Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Having Fun With the Podxt

Well, I've been playing around with this Line6 Podxt for a bit and I have to say that the fun factor is looming large. I really love the sound of a good guitar and great amp so most of my tweaking has been in the way of pretending that the Pod is what the display says it is, and tweaking the knobs accordingly. Consequently, I have a few thoughts.

First off, there isn't a piece of gear that will make a crap guitar sound like Jimi Hendrix. And sadly, there are plenty of young players with crap guitars out there who are misleading themselves into thinking that the Pod, or something like it, will turn their crap guitar into something that it is not. Given the choice between spending my dollar on a Pod or a decent guitar, I would start with the guitar. I'm playing an Mark Knopfler signature Strat,, a masterbuilt '54 Strat and a Gibson ES 135 with killer pick-ups. For bass I usually play old Fenders. I know that what I'm putting into the Podxt is the right shit, so If the result is crap, I would know where the fault would be.

Attempting to compare the Podxt head to head with a vintage amp is Fruitless and doesn't serve any purpose that I can think of. The first thing that comes to mind is that if you have a vintage Vox AC30 to compare it with, throw the fucking Pod in the corner and rock the AC30 for chrissakes! No, the pod can't compare with the dynamic tactile sensation of standing face to face with a vintage half-stack or a pair of well-oiled SVT cabinets. But that isn't really the point, is it.

There is a huge difference between playing a gig that requires the pantleg-flapping, intense volume and sound pressure of a pair of Acoustic 360 bass rigs on the one hand, and a session where an accurate bass sound that sinks right down into the mix is what is needed. The first can be physically exciting although sonically inaccurate. The value is a matter of the moment. The second has to be right...forever. What the Podxt does for me is put a sound into my computer that gets pretty damned close to what an amp and a mic in a room would deliver to a recording console. It is, after all, a simulator.

But now, back to the fun factor. I have been very lucky. I have had my hands on a shit-load of great amps...and I mean GREAT amps. I know how they work and I know how to turn a knob ever so slightly to make a good Tweed Bassman sound amazing. I know that a Blackface Deluxe sounds different on the floor than it does on a chair. And I know that no two Vox AC 30s sound exactly alike although I have yet to hear one I didn't like. I love to tweak amp knobs to get that extra little magic.

And thats what I dig about the Podxt. If you know the amp that is being modeled, you can really have some fun. The Pod actually reacts to very subtle knob movements much like the amps we all worship. It also responds surprisingly well in two other areas that are difficult for many younger players to grasp. Many players step on some kind of pedal to play a solo without ever taking advantage of the controls on the guitar. I like to dial in a nice, aggressive sound and then roll back the guitar volume to clean up the sound. It just sounds more naturally dynamic and I think the guitar sounds better when you let it do some of the work.

The other thing that the Podxt does quite well for a simulator is respond to playing dynamics. A great amp will allow you to caress a gentle part and then jump on a chunky rhythm riff without any knob twisting. The Pod does a pretty good job of simulating these player controlled dynamics.

I'm having fun with this thing. It's different, that's for sure. But in a small room with a Mac and NHT powered monitors, getting a guitar sound could be a whole lot worse. Now if they could just make it smell like a '65 Twin...yeah, YOU know what I'm talking about.

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