Price paid: C$ 1200
Purchased from: Best Buy
Features: The Line 6 DT50 Head is a 2-channel 50-watt all-tube amplifier. It was designed by Reinhold Bogner, and utilizes two 12AX7 preamp tubes and two EL-34 power amp tubes. It can run in class AB fixed bias (50 watts) or class A cathode biased (25 watts), and in addition adds a "quiet" mode option (by pulling out the master volume knob) that allows simulation of more-power sound generation even at lower volume levels. What's new in the DT50 is the 4-mode "Topology" settings which reconfigure the circuitry and tube utilization to render sounds similar to more famous amp designs... Fender/Marshall/Vox/Mesa.
This is not a traditional amp modeling which generally guitarists will turn their noses up at, but rather a switching of the amp's internals to create different outputs (i.e./there is no digital modeling going on). Both channels A and B feature identical controls, and when switching back and forth, the amp "remembers" all your settings from the last time you utilized the channel. Why this is cool is that you can dial in two usable channels - say one being fairly clean and the other boosting mids slightly, or one utilizing the "Fender" amp voicing and the other a "Marshall" with otherwise identical settings, etc. Most two-button footswitches will swap channels (I use a two-button Fender one, but my Boss two-button switch works too).
More controls include a Pentode/Triode switch (changes tube settings slightly for further varied voicing), a standby switch, power switch, and low and high inputs. Each channel has individual knobs for drive, low, mid, high, presence, reverb and volume. I'll also give some mad props to the design of the in-head lighting for control text, which makes seeing the adjustments in the dark a breeze and looks great. On the back, you have a ton of inputs, outputs and control plug-ins, including 4, 8 and 16 ohm speaker cab outs, direct out (cool), effect loop, MIDI, footswitch and a Line6 L6-Link, which allows direct input and control for Line6 effects boards. I actually tried this out with an HD500 but ended up not liking the combo - your mileage may vary for sure - but the constant switching of all the tube configurations and settings, while very cool, was a bit annoying and I didn't like the constant alterations to the amp just scrolling through presets.
I ended up returning the HD500 for reasons I won't get into here because this review's for the amp, not the board. At any rate, the DT50 Head is beautiful to look at, and based on the feature set, the variety of controls, the specs and the build, the features rating definitely has to be considered impressive. You may also care to know that the DT50 is also available in 212 or 112 combo formats, and there's also a lower-output DT25 version. I also have the matching DT50 412 cabinet which features 2 12" Greenbacks and 2 12" Vintage 30's, cool castors, recessed handles, and matching good looks. // 9
Sound: I run a bunch of different guitar and pickup combos through this amp, including Fender SSS, HSS and HSH Strats, a Gibson Les Paul, and a Telecaster HS. I have played it straight into the amp, and also with various pedals and multi-effects. In spending time with the amp, I've come to really love the two-channel "memory" switching. Generally for me, playing channel one on Topology 1 (Fender Blackface) and channel two on Topology 2 (Marshall) with a little more gain dialed in, allows me to engage a little more oomph with one button press for soloing. It's a great feature, and these are to my tastes also the best Topologies for sound output. T3 (Vox) and T4 (Mesa) are underwhelming and overwhelming, as T3 is way quiet and T4 punishingly overbearing in comparison to the first two, which to me make a nice balanced contrast in tones.
What's amazing about this amp though is the incredible width of output volumes you can still get great tones out of it. I can play this at a medium-to-large venue gig through the matching DT50 412 cab, and the next day still get great tones from it in my basement with the family at home. The combination of the class AB/A switching, a master volume and 2 individual channel volumes, plus the "quiet" mode make it incredibly versatile, and that's something my Fender tubes and other half-stacks I've used can't begin to compete with. Really outstanding in this regard. Between the 4 Topologies though, I can see users getting along with this amp with a minimal amount of effects required. While I tend to run the amp cleaner and utilize pedals or a GT10, you really do have a wide variety of tones you can create. T1 with the reverb and presence dialed in can get you a very good rendition of a Fender tube clean, and T4 can get you some pretty screaming crunch. T3 has the Vox twang down, and T2 can emulate some nice Marshall sound too.
However, for my use, I couldn't find any other option that would allow me to play loud with a band at a gig and still use at home practicing with the same head and cabinet combo. I enjoy using this amp at home more than my HRD or Blues Jr now, and that's saying something for an amp that puts out more oomph and room fill than both of those together. It might not beat out a Deluxe Reverb for that amazing Fender clean, and may not crunch quite like a real MB for metal, but for sheer versatility, I doubt you'll beat it. // 9
Reliability & Durability: This remains to be seen. I've never owned a single Line 6 product up until I purchased this combo. Both the head and the cabinet are beautiful to look at. Construction quality seems to be exceptional, and everything seems as rugged as you'd find in a comparable Marshall or Fender setup. The cabinet - at 85lbs - is extremely rugged feeling and weighty. I haven't had a single issue with the knobs, switches or sound from the head, which is equally rugged-feeling. Lugging a heavy head and cabinet around to gigs and such will no doubt cause the typical wear and tear, but no question it appears to be built up to the task. The electronics? Time will tell. I should note that I've never considered Best Buy as a primary shopping source for musical gear, and only because I stumbled upon this display there and an incredible sale price I couldn't pass it up. Best Buy does have a decent performance warranty so I put it on the head, not the cabinet. Since I can only comment on apparent build and not long-term reliability with a brand I'm not familiar with, I'll go with a 7 here. // 7
Overall Impression: Man, you know, I NEVER would have dreamed I'd pass up a great deal on a Fender Twin amp for my live gig amp setup, not to mention several Marshall alternatives, in order to buy a Line 6 amp and cab. But after seeing the specs and feature sheet on these babies, and putting them through their paces in-store (yes I did blast out the store) I had to jump at the great deal on this. The combo retails for some $2200 plus taxes at retailers, and I got this on sale for some $1200 plus, in boxes with full warranty. And I've been very pleasantly surprised by the sound, the looks, the control and the versatility of this setup. It really is that versatility that I was after, and to think that the sound quality to me is just as good makes this a winner. There was nothing from Fender or Marshall that could have offered me this much versatility. I always thought of Line 6 as a digital modeling marketer, and turned my nose up to them I guess. While the HD500 didn't win me over, this amp and cabinet sure has. I think they may be on to something with the DT50, and hope they continue moving in this direction. // 9