Ultimate Review of Line 6 POD HD500X (2020):
Digital Guitar Effects and Amp Modeler
Last Updated 11/10/2020
I’ve always been a fan of digital multi-effects floor units. You get all the effects you can use all in one package. Having to piece together an analog style pedal board, one $90 pedal at a time has never appealed to me. Perhaps the genre’s I choose to play in influencing that decision. In the past I stuck to Punk, Metal, and a bit of Classic Rock. I never had much need beyond a good distortion, a way pedal, and a half stack.
The thing is, guitar players grow and change especially as their ear for guitar tone develops. After you’ve gotten a handle on all the fundamentals you start exploring other aspects of playing guitar. With the bulk of your training out of the way, you have more time and mind share to develop your guitar tone. This is where things get interesting.
- What exactly is "Guitar Tone"?
- Things to consider before you buy the POD HD500X.
- The Details of the POD HD500X:
- World-Class HD Amps
- 100+ Studio and Stomp Effects
- More Processing Power, More Creativity
- Sculpt Sounds with Dual Signal Paths
- Assignable Footswitches and Rugged Construction
- Flexible I/O for Recording with Any DAW
- Command Center for Your Guitar Experience
- The Features of the POD HD500X:
- My HD500x Sound Samples
- Pros & Cons of the POD HD500x:
- Social Proof:
- Other Reviewers:
- Alternatives to the POD HD500x:
What exactly is "Guitar Tone"?
Guitar Tone is the quality, depth, and character of the sound our guitar, pedals, and amp makes together. It’s very personal. So much so, that you can tell one guitarists tone from another. Slash has a distinct raspy, choppy, punching tone. Clapton has a smooth, muffled, strat tone. Tone is something that evolves and improves over the span of your entire life. It’s a journey, and it’s a lot of fun.
In the past, I’d always gone Digitech because they were affordable and had all the features I needed. But, the guitar market changes and new manufacturers rise to the top. Line 6 seemed to be at the top of the industry when it came time for me to invest in a new rig. Their POD series had seen ample success and the reviews were good.
The POD HD500X was their top of the line floor unit at the time. It had fantastic ratings, and to be honest the stompbox style switches with multicolored LED Halos really caught my eye. After excessively researching the HD500X I was confident it was the right tool for the job. In this review, I’ll give you more information than you’ll ever need to make your own decision. So buckle up, here it goes.
If this is the first digital pedal you’ve had, there are a few things you’ll want to know up front.
- It can sound amazing, but probably not quite as good as a tube powered amp w/individual pedals. There is a quality about true tube driven amps that digital amp modelers just haven’t been able to replicate this far.
- This unit takes DOZENS, if not hundreds of hours to dial in to perfection. The learning curve is steep and you have to experiment a lot to get the most out of it.
- Will you regret buying the HD500X? I certainly do not, it’s an all in one unit that improved my ear, my tone, and my creativity. If you don’t mind tinkering this will work for you.
- Your best results will come from pairing this pedalboard with a good clean amp or by running direct to a PA System and In Ear Monitors. Using a LRLR Powered Wedge Monitor just absolutely sucks. Avoid the powered monitor method.
A limitless multi-effects processor to unleash all of your creativity with 100+ effects and more amp/cab models than you’ll know what to do with.
The POD HD500X is the ultimate tone palette, whether you want to re-create classics or go somewhere new with the ability to recall up to 512 totally different rigs-with changes to preamp type, power amp configuration, guitar type, polyphonic alt-tuning, effects chain and more.
And thanks to HD technology, POD HD500X provides the depth, character and touch nuance to inspire your creativity in the studio or on stage. So if you’ve never experienced the flagship of the POD family, now’s the time to check out POD HD500X.
World-Class HD Amps
From vintage classics to modern powerhouses, each HD amp delivers incredible sonic depth, character and touch nuance to inspire your playing-and that’s just the beginning. Customize the tone and dynamic response of each HD amp with an extensive set of deep parameters including Sag, Bias, Bias Excursion, Hum and more.
100+ Studio and Stomp Effects
POD HD500X gives you over 100 studio and boutique stomp effects, so you can take your sound in any direction. Emulate classic signal chains with distortions, delays, mods, filters, reverbs and more, or discover entirely new sounds by mixing and matching up to eight simultaneous effects. You also get pro-grade, assignable footswitches and a built-in, die-cast expression pedal to control your effects in real time.
