I’ve had the Line 6 Spider V 30 for a few days now. I’ve had the chance to play through it a few times and check out both the Spider Remote software for patch management supplied by Line 6 and the V 30’s front panel, and I have a few impressions to share.

1. It’s loaded with sounds.

All the amps in the Spider V lineup share the same sound engine. Anything you can program on the V 30 will work without modification on the V 240, the high end of the line, and vice versa. And there are a ton and a half of FX and amp models on this thing–far more than I’ve encountered on any other amp modeling device. They’re mostly the same amps and FX I’m used to from working with Line 6’s Amp Farm and Pod Farm software, and it’s all good. (No surprise there considering how long Line 6 has been in the modeling game.) Furthermore, with the Spider V Remote software (see below), you can run FX in any order you like, before or after an amp model (or no amp model if you choose). Unfortunately, you only get one mod effect per patch; the good news is that pitch FX are in a different category, so you can run a pitch shifter with a phaser/flanger/chorus/rotary/etc. if you like. (and generally speaking, I often do.)

This thing cost me $119 dollars used (shipping not included) at Guitar Center, and it’s by far the most versatile high-quality modeling amp I’ve encountered. (Not necessarily the best for harp players though–read on.)

2. The front panel isn’t as friendly as the Fender Mustang.

I have a simple test for user friendliness for any amp modeling device: if I can figure out how to modify any given aspect of the sound from the front panel within five minutes, without referring to the manual or firing up the software, the front panel is friendly.

Fender Mustang III front panel display: now that’s easy.

The Fender Mustang III/IV/V pass that test brilliantly; if you can’t figure out how to work that thing from the front panel in 2 minutes flat, then you’ve probably never encountered an amplifier of any sort. (In that case we’ll spot you a few minutes to figure it out.) The Mustang III gives you a standard set of full-sized volume/EQ/reverb knobs on the front panel, plus a nicely set-up LED display to let you dig right into the details of your sound. The LED comes up automatically whenever you move one of the knobs so you can immediately see what you’re changing in context. Nice. If you want to have an experience with a a modeling amp that’s as close as possible to what you get with a traditional tube amp, the Mustang is definitely preferred to the Spider V.

Unlike the Mustangs, The Spider V’s controls are mostly dual-purpose, which means you have to set one button just so you can tell it what the next dial you move is about. This is not what I’d call intuitive. I have spent 10 minutes without any glimmer of success already trying to figure out how to set a delay time from the front panel. I’m giving up on that. The saving grace, however, is…

3. The software is really, really good.

Line 6, so far as I know, was the first company to give you a graphic software interface for configuring every piece of gear in the (virtual) signal chain, and it’s still brilliant. They show you a graphic of the signal chain and all the items in it, and you can easily pick a modeled piece from the chain and move its (accurately depicted) controls as you like. It’s like Digitech’s Nexus software for the RP360, only unlike Nexus, it seems to have been designed by professionals for professionals, meaning that it does its job without wasting your time. The software looks and works similarly to Fender’s FUSE software for the Mustang amps, only there are more goodies on display in every amp and effect category.

In short, the Spider V is a good-sounding piece of gear with a very large variety of amp and FX models. I’m sure it’s an amazing setup for recording as well as performance. If you’re fine with using software to edit your tones, you’ll like this amp plenty. If not, you’ll probably be happier with a Fender Mustang.

More to come, stay tuned.

Spider V Remote screen shot–check out all the vintage Fender amp models

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