Wednesday, July 10, 2024



For the last few weeks I've been noodling around with the Pod Express, a newer pedal release by Line 6. It runs on batteries or power supply, it's got a stereo headphone/line output with analog master volume, it has  lots of core effects like Reverb, Chorus and Distortion plus it has seven amp models. Priced at under $200, all this power is packed into a compact space age-plastic stomp box little bigger than an old MXR Phase 100, but is it good?

For this review I mainly used my mahogany Les Paul Special which is loaded with "Slash" Seymour Duncan humbucking pickups, Bourns pots and PIO capacitors. I plugged the guitar directly into the Pod Express so I could evaluate the interaction of the guitar volume controls with the pedal. 


You look at the photo of the Pod Express and you think you understand what it has to offer. When you turn it on and dive in there are many interesting and fun surprises awaiting. 

On the face there are what appear to be five rotary knobs; the slightly larger center knob labeled AMP is a digital encoder with 360 degree knob rotation and an integrated pushbutton switch which is activated by pushing on the knob. The encoder is surrounded by multifunction, color coded LEDs embedded in a black plastic ring. The four knobs surrounding the encoder are potentiometers, each of which is dual function. A single compact momentary pushbutton labeled ALT is pressed to switch the outer knobs between their alternate functions.


Click to enlarge

Two footswitches are provided, one to turn the pedal ON and Off; the other provides full-time tap tempo capability and if you hold the TAP button for a couple of seconds the pedal enters TUNER mode. Those LEDs around the AMP encoder knob are the tuner-function visual indicator for sharp or flat.


On the left side of the pedal is a single 1/8" stereo headphone output which is accompanied by a wheel type potentiometer for independently adjusting the output-level. I used Pod Express to drive Sennheiser HD600 and Audio Technica ATH-70 headphones; the pedal delivered plenty of volume to both headphone brands regardless of impedance specs. 


Line 6 knows some things about guitar effects and amp modeling, the company practically invented the category with their original AxeSys stereo guitar amplifier. 

Pod Express effects include DISTORTION, MODULATION, DELAY and REVERB; each of these effects is controlled by a single dedicated rotary control with four distinctly different models. As you turn one of these rotary controls the ring of LEDs around the AMP encoder changes color to match the effect you're tweaking. Everything happens in realtime and I never felt like adjustments got in the way.


The effects all sound good and if you're on a tight budget these could be all you'll ever need. I'm a Reverb snob and I think the Pod Express Reverb is the weakest link; even still, it's plenty useable for live shows (if I was cutting an album track I'd use an external dedicated reverb after the Pod Express). 

Distortion and Amp Models

Distortion effect intensity is controlled from the dedicated rotary control and the way the effect is delivered is highly dependent on the AMP model chosen on the center rotary encoder. Distortion responds nicely to guitar volume changes. My other digital amp/modeler is a Kemper Rack; it certainly has tones that the Pod Express does not but the Pod does get you jamming with good, expressive guitar-tones much faster than the Kemper. 

ALT Button

Pressing and holding the ALT button changes the function of the outer four knobs; they become Gain, Bass, Mid and Treble. The outer knobs are clearly labeled to indicate their alternate functions and they are very responsive, turn a knob and you'll hear a difference.


The more I have used Pod Express the more I like it. There is zero menu diving on Pod Express, I can plug in and start playing my guitar very quickly with tones that are satisfying. With a favorite set of headphones and a guitar Pod Express has all the tools and tones necessary for rehearsing, recording or experimenting with tone interaction. 


Click to enlarge

I extensively tested Pod Express direct-connected through a small stereo PA system. For this connection I connected a Hosa mini TRS 1/8" stereo plug to dual 1/4" cable, from the headphone output jack on the side of Pod Express, to a stereo line input on the PA.  I used the headphone output level control on the side of Pod Express to adjust the volume sent to the PA, this delivered big fat guitar tones out of the full range sound system with minimal noise. The Pod Express has a very good noise gate function which turns down noise when using high gain settings. 

Battery Access on Rear of Pod Express


  • Battery power option, lets you jam anywhere with minimum setup time
  • Uses standard AA size batteries (not proprietary unreliable rechargeable)
  • Built in headphone amp
  • Extremely compact form (not a larger bean shaped box)
  • Easy to use, no menu diving
  • Good selection of core guitar effects


  • Presets are awkward to use
  • Reverb could sound richer (less metallic?)


There is a lot to like in the new Pod Express. Some folks might complain about the plastic case but I had no problem with it and ultimately, I like it because it can't create a ground loop like metal enclosures sometimes do. With a good stereo direct box you could easily play live with Pod Express. I especially like the lack of menu diving to dial in a ripping lead guitar tone FAST once you're familiar with the controls. I've only touched on the high points, there's much more to love. Great sound, easy to use and affordable; what's not to like? Line 6 has a hit with the new Pod Express.

Thanks for reading High on Technology, GOOD MUSIC TO YOU!

©July 2024 by Mark King, It is NOT OK to copy or quote without written permission.