Review: Line 6 Pod HD500

I’ve been using Line 6 gear for many years and have watched them grow into one of the best amp modeling companies in the business. The Pod HD500 stompbox is yet another success in the Line 6 arsenal.

The HD500 is a lot of things bundled in one box. It’s an audio interface to your computer; an amp modeler; effects modeler; and a stompbox that can connect to your amp or PA. Basically, it’s a unit that’s built to do it all.

I expect different things from an audio interface than I do from a stompbox. When I see a stompbox, I think of playing live and all of the perils that come with that.

The biggest problem for me is toughness. When I see some of these pretty looking stompboxes on the market, I immediately think, “that wouldn’t last a night under my foot.” I’m not saying I abuse my gear, but if it’s made for me to stomp on, that’s what I’m going to do. And the Pod HD500 takes it night after night, song after song.

I’ve been through the problems of pedals getting gummed up or not responding when you step on it. That’s not only frustrating, it pisses me off.

Of course, you don’t just have to worry about playing, but moving the stompbox to and from the venue. Let’s face it, you don’t baby the thing when you’re unloading, do you? No. It gets dropped, thrown, stepped on, spilled on, kicked and flung. It’s the nature of the business.

I’ve been playing for years and my old stompbox was a piece of plywood with the pedals fastened to it. I loved that thing. You could set a bomb off and it would come through unscathed. That’s what the HD500 is like for me.

Enough about toughness, how does it sound? That’s the other important factor, isn’t it? It’s fine to get your HD500 to a rehearsal or gig, but if it sounds like shit, it’s not going to last long.

I work hard on my presets, to get that perfect sound (and by perfect, I mean I keep fiddling with it because I’m rarely satisfied with any tone). Because of that, I usually like to plug the HD500 directly into the PA. That’s just a personal preference.

I’ve tried it running through my JCM 800 and it sounds great, but I like having all of those little nuances in the tone that I get from running the HD500 by itself.

As the name implies, this new stompbox comes with “HD” amp models. That basically means that Line 6 found a way to model the 22 amps in such a realistic way, they could only describe them as HD. But are they really that good? I had my doubts, but was quickly convinced after playing it for a short time.

Amp modeling has come a long way in the past few years and you can hear a difference with the Line 6 HD amps. It was kind of strange to hear them at first — maybe them sounded a bit too real or something. Whatever it was, I liked it.

The HD500 gives you complete control over your tone from detailed amp settings to a variety of effects, mics and cabinets that can be added to your tone. Settings can be changed on the fly, using the controls on the device, or from your computer, using the Line 6 software.

Overall, I like the HD500 software, but I didn’t like the effects edit window as much as I like Pod Farm.

In HD500 Edit the effects window is too small for me. I understand that you can edit multiple effects at once, which is great when building a preset, but I’d like to have the option to zoom in close on an effect and work on that separately. Basically, I’d like the effects window to work like the amp window — focused on one thing.

Arranging amps and effects with the HD500 software is really simple. Just drag and drop things where you want them to be — again, you have total control.

New in this version is the ability to put an effect before both amps if you’re making a dual amp tone. I love that feature. Now I can put a Chorus pedal on the entire tone and let it hit both amps when I turn it on. Very smart fix from Line 6.

One miscellaneous item that is rarely mentioned in any review that should be is the tuner. Line 6 makes the best tuners on the market. Yes, most of us can tune by ear, but every once in a while it’s nice to get back to a perfect standard tuning. I hate those tuners that flutter all over the place, so you never know if you got it right on or not. Line 6 nails it every time with their tuner. I appreciate that.

The HD500 also works with the company’s Variax digital guitars and the DT50 amplifiers. I haven’t had a chance to review either of those items, but hopefully one day soon I’ll do those too.

I don’t know what else you would need from a stompbox that Line 6 doesn’t offer. This is the third Line 6 stompbox I’ve had over the years and all three still work perfectly. They’re tough, they sound great, they’re versatile and they’re accurate in tonal characteristics. Well worth the money.

