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  • Line 6 AMPLIFi 30

    Line 6 AMPLIFi 30

    Welcome to another Pro Review, HC’s unique interactive format. We encourage participation from everyone—users of the product, potential users with questions, and the manufacturer. The object is to make this an “open source” review without the limitations on space of print, the potential bias of having a single reviewer, but more importantly, to tap the expertise of the community to dive really deeply into what a product can—and cannot—do, so you can know exactly what to expect. For more information on what Pro Reviews are all about, please check out the FAQ.

    Hardware Pro Reviews traditionally start off with a photo tour of the unit, and a description of the basic specs - so let's get started.

    AMPLIFi 30 (around $300 from Sweetwater, B&H, Musician’s Friend, and others) has the heritage of Line 6 amps, but clearly has a different purpose: It’s small, cute, light, and portable. In some ways, it also has the heritage of something like the Scholz Rockman or Pignose amp, because it’s a convenient practice amp to give the “sound” you want. However this is the 21st century, so it’s more than “just” a practice amp…as we’ll see.

    Let’s unbox it. What you get from a physical standpoint is pretty basic: The amp, the AC adapter, and some docs.

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    The front has a pretty cool-looking speaker grille. This is something that fits well into a home décor. I have a guitar stand with a guitar in every room (well okay, not the bathroom or kitchen), and AMPLIFi 30 fits right into my living room.

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    Here’s a view of the top looking down on the front panel to give a sense of the size.

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    Let's do a close-up of the main control panel, which has what you’d expect: controls for Drive, Bass, Mid, Treble, Reverb, and Output level, ringed with red LEDs to it looks cool. There’s a guitar input and headphone output. Note the “Tone” button: it might appear you only get four tones, and that’s all you can have at once. However, one of the main AMPLIFi 30 attributes is being able to tweak tones using an app, as well as download tones from Line 6’s servers, a/k/a “the cloud.”

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    And…here’s the rear panel. Going from left to right there’s a minijack Aux In, USB jack, input for the FBV pedal (which we’ll also cover), and the DC input for the AC adapter.

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    Speaking of the AC adapter, it’s one of those “sideways” types that takes up only one slot on a barrier strip. I wish there was a rechargeable battery like the IK Multimedia iLoud so you could just carry it around with impunity, but I presume that would have added quite a bit to the price…and it is a guitar amp, so I suspect it would drain a battery relatively quickly.

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    That’s the background on the box itself...but that’s only half the story.
    Last edited by Anderton; 05-09-2016, 09:36 AM. Reason: Add image of AC adapter
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  • #2
    There’s an App for That

    Like quite a few devices these days, AMPLIFi 30 depends on an app to do the editing, and depends on Bluetooth to communicate with your tablet or smart phone. AMPLIFi works with iOS or Android; apparently there’s also an app for the Apple Watch, but like about 7,125 billion people, I don’t have one so I can’t test how it works. Maybe a Pro Review reader with an iWatch and AMPLIFi 30 can comment.

    I noticed in some online reviews that some people said the Bluetooth was unreliable; I saw similar comments in online user reviews about the Mackie Reach and IK iLoud. I’m not sure if I’m just lucky, there’s not a lot of interference in my environment, or I know to make sure the tablet/smartphone is actually connected, but I just don’t have a problem with Bluetooth and the AMPLIFi 30 is no exception.

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    Once it’s connected, you can then take advantage of the app. It looks a whole lot like the Helix Editor, which is pretty wonderful (check out the Helix Pro Review) and works very well with touch control. The app is how you tweak tones and download new ones.

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    There’s also a Tone Match function that we’ll get into later. It’s an imperfect science, but the basic idea is you can load a song from your music library, and the app will suggest settings that will get you the guitar sound from that song, or at least, close to it.

