Hands-On Review:LINE 6 HD147

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Exploring New Territory in the High Gain World

By Hector Romero

The Sounds in My Head

I've been on a personal odyssey in search of the ultimate guitar amp. I need an amp that does everything. I play with an insanely diverse range of groups, including everything from alt-metal headbangers to jam-band world-beaters. I've toured with pop divas, 18-piece Latin jazz bands, hip-hoppers, trip-hoppers, and reggae masters. If you piled up all of the amplifiers I've tried, you'd have a mountain. I need brain-killing distortions, ultra-sparkly liquid clean tones, and everything in-between. I used to have a classic combo rig that gave me a sweet clean tone. I also cranked my trusty Les Paul into my prized old British stack with torn grille cloth for some serious tube distortion! The problem with these rigs was that they did one thing really well, but only one thing. I didn't want to haul a truckload of amps around. My spine couldn't deal with that anymore.

LINE 6 HD147 & FBVSB Short Board Footcontroller

And something else: I had been hearing sounds in my head that I couldn't get with any amp. Haunting, freaky sounds like you might hear in your dreams. I wanted to be able to explore these spacey sounds without carrying around a whole raft of effects. I'd been hauling around a collection of stomp boxes in addition to my amp rig, and with the noise, the hassle, and always running out of 9-volt batteries, I knew there had to be a better solution.

Then one day, as fate would have it, my amigos over at Musician's Friend asked me to review the
HD147 by Line 6. I'd heard that the Line 6 techs had been working on a new amp with the help of some top guitar players. But up until then, I'd resisted the modeling craze. None of the modeling pedals or amps I'd tried had quite cut it. But I'd heard bands whose guitar sound killed me, like the Cure and Evanescence, who were using HD147s on tour. I was intrigued, so I told my buds at the Friend I'd be glad to give it a test drive.

Loud and Clear

I unpacked the HD147 and set it up, running the stereo speaker outs to a pair of 2" x 12" cabs. The outside of the HD147 was stunning, gleaming chrome. The amp lights emitted an eerie UFO glow from within the exterior shell. I knew it would look stone killer under the stage lights. I plugged it in, picked up my guitar, and hit a few chords. The 300 watts of power rocked me back on my feet. The cat took off running and didn't come back for hours. The thing was cripplingly loud! The 147 in the amp's name denotes the number of decibels it takes to implode the human ear. What turned my head around wasn't just the obscene volume, but the startling clarity. There was no breakup or fraying around the edges. So this is what the gearheads at Line 6 meant when they said it has "headroom for days."

The mix-and-match editing allows you to match different amps, mics, effect pedals, and cabinet styles. I tried a patch with a "Twin*" model running from the left side direct out, with a modeled SM57 miking the cab. The right side was miked with a virtual Sennheiser MD421. Very seductive tone indeed. With the "Jazz Clean" setting (which pays homage to the classic Roland Jazz Chorus sound), the articulation and detail were surreal.

The Shock of the New

But what about the insane sounds found only, so far, in my imagination? If these alien tones were to be discovered within the gleaming chrome of the HD147, they would be found among the distortion patches. I fired up a patch called Smash, and I was instantly floored. I started grinning like a clown. The edge and crunch in the distortion completely messed my mind. I tried some of the other aggressive custom tones like Big Bottom, Purge, and Agro. I suddenly realized that these were the sounds I'd been craving - the elusive sounds in my head! I thought I'd died and gone to high-gain heaven.

This is not just another new amp; it's a whole new evolution in amp creation. A space where amplifiers are not just built of hardware components, but built on computer screens with realtime tweaking of bias, tube types, etc. Some of these models represent brand new models of amps that have never existed. The possibilities are mind-boggling. And to think you can instantly switch from heavy distortion to amazing clean sound in the same song, without having to hit 3 or 4 footswitches! The effects section has16 classic reverbs such as plate and spring. The stompbox models include favorites like Echoplex, Electro-Harmonix Memory Man, MXR Phase 90, Leslie 145, and many more. I should also mention the optional
FBV Shortboard Foot Controller. You'll probably want to pick one up. With the FBV you have instant access to 36 presets, channel switching, patch naming, and more.

A Truckload of Amps

Beside the 14 radical new sounds, the HD147 also boasts a sweet collection of traditional amp models. These legends have been re-created with an ear for detail that's uncanny. There are eight classic vintage amp models including Fender Deluxe* and Twin*, Marshall Silver Jubilee, Vox AC30, and more. There are also 10 modern amp models featuring some of the newer heavies in high-end amplifier design: exotic models like the Peavey 5150, Diezel VH4 and Herbert, Cornford mk50h, Bogner Extacy and Ubershell. Line 6 brought in numerous guitar artists during the research and development process of the HD147, and it shows. These are intense sounds built for hardcore players.

As to my search for the ultimate amp - it's over. I now have a great classic combo and an old British head for sale to good homes. The
HD147 gives me the gain to cut through either my18-piece salsa band or my alt-metal project, and gives me the tone for any live or studio situation. It's as much at home on a jazz bandstand as in front of the mosh pit. It's like having that truckload of amps at your service, only you don't need the truck. All you need is the HD147.

Features & Specs

With optional FBV Foot Controller:

    • 8 vintage amp models

    • 8 essential modern tones

    • 14 "otherworldly" custom tones

    • Mix and Match models

    • 300W power amp

    • MIDI compatible

    • 12 vintage effect models

    • Compressor and gate

    • Stereo XLR outs

    • Headphone out

    • Access to 36 HD147 presets

    • Channel switching

    • Reverb and effects on/off

    • Large name display

    • Wah/volume pedal

    • Expression pedal input

    • Program patch naming

    • Powered by the HD147

    Check out our Real Audio Sound Bytes:

    • Treadplate

    • Insane

    • Argo Octane

    • Heavy Tread

    • Bomber Uber

    Musician's Friend carries the Line 6 HD147 and optional FBV Foot Controller at the guaranteed lowest price anywhere. Order today and begin your journey into unique high gain tone.

    * Note: Fender, Twin, and Deluxe, and the unique designs of these amps are the trademarks of Fender Musical Instruments Company. All rights reserved. FMIC is not affiliated with or endorses any of the non-FMIC products above.