Hands-On Review:Line 6 Bass PODxt Pro
Line 6 Bass PODxt Pro
Your portal to tone.By Graham Burton
The next generation Bass POD has finally arrived and, while virtuous patience is never easy, it was worth the wait. After a week spent with this marvelous gem of modern sound engineering, there's no doubt left in my mind that it has every right to ascend to the throne. Studio owners, session musicians, and, most importantly, the players, may now start the low-frequency celebration this tone tool deserves. The Bass PODxt Pro (and Bass PODxt) dishes up heaps of mind-blowing new sounds, while preserving and improving all your favorites from the first-generation unit.
A friend let me borrow his first generation bass kidney bean so I could do a highly unscientific comparison against the
Bass PODxt Pro. While the original still sounds fantastic, the grasshopper has definitely surpassed the master. An example? The XT is way simpler to use, with a new lighted LCD that gives you much clearer and simpler on-unit editing of models and effects. A second example is the definition of the amp models. While the first Bass POD was revolutionary, the Bass PODxt is evolutionary—several jumps up the ladder.
Are you ready?
Let me assure you—you're not. There's no way you're ready for the incredible new amp and cabinet models. You can't possibly comprehend the sonic flexibility of six simultaneous stompbox and studio effects routed to your personal specifications. Or the parametric EQ available on each patch! You have to hear to believe the new levels of definition and distinction in the amp and cab models, especially with the integrated A.I.R. (Acoustically Integrated Recording) II. They jump out at you, leaping from the signal path and cutting through the mix.
You weren't happy with 16 customizable amp models? How does 28 suit you? Did you ever find yourself yearning for just one more effect to throw in the mix? The number of effects included with the Bass POD just tripled (and then some). And the 16 cabinet models available have been upgraded to include 22, with 4 mic models also. In short, it's easier to look at the PODxt as a whole new type of bass tool, rather than a mere upgrade.
At the heart of this bass beast—and the reason for the improved sounds—is a completely new sound processing engine. The jump from 24-bit fixed to 32-bit floating-point processing power improves every aspect of the modeled sounds, providing better tracking for incredible response, more control for precise tone, and faster processing for beautiful articulation and tone definition. I played out with it twice over the weekend and everyone who heard it, by itself or in the mix, absolutely fell in love with the sounds it's capable of. And that crowd included some guys who were not fans of the earlier Line 6 stuff.
Pure sound hounds
Let's face it, though. Coming up with a superior sound engine and wedding it to a powerful processor is only half the battle. Line 6 has a whole slew of obsessive-compulsive sound engineers who spend all day getting together the sounds loaded in the Bass PODxt Pro. Without all the sonic research, all you'd be left with is a fancy system that sounds flat, dull, and fake. Thankfully, that's not the case.
Line 6 started by gathering a massive collection of bass gear that is generally coveted, loved, and cherished by bassists everywhere. Through incredibly thorough and meticulous A/B comparison (much more scientific than mine, I assure you) digital models of all the pieces in this collection were shaped and tweaked until they were dead-on representatives of the gear that inspired them. To me, that in and of itself is impressive. After that I would have called it a day and slapped a ship-it label on the box. But that's why I'm not a Line 6 engineer. After nailing the basic tone, they kept going, listening for subtleties such as interaction of tone controls, response curves of the original amp knobs, and tonal variance at different volume levels! They then wired the modeled sounds so that adjustments made on the models would mirror the effects of the same changes on the originals! All of that painstaking research, analysis, and development obviously paid off, though. That much is apparent from the first note you play through the Bass PODxt
Line 6's fanatical attention to detail is apparent in the vintage bass amp department. Often, because of things like varying production techniques, changes in ownership, factory re-tooling, supply problems, and obviously, owner care, two amps that are theoretically identical can sound very different. Line 6 searched high and low for some of the very best examples of each individual amp they wanted to model for the Bass PODxt Pro. The list is a who's who of tone greats, with many held over and improved from the first Bass POD, a few more favorites, and a couple of dark horses.
There are also 22 models of the biggest, baddest, bass-bringing speaker cabinets ever constructed in the name of tone. From ultra-fidelity modern monsters to vintage low-frequency eardrum pounders it's all here. By using the latest A.I.R. II cabinet/microphone/room modeling included in the XT's circuits, you can also choose from a dizzying array of combinations for just the right sound reproduction.
Low-end aural mayhem
The Bass PODxt Pro's got a ton of sick stompbox, modulation, and delay/reverb effects adapted from a line up of vintage, rare, and legendary units that will turn most players green with envy. But think about it this way, and I guarantee your frown will turn upside down. For a fraction of the cost of amassing a huge effects collection, you can slip an XT Pro into your rack right now and bliss out on models of the Mu-Tron III (funky, jello-like, envelope-follower fun), Bass Brassmaster (an absolutely nasty fuzz that will knock you out), Big Muff (awesome sustain and bite), Uni-Vibe, Memory Man, Space Echo, and many more.
Plus you'll get an awesome setup of effect presets and models that must be heard to be believed. I spent a long time just playing around with the Pulse Code and Infinite Layers settings, loving the versatility and responsiveness there. I freaked myself and some friends with a wicked one called Tape Eater, that's a twisted-yet-fun blend of extreme fuzz and modulation. While the Bad Vibes setting quite literally left me feeling half sick, a fellow bass man couldn't get enough of it. He played through that patch for 20 minutes, and I couldn't handle it after one. And the new Sub Dub is simply outstanding. The point is, there's something here for everyone, and all of the effects have a lot more going for them in terms of dynamic control.
A fantastic companion
With the Bass PODxt Pro you'll be set up to bring all that outrageous and authentic sound to the stage or the studio. Its 1/4" and XLR outs, 24-bit/96k digital I/O (AES/EBU & S/PDIF), effects loop, analog reamping capabilities, biamp mode with selectable crossover, direct and modeled signal mix, A.I.R. II cab/speaker/mic emulation, MIDI, chromatic tuner, 64 channel memories, and USB digital I/O for Mac and PC recording applications. Connecting an FBV or FBV Shortboard footcontroller provides remote channel switching, stompbox-style on/off, a wah/volume/expression pedal, tap tempo, a graphic tuner display, and naming and saving features, all right at your feet. The FBV2 and FBV4 also give you simple channel switching capability.
Drawing an assignment like reviewing the next-generation Bass POD is really a mixed bag. While it is most assuredly a very fun assignment, it's also tough to write because there's simply so much territory to cover. That, and coupled with the reality that it's almost impossible to express through the written word how rich, dynamic, and incredibly fun all the sounds contained in this box are makes this assignment a mixed blessing. You can be assured of one thing, though; it won't disappoint.
Features & Specs:
|28 legendary & classic amp models, including:||22 cab models, including:|
|Over 50 stompbox, synth, &|
studio effects including:
|Bass PODxt includes:|
|And many more Line 6 originals such as...||Bass PODxt Pro adds:|
Line 6 and POD are trademarks of Line 6, Inc. All other product names used are trademarks of their respective owners, which are in no way associated or affiliated with Line 6. These trademarks of other manufacturers are used solely to identify the products of those manufacturers whose tones and sounds were studied during Line 6's sound model development.
Note: Strat, Tele, Jazz Bass, J Bass, Precision Bass, P Bass, and the unique headstock and body designs of these guitars and basses are the trademarks of FMIC. All rights reserved. FMIC is not affiliated with or endorses any the non-FMIC products above.