More Processing Power, More Creativity
With unparalleled flexibility and more processing power than anything in its class, the POD HD500x is built for tone creation. To start, POD features dynamic DSP, so you have the freedom to stack the effects you want wherever you want them. Compared to its predecessor, POD HD500X lets you add even more effects to your signal chain. You can also mix and match HD amps, cabinets, mics and effects in virtually endless combinations. With 512 presets, you’ve got plenty of options for recalling your tones.
Sculpt Sounds with Dual Signal Paths
Legendary guitar tones are often created with more than one signal path. POD HD500X lets you create these complex, rich tones without the setup headaches of traditional dual-amp rigs.
Assignable Footswitches and Rugged Construction
With POD HD500X, you get professional-grade footswitches with bright LED rings for at-a-glance operation. You can use them to enable or bypass amps and effects, or to select presets directly. If you want to get more creative, you can assign multiple amp and effects parameters to the expression pedal and morph betweensounds-controlling up to 52 parameters in real time. The footswitches also control the built-in 48-second looper-an instrument unto itself. The bent-metal chassis and rugged construction make POD HD500X ideal for any stage.
Flexible I/O for Recording with Any DAW
POD HD500X provides all the connections you need for studio, stage and anywhere in between. You can plug in a mic to record vocals or acoustic instruments, track with your favorite HD amps, use the stereo FX loop to connect stompboxes and outboard effects, and much more. Connect to your computer via USB for multi-channel, studio-quality recording with your favorite DAW software-or tap into POD HD Edit, the free editor/librarian software that makes it easy to tweak and organize all your tones.
You can route your guitar through two completely independent paths-each with its own HD amp and effects chain, of course-or process two signals at once using the 1/4″ guitar, 1/4″ auxiliary or XLR mic inputs. So whether you want to configure elaborate signal chains for more traditional stereo amp setups, or create unique soundscapes, you’ve picked the right tool.
Command Center for Your Guitar Experience
It doesn’t matter if you use a guitar amp, go straight to the PA or take advantage of a next-gen full-range guitar rig-POD HD500X is the ideal command center for any guitar setup. It’s a fully assignable MIDI controller, so you can use the footswitches and expression pedal to control all kinds of external hardware and software-and it gets even better when you use POD HD500X with other Line 6 gear.
This pedalboard is an all in one unit. It’s your Amplifier, Cabinet, Mic, and Dozens of Digital FX pedals. That means all you need for a live gig is your guitar, cables and the POD HD500X. Literally. That’s it. Beyond it’s incredible portability is its reliability. I’ve kept my old half stack on stage as a back up for the last 4 years and I’ve never had to use it. Let’s explore this pedal’s features.
- Extensive collection of award-winning HD amps for authentic tone and feel
- 100+ studio and stomp effects”use up to eight simultaneously
- Selectable speaker cabinets and mics
- Unparalleled flexibility to craft your tones: Dual signal paths, multiple routing optionso Dynamic DSP with more power for amps and effects and stereo FX loop can be inserted anywhere in the signal chain
- Professional-grade footswitches with bright LED rings for at-a-glance operation
- Comprehensive I/O includes USB 2.0, MIDI, S/PDIF, balanced XLR outputs, integrated mic preamp and more
- Guitar input with variable impedance
- Fully assignable MIDI controller”control external hardware and software via footswitches and expression pedal
- L6 LINK connection for integration and control of DT-series amplifiers and StageSource series loudspeakers
- VDI connection for integration and control of James Tyler Variax guitars
- 8 set lists containing 64 presets
- 512 user-writable preset locations
- Assignable expression pedal controls amp and effect parameters
- Integrated 48-second looper with dedicated footswitch
- Built-in chromatic tuner
- Tap-tempo footswitch
- Professional-grade construction with bent metal chassis, chrome roll bar and die-cast expression pedal
- Downloadable POD HD500X software editor/patch librarian.
My HD500x Sound Samples
- All-In-One Unit, Very Portable
- Dozens of HD Amp Models with Cabinets and Mics
- All the Effects Pedals You Will Need
- *VERY IMPORTANT Every Switch is Assignable to Every Amp and Effect Parameters (example: Assign Amp Gain to the Expression Pedal-Heel = Clean, Toe = Distortion) (Example 2: Assign a Boost Compressor to FS6 ON/OFF)
- Everything is 100% Customizeable.
- Can be used as an Amp Modeler, Effects Processor, MIDI Controller, or all three combined.
- Its affordable especially when you consider everything it replaces.
- Multiple Input & Output Jack’s w/ Headphones Jack & MP3 Player Input Jack for quiet practicing.
- USB to Computer Recording Interface (Great for recording at home)
- HD500x Edit Software for your computer. Sync, Edit, and Save Patch Presets on your computer and Export straight to the HD500X.
