Choices: TheToneKing.com takes a look at the Line 6 M5 Stompbox Modeler
Marc Johnson for TheToneKing.com
Choices. You don’t have to look too closely to notice that guitar players love to have choices. While old-school stompboxes are cool, they’re usually one-trick ponies that fill up a pedalboard just as quickly as they empty your wallet. This is the reasoning behind the new Line 6 M5 Stompbox Modeler, a less expensive, more compact alternative to the old standard that gives you access to more effects than you could ever fit on a pedal board. As part of The Tone King’s ’30 pedals in 30 days,’ we recently had a chance to take the M5 for a test drive.
Taking up less space than 2-3 standard sized pedals (6.0”W x 6.5”D), the M5 gives you access to over 100 vintage and modern stompbox effects. All encased in a metal chassis that looks like it can take a beating. And, keeping itself low to the ground (2.4”H), the pedal fits well on either tier of your pedalboard without getting in the way. An expression pedal jack that lets players control the parameters of all of the models is followed by stereo inputs and outputs, making it possible to run true stereo effects. MIDI in/outs round out the package. Good luck finding an old-school stompbox that you can fit into your MIDI chain.
Boasting it as the “Swiss Army Knife” of pedals, Line 6 seeks to give players an alternative to inundating their signal path with a long line of one-trick ponies. With effects varying from choruses, reverbs, distortions, pitch effects, wahs, and everything in between, the M5 also gives players the option to manipulate each of these effects to their liking. And, there’s no need to save your changes. Just like a stompbox, once the dial is tweaked, the changes are saved automatically. In addition, players can edit and save up to 24 user presets and bank up or down through them while in Preset Mode.
Players can drive the M5 home for an estimated street price of $199.
Just as an example, the M5 has a variety of 17 distortions that includes a “Tube Drive”, if you have some Clapton in mind, or a “Heavy Distortion” if you’re feeling more like Randy Rhodes. 23 modulations, 26 filters, 19 delays, 12 reverbs, and 12 compressors and EQs, round out the selection. While many of the effects are modeled after existing classics, the M5 also includes some Line 6 originals for some more modern tones, including all of the delays from the DL4 Delay Modeler and the effects from the M9 and M13 Stompbox Modelers.
Playing the M5 got our wheels turning. We started thinking about how to use it in tandem with different amps, essentially using the M5 to compensate for whatever was missing in our favorite amps. That JCM800 always needs just a little pre-amp gain boost, so plug the M5 into the front-end and let it fly. For a Rivera that doesn’t have a reverb pan, throw the M5 into the effects loop and adjust the reverb setting to best complement those sweet saturations. And for a range of effects that could easily cost somewhere in the thousands if bought individually, $199 seems like a small price to pay.
The Tone King knows that there are some classic old-school pedals that we’ll never give up. Nothing wrong with that. But there’s a trade off. Just like a classic car, sure they look great, and nothing beats driving them, but your wallet’s still going to lose weight while that thing’s taking up all the space in your garage for the winter.
OK enough with the car metaphors.
The Line 6 M5 Stompbox Modeler gives players choices. Choices that old-school stompboxes simply can’t. Looking at the M5, we came to one conclusion: While we’ll never give up our old favorites, we’re always willing to take a look at gear that’ll give us more choices.
Be sure to check out the Line 6 M5, premiered on The Tone King’s ‘30 Pedals in 30 Days’- 2011 at YouTube.com/LMSJR
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About the Author: Marc published his first novel Becoming in 2010. It’s a kick-ass book with monsters and dreams and stuff, and you should buy it. Since then, he’s written thousands of articles for TheToneKing.com, many of which have been picked up for circulation by manufacturers and other news outlets. His next book, Drugs and Pancakes, should be available early 2014 if his alcoholic editor can find time to work on it in-between destroying his liver and screaming about punctuation. He graduated from Roosevelt University with honors, which means that he’s not as dumb as he looks. He’s been playing guitar for over 25 years, which is almost twice as long as most of his students have been alive.