I've been using Line 6 for years, from when I downsized from my rack to a Flextone II head and 4x12 (yes, that is downsizing from a filled 10U shock mount rack system and 4x12) to using Pod XT in the studio, etc. Over the last decade my mainstay has been a Pod HD500 X with a DT25 Head and a Mesa Boogie 2x12. But lately, I've been wanting to just go back to a good tube head and a few effects. So, I got a 50w 5150.
I did want to have delay though, and a noise gate for the high gain stuff. I originally thought going with pedals, but I knew that would annoy me before long. I've been spoiled by MIDI and channels switching for so long, I don't want to do a dance when switching between what I want for clean vs lead, and even if I was okay with that dance, I'd need 3 delays, or have to change settings every preset. So, pedals were out.
I thought about using my HD500X. That got me looking around at cables, snakes, etc. I really didn't want to run 4 TS Cables, Power Cable, MIDI Cable (for amp channel switching). That led me to my first requirements for my new, much slimmer than last decades rack system:
One cable. I just want to run one cable on stage/home/wherever
Small and light weight. 4U (or smaller)
Look like it belongs with the amp. No roto case type stuff
In addition to channel/preset switching also wanted MIDI CC for effect on/off
That right there limited my choices. Anything I used would need power over MIDI (MIDI 7 pin cable). And MIDI pedal would need to use that phantom power also. Fortunately, there are some really good rackmount processors that do that, and being older, they can be gotten pretty cheaply. For around the cost of just a new delay pedal alone.
So, I shopped around and got a couple of rack processors and effects (Rocktron Intellifex, Rocktron Xpression, ISP Decimator Pro Rack G, Lexicon MPX G2) and a MIDI controller (VoodooLab Ground Control Pro). While waiting for the deliveries (and I am sure my FedEx and UPS delivery peeps are wondering what I am doing by now) I remembered I had an HD Pro X sitting in my studio, unused for quite awhile. Hmmm.... that *could* fit the requirement, just 1 RJ45 out, but, could it stand up to the others? The others have one really, really good trick that the Pod does not.
The Rocktron and Lexicon have a pure analog signal path. Which, is really cool, and sounds really great. But, it comes at a cost. Your signal paths are limited if you want to use the analog path fully. Hence, the ISP Decimator.
After playing with all this gear for a couple of weeks, I've decided which I'm keeping (the Pod HD Pro X) and which I'm selling (the other stuff). I could have saved some time and effort, and probably a few $$, but I got a chance to play around a bit, and know that I have what I was looking for.
So, here's the summary on each, and why I'm staying Line 6 on this:
Rocktron Intellifex: I love Rocktron gear. It's solid, reliable, and sounds good. The Intellifex is no exception. It's chorus, delay and reverb are really standout. Not Lexicon PCM quality, but really, really good. It lost out because it's just that. Chorus, Delay, Reverb and you can really only run it in the FX loop. I'd say the Pitch Shifter it comes with is useless, but it really isn't. It's just not good for Pitch Shifting. It's *great* to use as another Chorus and sounds lush and full that way, without the typical chorus sweep, but the unit already has an awesome chorus on it. I guess, more flavor of chorus? The Hush on it isn't all that great. Even cheaper, standalone Hush units sound and work better, and are a lot easier to tweak as needed. Plus, using the hush kills the parallel analog and bypass.
Rocktron Xpression: More effects than the Intellifex, but most of the same limitations. More effects come at a cost, the chorsu/delay/reverb are not as deep or as good as the Intellifex, but they are still more than good enough for live use.
Lexicon MPX G2: This was actually the hardest choice. Unlike the Rocktron units, this one can setup blocks for pre and post. Like the Pod HD, you can actually get a foot controller made and setup for it. The effects sound great. Routing isn't limited. It has an analog path. Awesome! The G2 would have won for me but for 2 reasons (Well, there is a 3rd I figured after deciding). It's a pain to program. Even once you know what you are doing, you need to map out a lot of things. It was also too 'deep'. Not the effects, but the unit itself. I wanted something that would sit with my amp, and this one is just too deep physically.
Pod HD Pro X: That lack of an analog path was a non issue. The amp sound is really good still once gain structures are setup. But setting those up is annoying compared to both Rocktron and Lexicon. Both of them have not only step by step guides in their manuals, but also input, output and clipping meters. And they also have signal chain paths in the manuals! Okay, okay. I've messed around enough so it sounds good. I should be happy with that. But I'm not. I'd feel better with meters. Sorry, just the way it is. That being said, it's pretty nice. I can feed my clean channel with a lower input for cleaner cleans, or feed my crunch or gain channels with a hotter signal with loop placement and gain structures there. Pretty nice, and not taking an FX slot.
So, the Pod HD won out. As an added bonus, I realize that if I am ever playing out live again, and for some reason my head or cab blows out or stops working, I at least have a backup I can use direct. That's pretty awesome.