Although digital amps have been with us for more than two decades—and analog modeling goes back to Tom Scholz’s Rockman (1982) and Tech 21’s SansAmp (1989)—some guitarists still perceive the operation of these powerful workstations as signing up to fly the Space Shuttle without getting comprehensive training from NASA.
While the perception here IS the power—as modern digital amps provide near total control of amp tones, effects, cabinet types, miking positions, and more—a slight rethink will erase all trepidation, and, trust me, there is absolutely no chance of executing the tonal equivalent of crashing the Shuttle into the International Space Station. In fact, diving into digital amps can be as effortless as Superman flying across the galaxy.
Let me try to prove this concept to you by running through the features of the new Line 6 Spider V 240HC stereo-guitar amp head ($479 street) that I’ve been testing for Guitar Player magazine.
Few guitarists actually adore reading manuals—although, yeah, every community has its share of crazy tech nerds that absorb every infinitesimal spec and operational detail—so I choose not to even look at a manual as I dove headfirst into the Spider V 240HC. I did not crash or burn. The front panel is super-user friendly with extremely obvious controls. Push the Amp button, and the amp parameters light up over the corresponding knobs for Drive, Bass, Mid, Treble, and Volume. Your moves are also captured visually in the bright LCD.
Click for FX, and the lights over each knob display your colored-coded effects options: Comp (gold), FX1 (blue; factory set to modulation), FX2 (yellow; factory set to distortion), FX3 (green; factory set to delay), and Reverb (orange). I dig arranging the effects options by color, but control freaks don’t