Hands-On Review:Line 6 GuitarPortXT

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Made for Macs guitarists!

By Oscar Sommers


Line 6 GuitarPortXT

Hey, your computer here. Can we talk for a minute? I feel like we need to get connected—no pun intended. We still do plenty of good work together, but I just feel like it’s been too long since—y’know— we just had some fun. You used to be excited to hang out—I miss those days. I think I know how we can bring back that old spark, though. I’ve seen you over on the other side of the room, playing your guitar through your amp. I know how much you like your guitar, so I wanted you to see you can have fun with your guitar with me too. So I got a GuitarPort from Line 6. It’s the new XT version, so it’s compatible with Apple Mac computers like me. It looks small but when you plug in, it sounds really, really big. Trust me, this is going to be a blast.


GuitarPort ported


If your computer (Mac or PC) could talk that is what it would say. And you should listen to it. It’s the 21st century already! Computers are for way more than just work or surfing the web; they’re for fun too. Especially creative stuff like digital photography and making music. No company has gone as far as Line 6, though, in making that process easy for guitarists, and the GuitarPort is example number one. This small, easy-to-use system consists of proprietary Line 6 software and a USB interface. Together they turn your computer into an advanced guitar amp and effect modeling processor for jamming, practice, and fun.


Now the GuitarPort and its accompanying GearBox software have been ported over to the Mac OS X operating system so Mac users can experience all the fun too. The GuitarPortXT is about more than just moving to the Macintosh platform, though. It’s a significant update that adds GearBox software to the GuitarPort, delivers more amp and effects models, and gives you support for Expansion Model Packs. It retains proven favorites like GuitarPort Online and the practice and jamming tools found in the original GuitarPort. The familiar red USB-powered interface is ready to turn your computer into a guitar dojo.


Make time for tone


Let’s face it, finding the right tone can be an enjoyable but time-consuming project. For most of us it’s rare to have the opportunity to dial in your amp, effects, and guitar, then still have time to actually—y’know—play. Sometimes you need to just sit down and jam. The GuitarPortXT excels at exactly that. You can call up hundreds of rock-tastic presets in GearBox with no muss and no fuss. Each preset usually includes an amp, cabinet, and some effects combined with room and mic models as well as some studio processing gear. There are a total of 18 amp and cab models plus 20 effects included with the GuitarPortXT.


Line 6 pulls out all the stops with serious attention to detail to make their models as faithful as possible. They don’t just give you an amp model and some effects topped off with reverb. They delve deep into the circuitry and response of each piece of gear they model so when they’re combined they sound true-to-life. And Line 6 includes niceties like speaker and room miking with studio processor modeling that you can manipulate to get exactly the sound you want. Of course, you get all this without the price tag that comes with accumulating acres of modern and vintage guitar gear.


The presets are found in the Tone menu and divided into Bass, Clean Guitar, Crunch Guitar, Heavy Guitar, Vocals, and X-Tra Tones. Within each category you’ll find familiar Line 6 names like Treadplate, Insane, 1953 Small Tweed, 1968 Plexi Jump, and 1987 Jazz Clean. I discovered tone after powerhouse tone in the preset menu that left me grinning. I never even bothered to customize any because the stock presets were so good. The GuitarPortXT might be barely bigger than your mouse, but it’s got mojo.


GearBox is easy to use too. Its hardware-like interface makes it intuitive to dial in each of the first-class models. Each piece of gear in your signal chain has a unique control panel with authentic-looking knobs and buttons. Want to turn up the gain? "Grab" the gain knob with your mouse and twist. Need more treble? Bump the high-end frequencies with the EQ right on the front panel of the amp. And all this killer tone makes a premium front-end for recording guitar tracks on your computer.


Perfect for practice


Now that you’ve got all this phenomenal tone right at your fingertips, what do you do with it? Besides noodle for hour after hour, that is. You know how you’ve been meaning to take some guitar lessons but can’t quite find the time to squeeze them in? Well, now the guitar teacher can come to you.


First up is the tuner. Tune or die, dudes and dudettes. Then there’s a handy Hum Reducer, which kills noise from your pickups. Next is an audio player to let you analyze your favorite guitar licks like an audio microscope. You can loop a section 'til you get it right and even slow down the music—without changing pitch—to nail really hard parts. Having rhythm problems? Your timing problems will soon end thanks to the metronome. You can adjust the beats per minute, play along to nonstandard time signatures, and then program kick, snare, and hi-hat sounds when you get tired of the "click."


There’s also the optional GuitarPort Online service that delivers literally thousands of guitar lessons and detailed breakdowns of the sounds and techniques used to play and record some of the most famous guitar chord progressions, riffs, licks, and leads of all time. It’s like an interactive version of the tab and lesson section in your favorite guitar mag. You can also buy Expansion Model Packs from Line 6 which let you upgrade the selection of amp and effect models in GearBox.


Another benefit to having a GuitarPortXT is getting lost in a vintage EVH riff while your family sleeps right down the hall. With a pair of headphones no one will be the wiser. For all the guitarists looking to give their tone, technique, and catalog of hot licks a kick in the pants, the GuitarPort XT is lacing up its boots. And please, please, do it for your computer. He’s been whining to my fax machine.


GuitarPortXT Features:


  • 16 amp and cabinet models
  • 19 stompbox and studio effects
  • Effects can be routed pre- or post-amp
  • MP3, WAV, and audio CD playback
  • Looping and realtime half-speed without changing pitch
  • 24-bit converters and 32-bit processing
  • Line level and headphone outputs
  • Metronome/drum machine
  • Chromatic tuner
  • Includes preset tone library
  • Access to GuitarPort Online
  • Compatible with Line 6 Expansion Packs