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Line 6 M5 Stompbox Modeler Review

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Line 6 M5 Stompbox Modeler Review

This review was submitted by Guitar Jar contributor: Matt Chism

The Line 6 M5 is the auditory equivalent of a gastronomic appetizer buffet- there are so many great sounding effects jammed into this little box that you’ll have a difficult time deciding which your favorite is.

…I would definitely recommend using this at home, especially for recording, but that’s about it…

Line 6 M5 Stompbox ModelerYou can try a little of everything, or you can go “whole hog” on a single effect.

But, like an amazing appetizer at your favorite five-star bistro, this pedal fails to provide you with the necessary sonic balance of a full-fledged, kid-tested mother-approved rock and roll meal.

You’ll feel like you filled up on the breadsticks instead of focusing on the main event.

Features:

The M5 gives you an instant sonic buffet of 100+ vintage and modern stompbox tones and effects.

The models are derived from Line6’s -4 models (DL4, MM4, etc.), ToneCore series, and select POD sounds, although there are a few that are unique to the M5.

19 delays, 23 modulation effects, 17 distortion models, 26 filters, and 12 compression/EQ settings make for a most formidable slice of gear.  It’s all in there, and you can take your pick of your favorite sounds.

Ease of use:

M5 Stompbox Modeler has a simple one-effect-at-a-time design, with all the connections you’ll need to sync up with the rest of your pedals.

The universal tap tempo allows you to control all delays, modulations, and time-based effects.  You can even sync using the midi-in.

As the M5 is the smallest of the new “M” line, its multi-function knobs and switches take a little getting used to but are intuitive enough once you begin using the pedal.

The sounds are organized into soundbanks, with similar sounds being grouped together.  You will know you have changed banks due to the multi-color LED display.

Sounds are relatively easy to edit and morph, with some of them taking on a second life if you happen to have Line6’s Exp-1 expression pedal.

Sound Quality:

First the good news, and why you probably were drawn to this pedal in the first place.

The sounds buried in this double-wide stompbox are incredible.

The delays, modulation effects, reverbs, distortions, and filters add an incredible reservoir to your sonic adventures.

The effects range from classic emulations and “requisite” settings to wildly experimental.  I’m particularly fond of reverb effects, and the range and editability if the reverb bank really drew me in; everything from the “’63 Spring” to the incredible “Particle Verb” settings were made to be played live, loud, and in stereo.  Eat your heart out, Kevin Shields.

I was also impressed with the filters (synth sounds!) and EQ/ Compression settings.

The Distortion bank was my least favorite, but that’s probably just me.

Here is plenty of gain and tone-shaping madness for those willing, but I’d rather leave this pedal to introduce some interesting filters, delays, and reverbs than shape my overall tone.

Speaking of tone, I didn’t notice much tone coloration, although I am not sure if the pedal is true-bypass in it’s off time.

As you probably already know, this is a single-serving “appetizer” of sonic goodness.  You can only use one setting at a time, so if you really want to layer the sounds in this device you should:

a.) Consider the other M models like the M9 or M13, which do allow multieffects;

b.) get two or three of these pedals; or

c.) use this strictly for generating sounds while recording.

I would advocate for the final use, but I’ll get into that shortly.

For the money, the M5 offers a veritable “smorgasborg” of sound.  You can gorge yourself silly for days, finding just the right tremolo or delay for that perfect moment.

Reliability:

With the obligatory positive statement aside… now the bad news.

I really want to love this pedal- it does fill a void, and can get the creative juices flowing.

Sticking with the “food” metaphor, this pedal is the equivalent of filling up on brilliantly plated appetizers, while foregoing the expensive dinner that you should have been focused on eating.

This pedal is fantastic if you are playing and recording at home.

If you think you would like to use this live, in front of real people, hell, even in front of bandmates, I have some unfortunate news for you- it will probably fail on you.

Here’s why:

The main issue is the temperamental power supply, and the M5’s “flash update mode” default.

If you’ll notice, the power supply is drawing a full 500mA, which is much higher than most 9volt stomp boxes. This means you can only use the line 6 power lead- it will not receive enough power from most 9 volt wall wart leads or most multi-effect power bricks (unless they have a variable voltage setting, like the t Rex fuel tank.).

There goes your wonderful idea of integrating this pedal into your floor set up.

But wait, there’s more. Sometimes venue power isn’t where it should be- cycle is low, spikes, etc. those can cause this pedal to be underpowered, which causes this pedal to revert to a “flash mode update” mode.

Basically, you must reflash the on board flash memory using a USB-midi cable.

Until you do, it will blink at you and add a ‘click’ to your signal path at around 30 clicks per minute. And no, I do not have a “lemon”- if you check the line 6 forums there are dozens of complaints about this issue. It’s bordering on a recall.

Overall Rating:

This review is trying to save you a little heartburn.

On paper (or, on the menu, rather…) the M5 offers so many options and flavors for you to savor and try, but it ultimately fails at being a reliable road-worthy element, due mostly to its power woes.

I could add the navigation between patches as a difficulty, but I put up with some arcane navigation and operations on vintage gear provided that it works exactly as I expect it will work every time I need to use it.

I would definitely recommend using this at home, especially for recording, but that’s about it.

As you can probably tell, I am not in love with this pedal.  I really love most things Line 6 does, but in this case the software and flash dsp are truly spoil the M5 from being what it could be- the full meal deal.

This review was submitted by Guitar Jar contributor: Matt Chism

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