Yesterday, I traded in my pod HD500X for a Firehawk unit. Before anyone calls me crazy, I want to explain why. I usually only play in my house. I play music and jam to it. I practice. Occasionally, I get together with a buddy. I don't own an amp. Part of the fun for me is to design patches that sound like the songs I like to play. Using the HD 500X to edit patches was a pain in the neck. I didn't like to edit patches on the unit, and the HD 500 edit program wasn't really working for me either. If I edited patches on the unit, I was stopping and bending over just to make a tweak. If I edited the patch on the computer, I would have to sit down and I would often get distracted from playing.
When I had an X3 live, I created a midi template that would allow me to make patch edits on my iPad. However, when I upgraded to the HD500X, the midi implementation was completely different.
So, I realize I've lost some functionality, but gained a lot more in the process. I think it fits my needs better than the HD500X. Your results may vary.
Here are a couple of issues that showed up right away:
Bluetooth connectivity was kind of flaky at first. The unit would frequently disconnect from my phone or my iPad. This document helps me troubleshoot the connectivity issues. Turning off Bluetooth on my iMac and moving my iPad away from my iMac and my router made a big difference in connectivity. Basically, try to eliminate any sources of interference with the Bluetooth signal. When you initially connect your iPad to the FH, it takes a 30 seconds or so to transfer the patches to your iPad. Sometimes, it doesn't preload all of them at the same time, so if you are trying to scroll down to bank 25, you have to wait as it retrieves each bank from the FH. Loading patches from the iPad works fine, but does take a few seconds, it likely wouldn't work if you were playing live and trying to switch that way. That being said, you can organize your patches, storing them wherever you want in any of the ABCD locations in any of the 32 banks. Then you can use the ABCD buttons to switch between them. Switching patches that way is very quick. I don't keep music on my iPad, I use Beats music instead. So, I didn't get to try out the tone matching yet. Playing music from Beats works fine. When switching between the FH application and other music applications on my iPad, the FH disconnects from the iPad. It does reconnect automatically, but that takes a few seconds. Using tone search, you can usually find a patch that gets you close and edit from there. Loading the patch from the cloud is as simple as tapping on it. Editing patches on the iPad is fun and intuitive. Once a patch has changed, the title of the patch turns red indicating that what you are hearing is different from what is stored on the FH. You can save the changes to the FH from the iPad using the"Save info" button. However, I find it easier to use the FH. On the FH, the patch will have a period next to it's location in the title. For Example "30D.Cray Clean" in its name, indicating that changes have been made. You can save those changes by tapping and holding the patch button, the FH will show you the patch location, Tap and hold again to save to that location. (If this is unclear, there are instructions in the manual for saving patches.) Once the patch has been saved, the period disappears - "30D Cray Clean" Making small changes to patches while playing is really easy and doesn't require you to bend over and mess with the FH or use your computer. As with all POD units, volume leveling between patches will likely be necessary One thing I REALLY like is that stomps are color-coded, And the LEDs change colors, so you always know what effect is where, Making it easy to turn them on and off, and you don't get confused between patches. For example, MOD effects will always be blue, reverb effects will always be orange, regardless of where you put them in the signal chain. Much easier than the HD500X where the LED's were all red and I had to remember where each stomp was for each different patch. The tuner is cool, it shows up on the iPad, on the display on the FH, and the LEDs around the large volume knob. Accessing the Varian settings for the patch is easy and works great. Guitar Model, pickup and tuning are all assignable by patch. Love switching from a Lester to a Strat to an acoustic at the stomp of a switch.
As far as the sound is concerned, the FH sounds fantastic! It has all of the HD models the pod HD500X has out of the box. I don't think that it has the new HD models that were just released as an add-on. I'm not sure if those will be available for the FH in the future firmware add-ons. I found many of the preloaded patches to be very usable. Since I use the JTV, It would be nice to see more acoustic presets. I don't think it does dual tone patches, but I didn't use any anyways. Patches from older PODS are not compatible with the Firehawk.... So, if you have a library of POD patches, it doesn't seem like you can just port them to your Firehawk - that is a bummer.
The build is very solid. Good weight to it, but not as heavy as the POD HD500X. Metal case. The buttons are the same as the HD500X, except for the color coded LEDS. The Drive, Bass, Mid, Treb, etc knobs are not notched, they are nice and smooth. When you turn one, the LED's around the volume show you where the initial setting for that parameter was with a red LED, and White LED's show up as you turn the knob. Cool!
The large volume knob works as a volume and blend control - like a mixer between the guitar volume and the music you are playing to. It feels solid, and is notched, meaning it clicks as you turn it. LED's light up for either. You can also adjust the volume and blend from the iPad etc. I would have liked a little more control here, the volume jumps between the clicks a little too much for my liking. But, it's easily fixed by using the volume on the iPad as well.
Expression pedal is a little cheaper then the HD500X, but is very solid still. Works fine and is assignable like the other PODS.
Overall, I'm loving it. Let me know if you have any questions.