Line 6 Spider Valve MkII HD100 and FBV Shortboard MkII Foot Controller
Line 6, Inc., line6.com
Spider Valve MkII HD100 head, $1,289.99; FBV Shortboard MkII foot controller, $279.99
Line 6's Spider Valve MkII HD100 represents a perfect marriage of digital and analog technologies.
Line 6's Spider Series amps have been among the company’s most popular amps, offering immediate satisfaction and a uniquely simple but advanced user interface. Line 6 gave the series a twist in 2007 when it teamed up with tube amp legend Reinhold Bogner. The result was the Spider Valve Series of amplifiers, which combined Line 6’s latest Spider Series digital preamp and Bogner’s tube power amp and preamp stages. The first run of Spider Valve amps became 2008’s best-selling tube amp in the United States. Now comes the second-generation of those amps, dubbed the Spider Valve MkII. On my test bench this month is the 100-watt Spider Valve MkII HD100.
The Spider Valve MkII HD100 is a phenomenal machine that, like its predecessors, lets the user achieve great results quickly and easily while it also allows a level of deep editing for those who want to tweak their tones. For instantaneous fulfillment, guitarists can scroll through the presets, all of which feature names that nod to the artist and/or song that inspired the setting. Once you find a preset you like, you can edit its tone and effects (up to seven parameters are available for each effect) either through the front panel or by connecting the amp to a computer and using Line 6’s free MkII editing software. Along with the editor, there is also free firmware update available that adds an additional 28 effects to the amp, which can then be accessed either with or without the editor. Your settings can be saved into four channels, accessible through the front panel and an optional Line 6 foot controller, such as the FBV2, FBV Express MkII or FBV Shortboard Mkll. If you want to create your own presets from scratch or operate the amp outside of Line 6’s presets, simply touch the manual button on the amp’s face, and away you go.
The HD100 has 16 amp models sampled from some of the most classic American, British and European amplifiers. Basic controls include drive, bass, middle, treble, channel volume, reverb, presence and master. The three effect knobs on the front panel allow you to quickly sweep through different levels of distortion, modulation and delay effects. There’s also an onboard tuner, a tap tempo button for delay times and a Quick Loop button for recording loops on the fly.
In conjunction with the HD100, I tested the FBV Shortboard MkII foot controller. The sensibly designed device gives guitarists convenient remote access to the tuner, presets, effects, amplifiers, wah and volume.
Given the depth of this amp, there’s no way to touch on every aspect of its features in a review of this length. But suffice to say that Line 6’s digital recreations are the most accurate and detailed models ever built into a guitar amp, and that the depth of editing and control on offer here is amazing. It could easily take a user years to discover the practically endless array of amp tones, effect textures and sonic soundscapes that are possible with the HD100.
While Line 6’s digital genius is the first stage of tone creation, Bogner’s impeccable, 6L6-based, all-tube power section and 12AX7 preamp tubes are what bring all of these tones to life and bridge the gap between digital simulation and real tube tone. Line 6’s distorted tones have always been superb, but in the past the clean models left something to be desired. The addition of Bogner’s tube power amp and preamp sections have all but resolved that issue, creating warm, true-to-life tweed and blackface amp tones.
Overdriven and heavily distorted tones are also much clearer, harmonically richer and rounder. For instance, the Marshall “Plexi” and Mesa Rectifier settings are now practically free of any digital artifacts. You hear and feel the amp models breathe through the Spider Valve MkII HD100. The response of this amp is also monumentally improved with the addition of tubes. It doesn’t quite capture the intricacies of an all-tube, analog amplifier, but it’s a dramatic improvement.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Line 6's Spider Valve MkII HD100 represents a perfect marriage of digital and analog technologies. The digital preamp is intuitive to operate and loaded with 16 amp models, numerous effects and 128 user presets, while Bogner’s all-tube power amp and tube-driven preamp alchemically morph these digitally born models into organic tones. Add to that the extensive remote control offered by the optional FBV Shortboard MkII foot controller, and you’ve got one amazing and compact guitar rig.
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