- Has a Looper
- Has an Effects Loop for running with a real amplifier.
- Community that shares patches to help you get started
- Allows for a secondary EXP Pedal
- Can be used as a vocal fx processor, bass or acoustic guitar simulator.
- Holds up to Regular Gigging
- The LCD Display is pretty well useless live, its barely readable.
- Editing patches on the fly is incredibly difficult, best to have a laptop handy.
- Its not quite as versatile as it claims, the amp models are very hard to pair and get decent tone from. When you do find amps that work together, they are out of phase.
- The Amps, Cabs, and Mics have major Phasing Issues when using Dual Amps, major problem.
- Factory Presets are absolutely useless.
- Factory Presets are all different volumes.
- Massive Learning Curve
- Extra HD Amp Models aren’t free.
- Some of the Amp Models are useless.
- To get best tone requires dual amps/cabs/mics which hogs DSP(processing power) which means very little space left in patch for effects/stompboxes.
- After 3 years of use, several of my footswitches are going bad.
- Takes extensive experimenting to get your ideal live rig setup. (I tried HD500X w/ Halfstack, HD500X w/ Powered Monitors, then settled on Direct Stereo XLR Outs to PA System.)
One of the challenges of writing product reviews is maintaining your integrity. One way I show integrity is by only writing the truth. I won’t just show five great reviews, but also show bad reviews when it calls for it.
Its important to me that you gain something from my reviews. Its my job to provide you the quality content you need to inform your ultimate decision about this product. So I scoured the internet for ratings and reviews on the HD500X. What I found covers the whole spectrum. I took screenshots of several different websites. Here they are.
There are a whole lot of options when it comes to pedal boards, Amp modelers, multi effects pedals, and processors. The market is pretty well saturated, but that’s good for us. There are several well rate and dependable alternatives to the Line 6 POD HD500X. I have done more than my fair share of research in this subject, and I’m happy to share my knowledge.
- Fractal Audio’s AX8 Amp Modeler + Multi-Effects Pedalboard
- Line 6 Helix (The New Flagship Line 6 Pedal)
- Line 6 Helix LT (Definitely Huge Upgrade from H500X
- Kemper Profiler (Higher Price point, but amazing capabilities)
- Digitech RP500 (Cheaper Option VS HD500X, not as capable as other options)
- Headrush Pedalboard Guitar FX and Amp Modeling Processor
- Line 6 Firehawk FX (Simpler Design, less tweakability, IOS App Control)
- Atomic AmpliFIRE 12 (Possibly the most value for the money)
Would I buy this product again?
To tell you the truth… this pedaboard has its flaws, but I would absolutely buy it again knowing what I know now. I would recommend it to a friend, no hesitation. If you are new to guitar or not very knowledgeable when it comes to tone, this product will teach you so much. It has allowed me to do things that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.
This is a great option whether you are beginner looking for an affordable guitar rig or a professional lookin to try digital Amp modeling. Be prepared to invest considerable time and effort into learning and dialing in your patches. This will likely be the case no matter what pedal board or rig you buy. It’s part of the joy of playing guitar.
The Line 6 POD HD500x has proven itself in the industry as valuable asset for the gigging guitarist. It replaces your Dual Amplifiers, Cabs, Mics, Effects Pedals, Looper, Tuner, Recording Interface, and Midi Controller, all in one compact floor pedaboard. Line 6 Pioneered the Digital HD Amp Modeling market; They made it what it is today. That alone is enough reason to invest in the HD500X.
The Axe Dr.
1. What are Amp Modelers?
Amp Modelers are digital models of real world guitar amps. The technology is not that new, but the improvements over the last decade have lead to a huge jump in Digital Amp Modelers popularity.
2. Do Amp Modelers sound like Real Guitar Amps?
Many companies have tried to re-create the sound of real world tube amps, but most have failed. Some would argue it will never be possible to mimic real world amps with digital technology. However, in recent years, the technology has improved exponentially. Companies at the forefront include, Fractal Audio, Kemper, Line 6, and Headrush.
3. What are the best “Amp Modelers”?
The best amp modelers you can buy right now are:
4. What is the difference between the “HD500” and the “HD500x”?
The main differences are the footswitches. The HD500 is the older of the two, and comes with cheaper plastic footswitches that are prone to failure.
5. What is the difference between the “HD500x” and the “Helix”?
The main difference is the age. The Helix is a generational leap forward in digital effects and amp modeling. It is the newer of the two units, and costs about 3 times more than the HD500x.