    And because AMPLIFi is a USB interface, it’s designed so you can plug into your computer, dial up the tone you want, and record that sound. So while it’s a practice amp, if you have a laptop around it’s also a quick way to record. Line 6 uses the tag line “Practice – Play – Record,” and that’s a reasonable summary.
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    • #3
      The AMPLIFi 30 USB Interface

      Line 6 says the AMPLIFi 30 is a USB interface, so…first off, a trip to the Line 6 site to download drivers. The interface works with sample rates of 44.1 or 48 kHz, and bit depth of 16 or 24 bits. Given that I’m testing this out on Windows, I tried ASIO, which worked fine; MME and WDM also worked. Interestingly, WASAPI gave an extra set of I/O…say what? Well hey, it’s Windows and I think WASAPI is still a work in progress. If I get a chance I’ll also try this on my PowerBook, although Core Audio is usually a given in terms of working.

      However, the main point here is that latency doesn’t really matter because you’re hearing what AMPLIFi 30 does in real-time—just like traditional zero-latency monitoring. In fact I had to remember when recording to turn off Input Echo because I didn’t want to hear the sound from the AMPLIFi 30 and the sound going through the computer at the same time. What you hear is what gets recorded.

      As to the actual latency, the Extra Large ASIO Buffer Size gave a latency of about an hour. Okay, just kidding…it was 2048 samples with a reported round-trip latency of 208 ms. However, unless you’re running a really, really slow computer, I highly doubt you’ll need to go to that extreme. I went for the Extra Small setting, which SONAR showed as 64 samples at 44.1 kHz, and gave a total round-trip latency of 13.7 ms. The next larger setting of 128 samples had around-trip latency of 22.5 ms. But again, remember that you hear no latency when you’re playing, regardless of the computer’s latency setting.

      I did note that if I started SONAR with the buffer set to 64 samples, all was well. However if I tried to change the sample buffer setting, SONAR would freeze. This didn’t happen with 128 samples, so maybe CPU power was on the edge with my laptop, given that I was testing with a project that had multiple virtual instruments.

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      There are two caveats when recording with AMPLIFi 30. First, the headphone level is loud. And I don’t just mean loud, I mean LOUD. As a result, the resolution at the low end of the volume control—which is stepped—led to a major volume jump between the 3rd and 4th steps, where the 3rd step was too soft for me and the 4th step was louder than what I wanted. It almost seems like the volume control has a linear taper instead of a log taper. Fortunately the solution was easy: I use KRK KNS-8400 headphones, which have a volume control built into the cable.

      Second, as expected the output control doesn’t influence the level going into your DAW because it’s a monitor level control. Although the level was close to what I wanted anyway, again the solution was simple. I just dialed in the AMPLIFi app on my iPhone and changed the amp’s output level.

      Incidentally, when I went to download the drivers I noticed that my firmware was considered “up to date.” This may be why I haven’t experienced the Bluetooth issues some early adopters reported, because the most recent firmware and app feature improved Bluetooth connectivity. So if you have an AMPLIFi, it pays to fire up the ol’ Line 6 Updater from time to time to make sure you’re not denying yourself some improvements.

      The bottom line on the USB interface is that it does its intended job, which is to let you plug ‘n’ play into a computer and start recording whatever sound you have dialed in. However, the best part to me is that you’re monitoring the sound without any latency (other than A/D and D/A conversion, which IIRC is a little over 1 ms). No, you can’t split off a dry signal for later processing, but that’s not the point: it’s about catching inspirations, practicing, and recording into a computer whenever you feel like it. In that respect, the USB interface adds credence to the “Swiss Army Knife” vibe that appears to be at least one of AMPLIFi 30’s design goals.
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      • #4
        Streaming Audio with Bluetooth

        I listen to a lot of internet radio on my iPad, which is okay for voice but not so much for music. Since getting an IK Multimedia iLoud I've "parked" the iPad upstairs and carry the iLoud with me around the house, which has made me a big fan of streaming Bluetooth audio - it sounds better, and can go much louder, than the iPad. I also tried streaming to the Mackie Reach when I had it here for my segment of the Reach Pro Review, which sounded way big and loud - perfect for parties. It's not something you'd want to carry around, though

        In addition to its other talents, AMPLIFi can also stream audio over Bluetooth. Because most people who pick up the AMPLIFi presumably do so for the guitar amp capabilities, this apparently isn't a big selling point. However, it's a welcome addition that makes AMPLIFi 30 just that much more of an overachiever.

