Line 6 cuts the cord with its latest line of player-friendly amplifiers. By Peter Hodgson.
Amps have come a long way since Line 6 appeared on the scene with the Flextone, which packaged the POD’s digital modelling in a standalone amp. There was also the flagship AxSys 212 amp, which was an altogether more complicated product, but the idea behind the Flextone was to keep the flexibility of the POD while making it performance-friendly. That’s an ethos that has carried throughout Line 6’s amp range ever since. Even now, there’s the flagship Firehawk 1500, a 1500-watt beast with a full-range flat‑response speaker system, and the Spider series, which is a long-running line of amps for everyday players.
But the Spider line has continued to evolve and become more and more stage-friendly. Case in point: the Spider V series, which includes not just over 200 amps, cabs and effects, a full-range speaker system and USB recording, but in some models, an integrated wireless system that works with Line 6’s Relay series of transmitters – the G10T, G30, G50, G55 and G90.
IT’S GOT LEGS
On review is the Spider V 120, a 120-watt amp with built-in wireless. This amp has a 12-inch speaker and a tweeter for full sonic reproduction. Other wireless-capable amps are the 60 (one 10-inch speaker) and 240 (two 12-inch speaker) combos and the 240 HC, a 240-watt head which actually includes two four-inch speakers and two tweeters for standalone practising. If you need something smaller and don’t need the wireless feature, there’s the Spider V 30, a 30-watt combo with eight-inch speaker and tweeter designed for practising and jamming (situations where a cable most likely isn’t going to get in your way to begin with).
The Spider V 120 is designed to pump out enough volume for playing small venues, and it plugs into a PA system via XLR outputs (which the 30 does not have). There are also built-in drum loops for jamming – which is a heck of a lot of fun – a metronome and even sampled riffs, so you can roll your sleeves up and mess around with amp, effect and tone settings while the amp takes care of the playing. As is pretty common in digital amps now, there’s looping capabilities for when you need to layer guitar tones, which you can do with both electric and acoustic guitars.
Controls are simple: Drive, Bass, Mid, Treble, Volume and Master Volume, plus some buttons to help you navigate through the menus. What’s really clever is the way Line 6 has given the knobs multiple uses and colour-coding to help you navigate different amps and effects models, in addition to an LCD screen that displays preset names and other info. Hit the Amp/FX button and the knobs change to Compression, FX1, FX2, FX3 and Reverb. You can access deeper editing capabilities with a knob underneath the LCD, but if you want to just get on with it and quickly adjust a specific effect parameter, it’s super easy. And if you want to go deeper, you can use an iOS or Android device to create or share presets with the Line 6 user community and easily load them into your device.
This is a big upgrade on the previous Spider models, not just in usability but in tone as well. There’s a huge range of guitar tones available, and the response is more authentic than ever. Line 6 is getting ever closer to nailing that magical, indefinable thing that happens in the analog world – that push-pull between the way you play and the way the circuit responds. It can be a very interactive and sweet-sounding amp, and it seems to especially love wringing the expressiveness out of single coils.
Dig in hard and the amp will bite back in just the right play. Play softly and it’ll reign in naturally. That’s especially true of the semi-clean sounds, where you can control a bluesy, edge‑of‑overdrive tone from clean to growl just with your picking strength. But because this is Line 6 we’re talking about, there are also some utterly crushing metal tones, and the Spider V 120 is just as happy with seven- and eight-string guitars as it is with six-strings and acoustics. The effects are pretty standard for the most part, but they sound great, and you can layer gain stages between pedals and amp channels – just like a regular guitar rig – for really cool textures and effects.
As a Relay G30 owner, I found it really cool that I could bring along my own transmitter and have it easily pair with the amp. It takes so much hassle out of performing and setting up, and I’ve always found the Relay series to be incredibly reliable in all sorts of situations.
THE BOTTOM LINE
There isn’t really anything this amp can’t do. It’s such a great all-rounder, and as soon as you turn your back to the amp, you’ll forget you’re playing a digital one at all. What makes it so fun is the way it instantly adapts to ‘become’ whatever configuration you have it in. You could set it up as a simple Tweed amp and just treat it like that all night if you want, and the control layout becomes no more complicated than any simple one-channel tube amp. Or you could pair it with a floor controller and have an incredibly flexible rig with multiple sounds for each song in your set.
And, of course, you can run all around the stage and to the back of the audience without being chained to the amp by a cord, and that’s gotta be fun. I guess it all comes down to which speaker configuration is right for you, and Line 6 has really outdone themselves in that regard by offering not just plenty of combos, but also that speaker‑loaded head.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• Over 200 models
• Wireless integration
• Easy-to-navigate control system
• XLR outs
• Full-range speaker system
• Great sounds
• Wireless ability is practical and fun
• Deep editing via tablet, smartphone or PC
• Some folks might prefer more surface controls
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