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Opus Antics

Getting the most out of my HD500

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I recently went ampless and started running my guitar through a Line 6 HD 500 straight into the PA.  Obviously there are a lot of benefits to this, but one drawback is that I get "OK" guitar sound.  The guitar tones I'm getting sound...alright.  Passable.  It doesn't suck.  You see where I'm going with this?  I can get by with what I'm doing and for the casual bar patron I'm sure they don't really notice.  But, it's not...wow.

 

I was convinced that get truly "wow" sounds I was going to have to invest in an Axe FX rig, and spend the time and effort (and considerable $$) to switch over to that unit.

 

This past weekend I was out and a band was playing and the guitar sounded "wow."  I was taken with how good it sounded and how well it sat in the mix.  So during a break I wandered over to the band area and checked out what the guitarist was using.  And there it was, a POD HD Pro, combined with a power amp, with main signal going to the sound board and one going to a crate cab, probably for his monitor.  From what I've read, the Pod HD Pro has exactly the same guts as the HD 500, only in rackmount form. 

 

So if he and I are using essentially the same engine, why am I drooling over this guy's sound, and mine is kinda just meh?

 

Guitar-wise, he was using a Jackson, and I use a PRS.  I did see that there was a small pedalboard on the floor, but one reason for going to the HD 500 was to minimize, not to add.  Is it the pedalboard that made all the difference?

 

I know that's not a lot of detail to go on, but I want the best I can get out of what I have, and it's obvious after what I heard this weekend that I'm not even getting half of the quality I should / could be getting.  Any suggestions?  Pointers?  Tips?  Help! 

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Tweaking. I've got an old AX2 that I've tweaked a lot and it has killer patches that I get good comments about. It really is how you set the patch up.

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Sigh. Ok.  Well the good news is I don't need more equipment, I guess.  If I can get that guy's results, I'll be thrilled.  But the bad news is I see a lot of evenings and weekends ahead, sitting in front of the computer. 

 

I dunno, it just seemed night and day.  The sound I heard Saturday night was thick, rich, complex, throaty, growly.  Mine sounds so thin...weak...plain.

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It's because he was using a power amp. I do not like the sound of direct HD500, Axe Fx, or any unit like that without a proper tube power amp. That is what makes it come alive in a live situation. Even at home I use my HD500 through a tube power amp. I then go from the power amp to a 2x12 cab at home. More cabs if I'm gigging. 

It totally changes the way it sounds. If you want transparent the Carvin TS-100 is like 600 dollars new. I have one of those. It's very transparent but has the tube warmth and sounds very good. 

But, I like a little bit of character in the tubes. The Mesa 50/50's are also fairly cheap. Used, on ebay they are about the same price as the Carvin. They will add a little more character in the power amp sound. 

Also, you can use a tube power amp head and by pass it's pre amp. For example, if you get a 5150/6505 you can plug your HD500 into the effects return on the back of the amp. It bypasses the pre amp and lets you only use the tube power section. And so far, the best power amp I have heard with the HD500 is the 6505. They can be found used cheap also.

I have also switched to all digital stuff as I like it better when it comes to preamps, I use an 1101 mostly. But I do use an HD500 also. But when it comes to anything other than the pre amp I am old school. 

Even though, the HD500 can be ran direct, and so can the axe fx, they have amp sims in them, but truely they are just pre amps. So without a power amp it just doesn't have that punch to it. I know some axe fx people will bash me for saying that. But it doesn't. 

And no direct signal, even with a good cab simulator on the preamp sounds as good as a real cab being mic'd and sent to the board that way. 

So get you a good tube power amp, and a good cab. All you need is a 2x12, they will mic that and you will sound amazing.

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