Line 6 Pocket POD Review
Review: Line 6 Pocket POD
Line 6 Pocket POD
By Jon Chappell
The Line 6 POD, in all its various incarnations, is one of the best sounding and most successful guitar-based multi-effects processors on the market today. Its available in several formats, from inexpensive to deluxe, from table-top to floorpedal to rackmount. So whats missing? Why, a mini format, of course! Why should Apple have all the fun at nano-sizing their products?
Taking its cue from laptops, mp3 players, and efforts to get small with all things electronic, Line 6 has cherry picked the best features from the POD familys larger brethren and packaged them in a case that fits in one hand. The Pocket POD is the newest addition to the POD family and will benefit anyone who engages in portable guitar-processing activitiespracticing, laptop recording, wireless/tether-free performing, and anywhere that alternate current cant be found. As you might imagine, some features had to be scaled back to get this small, but none of the actual tone-shaping technology has been compromised. So while you seem to be plugging into something dinky, youd never know it by the output. The same complex, huge, and variable sounds from the full-size POD 2.0 are right there to be found in the Pocket POD. Weird to think that a Marshall stack can be powered by four AAA batterieseven if it is modeled and in miniaturebut it works!
The Incredible Shrinking POD
The Pocket POD fits in one hand, but has the same sound-generating engine as the tabletop POD 2.0, which doesnt fit in one handunless youre Shaquille ONeal.
Now, there are plenty of miniaturized, battery-powered multi-effects out there already that will cling to a strap or belt. But Line 6 has done something different, at least for multi-effects makers: theyve taken an established, full-size form factorthe unique red kidney bean shapeand created a Mini-Me version of it. This is good, because it identifies the product as being part of the familiar POD family, and you immediately have a reference for relating to it. But its risky, too, because it inevitably draws comparisons to the full-size versionand to the points where the manufacturer took shortcuts.
But the clever folks at Line 6 have created a product that takes the best of both worlds: adopting the proven shape and interface that is not only recognizable but utilitarian, and newly creating an effects processor that works in a small format, UI, I/O, and all. They achieved the latter by including quality knobs and switches that all have a firm grip and slop-free feel, and by creating a display that, while smallish, is perfectly readable, owing to its well-designed lettering and bright amber backlighting.
They also didnt skimp on the I/O: in addition to 1/4" guitar in and out, theyve included a headphones out (which doubles as a direct out), an aux input for a CD or mp3 playback device, a 9V DC adaptor jack (with polarity labeled), and a USB jack. The battery latch can be easily removed and replaced with the belt clip in place, and all the text labeling is legible and the knob assignments logical.
Sounds and Features
Theres plenty of I/O here, including a CD/Mp3 in, amp out, phones/direct out, 9V power jack, guitar in, and USB port (on the side).
That Line 6 would release something well-designed is no surprise, but lets see how they did in the features department. The Pocket POD comes with over 300 presets, and if you want to edit the sounds, you can make quick adjustments from the front panel controls for the most obvious functions.
One nice feature of the Pocket POD is the Browse By function, an iPod-like search tool that lets you view your patches according to four different categories: User (the familiar bank/program mode for stepping through patches in order), Band (such as 311, As I Lay Dying, Maroon 5, etc.), or Style (Clean, Heavy, Effected, etc.). These all offer a different way of viewing and organizing your patches, and each has their place. I personally liked the Style category, as I like to review all manner of, say, clean sounds before picking the one closest to the one I want, editing it as necessary for the situation at hand, and then saving my work to a User location.
This Thing Has Style
The PocketPOD sports a clip for your belt or strap. You can remove and replace the battery hatch (and the batteries) without having to remove the clip.
But Style offers some depth I didnt expect beyond the musical functions of the subcategories of Clean, Crunch, Heavy, and Effected. For example, theres a Bass and Vocal subcategory, by which Line 6 means it has designed patches to be used with an electric bass guitar and a microphone (as long as you match the input level correctly), which could be very handy. The final Style subcategory is called Song, which cops actual guitar settings for well-known songs. This to me is more useful even than the Band category. Line 6 gets real specific here, naming actual songs by title (no cutesy euphemisms, only space-saving abbreviations), including the amp & cab modeling, EQ, and effects for such archetype songs as Another Brick in the Wall, Ah Via Musicom, Smoke on the Water, Purple Haze, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Back in Black, Cold Shot, Come as You Are, Crazy Train, Paranoid Android, and tons more. This is a brilliant shorthand device, teaching tool, and point of departure for creating your own sounds.
