Hands-On Review:Line 6 Spider II 15 and II 30
Line 6 Spider II 15 and II 30
The practice amp that's all the way there
By Terrance Gold
Line 6 has created a low-priced 15W practice amp that delivers amazingly sophisticated tone, dual effects processors, customizable presets, dead-simple operation, and truly astounding volume. The Spider II 15 and is big brother, the Spider II 30, are so intelligently designed that they'll impress seasoned players as well as beginning guitarists.
The days of miracle and wonder
When I was coming up in the '80s, small practice amps never failed to disappoint. Designers had begun to figure out that they'd thrown out the baby with the bath water when they'd transcended tube technology, but they still had no idea what to do about it. The result was a lot of truly crappy solid state distortion circuits. To get a tolerable sound from a small amp, you had to put pedals in front of it.
A couple of decades later, Line 6's Spider II 15 marks the complete closing of the tone gap between big, high-priced amps and little practice amps. Through the speaker, or through the front-panel headphone/record jack, this amp's tone is superb—not just for a little practice amp but for any amp. From glistening clean tones and thick jazz sounds right up through stadium-rending ultra-distortion, the Spider II 15 has a full, gutsy midrange, surprisingly robust bottom end, and sublime articulation.
Though the Spider II 15 is more than adequate as a second or practice amp for guitarists at any level, it was designed for young players who are just getting their feet wet. Its strongest feature in this regard comprises the channel buttons, which are modifiable factory modeling presets. It takes some learning to get decent sounds out of any amp. Line 6 has taken this into account and created four complete killer sounds that can be accessed with a single push of a button.
Just plug-in and push Insane, and you're screaming through a modern-sounding super-high-gain stack with virtually infinite sustain. I'm talking very serious sustain. But be careful if you're in a house with other people (like your parents); this little sucker is LOUD! Loud like a 15W Class A tube amp is loud. Never before have so few watts produced so much volume.
Of course, it's not as loud when you push Clean, but even on that setting you can crank the amp and get surprising volume and just a little warmth from the specially designed 8" speaker. I just rolled off the treble and was able to create a sweet jazz tone from the Clean setting. The Crunch button renders a very tight, gritty sound perfect for percussive punchy rock rhythm parts, while the Metal button makes you sound like the rock gods of the '80s—the speed demons I strove so hard to emulate.
The really cool feature of the channel buttons is that you can modify them any way you like. Just make your adjustments, hold down the button for a few seconds, and now the button will return you from anywhere to your new, modified sound. A channel volume control even lets you save your preset at exactly the relative volume level you want. If you want to go back to the original presets, just reboot the amp while holding down the Clean button. You can even go to Line 6's Web site and find the precise settings to emulate the guitar sounds in dozens of popular tunes.
Effects you can use
Of course, one of the coolest things about playing electric guitar is the variety of special effects you can add to your sound. The Spider II 15 provides the world's favorite effects on two handy knobs that don't require any tweaking at all to generate great effects.
Chorus, flanger, phaser, and tremolo effects are on one knob, while sweep echo, tape echo, and reverb are on the other knob. Just turn the knob into the desired effect zone and as you turn, the effect becomes more intense. You can use both knobs simultaneously and the echo rate can be controlled with the tap delay button. The effects are impressively clean and full-bodied.
The extra mile
In creating the Spider II 15, Line 6's engineers got so close to a fully functional pro-style amplifier, they decided to put in the extra time and take it all the way. Hold the tap button down as you crank the drive and a distortion boost function kicks in. Hold the same button down as you turn the echo/reverb knob to engage the noise gate. Reboot with the Insane channel button held down and the effects will remain the same when you change between the amp presets. There is also a CD/MP3 input which lets you practice along with your favorite music or just amplify your portable player.
The Spider II 30 features the same brain as the 15 with twice the wattage (plenty loud enough to play with a large combo), a heavy-magnet 12" Celestion speaker (a rare find in this size of amp), and an optional two-button or four-button footswitch.
The Spider II 15 and 30 amps prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you no longer have to settle for compromised tone and flexibility when playing a small, lightweight amp. It's not the first time Line 6 has used brain power to bridge the gap between quality and affordability. Hopefully it won't be the last.
Features & Specs:
Shared by the Spider II 15 and Spider II 30:
Spider II 15:
Spider II 30: