Adventures In Audio
Line 6 PODxt - is getting great guitar sounds this way cheating?

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

Monday May 23, 2005

In the formative years of the sound of the electric guitar, a guitarist would buy a guitar because he heard someone else getting great results from a similar model, or simply buy the best he could afford in the guitar shop. He (they always used to be 'he' - for some odd historical reason, girls were not allowed) would plug it into an amplifier (which used tubes because transistors of sufficient power capability had not been invented) and then crank it up all the way to the top of the dial. (PA systems hadn't been invented either, other than for vocals).

So simply because of the necessity of this, music adapted to the sounds that were possible. A lucky chance perhaps, because we soon found that we liked these sounds. In fact, we like them a lot!

Many of the sounds of the great electric guitarists can be achieved by acquiring similar instruments, plugging them into similar amplifiers, and turning up the level. Of course, you have to play well too...

But there are two problems. The first is that cranking the amp up produces a great quantity of sound, and that is often difficult to reconcile with home recording studio surroundings, unless you live on a farm. The second is that with one guitar and one amp, although the sound you get may be excellent, it only covers a fairly narrow range. To achieve the complete range of tone and expression that the guitar is capable of, you would need a range of amps available. That costs money, and takes up space.

So it isn't surprising that digital modeling processors such as Line 6's PODxt have emerged. Line 6 have produced a number of demos of the sounds this small and inexpensive unit can create that are wonderfully reminiscent of the original records. They are very impressive indeed.

So you can buy a Line 6 PODxt and sound almost exactly like Jimi Hendrix, Mark Knopfler, Brian May or any of a number of top-line guitar players.

But wouldn't you feel as though you were cheating?

These players honed and refined their sound over many years. And you can have it just by plugging into a digital box.

There are two ways of looking at this (and making you feel better)...

The first is that many musicians need access to a wide variety of sounds very quickly and easily. These include session musicians, and composers who produce music in bulk quantities - like TV music composers.

If you consider yourself an artistic musician however, then to use a Line 6 PODxt to simply copy an earlier generation of greats would indeed be cheating. But there's nothing to stop you using different combinations of amp models, dynamics, effects and cabinet/microphone models to go beyond the presets.

And the best thing is that you can plug your Line 6 PODxt into an amp and mic it up in the normal way. Now that gives you an extra layer of creativity to play with.

If you are a creative musician, then you won't be satisfied using the Line 6 PODxt just as it is, straight out of the box. You will push the PODxt beyond the limitations envisaged by its designers, to new creative achievement.

And then someone at Line 6 will have to model that!

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