If you happen to think that guitar effects arrived on our doorstep in the 1960s, think again. The prototype ideas were way before then. In the 1930s, Rickenbacker began installing a form of tremolo in their instruments. It wasn’t very good, but they had to start somewhere.
The pedal we will be featuring in our Line 6 HX Stomp Review was still eighty years or so down the line.
It became a bit more serious in 1948 when the tremolo came along in an amp. I actually had a tremolo effect in a 30 watt Selmer Zodiac amp made in the early 1960s. Very good it was too. By the mid-60s, they were commonplace, with the most famous of them all in the Vox AC30.
The Game Kicks Off…
It was the 60s when it all kicked off. With transistors being so cheap, pedals were easy and cost-effective to make. And guitarists wanted them. First came the fuzz or distortion and its variants. Some were good, most were dreadful.
A bit like the guitarists that used them.
Things were improving, though, as we made our way through the 70s. This was the period that the ‘Dutchman’ brought us the Harmonizer Pitchshifter. That sound, along with some rather good playing, announced the arrival of Eddie and Alex. And don’t forget Dave Gilmour and his Electro-Harmonix Big Muff; it also created quite a stir.
Towards the end of the decade, and in some cases before, guitarists were stringing pedals together. New sounds were emerging.
In the 1980s, the idea evolved of having more than one effect in a single box. Again some were good, many others not so. But the idea of having it all together was worth pursuing. And manufacturers did.
Fast forward to today, and there are more of anything, and everything than we ever thought was possible. It can be a daunting experience trying to select a single pedal, let alone one with multi-effect. Some though have a reputation, and the crowd at Line 6 are a company that has built their market position.
So, let’s find out…
Who is Line 6?
The company was founded in 1996 in California. They make a range of guitars and basses but are best known for their amplifiers and effects pedals. They are the manufacturers of the revered Helix multi-effects processor and pedalboard.
Most of their products are imported from China, and they have been owned since 2013 by Yamaha. The fact that Yamaha bought the controlling interest says a lot. If Yamaha is going to buy something, it will be good.
They are a forward-thinking company always looking to take a step towards the next generation of pedals. This Line 6 HX Stomp is a good example of that philosophy.
So, let’s see what it is all about in our in-depth review of the Line 6 HX Stomp…
If you want a complete rig with all the bells and whistles in one box, say hello to our little friend, the Line 6 HX Stomp. Some might say that if you want a carry-round, standalone setup, this is it. It is absolutely loaded, and we aren’t referring to money.
The Stomp is a multi-effects processor designed to give you the Helix amps and cabinets sounds in one box. And more than that, it also operates as an audio interface.
Have pedal will travel…
It is not an exaggeration to say that the sound you create can be taken everywhere. No more getting to gigs and setting up your sound from a pedalboard. Just plug in the Line 6 HX Stomp. It’s all there waiting.
Don’t get us wrong. This is not the smallest pedal you will ever see. Far from it, as we will explore later. That said, being able to take with you the lot is a big plus. And of course, still have room for some cables and other items.
Is it as good as it sounds? Let’s take a closer look.
We have already alluded to its size. In terms of some pedals, this is a bit of a monster. It measures 7 by 5 by 2.5 inches. That makes it a little bigger than a paperback book. It weighs 3.25 pounds, a lot heavier than an average book.
Perhaps we shouldn’t dwell on the size of this pedal. Some would argue that you can actually forget your pedalboard when you use this. Others would argue you might need to include a few of your favorite pedals.
But whatever side of the fence you sit on, you could probably eliminate a fair amount of pedals from your board. That would leave you with the HX Stomp and a few others.
Taking the punishment…
Stompboxes need a tough build, preferably from aluminum. It is lightweight and quite tough, and this is what we have here. The quality is strong, and the footswitches feel solid underfoot. This is going to take a few knocks. It will probably need to.
Staying with the footswitches, there are three. Capacitive sensing ensures they are precise and easy to control. They allow you to edit the sound and call up previously saved presets. Furthermore, they are color-coded to make them easy to use. They are brightly lit in their colors. Even on the darkest stage, you cannot mistake what each one does.
Even on the darkest night…
To help even more with control and usage, there is a brightly lit color display. Measuring two and a half inches, it doesn’t dominate the pedal but is large enough to see easily. The important controls all being illuminated is a great idea. And it looks pretty good as well.
A good quality build that is enhanced by easy to use and very visual controls. A good functional design. Plenty of points earned here. But what is inside?
Underneath the bonnet…
It is good it has a large bonnet. There are over 300 modeling sounds and effects from other Line 6 products. These include the best of Helix, Legacy, and the M-series. Among them are 77 amps and 37 different cabinets.
In addition, there are up to six simultaneous effect blocks. That includes IR loading and a looper. Control of the sound is further extended with an option for an expression pedal.
There are 126 presets that give you a great place to start building your unique sound. These are organized in instrumental groups to make it easier. The groups include presets for guitar, bass guitar, acoustic guitar, and keyboards. In our opinion, though, they are not ready to use presets. More a place to start to begin creating your sound.
Should you use it with other pedals, it has True Bypass. Therefore, you can chain it up with other effects but ensure you keep the quality of the signal.
