I’ve been using the new Line6 POD HD500 for a week or so now and I’ve worked out a few tips and tricks you may like to try with your own unit.
Some of these tips may work with the HD300/HD400 models too.
FX Loop Drive
One alternate way of making the clean amps breakup or push the high gain amps a little harder is to use a boosted FX loop. You can get some very convincing bluesy breakup on the Fender Blackface this way. You’ll need a patch cable for this. Set it between the hardware’s FX Loop send and Mono/Left return. Then add an FX Loop block to your signal chain on the HD500 screen – place it just before your chosen amp model. Set the send level on 100 percent and mix on 100 percent too. All you have to do to push the modelled pre-amp harder into breakup is raise the return parameter from zero. For a subtle breakup sound you’re probably looking at a figure of around 10db, but it varies between the amp models.
This trick doesn’t just work for lower gain sounds – use it to push the JCM800 for that Van Halen modded Marshall tone you may be looking for. You can also use this technique for a solo boost, setting the FX Loop on and off with one of the HD500 footswitches.
Extra Volume Pedal
Adding a volume pedal to your signal chain on the HD500 takes up one of the eight available FX blocks. But there is a way of getting a volume pedal for free and leaving the eight blocks clear for other effects.
Highlight your amp model on the screen and double click Move to open the expression pedal setting screen. The parameter you want is “output” and assign it to EXP1 or EXP2. Set the parameter minimum to zero percent and the maximum to whatever volume you’d originally set for the loudest on that patch.
Voila, you can now control the amp model volume via the expression pedal without having to add a volume pedal block to your signal chain. And remember, as the channel volume doesn’t affect the tone this really is purely a volume control.
Tight Metal Tones
The regular models that emulate the Bognor, JCM800, Dual Rec and Engle high gain amps feature plenty of power amp drive in their tone. This is great for thick lead playing and some styles of rock. But that power amp saturation can seem a little OTT for slick tight metal rhythm playing.
There’s a way round this though (but one hopes Line6 add a feature to adjust power amp saturation in future firmware). Many metal bands use 100 and 200 Watt stacks for a reason, not necessarily for volume, but for massive clean headroom to avoid power amp saturation. This way they can use plenty of pre-amp gain but keep a very tight focussed tone.
You can do this too on the HD500. When you want a tighter metal tone from the high gain amps – choose a PRE version of the amp instead. You’ll be able to run the gain high on the amps but avoid that low-end looseness that the regular models introduce. If you’re struggling to get the high-gain tones you want from the regular models this is the way to go.
Add a Screamer
This is pretty much a universal truth in getting great high gain sounds with modellers and real amps. Don’t feel you should get all your gain from the pre-amp. You’ll most likely be disappointed by the lack of depth in the sound. Many guitarists have discovered you’ll get a richer, lower-noise, sound by stacking drives rather than trying to do it all in one box.
So try this. Half your amp gain and instead put a Screamer or Tube Driver in front of the amp to get back to the gain where you started. Sounds better doesn’t it?
Finally (for now)….Be Realistic about Metal Tones
Remember too to set realistic expectations. When an artist claims to have used a certain amp on a record they don’t mean it in isolation. One rhythm track may really be five tracks, each with different EQ and pickup settings, played through several cabs an recorded with ten mics. Eq and compression is added at the mixing stage and then when the record is mastered.
You listen to the record and it sounds like the artist is playing through God’s own speaker cabs. Then wonder why you can’t get that same tone with the same real amp or a very good model of it. This is particularly true of modern metal production.