Line 6 POD x3 Pro

In true Line 6 tradition, they've followed their Pod X3 and X3 Live processors with a rackmount professional version, the X3 Pro ($979.99 MSRP), which has enhanced I/O and a few capabilities not provided on the standard 'kidney' or X3 Live floor-unit versions. It features the same Dual Tone architecture as the X3, which means that you can set up two different effect/amp/speaker cab rigs at the same time and combine them. Alternatively, you can process two completely separate guitars, basses or voices using one processor channel for each something not possible with the standard version. You also get the Pod Farm plug-in (see SOS Jan 09), which essentially provides all the X3 facilities in the form of a Mac or Windows plug-in, or as a latency-free stand-alone 'virtual processor' without the need for a DAW. The hardware acts as the 'dongle' for Pod Farm and makes the latency-free processing possible: as long as the Pod is connected to the computer, the Pod Farm software will run as a plug-in. You can still use another interface if you prefer, but for direct USB recording from the Pod or for latency-free processing using Pod Farm, the Pod (or other suitable Line 6 interface) must be selected as the DAW's I/O device, or be part of a composite audio driver. You can also use the Pod X3 Pro as a computer interface for a Line 6 Variax guitar, enabling you to create new guitars using the free Variax Workbench software.

Line 6 Pod X3 ProThe Pod Pro X3 uses 24-bit A-D and D-A converters, and the internal processing employs 32-bit floating-point arithmetic which is the same as in many DAWs. Up to nine simultaneous effects per signal chain can be used, with effects split between pre-the-amplifier (stomp) and post-amp (send loop). DAW users will welcome the fact that the Pod X3 family's USB 2.0 connectivity supports multi-channel recording and stereo playback without the need for an additional interface, and there's also a digital Variax connection that allows a Variax guitar to be connected in such a way that X3 Pro presets can store the Variax settings alongside those of the X3 so a performer can call up the right guitar and pickup combination with each Pod preset.

Output 1-2 is fed by whatever you've selected for the Digital/XLR Outs, 3-4 is Tone 1 separately in stereo, 5-6 is Tone 2 separately in stereo, 7 is the sum of the inputs for Tone 1 and 8 is the sum of the inputs for Tone 2. This allows the simultaneous recording of both processed and unprocessed sounds, where both Tone channel outputs may be recorded in stereo.

The main differences between a standard Pod X3 and this Pro version are the extra connectivity and the ability to use both channels separately. The X3 Pro has two dual quarter-inch instrument inputs, and there are also two balanced-XLR mic inputs with phantom power, gain-trim controls and switchable low-cut filters. Digital I/O is presented in S/PDIF coaxial and AES-EBU balanced formats, as well as the Variax VDI Digital Interface, which uses a CAT5 cable. Analogue outs are on both unbalanced quarter-inch jacks (switchable to amp or line level) and balanced Studio/Direct XLRs (switchable to mic or line level with a ground-lift option), so pretty much any live or studio scenario is catered for.

A connector is included for a Line 6 FBV floor controller, there's MIDI In and Out on standard five-pin DIN sockets and stereo insert points on quarter-inch jacks. Another nice touch is the provision of separate, unprocessed DI output for each channel. The headphone jack on the front panel is controlled by the Master Volume knob.

Physically, the Pod X3 Pro is presented as a mains-powered, 3U rack device but it has been styled rather differently from earlier Pod Pro units. This time, the distinctive sculpted, red, anodised front panels have been confined to the mic/instrument inputs. These have been arranged to look like plug-in modules and have the necessary XLR and jack connectors on the front, where they can easily be accessed. Also located here are the gain adjustment knobs, plus silver buttons for low-cut filters and pads and LEDs indicating signal presence and clipping. The rest of the unit draws on influences from both the Pod X3 and X3 Live: a reasonably large display assisted by a cursor controller, a data knob and four context-sensitive knobs do most of the editing work. I thought the presentation very stylish.

The various sound-shaping sections, Tap Tempo and Dual Mode selection are accessed via six push-buttons, to the right of which is a Tone Volume and Master Volume control. Below is a conventional set of amp controls comprising Drive, Bass, Mid, Treble, Presence and Reverb. Anyone used to using a previous model of Pod should have little trouble in finding their way around.