils and humbuckers. It sounds particularly good with a wide reverb.

The distortion/drive tones are all lifted from the Helix as well, and they definitely chug. At the same time, you can get some soaring lead tones from the high gain settings.

My favorite recipe for a good lead tone is stereo delay and a dash of reverb. I was able to dial this in quickly, and I was instantly jamming along to my favorite backing tracks.

The ALT button allows you to control the parameters like EQ, and effect qualities. The LED ring will change color, and you can dial in the amp or effect the way you prefer it. This takes some getting used to, but it is intuitive.

While I mostly used the Line 6 POD Express with my studio interface, it also has a headphone jack on the side, with a volume control. If you use batteries, you have a portable headphone amp!

The headphone feature is really cool, but it really doesn’t compare to the new Katana GO that I recently reviewed. The POD Express is bulky and you still need a cable, making it a little less portable.



Recording With The POD Express

Line 6 POD Express

The stereo effects sound outstanding, especially the ping pong reverb and delay options. You cannot get this effect without using both output options, but even using the POD Express in mono mode sounds great.

This would be a great recording tool for anyone that wants a quality multi-FX unit, but streamlined. The Line 6 POD Express is easy to use, and you can get tones to record your ideas quickly.

At first, I thought the lack of an app or computer interface would be a problem, but it actually makes dialing in a tone easier! No crazy menus to scroll through, with limitless options!

If you have a USB interface, then two cables will give you stereo output into your DAW. This is how I usually set up a stereo FX unit, and it works great with the POD Express.

You can also use the USB OUT to computer option, and the Line 6 POD Express will act like a recording interface. This is perfect if you have not purchased an interface yet, or want to use the pedal on the go, with your computer.

Would I use the POD Express on a “real” recording? I absolutely would use it for recording, since it uses the same sounds as the Helix. This is a pro piece of gear, and it sounds amazing considering the price.

Honestly, I only used about 6 different presets on my Helix for recording. This is why I sold it, since it was big and complicated to use. The Line 6 POD Express has everything I would need to record guitar tracks.


A Couple Issues…

Look, I think the Line 6 POD Express is a fantastic little piece of kit, and it will be a huge tool for many guitar players out there. But I do have a couple of issues with it, albeit minor ones.

The first con might be a pro for some people, depending on your needs. The housing is plastic, and while it feels rather sturdy, I would not trust it on stage. However, this might be a good thing for people that want something lightweight.

Another con that I found was the tap tempo while editing a patch. The delay can save in the wrong place between preset mode and regular mode. This also happens with the gain control, and it can carry over without saving, so be careful before saving and switching presets!

Like a lot of older devices, there is an audible “BLIP” or stutter when you switch between presets. This was a problem with older multi-FX units, and it can be jarring between saved patches.

Finally, the tuner mode is easy to read and see, but it does act a little wonky with lower tunings. I had issues with B Standard and Drop C tunings, as the pedal just did not want to read the lower notes properly.


Wrapping Up & Final Thoughts

While I did have a few hiccups, I actually expected to have way more problems than I did. A lot can go wrong with a pedal that is this compact, yet so powerful and versatile.

Even with the issues, the Line 6 POD Express is one heck of a powerhouse of amp sounds and effects. There is a bit of a learning curve, but once you get everything down, it becomes easy to remember.

I rarely watch reviews before I try out a product, and the POD Express is no exception. I am, however, watching some now that my time is done with the pedal. It seems like everyone else has similar opinions to me, and some people are using it for gigs!

While I couldn’t see myself gigging with the POD Express, it will work for a lot of people. I can see the appeal for guitarists that need a minimal setup.

On the other hand, if you want to start recording your own guitar ideas at home, this can easily be your starter rig. The low price allows just about anyone to get one of these! All you need is a DAW of your choice.

No matter what your guitar style may be, there is a tone in the POD Express for you, but the possibilities are NOT exactly limitless. This is a huge pro for the people that dislike scrolling through menu options, trying to get a tone.

No more option paralysis when trying to dial in a sound that you like. Gone are the endless menus and options. This is a new trend in guitar, going back to basics, and I love it.

If you want simple, but effective, then the Line 6 POD Express is going to be right up your alley. It has massive tones, great effects, and everything you need to record and jam.

Kudos, Line 6, for looking at the past… for ideas here in the future. I think the first batch of these will go fast, and the POD Express might be the most-important product of the year for budget guitarists.

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The Line 6 POD Express Guitar enables you to craft your signature sound and take it wherever you play. With models derived from the award-winning Line 6 HX family, the POD Express Guitar provides high-definition amps, cabs and effects in an ultraportable stompbox format. The simple interface makes it easy to dial in and save your tones, while the optional expression pedal (sold separately) and footswitches give you hands-free control of parameters for a customized playing experience.

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