        There were zero problems with connectivity or dropouts, which was also the case with the Reach and iLoud so this is the kind of performance I've come to expect. However, only the iLoud connects upon turning it on; with the Reach and AMPLIFi, I need to turn them on and then select them as the Bluetooth destination at the iPad. It's a little bit of an inconvenience, although it may be a case of some Bluetooth mojo I haven't figured out yet.

        As to the sound quality, I'd say iLoud does a bit better on the high frequencies, but then again, it's voiced more like monitors whereas AMPLIFi is a guitar amp at heart (and has more ambitious overall functionality). That said, AMPLIFi sounds better by orders of magnitude compared to typical consumer Bluetooth speakers, as well as "tabletop" radios designed for the usual FM/AM listening (I have it on good authority that terrestrial radio does indeed still exist!). So while streaming Bluetooth audio may not be a priority for those interested in the AMPLIFi 30, I think that over time, AMPLIFi owners will recognize that it's a convenient way to have "music anywhere" in the house...just because it looks like a guitar amp doesn't mean that's all it can do.

        And speaking of looks, now that I've been using it for a few days, I must say it really does fit well into a "home" situation. It's cute and compact, and is right at home in just about any place that has access to an AC outlet.

        N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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        • #5
          My Bluetooth Lesson for Today

          Road trips...the kryptonite of Pro Reviews. Well, I'm back and ready for more AMPLIFi 30.

          Except it refused to connect to my iPhone. Hmmm...brought it within range, turned things on, checked for updates...no go. Then I thought to check whether Bluetooth was enabled on the computer I'm using to write this. It was, I turned it off, and everything worked properly.

          Now, I'm no Bluetooth expert, but it seems logical that Bluetooth devices might be like spoiled children seeking attention ("Connect to me!!" "No, don't connect to him, connect to me!"). So I checked out my computer's Bluetooth settings. Sure enough, it was trying to pair with my iPhone. I also found the PC could connect to the AMPLIFi 30 (not that it would do me any good for editing, as there's no Windows or Mac editor AFAIK). But the bottom line was if I turned off Bluetooth on the laptop, the iPhone connected to AMPLIFi 30. So for those of you who report Bluetooth issues, I highly recommend making all unused devices Bluetoothless. This may also explain the issues some people have reported with other Bluetooth devices.



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          • #6
            My Bluetooth Lesson for Today, Part 2

            Okay, one more thing. It seems that if AMPLIFi 30 pairs with something, it kinda gets stuck in that groove. For example I tried going from iPhone to iPad, and the iPad didn't want to connect. I remembered reading somewhere in some FAQ about a need to "un-pair" by holding the Bluetooth button. Once I did that, the iPad synched up just fine.
            Last edited by Anderton; 05-19-2016, 12:42 AM.
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            • #7
              The Tones Functions

              First, major apologies for the delay in doing additional posts. This time it wasn’t just my travel schedule, but I also moved into a new home and the last of the move happened yesterday. So I’m set for doing more pro review posts, at least until GearFest kicks in…

              A big part of AMPLIFi 30 is the emphasis on Tones, the next item on the Nav bar after Edit. Tapping on it brings up four tabs:

              My Tones: Save edited tones, or tones you’ve downloaded from the cloud, into the My Tones list. This forms your collection of presets that you can shuttle easily into the AMPLIFi 30’s four onboard presets. Note that when the app is controlling AMPLIFi 30, you can’t select one of the four presets manually.

              Favorites: Wait a second…aren’t “My Tones” your favorites? Well yes, but this is a different kind of feature. If you play a song from your device’s music library and like playing along with it using a particular guitar tone, you can “Favorite” that tone so it always shows up whenever you play that song.

              AMPLIFi: We’ll skip over the Cloud tab for now, as that deserves its own post. This tab displays 25 Banks of four presets, and it’s easy to organize via copy and paste (no drag and drop, like the presets in the Helix editor). However, a limitation is that you can’t transfer an entire bank—you have to transfer presets one at a time. I’m hoping bank transfers will become possible in a future update. Regardless, Banks provide yet another level of organization that’s useful as you get more and more into AMPLIFi 30.