  • Anonymous

    “Well worth the money.” …price?

    • Don’t be so lazy Corey 😉

      • Yacko

        Corey is right. How about platforms and minimum system requirements?

    • Ben Roethig

      ~$500 depending on retailer.  Add another $50 or so for guitarists in the great white north.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks. That’s all I wanted to know.

    • Emerickry

      I got mine new for 380 on a musicians friend sale before christmas…

  • Anonymous

    Just picked up the Line 6 Pocket Pod for my teenager for Xmas; he’s pretty happy with it.  Guess he’s got something new to save for now!

    Also, since you’re my go-to blogger for guitar+computer stuff, have you used the Line 6 Mobile In yet?  I’m looking for a digital interface for my iPad/iPhone (the IK iRig is just too noisy and low gain for my tastes), and right now, the Mobile In is the only way to use the new Line 6 iPad/iPhone SW; if I’m going to spend $80+ on an interface, maybe it should be the one that gives the best SW access.  Of course, I’m also thinking that I might stay away from the Mobile In out of protest (an iPad/iPhone dongle is extremely distasteful…).  I’ve heard very mixed reviews on this Mobile In H/W.

    Anyway, I love your music equipment reviews; thanks!!

    • Thanks for the compliments 🙂

      I haven’t used the Line 6 Mobile gear yet, so I can’t give you any advice there. I have used the Apogee Jam and love it. I also have a new GuitarJack that I’m reviewing.

      Keep in mind that NAMM is in two weeks, so you might want to wait before making a buying decision.

  • Toya

    Hi! I’m having a bit of trouble whether if I should buy the HD 500 or the HD 400. Any thoughts on what’s the best deal for a hobbyist/occasional (once every 2 months) gig guitarist like me?

    • That really depends on what you need from the unit. Personally, I love having dual tones, but that’s only available on the 500. The 500 has more I/O too, which is important for me.

      Take a look at the comparison chart.

      • Emerickry

        I had that same question when i bought my hd 500…  im not a pro musician but it still went with the 500 over 400 since the full size screen is nice and it has up to 8 assignable pedals in the chain so you can essentially set one virtual stompbox per pedal…  I would say spend the extra money if you are considering keeping the pedal for 5 or so years…  it is for sure worth it!

  • Chris C

    I’ve been using the HD500 for a few months now and I am pretty happy. One thing you didn’t touch on is the quality of the effects. The latest HD units use M class effects which are the same quality found in the original Line 6 stompboxes and M9/M13 floorboards. 

    I dare you to find a major touring artist that doesn’t have a green rectangular Line 6 DL4 on his/her pedal board these days. Most players use 2 of them to create multitap and layering effects. With the HD500 you can basically line up 4 of them for all sorts of delay craziness. 

    • Emerickry

      the reverb and delay boxes are some of the best on the hd 500.  i love them!

    • Good point Chris. As I said in the video of how I create a tone preset, I use delay and reverb mostly to create space in the tone, but some people do some wild things with those effects.

  • Rick

    Hi Jim,

       I’ve read a lot of reviews for the HD500 but I can’t find anything about switching channels on an amp (w/ amp moduler). For example, changing between a clean channel and a crunch channel.

    Thanks, Rick

    • Hey Rick, anything specific you want to know?

      I typically do separate presets instead of turning effects on/off. Personal preference for me, but sometimes I like to have different Chorus levels, delay etc.

      The only real trick is to make sure you correctly set volume levels, so there is no big change when switching.

      I’ve had no issues with latency in switching.

      • Rick

        I was thinking of something like The Who’s Behind Blue Eyes. Starts off with an arpeggiated, clean sound then after the solo, there’s the distortion. I don’t really like to add a distortion effect to a clean channel, I prefer a distortion channel. Is it easy to switch presets in the middle of a song?