Hands-On Review:Line 6 GearBox Plug-In
Instant guitar mayhem for your DAW
By Oscar Sommers
There was begging. There was pleading. Powerful recording engineers and creative musicians were on their knees—hands clasped and eyes upturned in hopeful expectancy. And now, with the release of the GearBox Plug-In bundles, Line 6 has met the innermost desire of their collective heart. A huge collection of Line 6’s most sought-after models are available to computer-recording musicians in a native plug-in. DAWs everywhere will now rock like a row of fully cranked guitar stacks in a stadium full of screaming fans.
That’s the beauty of the GearBox Plug-In. You get a massive collection of killer tone shaping tools in a single piece of software that’s easy to use. The full power of the PODXT, Bass PODXT, Vetta II, and TonePort series can be unleashed from your computer as a VST or AU plug-in. This makes a colossal number of models available for everything you record: guitar amps and cabs, bass amps and cabs, stompboxes, studio effects, and mic preamps as well as mic selection and placement modeling for your cabs. On top of that, GearBox is fun and intuitive.
Inside the box
The GearBox Plug-In is available in two different collections of models: the Silver and Gold bundles. Each is available in VST or Mac AU formats [RTAS versions ship 2007 — Ed] and they run on Windows XP Service Pack 2 or Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) with both Power PC and Intel-based Macs. The Silver bundle includes 83 models, similar to the set you get with a TonePort: 18 guitar amps, 24 guitar cabinets, 5 bass amps, 6 mic preamps, and 30 studio and stompbox effects.
The Gold bundle ships with a total of 238(!) models: 78 guitar amps, 24 guitar cabs, 28 bass amps, 22 bass cabs, 6 mic preamps, and 80 studio and stompbox effects. This puts an entire PODXT, Bass PODXT, and Vetta II on your computer, plus a mic preamp collection. No matter which plug-in bundle you choose, the flexibility of the models combined with the GearBox interface let you dial up thousands of unique tones.
Plug in to your plug-ins
The Gold and Silver bundles also come with the TonePort DI. This USB guitar interface is a simple way of getting guitar signals into your system, but Line 6 doesn’t force you to use it as an audio interface—it’s simply there if you need it. Having said that, the TonePort DI does have some nifty advantages for rockin’ your GearBox Plug-Ins. It comes with a guitar/bass input, balanced DI out, headphone jack, stereo line out, a Kensington lock, and—of course—a USB connection.
The big reason for using this interface—and the reason I like the little TonePort DI— is for access to Line 6’s nearly latency-free ToneDirect monitoring. By keeping the signal processing at the driver level, Line 6 avoids the slowdown that occurs when your signal has to navigate its way through your computer’s audio subsystems and your recording application’s buffering. This means you can listen to your playing with full processing at nearly zero latency while recording an unprocessed track—regardless of your recording app’s buffer size. The TonePort DI hardware can also be used as an interface for other Line 6 software and services, such as GuitarPort Online and RiffWorks.
Outside the box
Everything went smoothly with the installation on my 1.25GHz Power Mac. I inserted the software CD and double clicked on the icon to activate the installer. It asked me to, "Connect the included USB cable to your Line 6 hardware & Mac, then continue installing." I grabbed the TonePort DI, plugged it into a free USB port, clicked continue, and the install proceeded flawlessly. After I started my recording software, the GearBox Plug-In was listed along with my other plug-ins. I loaded it on a track, a friendly message asked me to activate, and then I was led through the easy activation process. All together the entire process only took about 10 minutes.
GearBox has a very cool hardware-like interface for signal routing and applying Line 6’s collection of first-class models. It presents you with different skins for each model, with knobs and buttons to twist and push as well as easy-to-use menus. It makes it really easy to tap into all the power you need to set off your sonic fireworks. On top of that GearBox gives you a first-rate collection of presets to work with so you can just plug in and play.
I got a lot of mileage from GearBox using the presets as starting points for my own tones. Each preset usually includes an amp, cabinet, and some effects. The presets are organized by sonic character. You simply click on the Tone menu and select from the Preset or User options. The Line 6 presets are divided into Bass, Clean Guitar, Crunch Guitar, Heavy Guitar, Vocals, and X-Tra Tones. Within each category you’ll find the familiar Line 6 models. And GearBox is helpful. It remembers the last tone settings you used when you shut it down, even if you didn’t save them.
I used GearBox as a plug-in within several different DAWs: Logic, GarageBand, Ableton Live, and Digital Performer. In each case, GearBox worked very well, giving me the tones without the hassle of setting up the amps, microphones, processing equipment, and then documenting the settings for each track. With GearBox I simply saved all the final settings as presets. It made re-tracking guitar and bass parts easy, and I still had the clean track to process any way I wanted. GearBox is a true studio shortcut that doesn’t sacrifice tone for convenience.
Features & Specs
- Line 6 AU or VST plug-ins
- TonePort DI USB interface/software dongle
- 18 guitar amp models
- 24 cab models
- 5 bass amp models
- 6 vintage and modern mic preamp models
- 30 studio and stompbox effect models
- 78 guitar amp and 24 cab models
- 28 bass amp and 22 cab models
- 6 vintage and modern mic preamp models
- 80 studio and stompbox effect models