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              • #8
                Cloudy, with Presets

                AMPLIFi 30’s app not only edits amp parameters, but also communicates with the Line 6 cloud to access what’s said to be thousands of presets (I didn’t count them—there sure are a lot, so I’ll take Line 6’s word for it). There’s no “master list,” but the search function is pretty robust. Within a couple minutes, after searching on “Les Paul” I found a “Billy Gibbons” patch that I really liked. So, using the app, I transferred it over to the AMPLIFi 30 to replace one of the four presets.

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                Even with my relatively slow 6 MBPS download speed, patches download in about 2 seconds so your patience isn’t tested as you audition different presets, nor have you invested much time if you don’t like one. Of course all of this is free, and you can also upload your own presets to share with the Line 6 community.

                Patches are minimally curated, in the sense that the community gives star ratings. However, note that they can also include details like musical groups associated with the particular tone, whether it’s meant for single-coil or humbucker pickups, which pickup position is recommended, etc. In a way, the minimal curation is part of the fun—you never know quite what to expect when you audition a Tone. Sometimes, you’ll find that the Tone itself may not be what you want, but a few tweaks will take you where you want to go.

                Overall, the cloud feature is another AMPLIFi 30 attribute that adds to the “Swiss Army Knife” vibe. Although for me part of the fun is creating my own presets, for those who just want to play, being able to access and evaluate a ton of presets is pretty cool.

                A Caution for Cloud Fans: There was an interesting issue with my iPad. It had worked perfectly with AMPLIFi 30, but when I updated to iOS 9.3.2, the app could no longer access the cloud. My iPhone, which was still on the previous OS, worked just fine. I dug a little deeper on the interwebz, and found there were some major issues with 9.3.2, including turning some iPad Pro tablets into bricks. However, to make a long story short, it had nothing to do with iOS itself, because the iPad always kept me logged in; logging out and logging back in after doing the update restored everything to normal. The reason why the iPhone wasn’t a problem was because it didn’t remember me for the Line 6 site, so it required my logging in each time—including the (apparently) crucial one after updating iOS.
                N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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                • #9
                  Sidebar: Thanks for the Memories

                  This doesn’t relate specifically to AMPLIFi 30…but maybe it does. I found myself getting inspired more often than not when picking up my guitar and running through the AMPLIFi 30, so I reached for my Memory Cable and now use that as the cable between my guitar and the AMPLIFi 30. (Gibson’s Memory Cable is a guitar cable that incorporates a solid-state recorder so you can record what you’re playing.) There are alternatives; a while ago Line 6 made a device called BackTrack with a similar premise, and TC Electronic recently introduced a recording pedal called the Wiretap. These kinds of recorders are useful companions to the AMPLIFi 30 because almost by definition, you’ll just be messing around and having fun with the AMPLIFi 30, so you can never be quite sure when inspiration is going to strike.

                  Up until the AMPLIFi 30 I hadn’t gotten much use out of the Memory Cable because 95% of the time when I’m playing guitar, it’s in the studio and my DAW is always ready to record. In that scenario, the Memory Cable is more or less redundant. However, I now use the Memory Cable as my default cable with the AMPLIFi 30 and turn on the recorder as soon as I start playing. There have already been a couple riffs that I’m really glad I didn’t lose.
                  N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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                  • #10
                    Environmental Sounds...Really!

                    Just found another useful application for the AMPLIFi 30. My house has two floors. If I'm downstairs, place the AMPLIFi 30 upstairs, and stream audio of environmental sounds (forests, oceans, etc.) and turn up the AMPLIFi 30 volume to where I can hear it downstairs, it really does sound like an environment due to the distance, reflections, high-frequency attenuation, etc.

                    Of course this works well only if there's an open hallway leading to the stairs, but try it...it may even help drown out your neighbor using his AMPLIFi 30 to practice "Smoke on the Water."
                    N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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                    • #11
                      FYI: App Version 2.60 Update Now Available

                      This adds a feature where the Music provides free downloadable jam tracks and guitar tones. Once downloaded, these tacks and tone are available without an internet connection. Note that you need to have the latest firmware to take advantage of this; click here for more details.
                      Last edited by Anderton; 09-11-2016, 11:47 AM.
                      N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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