GOLD AWARD WINNER
I love pedals. I love pedalboards. I love spending hours making custom length cables to wire entire pedalboards together (yes, I’m sick). But lately I can’t help but feel I’m wasting my time and effort, especially when I get my hands on today’s latest multieffect processors.
The new Line 6 Firehawk FX is a perfect example, offering extremely powerful tone and effect processing, sophisticated capabilities, and a high-performance, user-friendly floor controller design that makes my even my most ambitious pedalboard designs seem like a Model T next to a BMW i8.
Featuring Line 6’s acclaimed POD HD and POD Farm amp and effect models, the Firehawk FX is much more than an effects processor, and it can effectively replace an entire rig of amps and speaker cabinets as well.
FEATURES: While the Firehawk FX’s overall effect processing capability is not quite as powerful as Line 6’s POD HD500X, there are several good reasons to consider the Firehawk FX beyond its slightly lower price.
The primary reason is that the Firehawk FX is much easier to use, both when creating new sounds and when performing on stage. The Firehawk Remote app for iOS and Android devices is the big game changer here, enabling users to program new sounds, manage presets, download new tones from the Line 6 Cloud, and perform numerous other tasks using a smart phone or tablet wirelessly connected to the Firehawk FX via Bluetooth.
The Firehawk is very easy to use live on stage as well, thanks to its dedicated, amp-style controls (drive, bass, mid, treble, FX, reverb) and color-coded LEDs surrounding the FX footswitches, which change color to correspond with the type of effect block assigned to each footswitch (yellow=stomp, blue=modulation, pink=synth, green=delay, orange=reverb, turquoise=FX loop). This makes it easy to tell at a glance what effects are assigned where.
The layout of the top panel is streamlined and self-explanatory. In addition to the amp-style controls and five FX footswitches, it also offers a large, easy-to-read alphanumeric LCD, a Bluetooth pairing button, oversize master volume knob, a pair of bank up and down footswitches, four preset footswitches, a tap tempo footswitch, and an expression pedal.
The rear panel provides a plethora of connections, including a 1/4-inch guitar input, expression pedal jack, stereo FX send and return jacks with a stomp/line level switch, stereo XLR and stereo 1/4-inch main output jacks with line/amp mode switch, 1/4-inch headphone jack, a Variax input, and USB port.
In typical Line 6 fashion, the 200-plus models included cover nearly all the bases, including a wide variety of amps from vintage to modern high-gain and an impressive selection of distortion/overdrive, modulation, reverb/delay, pitch, and other stomp box and studio effects. About 50 of the models use Line 6’s top-of-the-line HD processing.
PERFORMANCE: The Firehawk FX is one of the most logically laid out and easy to use floor-mounted multieffect processors I’ve ever used. Setting it up is as easy as plugging in a stomp box, and navigating through the 128 presets is a breeze thanks to the bank and preset footswitches.
The presets are expertly programmed, and most are designed and named after well-known songs so you know exactly what you are getting when you select one.
Some users may prefer to program effects directly from the front panel via Live Edit mode (which also adds a looper), but I found it more worthwhile to edit using the Firehawk Remote App with an iPad or a tablet.
Even the biggest onboard LCDs can’t compete with the detail available on an iPad’s screen, which makes programming sounds a pleasure instead of a chore. The Firehawk FX doesn’t quite offer the programmable depth of Line 6’s POD HDX products (for example, its signal chain routing options are more limited), but there is more than enough flexibility and programming power to satisfy the vast majority of guitarists out there.
Beyond its stellar ease of use, the Firehawk FX really delivers when it comes to sound. The unit performs best when plugged direct into a mixing console and full-range sound system, but it also sounds quite good through a clean guitar amp with a little tweaking of the unit’s top panel controls. The distortion is dynamic and natural sounding, and even the most blazing high-gain tones are noise-free.
LIST PRICE: $629.99
MANUFACTURER: Line 6, line6.com.
CHEAT SHEET: Over 200 amp and effect models, including more than 50 HD models, cover the gamut from vintage to modern amps and every imaginable type of stomp box and studio effect.
Amp-style tone, level, FX, and reverb controls are located on the top panel, allowing users to instantly access key tone-shaping parameters.
The Firehawk Remote app is used for editing presets, programming setups, storing sounds, and much more with an iOS or Android smart phone or tablet.
Color-coded LEDs surrounded the FX footswitches make it easy to instantly determine what type of effect is assigned to each footswitch.
THE BOTTOM LINE: From its powerful Firehawk Remote app to its color-coded FX footswitches and logical layout, the Firehawk FX is all about ease of use, but fortunately easy doesn’t come at the expense of stellar, pro-quality sounds.