Price paid: £ 80
Purchased from: Andertons Music
Ease of Use: Installation was a doddle, if a little long winded. Plug into USB 2.0 port, load up patcher (Line6 Monkey), download endless patches, restart the Monkey (isn't that a euphamism for something?) repeatedly, kit starts working. When all is up and running, it's just a matter of plugging various cables into the obvious hole, firing up Gearbox, and playing.
I'll refrain from tone-related comments, as the section below covers these. Suffice to say, Gearbox (the bundled software) not the best designed piece of software I've come across. Yes, it looks "all guitary", with pretty representations of the amps and effects chain, but you still have to put a fair bit of effort into working out exactly what it's up to. As one who designs UI for (some of) a living, I'd give it a 6/10.
If you're in the 100% of the population who just wants to plug in and see what it sounds like, you'll probably just grab a preset and play. Unless you're outrageously lucky, the preset you Pick will sound dire. Thanks to each preset being designed to work for a given flavour of guitar and pickup combination, plus Line6's bizarre urge to show off their various effects models, most of the presets are totally pointless. // 6
Sound: Okay, so as a bit of n00b guitarist, all I've played through it are a Squier Affinity Strat and an Epi LP Standard, but...
(Before you read on, remember, this cost slightly more than a full tank of petrol for a Ford Mondeo...)
Forget the presets, explore the various amp, cab, mic, and effect combinations, and this thing is absolutely fantastic. Yeah, sure, it's a bit digital-sounding, and for the higher gain stuff especially you get those odd audio artifacts that computer-generated sound is prone to throwing out, but hey... you can get pretty flippin' close to the sort of tone you're after.
Are you going to record stuff for commercial use with it? I suspect not. Are you going to end up with a bin full of redundant boutique amps after buying it? No chance. Are you going to be showing up at your next gig with a laptop and plugging into the PA? I doubt it.
Are you going to be able to get a decent enough tone, regardless of what you're after, to practice with? Yes, almost certainly. Are you going to be able to endlessly experiment with you tone, try out new ideas, and just muck around to you heart's content? Pretty much. Will you be able to record (having downloaded Audacity, or similar) at home without having to mess about with mics? Yep. If you're sick of Gearbox, can you use another bit of software that takes ASIO input? Yep.
It's entirely possible that my grasp of the language has deserted me. If it has, what I was trying to say above is take the thing for what it is - a cheapo but versatile computer based amp and effects modeller, with a handy ASIO and MIDI interface for other stuff - and it's a brilliant bit of kit. It won't beat "the real thing", ever, even slightly, don't expect it to, don't hope for it, don't even pray... but for the price, it's really, really hard to knock it.
As far as the rating's concerned, it's getting an 8. It's cheap, and unless you want seriously heavy distortion, it'll do more or less what you want. Had price not been a factor, then it would be a 2 or a 3. Chuck it next to what it's trying to emulate and it's a pile of donkey droppings. Then again, 80 against 800, or 1,600, or.... // 8
Reliability & Durability: The hardware's been attached to my PC (which I also use for work) for the best part of year now, turned on about 18 hours a day, had coffee spilled on it, wine spilled on it, it's been knocked on the floor, cables have been plugged in, removed, and it's not batted an eyelid.
It's entirely possible to mess up the input from said decide. All you need to do is get enough activity on the USB controller and it'll mess up. The same goes for any other USB ASIO device. Moral of the story - if you're going to shift half a terrabyte of data across your USB bus, don't use the Guitarport at the same time.
In other words, for cheapo PC peripheral, it's rock solid. // 10
Overall Impression: Did I mention the price?
To sum it all up, if you're looking for a fantastic device to add to a studio, this isn't it. If genuinely lovely tone is your Quest, forget it. If you want a cheapo way of going from jazz to blues to rock to metal to something that sounds like a cow attempting to cough up a dishwasher whilst driving over a cattle grid with lead weights tied to it's udders, then this is worth the effort.
For a newbie (oooh, a whole year's experience on my part!) like myself, it's an absolute godsend. I've never failed to get more or less the appropriate tone for the piece I'm trying to learn out of it, and for eighty quid I don't think you can ask much more than that.
Oh, yeah, the built in tuner's pretty good as well. // 8