I know, I’ve been talking about sharing my experience with the Line 6 HX products for ages. But after some major firmware updates, I think now is the perfect time to finally reveal why the HX Effects and the HX Stomp are so integral to my rig(s).
The HX Effects was the first of the two units that I obtained. I was still in grad school, just started becoming more serious about my electric guitar playing and had only scratched at the surface of guitar gear. Years ago, I had previously heard friends play through a big box multi-effects unit but was unimpressed by how digital and tinny they sounded. To me, they did not come close to the real effects and pedals they were trying to emulate. Recent advances in modeling technology, from the likes of Kemper and the Line 6’s own Helix series, re-ignited my interest, but I was still using a traditional amp and mic’d speaker setup for basically everything I did so full rig replacements like the Helix wouldn’t have worked for my needs. However, the HX Effects, or HXFX, piqued my interest because of all the included effects models and features. I found a discounted open box unit near me, traded in some other gear I had been wanting to unload, and ended up bringing home the HXFX for just a little bit over 100 dollars. Got ‘em.
I was immediately attracted to the design of the HXFX. As I unboxed it, it felt very sturdy, there weren’t an overwhelming number of buttons and dials, and it has a really clean look. However, as I continued removing the contents of the box, I was struck by the absurd power supply. It made sense to me that a product like this would need more juice than a normal 9-volt battery or pedal power adapter, and therefore require a larger power supply. However, it takes up so much space and could unnecessarily block off other power outlets. I’m still wondering why Line 6 couldn’t have just used a similar power adapter as the M series. That power brick was way less obnoxious. Of course, this started off as a minor inconvenience but grew to be a huge annoyance, but more on that later.
Anyway, as soon as I stuck the HXFX between my Strat and Blues Junior, I was flying through the menus, trying out all the different effects options. It was so easy and intuitive to switch between different types of effects and tweak each one to my heart’s content. I was very glad that I could choose from a whole host of classic overdrives and explore modulation for the first time. Line 6 also developed some pretty killer sounding delays and reverbs of their own, which are all included. Not to mention the fact that you can have multiple verbs on at the same time, so you can create very expansive spacey sounds, if that’s the vibe you’re going for. At some point I might’ve been interested in something like the Strymon Timeline and Big Sky, but for now, this more than meets my space/time-based effect needs. More recently, I’ve been able to explore the onboard effects loops and that’s proven to be immensely useful for adding in other pedals to the chain and increasing the overall functionality. Perhaps the biggest game changer was the ability to easily set and change presets. Instead of tap dancing to engage/turn off a bunch of pedals, now I can hit one switch and have a completely new sound. Makes things easier for a klutz like me.
Having all these options would mean nothing to me if none of them sounded good, but thankfully I have not had any problems with the quality of any of the effects. To my ears, most, if not all of them sound great! I did a very quick and unscientific comparison of my TS808, Klon KTR, and most recently, my Timmy with the equivalents onboard the HXFX. The sounds were not exact copies and I had to really work on dialing in things to get as close to the same sound as possible, but if I were blindfolded, I’d be hard pressed to tell the difference. Which leads me to my current belief about modeling technology: it’s not perfect or the same as the real thing, but it is VERY close. In fact, you can go online and find numerous blindfolded test videos of people who really can’t tell a difference. For someone like me, who doesn’t even know what some of these legendary pedals sound like in real life anyway, this is just fine.
The HX Stomp has all of the same effects, so I won’t repeat much of what I’ve already said. However, the Stomp also adds amp and speaker cab modeling, like in their full-on helix line of products. This is the real game changer for me. Living in apartment buildings or with other people is not conducive to playing through a hot tube amp, so the headphone output really comes in handy. More and more, places that I play at require me to go direct, instead of a mic’ed amp setup. It’s great to be able to go directly out of the Stomp to FOH and choose from a huge selection of amp and cab models. Still, I can’t help but be curious as to how the Stomp will sound coming out of Line 6’s powercabs…
Another way that I use the Stomp is as an audio interface. Connecting the stomp to a laptop, I can easily use it with my DAW of choice to record some quick tracks. One gripe about the Stomp: it’s not as user friendly as the HXFX. With the HXFX, I felt that I could easily fly through the menus and choose the effects I wanted and assign them to switches. With the Stomp, I find it to be a bit more cumbersome; almost like it was lacking some buttons to press. However, with both the HXFX and HX Stomp, dialing in tones and editing presets is extremely easy when connecting to a computer with HX Edit installed. This is a routine part of my weekly prep for worship team music. Given the extreme portability of the Stomp I think this is a very small sacrifice.
Speaking of small size, the Stomp is so easily incorporated into rigs, it’s ridiculous. It has so many input/output options, even with a tiny chassis. I can throw it on my main rig, or I can just as easily pop it onto my home board or fly rig if I don’t need a large setup. Be aware of the power supply constraints though! If you’re like me and really hate Line 6’s power supply, you can get around it by using various pedal board power supplies to power the HXFX and Stomp. These are not officially supported by Line 6, so don’t blame anyone but yourself if your gear gets fried or doesn’t get enough juice. If you’re curious, I’m using a Cioks DC7, and the appropriate power cables to power the stomp and HXFX. Basically, I’m using two power outputs on the DC7 to power the HXFX and another two outputs to power the Stomp. I will write up a more comprehensive guide to my power methods, because I think that will actually be useful to share, unlike the rest of the junk I post.
One thing that I absolutely love about pedals is their timelessness. A classic blues breaker or tube screamer circuit never seems to go out of style. However, the same can’t be said for some of these big box digital modeling offerings. Cutting edge technology becomes obsolete rather quickly, and with the HX stuff, I’m sure it won’t be that different. Still, I feel like Line 6 has done a great job of developing and releasing updates for the HX gear. Not only to fix bugs, but also to add features as well! With one previous update, many of the reverbs were made much wetter. It totally changed all of my presets, but after I took a listen, I was not at all mad. Many in the guitar world were absolutely thrilled with the most recent update that added the Tone Sovereign and Heir Apparent effects, Line 6’s take on the King of Tone and Prince of Tone. Personally, I’m thrilled with the Fullerton amp model released for the Stomp. Kudos to Line 6 for their support for these products and I just hope that it continues!
I use the Stomp in applications where stage volume from a real amp/speaker combo is not possible. I stick it right at the end of my rig: right after the HXFX and go direct to FOH from there. After this past Sunday on the worship team, I can’t help but think that I’m not taking full advantage of all the Stomp has to offer. Sure, it is somewhat limited in the amount of DSP power available and the number of foot switches available to change presets, but I’ve come to realize that I could still be using it for so much more. Because of this, I’ve decided to put together a tiny fly rig centered around the Stomp. I have not planned this out fully yet, but I’d like to keep it very simple, including a tuner, volume pedal, and probably a compressor… maybe a drive or boost ;). Stay tuned, it’ll be a cool little project.
I’d just like to end by saying that the current multi-effects offerings from manufacturers have come a long way from where they used to be. Size, usability, and sound quality for the money have improved greatly. Especially if you can find a good deal on used ones, the Line 6 HX Effects or HX Stomp would be excellent choices for guitarists looking for more effects without buying a billion pedals, or for those looking into amp/speaker modeling rigs. I would even argue that the HXFX could replace an entire pedal board. Stay tuned for more updates- I’m just scratching at the surface of what these toys can do. If you have questions about how I use the HXFX/HX Stomp, how they can be used, how to power them, please reach out. Let’s talk shop. I need more gear nerd friends. Next up, let’s talk about some real pedals…