Updated: Jun 2
#Line6 is pretty much synonymous with digital guitar gear these days and since #Yamaha took over, they seem to have got even better. Now, I know not everyone is a digital fan. Lots of people will still only buy and use analogue pedals with true bypass switching and not even consider a digital delay let alone a digital amp 'modeller'. However, most of us realise that all these different products are just different tools to get the job done. Oh and that's also true for true bypass switching by the way, which is not better than buffered - it depends on your needs and your pedal board layout. Anyway, lets get back to Line 6 before people start throwing things at their screens in protest:)
A Bit of History
I started using Line 6 gear back when they first had the Pod farm products out. And although they were handy (and still are) for a cheap solution when you just want to lay down some ideas in your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), it really never won me over in tone or feel.
Then came the HD500, which I was happier with. I still hadn't sold off my tube amps, don't get me wrong, but the simple floor format and practicality of the unit was hard to beat back then. And this is exactly the point of the HX Stomp too, which I'll get onto in a minute.
From the HD500, I then went on to buy a Kemper and have been extremely happy with that since I bought it. I've used it for everything from small festival gigs, weddings, local pub gigs, recording and everyday practice. It's just amazing. However, I still love my tube amps and have one I just can't get rid of - my Two Rock Studio Pro 35. This is a beautiful amp by itself and an amazing pedal platform too. And I love pedals. It's just great to able to get something that changes the feel of the amp or provides you with new and exciting tones without breaking the bank. A nice new second-hand pedal off ebay is always fun! And this leads me to the Line 6 #HXStomp.
I was looking for something that I could use as a backup if my gigging amp packed in, and I also wanted it to be able to fit whatever it was on my pedal board so it didn't mean carrying any more gear around. I could have bought the full sized Helix but I love some of the pedals I use, like the Tchula and #ChaseBliss Tonal Recall, and didn't want another piece of kit that I'd have to lug somewhere 'just in case'.
Then I saw the HX Stomp and figured I could use it for the more 'out-there' effects that I use for specific songs and don't have discrete pedals for (Crystal Reverb for example). But if things went wrong with either my main amp, I could then just swap to the HX Stomp and a patch that contained an amp block and go straight to front of house. This is a very important thing, as when you're playing a paid gig you can't just say 'Sorry, my amps broken. I can't play tonight.' Firstly, you are likely to be contractually obliged to do the gig, but also that does not enhance your reputation.
So, the HX Stomp looked like a no brainer to me. I sold my #EventideH9 which was performing similar duties, but doesn't have amp emulation, paid only £20 more and the Stomp was winging its way to me.
When I first played it, I did what everyone probably does and checked out the presets. 'Hmmm, not bad I thought'. But my main consideration was the amp simulations - were they any good? Cos if they were shoddy, this really wasn't going to work for me - if the core sounds weren't there, I wouldn't be interested in the effects either.
In fact, I was pleasantly surprised and you can see a video here where I go through some of the amps available:
Using The HX Stomp Live
I was so impressed that I decided to use just the Stomp straight to desk at the next gig, which was in two days' time, to see how it coped. So I quickly set up a couple of patches and velcroed the unit to my pedal board. I used my #HudsonBroadcast and #Lovepedal #Tchula pedals for dirt but used the Stomp for amp emulations, compression, wah, reverb and delays. I even used reverb and a touch of compression with my acoustic for one set - it worked great.
Just one caveat here though: if you're going straight to desk you will need a decent monitoring system to get the best out of any piece of kit used this way, whether it's the Stomp, #Kemper, #AxeFx etc. If you only have access to poor speakers and an even worse sound engineer at the local pub, don't complain your sound was shocking afterwards!
HX Stomp Vs a Two Rock Studio Pro 35
So, after a couple of weeks with the unit I decided I needed to spend a little more time with the patches and to try to get a sound similar to my tube amp. So I tinkered for a little and then set up a little experiment.
Using all effects from the HX Stomp, including drives and an amp module bass, I recorded a rough piece of music. I then played a similar piece using my Two Rock, still using the same effects and drive but with the amp simulation now turned off on the Stomp. So, the signal chain was:
Stratocaster / Telecaster ----> Line 6 HX Stomp ----> Apollo Twin Interface ----> MacBook Pro using Pro Logic X
Stratocaster / Telecaster ----> Line 6 HX Stomp ----> Two Rock Studio Pro 35 and 2x12 Cab ------> Shure SM57 mic ----> Apollo Twin Interface ----> MacBook Pro using Pro logic X
I kept the variables as minimal as possible, including using the Apollo Interface for both rather than just using the Stomp as a USB interface, which is another great selling point of this mini marvel.
The reveal is at the end of this written review so have a watch before scrolling down. Here's the video:
Now you can probably tell at this point that I really am very impressed with the latest development of the #Helix It's had a few variations, but it certainly seems correct when Line 6 say the Stomp contains the same core architecture as its bigger, older brothers.
Is it a perfect unit? No, probably not. It could do with a few more available effects blocks in my opinion as 6 is a bit limiting, but for how I use it, it's enough. If you're after a small solution that you can throw in a back pack for jamming at a friends, but also is good enough to record and gig with, this is hard to beat.
So, if you are looking for something for the same reasons I was - as a small good quality multi-effects unit that can also be used standalone as a decent backup or as a grab-n-go option when luggage space or stage space is limited, you need to check out the HX Stomp and the fact it is also useable as an audio interface is just fantastic.
Which played on which clip? The Studio Pro or the HX Stomp?
Ok so here we go:
All bass parts were played on the HX Stomp.
Piece A was the HX Stomp for all parts including the amp simulations.
Piece B was the HX Stomp for effects and overdrive only into the Two Rock amplifier.
It might be worth pointing out before we wrap it up that the Two Rock with a 2x12 cab might set you back around £3k new, the Stomp £450....
...and finally, my impressions of playing the two in the room. The Two Rock has a depth and warmth to it through a 2x12 that I just couldn't quite capture on the Stomp. There's also the thump that you get from a valve amp and cabinet that seems to be missing on most modellers. This is often down to how we monitor them too however, as a studio monitor with an 8" bass driver is never going to capture the feel of a guitar cabinet.
One final thing I have to mention is the plug. That's right, the power supply... It is humongous, just absolutely massive. The solution for me was using the #GigRig modular power supply - I was using this anyway - and going straight from their distributer via a 2.5mm adapter to the Stomp. Bye bye unsightly plug that just makes pedal board use more difficult than it should be!
However, I think the Stomp performs its duties incredibly well and I'll be keeping it for sure. Will I be selling my Two Rock? No, not a chance but as another tool to have in the box for when its needed, the Stomp is fantastic!
Check out this video too in which I show you how to power a real cab using a Quilter InterBlock 45.
More info on the Line 6 site: