Line 6 HX Stomp Review
A Helix-powered wonder
Trend-spotters among you will notice a current growth in the number of guitar effects processors offering ultra-high-quality sounds in tiny sized units. Fresh from recently looking at the superb Headrush Gigboard, we now have the equally impressive-looking Line 6 HX Stomp.
As a marked departure from the ‘do it all, do it cheap’ approach from multi-fx units of days gone by, modern standards dictate the need for high-powered computer wizardry, intuitive interfaces, and exceptional sound quality. Oh, and the ability to connect to a computer. That’s a pre-requisite these days.
This differs from ye olde days when the goal of a multi-fx was to stuff as many different sounds as possible in a unit that could be sold relatively cheaply. Does this new approach work better? Who are these high-quality units aimed at? All this, and more, will be answered in our Line 6 HX Stomp review.
It’s got the look
The first thing we noticed about the Line 6 HX Stomp is just how small it is. When you consider the amount of stuff it claims it can do, it’s positively diddy. Featuring three footswitches at the front of the unit to give you control over your signal chain. Each pedal has a neat looking LED halo around the outside, which changes colour depending on what amp or effect you’re using. This is useful if you’re on a dark stage, for example, but also has the effect of making it look fairly futuristic. Never a bad thing in our eyes.
Also on the front is a small, full-colour (but sadly not touch) screen which is bright and well laid out. As such, you can get the information you need quickly and easily. Three smaller knobs under the screen give you control over context-sensitive parameters, while a set of buttons to the right offer simple and intuitive navigation.
We like the simple setup; while the HX’s siblings offer more knobs and buttons to control and navigate, we found the HX Stomp gets the balance right in terms of saving space without sacrificing control. Everything makes sense and even a total novice would be able to work their way around with no trouble.
At the back of the unit sit stereo in and out connectors, along with an input for an expression pedal, a 9v PSU and a USB connector. To the side of the HX Stomp are your FX loop connectors. All in all, this is a model of efficiency; everything on there has a clear purpose, and has been designed in such a way that navigation and use are as simple as possible.
How does it sound?
If you’ve any experience with the Line 6 Helix range you’ll know exactly what to expect. Using the same digital signal processor as the bigger units, the HX Stomp packs in around 300 different amps and effects. Quality levels are high, with the reverbs and delays standing out as particular highlights.
Hooking it up, via USB, to a computer or laptop gives you deeper control over settings, signal chains and parameters. We’d advise, if this is going to be your main unit, that your initial setups and patch creation is done using this method, as opposed hunching down over the unit itself.
The beauty of the Line 6 HX Stomp is how much, or how little, it lets you do. Everything from ultra-complex, multi-patch setups through to simple “I need a good delay sound to play through my amp” style demands are catered for with consumate ease. And, at higher volumes or for recording in particular, the increased power and audio fidelity on offer from the DSP really comes to the fore. No audible artefacts or any of the signal degradation you might see on a lower-end processor.
Versatility to spare
There are a number of different potential use cases for the Line 6 HX Stomp. You might incorporate it into your setup as a Swiss Army-style tool to cover a huge number of tonal bases. It certainly lives up to the hype of being a ‘mini superstomp’. If stockpiling individual effects isn’t for you, you could do a lot worse than look at a unit like this.
It’s also easy to see how players might use the HX Stomp as a backup. Or portable unit for situations when carrying a full pedal board isn’t convenient. Hotels can be lonely places, but carrying the HX Stomp and a guitar would give you plenty of scope to write.
As an audio interface it works superbly. Its small size, combined with its huge number of included sounds, makes it the ideal unit to leave set up on a desktop. If you’re used to using amp sims for recording, the HX Stomp has the added benefit of removing the need for the computer to process large numbers of plugins. Thus, giving you a welcome boost in processing power.
For the price, there really is a lot to like about the Line 6 HX Stomp. It’s small, yet powerful. Versatile, yet extremely high quality. It covers a lot of bases, and does so to a high standard.
Check out the full range of Line 6 pedals here.