Hi there. I've recently purchased a Variax Standard used and I'm really liking the thing! I currently mostly play through a Roland Cube 30 and a Pandora PX4D when I don't want to/can't make much noise - the Cube is a bit too loud, even in the minimum volume (in hindsight, I should maybe have gone with a less powerful one, but they usually had less features, at the time).
I also have a M-Audio Black Box, but I've used it mostly as a USB interface than a multi-effects pedal, 2 Danelectro Cool Cat overdrives and a Boss RC-1 Looper pedal.
I was considering upgrading the Cube (the Pandora is good enough for silent practice), without breaking the bank. I was considering 3 alternatives, so far:
- a cheap "bedroom" valve amp - the frontrunner being the Bugera V5, due to price, features and tone (I have a couple of OD pedals which would make it far more flexible, but due to its darker nature, I'd also have to get an eq pedal).
- Positive Grid Spark - lots of people speaking well of it, and it has lots of features (not all of them interesting, but most) and amp/pedal models.
- HD500X - firstly for the Variax interactions, but also for the flexibility and interactivity (footswitches are better than apps).
Just to clarify, at the moment, and in the foreseeable future, the goal is home use, so, even though I know the HD500X shines in live use, it's not an important point for me (even though I'd like doing live stuff, I'm aware I probably won't have the time anytime soon).
My tastes are more bluesy, a bit of rock (classic, mostly), some stuff like Santana, but NO metal needed (nothing against it, just not my cup of tea). Main influences would be John Mayer, Joe Bonamassa, Santana, Brian May, Gary Moore, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton.
My thinking is, although the Bugera V5 is probably the champion tone-wise by far, its reduced flexibility (even with the 2 OD pedals, I won't be able to reach Santana-like lead tones.. also, no acoustic stuff) and lesser performance at lower volumes or over headphones put it at a disadvantage.
The Spark has for it the features, and probably the amp model quality (even if the HD500X was the flagship when it was released, that happened in 2013, so the 8 years are weighing on the tech).
The HD500X has for it the interactivity (like I said, actual footswitches are more interesting, and practical, than using an app), a few of the features (although I already have a looper, an integrated one that I can place wherever I want in the chain is a plus) and the larger pedal range.
The reason I didn't put the Bugera in the topic is because I'm mostly leaning between the Spark and the HD500X - I don't think I'll be able to play the Bugera at a volume where it shines, and I'm not sure I want to buy an amp right now that doesn't support acoustics in any way (I'm really digging the acoustics in the Variax Standard - they might not be perfectly accurate for some people, but they allow me to have a decent acoustic sound at all times of day and night, and have a guitar next to me that I can switch from electric to acoustic at the flick of a switch).
I'm aware this is maybe not the most objective crowd (it is a Line 6 forum, after all), but I'm hoping to find some people with experience in a few of the alternatives (the Spark, by the way, is based in the very popular BIAS plugins from Positive Grid, so if you have some experience with that, it can also apply here) to give me their opinion on the matter.