Price paid: $ 499
Purchased from: Guitar Center
Sound — 7
I have set the unit up using a Fender Twin Reverb (transitor unit) and used both the clean and dirty channels. My Guitar of choice is a Mary Kay Fender Strat. I'm currently using an Apple iMAC intel based computer and also use it with Windows XP on a Parallels virtual PC. Since I'm proficient with both the MAC and the PC platform, I really have no preference, and think that both will work equally well? I use it on the MAC primarily because I have Soundtrack Pro for recording. It works perfectly fine with this great software. I started out by using the onboard controls to program the unit for different models ('tones') and quickly gave that up in favor of GearBox software which is a God Send. Gearbox is the only way I would choose to program, which goes way beyond the setup functionality as it also gives you the ability to link up to online features that are incredible; including online tutorials, sharing of 'tones', downloading patches, downloading full upgrades and other software directly to the computer and to the POD itself. Without Gearbox, I would rate the unit itself several points below the overall '8' I'm giving it. The effects are a weak compared with familiar pedals like Boss effects, so don't throw out your pedals just yet. You can use them in tandem with this box with no problem at all. However, in general the Bass, Treble, Mid, Reverb, Delay, Distortion and Presence controls are more than adequate for most playing. Downloaded tones almost never quite get the real sound of any artist, but they can give you a close approximation sometimes. On other occasions I'm scratching my head wondering how tones that claim to sound like Hendrix or Jeff Beck or Steve Vai can seriously be compared? Most of the tones fall way short of the great sounds we are used to? However, did you really think you were going to sound like Hendrix for $500? Break out the Marshall stacks, a Cry Baby, and a good Boss delay and you probably already have 80% of what you need to get most classic sounds?
Overall Impression — 8
Since I play mostly standard Rock styles from the 60's, 70's and 80's, my favorite artists generally played fairly simple setups that only require a strong playing style, a good amp and a few effects. The skill level is really what it is all about. To expand my horizons, there are times I want to play Shred, Metal and so-on, and so the modeling capabilities of the POD Live allow me to do this with a minimal investment. Don't expect a 'dead-on' reproduction of your favorite artist, although you might get it for some? Probably more with the clean sounds than anything else. With 35 years of playing under my belt, I think that I can at least say that I know where my playing is weak as opposed to my equipment being weak. This will improve my ability to go in and out of various sounds (tones), but if I decided to be a serious Shredder at some point, I would toss this unit and just go out and buy the real gear. The clean sounds are very impressive and noise is not a problem if you use the gates properly and various tone controls. My biggest problem with the unit is the general gain/distortion available. It's on the fuzzy side, and sometimes in a very annoying way. However, I'm smart enough I think, to know that nothing is going to reproduce a nice distortion caused by tubes and/or a superb stack of vibrating speakers! I keep hearing how this unit is supposed to compare with the Boss GT-10 and I think it's a ridiculous comparison. The POD Live is first and foremost a modeling unit, designed to approximate the sound of many amplifiers, pre-amps, cabs, and effects. The GT-10 is an effects unit which is the real thing and not a modeling of effects. Apples and Oranges mostly. Get both units, and you will probably be in heaven. My favorite feature to date is that I can use my computer 18 Watt M-Audio Audiophile mini cabs on my computer and play along in GearBox to my favorite tunes, sounding pretty close to what I need. I can practice new sounds and techniques that would mostly require different gear than I currently own. If I lost the unit today, I would probably just buy a GT-10 or other Boss effects units, however that would mean giving up a lot of the online experience and the ability to find new sounds that I never thought of before. I'm simply not at the point with the POD Live that I can't Live without it and don't think that this will ever be the case. This is a great unit to explore new possibilities; to practice with; and yes, you can play Live with it obviously. For an old fart like me however, I'm too used to relying on my technique and a few good tools to do 90% of what I want and need to do right now. Buy the POD and expand your mind and then go out and get the real thing if you can afford it when you find the sound you are looking for. I will finish with saying that the POD is ground breaking stuff! You will be playing around with new tones for a long time to come if you are at all curious about what is outside of your current experience. This unit, if nothing else, has a potential to make you a better, more well rounded musician.
Reliability & Durability — 8
The unit is well built, but I think something like this needs to be 'overbuilt'. Keep your dust rags handy as the black polished surface shows up sweat stains like you poured grease on the unit. Dust, as we would expect, shows up dramatically on black, so this is not unexpected. Because I'm mostly a 'classic rock' player, I can usually get what I need out of a twin reverb and a few Boss effects, so I would keep my effects handy as a backup. I don't trust any electronics on the road, and any experienced player will tell you that your amps and effects will at times be totally unreliable no matter how well you build any piece of your electronic ensembles. Don't go without a backup of some sort, especially if you do the 'bar' circuit. Most smaller places don't have the proper power to handle a full band, and the band has dimmed the lights more than once by the time everything was plugged in. This is not a reflection on the POD Live itself, but rather just common sense. I haven't had a chance yet to see how the unit would behave in an under/over powered electrical supply yet! My battery powered Boss effects could be a life saver, but I can't say for sure just yet?
Ease of Use — 8
First, this is not in my opinion, a unit for beginners. Having said that, getting sound out of this unit requires at least a basic understanding of different inputs, outputs, (i.e. digital vs analog). You may want to use the unit with your computer speakers, your headphones, your amp or all of these and so you must have sufficient gear, cables and accessories. Yes, you can use the unit out of the box with nothing more than a set of headphones, but that would be throwing your money away if that is your intention. Getting a good sound is completely subjective, but I felt that the many different default sounds were nothing more than templates, whereby you could modify the default 'tones' to get the sound you need. I don't think I found a single tone that I would use as given, out of the box. The manual is very small compared to the power and flexibility of the unit but it will get you started. Having a broad knowledge of effects and such is what will give you a real advantage using this unit. It is very intimidating at first, even for a seasoned guitar player. I think it is probably days before you will feel really comfortable with this setup?