Vying for Vyzex
If you need to access the deeper recesses of the editing functions, you can employ Line 6s editor/librarian software, called Vyzex. The Pocket POD is certainly not the first multi-effects to allow deep editing via software, so the people that need to tweak more finely than what can be accessed on the front panel probably wont mind doing it through a laptop and a USB cable (which Line 6 includes, and at a generous 60" length). Vyzex, like most multi-effects software, allows you to load and dump an entire Pocket PODs worth of sounds at once, or by individual banks or presets. Editing is two-way, meaning front-panel knob turns are reflected onscreen and vice versa.
Line 6s editor/librarian software for the Pocket POD, called Vyzex, is straightforward and easy to use.
But there are two reasons to use Vyzex, other than convenience: 1) you can swap patches online, including at Line 6s own repository of POD sounds; and 2) you can access parameters with the software that are unavailable to you on the front panel. This procedure is not unique to the Pocket POD, and I believe it is a reasonable way for manufacturers to keep costs down while offering to the truly tweaky among us the means with which to fine-tune these miniature boxes. The experience with installing and using Vyzex was quick, completely transparent, and hassle-freesomething that I cannot say about all manufacturers who offer editor/librarian software for their effects. Line 6 gets high marks for this.
Back to the front panel. Once you get comfortable with the four-way selector (similar to what youd find on a cell phone) used to negotiate the Browser, you can use the four large rotary knobs and two buttons to edit your top level settings. The four knobs access two sets of controls: the first set contains Drive, Effects, Delay, and Channel Volume. To get to the second set of controls (labeled in smaller type underneath), the Pocket POD has you press and hold down the Save button to access Bass, Mid, Treble, and Reverb. Beyond this immediate level of editing, you can change the amp and cabinet models and effect selection for each preset using a two-button combination. Theres also an onboard tuner that can be accessed with a one-button push, and the Tap Tempo feature is also, mercifully, a one-button-push affair (sounds obvious, but some manufacturers still dont get this, so hats off to Line 6 for doing so).
I found editing using the button combinations to be very intuitive and quick, except for the rotary knob shift operation described above. If tapped quickly once, then again to confirmthe Save button saves an edited patch to a user location. Pressing and holding the Save button switches to the second parameter set (Bass, Mid, Treble, Reverb). This is simple enough to master, but given the choice, I would have preferred the reverse operation: a quick tap allows you to access the second bank, while the two-handed method invokes the save feature.
As far as its sonic DNA, the Pocket POD is very close to the POD 2.0. Both have 32 amp models, 16 cabinets, and 16 effects. Both employ Line 6s A.I.R. for mic and room simulation. Most of the scaling back in the Pocket POD occurs in the hardware department, meaning you dont get nearly as many onboard knobs with which to make your edits. So youll be navigating around with menus and cursors to achieve the same control over the 2.0. But this is only a minor inconvenience, and of course, can be avoided completely if you use the editing software.
Besides the lack of onboard hardware dedicated to parameter control, you dont get MIDI or footswitch options, as you do with 2.0. But the sound-generating capabilities are all there, and if youre eyeing this for laptop recording, the incorporation of Vyzex software makes the limited front-panel editing a non-issue anyway. So if you need portable sound and can either work around the onboard editing routines or dispense with them altogether, the Pocket POD is a wonderful addition to the mobile-guitarists arsenal. Miniaturization, it has been shown in the electronic world, is a great thing. The only thing I wonder is if Line 6 will start releasing the Pocket POD in different colors!
Pocket POD Features
|300+; 124 user-programmable, 100 Rock Star, 70 Song
|32 classic and modern guitar amp models
|16 cab models and A.I.R. Mic/Room Emulation
|16, including Delay, Chorus, Tremolo, Flanger, Rotary Speaker, Compressor, Reverb, Tap Tempo, and more
|Noise Gate, Chromatic Tuner (with mute)
|USB for Mac & Windows (for editing)
|1/8" headphone/line output, 1/4" amp/line I/O, 1/8" CD/MP3 input
|4 AAA batteries (included, yielding 4 to 6 hours of use), optional 9V DC supply
|Belt/strap clip included
|5"W x 3-1/2"H x 2-1/2"D
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