Reviewed: Line 6 HX Stomp
It’s time to admit something to ourselves: amplifier modeling is the new reality. This new wave began in 1998 with Line 6’s kidney-shaped POD. While, realistically, the tones weren’t especially close to what they claimed to imitate, the convenience of being able to switch between ‘amps’ and patches, either effected or not, was groundbreaking. This was superseded by the Fractal Audio Axe-Fx in the mid-2000s, who then released the Axe-Fx II in 2011, which became the industry standard. In the same year, Kemper released their profiling amplifier, which allowed users to model their own amplifiers with startling accuracy. Fractal and Kemper have been neck and neck ever since, while Line 6 has slowly released updates of the POD, such as the POD HD and HD X series. Unfortunately, Line 6 has remained associated with the tones and sounds and effects on the original POD, despite consistently releasing top-quality products. This all changed in 2015 when they released the Helix and re-entered the big league. Enter stage left (or left and right; there’s a stereo output): the HX Stomp.
Reviewed: NUX Cerberus Multi-Effects Pedal
Have you heard the news? Multi-effects pedals are back, and with the ever-developing power of modern digital processing technology and cross-platform integration, they’re better than ever. Whether you’re a beginner looking to develop a taste for different tones on a shoestring budget or you’re chasing a no-frills touring solution to easily slot into overhead storage or under the car seat, you can’t beat a solid multi-effects unit to supply the goods in a pinch.
Reviewed: Mooer Preamp Live
It’s the most dreaded scenario of a serial tone fiend: all of a sudden, after countless hours spent twiddling with your amp and pedal settings, you fall out of love with your guitar tone. In a desperate effort to juice some life back into your beloved rig, you scour the internet and trawl through gear forums for what seems like weeks, trying to justify the purchase of another new pedal which you are absolutely certain holds the key to the divine zone of heavenly tone. In a fever, you drop half your weekly pay cheque on this said box of knobs and circuitry (and probably an obscene amount for shipping, too), waiting anxiously for the postman to deliver your new pedal – the fabled ‘last one’ – only for you to plug it into your amp and find out that after all this effort, your tone still sucks.
Reviewed: T-Rex Effects SoulMate Multi-Effects Pedal
In true guitar fashion, everything seems to go round in stages. Trends and fashions come and go only to resurface years later. Pedals have somewhat followed this path too. With stompboxes being the go-to for many years, rack and multi-effects units soon enjoyed some time in the sun before the focus returned to pedals for much of recent times. Modelers, smaller units and digital gear have all enjoyed success of late, and the multi-effects unit has also seemed to reappear. A few issues ago we played the T-Rex Soulmate Acoustic, which offered an all-in-one effects unit for both gigging and the home, alleviating the need for multiple pedals, messy boards and monster effects rigs. Similarly, the SoulMate offers plenty of options for the electric guitarist.
Reviewed: Radial Engineering AC-Driver
Acoustic guitar live sound can be a very different beast compared to its electric brothers. Yes, you can just plug and play and let the sound guy/FOH operator work his magic, but a little initial control can be a good thing too. Radial is known for its super reliable stage gear offering a range of high quality DIs/pedals/preamps for both live and studio situations. Focusing more on the live acoustic instrumentalist, the AC-Driver should appeal to a range of players in the acoustic domain.
Reviewed: Zoom G5n Multi-Effects Processor
Having seen the development of the Zoom range of guitar effects over the years, it has been great to see the ideas all fall into place one by one to end up with a flagship unit like the one that landed on my studio floor this month. Those of you who have used Zoom products before will know that the effects are always top-notch, delivering quality in audio and modeling at any stage in their current range. What the G5n does is to bring together the best of the best and combine them into a user interface that is designed with picky guitar players in mind. It is not just a set of preset patches, it offers the user the options that individual pedals do, but with far more variety and versatility.
Reviewed: TC Helicon Perform-VG Vocal Processor
In stark comparison to bass players and drummers, the singer in the band has by far the easiest job. I mean, sure it’s rough being the centre of attention all the time and keeping your instrument tuned is a veritable hedge maze of guesswork, but relative to lugging 8x10 cabinets up darkened, narrow stairwells, that’s a breeze. When compared to the tap-dancing that a guitar player has to do to keep tone in check, even the most dedicated front person has little to think about other than simple delivery of soul. How easy it would be to eschew all that burdensome physicality and rely on the beat-up Shure 58 at every venue as the be all and end all of your backline needs.