XTL & Competition
POD XTL & MIDI
My Stuff For Sale
Being away from the guitar for almost 10 years, I was surprised at the technology advances especially in amp modeling. After lots of research and testing, I purchased a GNX4 & Korg PX4 (summer 2004). Short while later, I purchased a VAMP Pro. Since then, I have used the VAMP for most amp modeling tasks, rarely use the Korg, and until recently, I have only been using the GNX4 to tie everything together for computer recording.
I hesitated to get into the POD thing because frankly, in my little testing, the sound seem thin and muddy. No match for the VAMP or GNX4. A while back I decided to purchase the Line6 GuitarPort for use with a laptop when traveling. I was blown way with its amp models and effects. Once I immersed myself into the Line6 world and the hundreds of quality tones (presets/patches) available, I decided to try a Variax.
I fell in love with the Variax but found it's full potential is only achieved by hooking it up to a POD XT Live (XTL). The Variax has more than two dozen guitar variations and as you might expect, you need to match the guitar with the amp, EQ, effects, and so forth. And this is where the POD XTL comes in. You can quickly and easily create a foot-selectable patch with the settings for the Variax guitar, amp, EQ, effects--everything. So I sold the GP and purchased the Line6 XTL.
Reviews for the XTL are mixed. Many reviewers complain about the thin, muddy sound...I found the same thing to be true during the first 1/2 hour I used the XTL. I was very dissapointed to say the least. Then I changed the output setup from Amp to Studio Direct and the sound changed drastically for the better. I have since found that a bit of EQ tweaking can also significantly help the amps/cabs. You can do this with the POD's EQ, and external equalizer, or a software plug-in to your recording application.
Anyway, if you read or hear that POD XTs have a thin, muddy sound--chances are the reviewer did not spend the few seconds it takes to setup the unit correctly. Frankly, I believe a lot of reviewers do not own the stuff they write about--they spend 1/2 hour with it in a guitar store and think they're experts. I too have tried out stuff in the store and wondered why anyone would want it only to find out after you own it that with some tweaks it sounds great.
AMPs and Cabinets
I highly recommend that you bite the bullet and purchase the two additional POD XTL model packs--this will set you back $100. But when you're done, you will have more than 70 quality amps at your disposal, ranging from crystal clean to devil dirty. You should be able to acheive any sound or match any cover tune with this box and the model packs. And if you're having trouble getting the combination right, chances are someone else has--the Line6 CustomTone site has over 4,000 presets that are compatible with the POD XTL. Plus, you can always search the online Line6 POD forum and other Line6-related sites for presets.
In case you have not seen it, the following is a facsimile of the cool Line6 GuitarPort interface for the POD family (Click to Enlarge). I now use Line6 Edit to edit presets, but I don't have a screen capture of it.
For the most part, the modulation effects are good to very good. I use the sine chorus and phaser the most. There are a wealth of delays, but I am not real thrilled with them. They're good, but not as good as the GNX delays. I use the analog and digital delays the most, but with a low delay times and mix levels.
I am not a great fan of the stompbox effects, but the MUFF PI and other distortion effects are good. Even many die-hard POD XTL lovers are less than enthusiastic about its compressors. At the request of an emailer I spent several hours working the compressors through their paces and came away a little disappointed. I could not acheive the compressor sound I am familar with using the POD's Blue/Red/Vetta compressors. However, the standard (not stompbox) compressor is actually pretty good. It does not have the push I expect from a compressor, but if sharper attack is what you're after, it's great. I used it with one of my acoustic amp patches and the non-compressed sound is now dull in comparison. I compared the POD directly to the single GNX4 compressor and the GNX4 blew the pants off of the POD stompbox compressor models but is similar to the standard POD compressor. IMHO of course. The Vetta Juice and Boost+EQ effects provide good compression options as well, especially if you want to pop to your picking. So for compression, I use the pre/post Compressor, the Vetta Juice, and the Boost+EQ.
Line6 provides several software packages that work with the POD, including the Line6 Edit (mentioned earler), Line6 Monkey, WDM and ASIO drivers, GuitarPort, Rifftracker (must purchase), Variax Workbench. No CD is provided with the unit. So, you will need access to the Internet to download these apps. The best thing to do is download Line6 Monkey first, as it is a software manager for the POD XTL (and Variax). Monkey will show the whether additional firmware, drivers, and software is available and allows you to perform upgrades through its interface, given you're connected to the Web.
The Variax Equation
Have I died and gone to heaven? I do not have the talent, cash, or space to warrant, purchase, and store all the guitars, amps, and effects that I would like to have to satisfy my music addiction. Then came along the amp modelers, like the POD and GNX4. They sound pretty good to me. Perfect? No. Close? Absolutely. Then Line6 invented the Variax. I have been reading about it the past year and figured it was a gimmic. Read good and bad reviews.
But the temptation of so many guitars and variations was too much. I purchased the Variax 300. It easily exceeds all of my expectations in both build quality and its guitar modeling.
The Variax offers enough variations to carry you from Blue Grass to Blues, Hard Rock to Gospel. However, I had difficulty getting a good heavy metal sound, and I feel Line6 should have included a nylon string model.
Variax & POD XT Live Bottom Line
How does the POD XT Live stack up against a GNX4, GNX3000, V-AMP Pro, or ToneLab? IMHO, the POD XTL amp models and general sound quality is a step above the GNX4 and V-AMP Pro out of the box. It is not the "Swiss Army knife" that the GNX4 workstation is. It is not as easy as the VAMP-2 or VAMP-Pro to change from one amp model to another (without patches). Its clean models do not have the pristine punch of the Tonelab models. But as an all around amp/effect modeler the POD XTL kicks. Add in the Variax capabilities, and purchasing the XTL is a no-brainer for Variax owners.
The following table summarizes the features and my opinions / rankings of modelers I own or have owned (not just played).
More Comparison Information
Here are a couple of tunes I whipped out with the XTL. They are all first-takes. All of the guitars were produced using the standard Variax 300 models except where noted. I recorded into the computer (Pro Tracks) via the POD XTL Live's USB connection.
The following image shows how I have connected everything together. Click the image to enlarge it.
I have spent hours working with the POD XTL and its MIDI capabilities. Here is the word about POD XTL MIDI.
The POD XTL provides two MIDI ports (In and Out/Thru). The POD XTL passes both MIDI control and MIDI note data through its MIDI connectors. I setup the connectors using the POD XTL Output Mode System switch to:
I connected the MIDI out of my Yamaha S03 synthesizer to the POD XTL MIDI IN. I connected the POD MIDI out to my E-MU MIDI(and later, GNX4 midi in) and I was able to record MIDI note data and control my MIDI VST synths and record them.
However, the POD XTL will not pass MIDI "note" data through the USB. It only sends control data through the USB as outlined in the back of the manual. Consequently, you cannot record keyboard MIDI notes through the POD XTL USB connection. You must have some other MIDI connection into the computer to record MIDI note data. This is another advantage of the GNX4, significantly better connectivity. The GNX4 does push both MIDI control and MIDI note data through its USB connection.