Sep 19, 2012
If you are here, you may have been at my Line 6 HD500 clinic. If so, thank you for coming! If you missed it or couldn’t be there, I thought this would be a great opportunity to provide a post clinic wrap up of my main thoughts of the HD500 after a year and a half of using it on tour as a main rig.
Firstly, I’d like to give a quick introduction as to why I now use an HD500 and a powered monitor. With being a bit of a gear nut and being fortunate enough to tour extensively, I’ve had the pleasure of owning or operating nearly every popular high gain amp out there, from modded Marshall’s to Diezel Heberts.
So why Digital?!?!
Lets be honest, most of the time if you tell a guitar nerd you run a digital direct input rig into the house PA you’ll probably get this..
Which is fair enough. I get it. I’ve owned a modded JCM800 (2 of them!) a 5150 (3 actually!) and a variety of other amps. I’ve cranked them to 11, I understand. My initial ventures into a full digital rig was, in all honesty, not in the quest of tone, but for the quest of practicality. My dream pedalboard ended up with price tag higher than my amps value alone! I initially picked up the HD500 as a multi effects pedal.
So I got comfortable with using the HD500 purely as a multi effects pedal, until I wanted to work on my lead tone even more and start putting effects between the preamp and power-amp to create a more creamy, traditional sounding lead tone.
Now I have to be honest here……I’m lazy. Extremely lazy. A decade of touring and playing shows all over the place has left me with a need for a rig to be quick, easy, foolproof and have as little troubleshooting issues as possible. I wanted all the effects under the sun but without the hassle of patch cables, long leads, batteries, pedal power supplies and anything that could be tripped up on, or beer spilt all over it.
The four cable method I required for my effects routing, to be honest, was a pain. I mean, sure, I get it and figured it out, but I didn’t want 4 long cables in my pedalboard case, or on stage. Or begin worrying about signal degradation, or be panicking on stage trying to figure out where a fault was. I wanted the best of both worlds; all the effects in the world at my disposal and a setup process that is idiot proof!
So I began my venture into digital by using the HD500 for the preamp and effects, while using a traditional power amp and 4×12 poweramp configuration. And it worked! I had ONE cable running back to my backline. ONE. Not four, ONE. Setup was a breeze! Any other gear nerd would have been happy at that and left it as is. And I was, until the Line 6 StageSource system came out. I saw another opportunity to reduce my rig and keep the functionality that I had become accustomed to. So on 5th May, 2012 I did my first ever full D.I gig. How did it go? Exactly like any other gig! The only difference is that my entire rig was now on a a Pedaltrain 2 pedalboard!
Yeah but does it sound the same?
Another valid question my fellow guitar nerds. Does my setup sound 100% exactly like an Engl Fireball with an Ibanez Tube Screamer out front? In my honest opion? No……BUT it’s 99% there. To the untrained ear, or the general punter (which, let’s be honest, are usually one and the same thing!) It’s indistinguishable. What I had to ask myself was if I was willing to sacrifice a tiny amount of tone for the practicality and functionality I so desperately craved. The show on 5th May had proven to me that this was a viable and practical setup, so I threw all gear snob caution to the wind and have been going full D.I ever since!
Yeah but how do you set it up?
Again, excellent question, I’m glad you asked. First and foremost…lets begin with the basics and use the KISS method.
Now I don’t mean screaming ‘who wants to be lonely’ and trying to explain where that rash came from to your girlfriend, I mean
Let’s me honest. Nothing sounds more satisfying that plugging straight into an amp, and wailing away. Start with a blank patch and go from there. Follow every basic principle you can find about dialing in an amp. Re-learn the basics. Start with dials at noon, gain at zero. Dial in the gain until you have the breakup you need, dial in the e.q, learn where you sit in the band mix, crank up your mids (let your bassist sit where he needs to in the mix!) and LESS IS MORE.
Even the most subtle of changes will sing at high volumes. Unfortunately so many Line 6 products have been tainted by the average punter who puts their mids at zero and gain at 10. Most negative opinions I’ve received about previous Line 6 products were that they did not cut through in a mix. They can, very easily in fact, but a bad e.q and too much gain will ruin ANY guitarists setup.