Some would argue there is enough there to be getting on with. But whilst this pedal is loaded with effects and options, the sounds they produce will be unique to it. You might not be able to replicate a favorite delay or reverb that you use.
In that situation, you may need to attach some extra pedals. As we say, it has plenty under the bonnet. But, what is included might not suit everybody.
If a pedal has been designed for studio work, then you have time to use the controls. But if it is going to be used in live situations, it needs to be easy to set up and then operate. That is one of the real assets of this pedal. It is easy and quick to program and then very easy to use, even in dark venues.
We are not going to go back over the screen and the color-coded switches. Suffice to say; they make using this pedal in a live situation easy.
Extra control options…
There are some extra control options. In and Out sockets for MIDI and connections for up to two pedals. This means you can easily add an expression pedal and a wah if you need them.
The FX loop means you chain up any of your favorite pedals anywhere you like. There is also a USB port for firmware updates or for controlling patches using a computer.
All other issues pale in significance to the performance. This is no cheap option; there is a lot of tech inside. It has to perform. In fact, it has to more than just perform.
1-2-3-4 cable integration…
This somewhat important feature, the 4-cable method as it is known, is going to make some guitarists very happy indeed. Some pedals just work better at the front end of a chain. Others sound better if they are placed in the effects loop of your amp.
This unit lets you place those pedals, be they overdrive, Wah, distortion, EQ, etc., at the front end. While the Delays, and Reverbs, etc., can go at the back end.
It has a number of presets that are already configured for this 4-cable method. The routing is already in place to create your own personal patches.
Just one significant feature that helps you quickly and easily create that sound you are looking for.
It is loaded…
We are not going to spend the next week discussing all the effects and modeling that are built-in to this relatively small box. It is fair to say you can create just about any sound you may want from the seemingly endless options.
Although, as mentioned, if there is a situation where you prefer the sound of another pedal, it is easy to put it in the chain wherever it fits best. The Line 6 HX Stomp will manage them and everything else for you.
We have already mentioned some of the connections in this Line 6 HX Stomp Review. But at the expense of repetition, let’s just cover them all briefly.
- Two ¼ inch Left (mono) and Right, and two ¼ inch aux in (Left and Right).
- Two ¼ inch Left (mono) and Right and a single ¼ inch stereo send.
- In/Out for MIDI, and In/Out for Through.
- Standard type-B USB for connection to a computer.
- One ¼ inch headphone socket.
As you might expect, there are plenty of little additions that you could label extras. Some you will use, some you won’t, but they are there anyway.
Is there an App?
What do you think? Of course, there is. And unlike some, it is pretty good. The HX Edit is supplied free, and you can get a lot done using it.
Using the app, you can apply edits and hence customize just about every part of the operation of the pedal. We are not going to pretend this is an easy operation. Some of the functions are quite complex, but the option is there if your willing to invest the time to master it.
You can also save the settings and recall them when you need them. The capabilities extend to Librarian options as well as IR loading.
We have already mentioned the options for attaching an expression or other pedal. Some things we haven’t mentioned that are included in the box are the 24-bit/192kHz converters and the Sharc digital signal processor.
The pedal is compatible with both Windows and Mac OS.
Line 6 HX Stomp Review Pros and Cons
- Good strong metal construction.
- 77 amps and 36 cabinets.
- 126 presets.
- Varied and wide-ranging potential for tone creation.
- Can be used as a standalone or as part of your pedalboard.
- Good integration with MIDI systems.
- 4-cable integration.
- Some other Helix models are easier to use.
- Takes up quite a bit of space if you use it on a pedalboard.
- Controls are rather tightly packed together.
- Some are going to find it a little expensive.
Looking for Something Else?
It has never been easier to find the effect pedal you want. So, check out in-depth reviews of the Best Flanger Pedal, the Best Reverb Pedal, the Best Analog Delay Pedals, the Best Phaser Pedals, and the Best Boost Pedals you can buy.
Also, take a look at our reviews of the Best Delay Effects Pedals, the Best Tremolo Pedals, the Best Multi-Effects Pedal, the Best Noise Gate Pedals, and the Best Guitar Pedals for Beginners currently available in 2021.
Also, if you’re a fan of Line 6, you might enjoy our in-depth Line 6 Spider V 120 MkII Review.
Line 6 HX Stomp Review Final Thoughts
We hope that we are not saying the obvious here, but this is a pedal for a certain kind of user. It certainly isn’t for the player who wants a reverb, a chorus, and a bit of overdrive. It carries a lot more than a lot of players will ever need.
That’s fine, of course, but you are paying for it.
There are some other concerns we didn’t include in the Cons. You are limited to six effects blocks. If you are running in stereo, you will find yourself running out of options very quickly.
Also, the modeling presets are not the best we’ve heard and not something you would probably use in their raw state. As we have already mentioned, they are a place to start to get your sound, but that is all. Finally, if you are thinking of this to work your DAW, it might not be the best option. It can be noisy, and there are better systems around.
Not an all-in-one solution.
However, as a sound modeler, if you like Helix sounds, it has most on board. It will not perform nearly as well as the full Helix board, that has to be said. But this is very much a more portable and cheaper version, so that is understandable.
If you want to carry some Helix sounds around with you, then it is worth a closer look.
Until next time, may your effects be awesome, and your music always make you move.
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