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HD500X vs Positive Grid Spark

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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.

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The Spark and the POD HD 500X are similar but very different. Both offer a variety of amps and pedals to craft your sound but this is really where the similarities end. The Spark really shines as a practice tool providing a wide variety of tools to help you learn how to play better. The POD HD shines as a professional effects unit that works well with your Variax. I have not had a Spark but I did have a Variax and a POD HD500 and it was cool how you could include your guitar settings in your POD patch. 
 

Personally, I really like combination of the Variax and the POD but this combination really works best with a FRFR speaker like a PA speaker to get the full benefit. 
 

TBH, if you really insist on a bedroom tube amp...or any amp for that matter, it won’t necessarily play nice with your POD HD. You would basically be best using only the POD HD for effects and not using the Amp and Cab sims. 
 

I hope this helps you a little at least.

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You need to understand what HD500X is and what it isn't...

 

Its strong side is that for $230-250 used, you get a versatile unit, that is full of functionality and can do anything you throw at it. 

Two guitars at the same time? Guitar + Mic? Guitar + Bass? Two signal paths? Blending two amps? Looper? FX loop? Recording through USB? 8 footswitches? Professional back panel full of various outputs/inputs? Using only pre-amps with a real power amp and a cab?

The list goes on and on... and HD500X has it all. In terms of functionality it's very close to Helix. 

 

Its biggest flaw? It's not a "plug your guitar and play" unit at all. It demands a lot of tweaking to get a good tone. This tweaking can sometimes take away your inspiration to play.

You will need to spend a lot of time learning this unit when you get it. Weeks.

 

The tones are there, but you need to tweak with EQ blocks (usually you will need two of them, so two blocks less to use for effects right away). If you don't have a good ear for tweaking or you don't know exactly the tone characteristics you want, you might end up disappointed.

 

Meanwhile, units like Yamaha THR10, Spark, Boss Katana Air, Vox Adio, Zoom modelers - they mostly sound good right away, with some minimal tweaking needed. But they are not versatile. They are bedroom practice amps, not tools for pro musician. Plug your guitar and play.

 

Another flaw is that it doesn't have IR loading like new units have

To simplify, IRs are like "instant EQ" blocks.

 

You can remedy this HD500X flaw by using it with a real power-amp and real cab, utilizing only its pre-amps. 

 

Or buying external IR loader like Mooer Radar. But this option adds costs and get's your budget really close to newer, more powerful units like Zoom G6 or Mooer / Ampero etc, with IR's already built into them. You can get them with new with warranty.

 

Another HD500X flaw is it's potential instability on modern Windows 10 machines.

 

Anyway, if you want "plug and play", don't buy HD500X. Tweaking is fun when you want to tweak, not when you need to tweak.

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GODDAMN 

How is it... I mean.... 

Am I the only person that doesn't need IRs or a tube amp.

 

I plug the unit direct to PA and get fantastic tone. I go direct to mixer for recording and get fantastic tone.

I sometimes need to plug into a sound source to hear myself - I can use bland speakers and get fantastic tone. 

 

Am I the only one?

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The HD500X is an amp modeler, not an amp. 

 

You mentioned needing "lesser" volume. 

Unless you are talking about headphones, the Pod is not for you. *with the exception of maybe using your powered computer speakers. 

 

So, going with the Pod, you will still need some sort of "amp" to hear yourself. 

 

 

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First of all, thanks for all the comments. I'll take all your feedback into advisement (especially the part about the pod not being as much plug'n'play as the alternatives - although I do like to tinker, having limited time, I'll have to think if I should invest in something that might require me to tinker before sounding good).

 

@pianoguyy I wouldn't say I need a tube amp, maybe I don't even need something new. I'm just considering these alternatives as an upgrade of tone and features from my Cube 30 and Pandora PX4D, with slightly more volume control than the Cube 30 - not sure if it's just my unit, but it jumps from "no sound" to "a bit too loud for night playing", at least with the eq at noon (to bring it down to more reasonable volumes, I'm currently dropping the eq).

 

Maybe I should have mentioned this, but I live in an apartment.

 

Also, at first, I'd probably use the HD500X through headphones. I do have a set of basic powered speakers (not PC speakers, but not monitor-level either) which I could connect if I wanted live sound - but if I am honest, that probably won't happen often, as the HD500X will probably occupy enough space around my sofa area (I already noticed having my main music gear in another room, or in the other side of the living room where my guitar stand is, doesn't lead to me using it, so now I keep it around my place in the sofa).

But it's one of the things I'm considering as something of a disadvantage of the HD500X - playing mostly with headphone.

On the other hand, with the HD500X, I know the headphone out will be of good quality :) which I think isn't the case with the Bugera V5 (many users say the headphone out sucks, some say it's okay), and haven't found much information regarding the Spark's headphone out - and in the Cube 30, it's way too low - I have to keep changing the master volume, so I end up using the Pandora when I want to be silent, even if the Cube has better tone.

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