Hands-On Review:Line 6 TonePort GX, UX1 and UX2
Powerful USB modeling and recording
By Ron McAllister
Since Line 6's inception in the mid '90s, they have revolutionized electric guitars and basses with their Variax® guitars, amplifiers with their Vetta™ line, effects processors with their POD® and stompbox products . . . the list goes on. By combining outstanding modeling with incredibly convenient functionality, they have won the hearts of musicians worldwide.
Now Line 6 brings the revolution to home recording with the ultra-intuitive TonePort™ GX, UX1 and UX2 modeling and recording interfaces. Packed with the amp, cabinet, and effects models made famous in the PODXT and Bass PODXT, as well as all-new vocal preamps, these affordable USB devices also integrate the tools to make professional recordings with ease.
The GearBox™ software included with each TonePort provides a simple interface for signal routing and a compelling collection of first-class preamp, amp, cab, and effect models. Graphically, the program is stunning and is designed to work just like real amps and effects, complete with knobs to turn, buttons to press, and sweet skins that really deliver the feel of the gear you choose.
On the guitar side, GearBox has models of 18 vintage and modern classic guitar amps—all from the legendary PODXT. From the scorch of the '68 Plexi Lead to the bright clean tones of the '87 Jazz Clean, there is a wide range of tones to choose from and create with. And that's just the beginning, because you can also stack up to 8 of the 29 classic stompbox and studio effects onto your amp/cab configuration. Thanks to the simple interface, ordering and applying the effects is a snap. Line 6 made sure that the GearBox would contain sounds that all musicians can use, regardless of the style of music they play.
Models of five of the most sought-after bass amps and cabs from the Bass PODXT are also present in GearBox—the Rock Classic, Flip Top, Adam and Eve, Silverface Bass, and Eighties. The number of bass tones you can create among the amps, cabs, and effects cover just about any style. After a bit of tinkering, I was able to dial in Geddy Lee's sound from Rush's Moving Pictures album, a favorite source of cover songs for my band. Once you create a rig, a couple of clicks and it's saved for future use. For those who want to just click and play, GearBox comes stacked with sweet presets based on the sounds that have helped many musicians make names for themselves.
Give the singer some
The power of Line 6 modeling is no secret to guitarists and bassists. The TonePort marks the first foray into vocal preamp modeling for Line 6 and it should have vocalists everywhere rejoicing. Whether it's the slightly overdriven sound of the Vintage UK preamp or the flat, clean sound of the Console solid-state model, dialing in the right vocal sound is a cinch. The Vintage and American Classic models* encompass not just a pro-level preamp but entire studio setups—right down to a Studer® 2" tape machine!
Throwing down tracks
The main differences between the GX, UX1 and UX2 are in the connectivity department. The GX is the simplest and most portable, providing a single 1/4" input (to accommodate a guitar, bass or microphone signal) as well as a headphone/stereo line out jack. The UX1 offers a single XLR and one 1/4" instrument input, while the UX2 has two XLR inputs (with phantom power) and two 1/4" inputs (one padded for active instruments). The UX1 and UX2 have stereo line inputs and outputs, plus a headphone out (with independent volume control on the UX2). The UX2 also provides assignable VU meters on its face, footswitch jacks for sending MIDI commands to external recording software, and a S/PDIF RCA digital out.
TonePort handles 16-/24-bit, 44.1/44.8kHz recording, with a 96kHz mode that can take a 44.1 or 48kHz input signal and upsample it to 96kHz for compatibility with a session recorded at the higher sample rate. This flexible format support combined with ASIO, WDM and Mac® OS drivers enables TonePort to seamlessly operate with most popular recording platforms, including Sonar, Cubase®, GarageBand, and Logic®.
Anyone who has spent some time recording with a computer has encountered the biggest enemy to the process—latency. With TonePort, latency isn't a problem because of Line 6's ToneDirect™ monitoring. This lets you listen to the fully processed signal as you record without any latency added by your recording software or operating system. While direct monitoring overcomes latency by monitoring the analog signal without processing, ToneDirect ensures you'll never need to deal with inspiration killers like unprocessed guitars or dry vocals during recording.
Line 6 does it again
I'm extremely impressed with the TonePort. As someone who recently spent a couple hundred bucks on a simple two-channel USB interface, I find myself wishing I'd known these things were coming down the pike. For less than what I paid, TonePort gives you not only USB connectivity but also a slew of modeling choices for guitar, bass, and vocals as well as the tools you need to easily record your creations. Keeping with tradition, Line 6 has once again designed a product that offers musicians the opportunity to take their musical paths to new levels.
Features & Specs
Shared features and specs:
- GearBox software with hardware-like interface for recording and processing of guitar, bass, and vocals
- PODXT/Bass PODXT amp, cab, effects models
- High quality vocal preamp models
- ToneDirect low-latency monitoring
- USB powered
- 16-/24-bit, 44.1/48kHz recording
- 96kHz compatible
- Over 100dB signal-to-noise ratio
- Half-speed playback without changing pitch
- Upgradeable with other Line 6 products and services, such as Model Packs, RiffWorks and GuitarPort Online
- Rock solid ASIO, WDM, Mac OS X drivers
- 1/4" guitar/bass/mic input
- Headphone/stereo line out
- Master level control
- Guitar strap clip
- XLR mic input
- 1/4" guitar/bass input
- Stereo 1/4" monitor input
- Stereo line in/out
- Headphone out
- Ableton Live Lite Line 6 Edition
- 2 XLR ins with phantom power
- 2 - 1/4" guitar/bass inputs (one padded)
- S/PDIF digital output
- Assignable VU meters
- 2 footswitch jacks to send MIDI commands
- Headphone volume control
- Stereo 1/4" monitor input
- Stereo 1/4" line in
- Stereo balanced 1/4" line out
- Headphone out with dedicated volume knob
- Ableton Live Lite Line 6 Edition