You may find that my patch has very little gain if you are playing at low volume, or sounds odd by itself. I use high output pickups, a down tuned guitar, use my HD500 exclusively within a live band environment and I have a Line 6 L3M 1400w powered monitor pushing air behind me on stage. At incredibly high volumes (the L3M can overpower my bandmates 5150II head!) gain past your traditional breakup point becomes redundant, all it does is hide mistakes and sloppy playing. Learn to play your songs cleanly with no gain at all. A high volume, a low saturated overdrive rhythm tone sounds huge, cuts through and cleans up your playing immensely.
I also tend to steer clear of the variety of E.Q effects available. Any half decent sound guy or producer will tell you ‘you can’t polish a turd’. If you spend the time working with the deep editing functionality available to each amp on the HD500, I’m confident you won’t need to add additional E.Q controls.
Firmware 2.0 for the HD500 introduced Deep Editing functionality to all the amp and cabinet parameters. THIS is what converted me to D.I with the HD500. With this you could now:
- Adjust the Master Volume to adjust the amount of power amp distortion
- Set the power amp sag
- Change the bias of the poweramp tubes
- Use bias exursion to determine how the power amp tube voicing reacts when pushed hard
- Add reflective room sound to your amp tone
- Apply low frequency attenuation to your cab
- Adjust the level and responsiveness of your speaker Resonance.
I’ll include my patch at the end of the article. While I’m not going to tell you what setting here is the ‘be all and end all’ I have set mine to have as little sag as possible, but retain a general warmth found with a pushed poweramp section. The deep cab editing also provides the, for a lack of a better word….balls that the previous firmware lacked with the cabinet emulation. I found the best way to test this all was to move each from 0% to 100% to hear the dramatic differences, then start at 50% and move according to taste.
Once I had my patches dialed in, I then decided to control everything from the one patch, via footswitch assignment and expression pedal assignment. Lets start looking at the patch and figure out what’s going on.
You only use one patch? Why not 573?
While I use a digital rig, I still like to think of myself as a purist at heart. I like the idea of a two channel amp and a very specific pedalboard in front of me. I try to emulate that on my HD500 by using the one patch, having all my required effects within it and then assigning the effects to foot switches. Does this make it harder for myself? Possibly…but it’s much more fun…plus the danger of using an amp with 576 different options is sounding like ‘that guy’ who has 576 different amp options and can’t settle on one. I LOVE the reaction I get when gear snobs at shows are suprised that I am going D.I with a digital setup. Going from a Bogner tone straight to a Mesa during one song, then switching to Fender in the other is a huge giveaway that you’re just being silly, or simply not happy with your overall tone.
Assigning effects to the footswitchs.
Assigning effects to footswitches is pretty basic. Hover over the effect you want, hold down the ENTER button and wait for the FS assign page. From there, simply put the arrow over the effect, and then assign the FS number you want it again, plus whatever state you want it in by default (on or off) You can assign multiple effects to the one footswitch. I’ve ultilised this in my patch (FS5 is my ‘lead’ button. I press this to turn on and off multiple effects at once, give it a go!)
Before you do this, I have to cover off some basic principles. First off, change your FS mode to FS 5-8. This can be done on the first screen of your overall setup (Hold the View button down) Your standard setting will have your bottom row of footswitches (A B C D) switching to the four patches within your bank, and the top footswitches (FS1, FS2, FS3 and..suprise suprise…FS4) can be assigned to effects within the patch you are in)
FS 5-8 mode changes this. EVERY footswitch will now be able to be assigned to an effect within the patch you are in. Patch selection is now controlled by the up and down footswitches to the left. Why do I do this? I only have one patch change in my entire set (from heavy to clean) and this way, I can assign my pedal controls to the bottom row of footswitches.
Whats the point, you ask? To reiterate a point I made earlier…I’m lazy. When I have a solo or effect coming up in a song, I tend to hover near my pedalboard, foot at the ready. In the standard FS mode, I’d have to have my foot hovering over FS1 to FS4 like a moron waiting for my queue. Often I would miss FS1 and accidentally hit the little metal bar under the screen (I have NO idea why that is there)
Having FS5 to FS8 available means I can rest my foot on my heel and have my toe hover over the footswitch and wait. Again, this might sound like a minor, stupid thing to worry about. But when you’re constantly moving, headbanging and quite often in poor visibility because some idiot lighting guy brought his smoke machine, hovering on one foot for any small amount of time becomes a liability!
Download my patch and hit FS5 in the FS 5-8 mode. It will do the following:
Turn off – First noise gate
Turn on – second noise gate (set at lower threshold) tube compressor, delay, reverb
I also do this so that effect trails can continue when I switch back to my rhythm tone.
The HD500 punches WELL above it’s price range, but this comes with some disadvantages. Switching to different patches cuts off any trails you may have going from effects running in the previous patch. To put it bluntly, think of the HD500 as a ‘single core’ processor. It simply doesn’t have the capability to continue processing previous effects when you change patches. It would need a 2nd processor to handle this. This is one reason why other digital alternatives have the ability to do this, with a much larger processor and price tag to accompany it. Line 6 is a ‘mass market’ product and made the economic decision to forgo this. All is not lost, as turning effects on and off within your patch leaves the trails going. This is another reason I stick with one patch.
Assigning parameters to the expression pedal
We’ve covered assigning effects do foot switches, did you know that you can assign parameters to the expression pedal? Not just effect parameters, but also amp parameters! Neato!
Lets forget my patch for a moment and just look at the basic princple. Pick a wah, any wah will do. Double tap the Move button, this will bring up the Controller Assign menu. From here, you can assign a parameter (in this case, POS or position) to a controller (I’d suggest EXP 2 for wah. Also, make sure you assign the effect control to ‘exp toe switch’ instead of a FS1-FS8 option, you then have to stomp down on the expression pedal to change from EXP1 to EXP2 and also turn on the wah, thereby emulating a traditional on/off for a wah pedal) and the min and max values for each.
It’s that easy! You now have a workable wah.
I took this approach and went a bit deeper with it. Not only can you assign certain effect parameters to the expression pedal, but you can also assign amp parameters too! and multiple parameters!
I had a new song with In Dread Response that required me to move from my traditional high gain rhythm tone to a low fi, dirty, washed out low gain sound. And again, I didn’t want to change patches in doing so and lose any effects trials coming out of this tone.
Have a go on my patch and double tap the Move button for each of the effects (and the amp!) I’ve set multiple parameters to the expression pedal. At full/100%, the rhythm tone remains the same. When I move the expression pedal down it:
- Lowers the amp gain
- Increases the amp volume
- Lowers the overdrive pedal gain
- Increases the overdrive pedal output
- Increases a sneaky analogue echo delay mix from 0% to 32%
The delay pedal is always on but it’s the expression pedal that controls the mix. This way when I move my expression pedal down, a variety of parameters are changed simultaneously. Not only that, but the transition is smooth, I can do swells and all my trails are in tact! Neato again!
Still not convinced?
This setup isn’t going to please everyone, nor will it fix everyones problems with touring, or tone. And hey, that’s cool, my intention here is not to sell the product or convert any purists. It’s simply to help existing HD500 users with a few pointers I’ve picked up along the way.
I hope you found something of value within here, or at the clinic. Thank you again for taking the time to come to the clinic, or to read this article. Please have a go on the patch and try the following
FS5 controls the ‘lead’ effects
FS6 controls an additional delay pedal I use for layers.
Also, please feel free to join my HD500 User group on Facebook.
Thanks for reading!
Hailing from Auckland New Zealand, Ross McDougall gained notoriety within the punk rock and hardcore music scene playing for Hardcore heavyweights Evil Priest and Antagonist A.D. Having toured extensively throughout New Zealand and Australia, Ross McDougall has also had career highlights such as headline tours throughout South East Asia and Japan, main stage appearances at Big Day Out, main local support for the Taste Of Chaos tour.
Ross McDougall currently plays for two of New Zealands premier metal bands, Molest The Episcopate and In Dread Response.
Ross is proudly endorsed by BC Rich and Line 6.